(Frequently Asked Questions)

  1. Can a pre-med student at Gustavus study abroad for a semester?
  2. Can AP and CLEP credits count for medical school admission requirements?
  3. Do I have to take calculus?
  4. What is on the new MCAT 2015?
  5. How do students at Gustavus prepare for the MCAT?
  6. What is a CNA and where can I go to get CNA certification in this local area?
  7. What is a medical scribe?
  8. What service/volunteer opportunities are available locally with a pre-health focus?
  9. Does Gustavus have a committee or pre-health advisor that writes letters of recommendation for pre-medical applicants?
  10. For Letters of Recommendation, what do I need to know?
  11. How do I find out more information about various programs?




1. Can a pre-med student at Gustavus study abroad for a semester?

Yes, and we think it is a great idea. Being pre-med and studying abroad is possible and Gustavus pre-med students have been able to successfully fit a semester abroad into their undergraduate experience with careful planning.

In order to spend a semester abroad you need to plan your timeline for application and map out your four-year plan. See profiles of pre-medical students four-year plans and take note of how different students fit in their pre-requisite courses to spend a semester abroad.

Pre-Medical Profiles of student that spent a semester abroad:

Timeline for studying abroad matters. If you are planning to apply to medical school directly following graduation from Gustavus, the application process opens in May of your junior year and the interview window is typically from September to mid-March of your senior year.

Many of the science courses are sequenced at Gustavus and the first two years you most likely will be enrolled in sequenced biology and chemistry courses that are required for the MCAT and admission to medical schools. During the junior year is typically when students take physics and biochemistry. Medical schools do not accept pre-requisite courses taken internationally.

Click here for a list of Pre-Health semester Study Abroad programs that are available through the Gustavus International and Cultural Education Office.

Click here for the Guidelines for Premedical and Medical Students Providing Patient Care During Clinical Experiences Abroad.


2. Can AP and CLEP credits count for medical school admission requirements?

Yes and no.

This is a question that needs to be researched and directed at the specific medical school programs you are interested in applying to because policies vary.

If you are a Minnesota resident and planning to apply to the U of M, below are the guidelines for the University of Minnesota's Medical School.

University of Minnesota Medical School guidelines:

· Requirements cannot be fulfilled with College Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits.

· Requirements cannot be fulfilled by AP credits. If you received AP credit for courses such as general chemistry or biology, you’ll still need 1 semester of chemistry and biology with labs. This can be an advanced chemistry, organic chemistry, or any advanced biology course. Do not re-take coursework for which you already received AP credit.



3. Do I have to take calculus?

We recommend that you take two math courses:

  • MCS 121 or MCS 118/119
  • Stats

There are 164 U.S. accredited medical schools and pre-requisite math requirements do vary. Looking at the specific programs you are apply to will help to clarify this further.

Q: “I love Math and already took Calculus in high school, now what?”

A: Take Calculus II and Stats

Q: “I hate Math and I heard some medical schools only require one math class can I just take stats?”

A: Yes and NO. Where are you applying? This might be possible, but it may limit some of the medical programs you will be eligible to apply to. You do not need to take calculus right away, focus on your science pre-requisite course. When it is time for application you can decide to take calculus at that time.


4. What is on the new MCAT 2015?

The MCAT 2015 will have a new testing structure.

New Test Structure: Two Hours Longer and items in bold-italics new.

  • Chemistry and Physics
  • Critical Thinking

  • Lunch Break

  • Psychology and Sociology

= 6 ¼ hours content

= 7 ½ hours Total

Additional difference:

Testing fee will increase (currently $240)

Test accommodations if needed (will be a two day test)

Old scores MCAT still can be used two to three years (still finalizing)

These next few years (2-3) old MCAT will be used and no more writing section. Test results will still take 30-35 days.

January 2015 OLD MCAT Spring 2015 NEW MCAT

(still finalizing)


5. How do students at Gustavus prepare for the MCAT?

There are a variety of methods and ways that students prepare to take the MCAT.

Below is the link to the AAMC's Preparing for the MCAT Exam FAQ section. The three questions addressed:

"When should I take the MCAT exam?"

"Am I ready to take the MCAT exam?"

"Do I need to take a commercial review course?"

Source: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/preparing/85556/preparing_prepfaq.html

The AAMC offers a free online practice test, click here for additional details.

The AAMC offers a free online practice test to everyone. Sign up for the free test, Practice Test 3, to get unlimited access to all the features of e-MCAT Practice, including:

  • timed practice option to simulate the actual exam
  • untimed practice options for review and study
  • options to select subsets of items for customized practice by:
    • difficulty of items
    • exam section
    • content classification
    • cognitive skill tested
    • reading passage type
  • on/off setting for solutions
  • marking feature to identify items for review
  • detailed score report on all dimensions of the multiple choice items
  • ability to review items by category directly from the score report
  • settings for examinees approved for accommodations
  • repeat the exam as many times as you want

Go to www.e-mcat.com to take the free Practice Test.

