Frequently Asked Questions
How successful are Notre Dame students in applying to medical school?
While Notre Dame students have a much higher acceptance rate than the national average, the rate itself is not an informative number. We do not have a minimum GPA to apply through our office and receive a committee letter from us, so our numbers are based on the number of students who decide to apply. While at Notre Dame, students will receive excellent training in the sciences, in-depth advising for the application process, and a call for discernment in the professional calling of medicine.
Notre Dame preprofessional students take a very grueling course of study. The biggest hurdle is often persistence in that course of study at a level above 3.0 GPA.
What is the best major for medical school?
Medical schools do not have preferences for specific student majors, but students must show competence in the sciences. It is important for students to use reflection and discernment to find their passion for academic development. If those paths lead to excellence in research, service or leadership, all of these are of interest to medical schools.
For those students considering careers as physician researchers (M.D./Ph.D.) the emphasis on research training in the traditional science majors (biological sciences, chemistry, biochemistry, physics and mathematics) may be more helpful.
Does Notre Dame have any formal agreements with medical schools for guaranteed acceptance?
Notre Dame does not have any formal agreements with any medical schools at this time. We have strong relationships with several medical schools who accept significant numbers of Notre Dame students. Our students apply and gain acceptances to schools nationwide. Notre Dame students receive an excellent education in science and humanities and have strong support in the application process to prepare them for health professions schools. They are admitted in rates much higher than the national average.
Do I need research for medical school?
Research is required by some medical schools and an advantage in the application process at most schools. The independence and depth of learning beyond textbooks is excellent training for medical school. Lab skills, literature review, problem solving, and creativity cross easily into medicine. Research can be in the basic sciences, clinical application, social science, and many other fields. It can occur during the school year or summer.
It is key that you are an active member of the team and have grown through the experience. Research without transformation and enthusiasm for your project is less helpful.
Again, this advice is a bit different for those students who wish to become physician researchers. These students should be highly involved with research early in their college careers and should have multiple semesters in the same lab to grow in both skills and research independence.
The College of Science provides many resources to help students find research opportunities on and off campus. Research questions can also be directed to Dominic Chaloner, Ph.D., Undergraduate Research Coordinator for the College of Science.
Do I need clinical experience?
All of the health professions require significant experience in a health professions setting. Medical, dental, and optometry schools want the experience to be sufficient for the student to have a mature understanding of the profession and to be able to reflect upon it. All schools require clinical experience. Some schools have set a minimum of 150-200 hours of clinical experience. Many osteopathic medical schools require experience with an osteopathic physician. Pharmacy, physicians assistant, and physical therapy schools may have more defined minimums for hours of experience and types of settings (and whether those are paid or volunteer). This experience needs to be at least partly after you begin college. These experiences should involve both shadowing and direct patient interaction
Students should keep a record of these experiences and reflect upon them while protecting the privacy of any patients they have observed. Student reflections should not contain any details that would allow a reader to identify a patient. The same respect for patient privacy is true for conversations with fellow students.
Do I need to do non-clinical service?
All of the health professions are careers that serve others in need. A student called to a vocation of service should demonstrate that dedication to service during their undergraduate career. This call to service can take many forms (e.g., tutoring, helping a low income clinic, building homes, working at a food bank, peer service via service to your dorm or campus community). Ideally, students should begin with their service work, demonstrate leadership in that work, and train the next set of volunteers so the project can continue to be viable. Students should not look upon these service opportunities as items to be checked off a list, but as a way to test their call to service and reflect upon a life in service. Some schools require as much as 200 hours of non-clinical service, involving direct contact with people in vulnerable or disadvantaged circumstances.
Service opportunities of all types are easily available through the Center for Social Concerns, dorm service, clubs, and athletic team projects. Projects are available on a weekly basis, on breaks, and for longer programs over the summer.
Can I study abroad and still prepare for medical or other health professions school?
Yes, with careful planning students can study abroad for a semester. It is an opportunity for personal growth and gives students an understanding of a broader global community. If you wish to begin medical or dental school the fall immediately after graduation, the best semester to study abroad is the fall semester of your junior year. Waiting until junior year allows students to complete the four-semester sequence of chemistry without a gap in the sequence. Students should be on campus during the spring semester of their junior year in order to receive the training sessions for the medical/dental school application, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty, study for the MCAT, and have a transcript ready to send in May or June to potential professional schools. There is often significant delay in receiving the transcript from a study abroad program, which delays translating the transcript into Notre Dame courses and grades. Your application cannot be processed by the centralized application services until all complete transcripts are received.
Several study abroad programs provide the opportunity to take science courses. London and Puebla offer Physics I in the fall. Dublin and Western Australia offer upper level science courses. More programs are being added every year. Students in biology, SCPP, ALPP, and SCBU majors, interested in going to another program that does not offer approved science courses, may need to stay at Notre Dame for four weeks in the summer to take Physics I. A few medical schools will not allow requirements to be taken abroad, so please check potential schools to see if there are any restrictions.
If you decide to study abroad during the spring of your junior year, it would be advisable to delay your application for a year, allowing for a year of research, service, etc. between Notre Dame and health professions school. This allows you to fully enjoy the experience of study abroad, receive the full range of support from the advising office as you prepare to apply, and give full attention to your MCAT and application.