Click here to hear from Gusties on how they approached preparing for the MCAT.


6. What is a CNA and where can I go to get CNA certification in this local area?

Click here for additional information


7. What is a medical scribe?

Click here for additional information


8. What service/volunteer opportunities are available locally with a pre-health focus?

Click here for additional information



9. Does Gustavus have a committee or pre-health advisor that writes letters of recommendation for pre-medical applicants?

No, Gustavus does not have a pre-health committee or pre-health advisor that writes a committee letter. Three different types of letters can be sent to AMCAS; at Gustavus the method used is a individual letter written by one author.
Below is a description of the types of letters that can be forwarded to AMCAS on your behalf.

Source https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/amcas/faqs/147736/amcas_2010_faqs-17.6.html

  • Individual Letter: An individual letter refers to a letter authored by, and representing, a single letter writer. (Method at Gustavus- Individual Letter. Typically one science faculty, one non-science faculty, and one "other").
  • Committee Letter: A committee letter is a letter authored by a pre-health committee or pre-health advisor and intended to represent your institution's evaluation of you. A committee letter may or may not include additional letters written in support of your application.
  • Letter Packet: A packet or set of letters assembled and distributed by your institution, often by the institutions career center. A Letter Packet may include a cover sheet from your pre-health committee or advisor; however, in contrast to a Committee Letter, a Letter Packet does not include an evaluative letter from your pre-health committee or advisor.
  • Source https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/amcas/faqs/147736/amcas_2010_faqs-17.6.html



10. For Letters of Recommendation, what do I need to know?


Number of letters needed and selecting writers

Develop a relationship and connect with your faculty and supervisors EARLY in your college career. It is important that you start building relationships early in your college career (freshman year). Waiting until your junior or senior year to start making connections will result in a forced and shallow relationship. Making a strong connection early on will allow potential letter-writers to get to know you on a personal level, witness your growth over a period of time and ultimately develop the basis for writing a more compelling letter. See study results below about the importance of letters of recommendation to medical school admission decisions.

Importance of Application Data to Admission Officers at 113 Medical Schools in their decision to Offer Acceptance *Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

Top Four:

  1. Interview recommendation
  2. Letters of recommendation
  3. GPA: Cumulative science and math
  4. Community service: medical

*(Source, AAMC Analysis In Brief, Volume II, Number 6, September 2011)

Selecting who will write your letters is an important decision. While it is important who the letter writer is, it is equally important what the writer has to say. The writer needs to offer additional information to complete and complement what you have already shared through your application materials. Do not select a writer simply because they hold an important position, "like you" or you "like them." Rather, select a wrtier that has a basis (evidence) for being able to write a letter that can make a strong case for the strengths you exhibit. Have a balanced approach to selecting your writers; select writers that know you from different areas to give the selection committee a well rounded look at you as an applicant.

How many writers do I need? Allopathic Medicine MD - AMCAS centralized application (10 total allowed). Recommend three or four total: one or two science faculty, one non-science faculty in the humanities or social sciences, and one work supervisor, volunteer supervisor, research supervisor, coach, etc.

Please review the list below for medical schools to which you plan to apply and the letter requirements for each particular program. The number of letters accepted (three or four), and by whom the letter needs to be written, will vary by program.

Participating Medical Schools: List of letter requirements https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/amcas/faqs/63226/faq_amcasletters.html


Asking for a letter

When asking for a letter, make an appointment to meet in person (if at all possible). Before designating your writers, schedule an appointment with each of your potential writers to let them know why you want to go into this particular health field and explain to them why you think their perspective of you as an invidual will best support your applicaiton. Be sure to share when the letter is needed, and ask if they would be able and willing to write a strong letter of recommendation.

Give letter writers plenty of advance notice and time to write a strong letter of recommendation (a month or even two). Make sure that your writers know your timeline for applying and when you are hoping to have their letter submitted.

Allow the person the option of saying NO. You need strong letters and if the person is hesitant or uncomfortable or does not have enough time, you will NOT get a strong letter. Most likely it will be generic, short, and weak. Listen to what the person is telling you. It is much better to have them be honest and to avoid a weak letter, so that you can identify someone different to write you a strong letter.


Etiquette after someone has agreed to write

Highly recommended you waive your right to access the reference letter. If you mark, "I do NOT waive my right to access this reference letter," the person writing the reference will know that you will be able to view the letter. Waiving your right indicates to programs that your reference will be more honest and candid in their remarks. If you choose to NOT waive your right, you may be asked to explain your decision during interview(s).

Friendly reminders about your letter are helpful, but do not pester/annoy them. Interpersonal interactions and effective communication skills are things that your writer will most likely be referencing.


Follow-through expectations

Write a thank you note to each recommender.

Email, call, or stop by and let your writers know when you get accepted and where you have decided to attend school and thank them again for their assistance, support, encouragement, and overall effort.



11. How do I find out more information about various programs?

Attending an information session, preview day, or visiting campus is a great way to learn more. Here are links to various opportunities.






Updated 10/9/2013 JMV