Pre-professional Health Advising

Undergraduate pre-medical and pre-professional health studies at NIU prepares you for a broad range of masters and doctoral level health career possibilities including medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, optometry, podiatry and veterinary medicine.

The overarching mission of pre-professional health advising is to provide support throughout your undergraduate academic careers so you can realize your potential and achieve your life goals of becoming a medical professional.

Program Overview

Pre-professional health programs are areas of interest, not degree programs. Typically, you complete math and science courses required by professional schools in degree areas such as biology, chemistry, psychology or related programs. All course requirements for the professional school's admissions criteria must be satisfied.

Most professional health degree programs require a standardized examination score (e.g., medicine/MCAT, dentistry/DAT, veterinary medicine/GRE, pharmacy/ PCAT) as part of the admission application process.

Professional schools are interested in students with excellent scientific foundations, broad personal experiences and diverse educational backgrounds in the social sciences and humanities.

Preparing for the Journey

The pathway to becoming health care professional is rarely a prescribed, straight line. As you embark on this journey, a dedicated advisor will connect you with resources and assist you in making informed decisions. They will help you:

  • Identify areas of interest or prospective majors
  • Explore careers
  • Prepare and develop skills
  • Navigate the testing, application and admissions process

We encourage you to take advantage of an array of services, workshops and seminars that will assist you in preparing for professional school. From mock interviews to writing effective personal statements and managing the application and admissions processes, these activities are a wise investment toward your future career.

Your Support Network

Your pre-professional health advisor is here provide guidance and support in developing a plan to best prepare you for professional school studies within the areas of medicine.

The fundamental approach centers on an educational partnership with you to facilitate professionalism, competent decision-making, accountability and leadership. A strong relationship with an advisor is crucial for you to be able to persist toward achieving academic and career success. As you embark on this journey, the pre-professional health advisor will connect students with resources and assist in making informed decisions.

Making an Appointment

To start, you should schedule an appointment with Keyalo Gray at, once you begin coursework at NIU. You should also continue to meet regularly with him each semester.

In addition to meeting with your pre-professional health advisor, you should meet with your college and/or departmental advisor at least once each semester. This will ensure you are taking courses in the proper sequence to graduate on time.

Core Coursework

A core of math-dependent science courses fulfills most of the necessary undergraduate requirements for these programs. These courses also prepare you for the required entrance exams. The completion of a baccalaureate degree, in a major field of your choice, is required to gain entry into professional schools.

Recent statistics show that 63 percent of students admitted into U.S. medical schools were biology majors; 15 percent were in chemistry or physics; 11 percent in social sciences; four percent in health sciences; one percent math; and six percent scattered through a large number of other majors.

Core Biomedical/Pre-professional Science Courses at NIU

Course NIU Department and Number Credit Hours Corequisit (CRG) or Prerequisite (PRQ)
Fundamentals of Cellular Biology and lab BIOS 208 and 210 4 CRQ: CHEM 210 and CHEM 212 and BIOS 210
Fundamentals of Organismal Biology and lab BIOS 209 and 211 4 PRQ: BIOS 208 and 210 or BIOS 103 and 105
Cell Biology BIOS 302 3 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213
Molecular Biology BIOS 303 3 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213
Genetics BIOS 308 5 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213 CRQ: BIOS 209 and 211
Microbiology BIOS 313 4 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213
Human Physiology BIOS 355 4 PRQ: BIOS 208, 209, 210, 211; CHEM 211 and 213 CRQ: PHYS 211 or PHYS 273
General Chemistry I and lab CHEM 210 and 212 4 PRQ: MATH 110, 155 or 229 or satisfactory performance on Math Placement Test; CHEM 110 or satisfactory performance on Chemistry placement test
General Chemistry II and lab CHEM 211 and 213 4 PRQ: CHEM 210 and 212
General Organic Chemistry I and lab OR Organic Chemistry I and lab CHEM 330 and 332 OR CHEM 336 and 338 4 PRQ: CHEM 211 and 213
General Organic Chemistry II and lab OR Organic Chemistry II and lab CHEM 331 and 333 OR CHEM 337 and 339 4 PRQ: CHEM 330
General Biological Chemistry OR Biological Chemistry I CHEM 470/BIOS 470X OR CHEM 472 3 PRQ: CHEM 331 or 337
General Physics I OR Fundamentals of Physics I: Mechanics PHYS 210 OR PHYS 253 4 PRQ: MATH 155 or equivalent CRQ: MATH 229
General Physics II OR Fundamentals of Physics II: Electromagnetism PHYS 211 OR PHYS 273 4 PRQ: PHYS 210 or 253
Calculus I (plus any prerequisites) MATH 229 0-10 PRQ: MATH 155 with grade of C or better or satisfactory performance on the Mathematics Placement Examination
Statistics STAT 200 PRQ: MATH 206, MATH 201, MATH 211 or MATH 229
Sociology and Psychology (100-level courses) Other options include: Brain and Behavior (PSYC 300) Developmental Psychology (PSYC 324) Cognitive Psychology (PSYC 345) 4 courses 12

Additional Recommended Courses

Different professional programs can have slightly different course requirements. Courses such as Functional Human Anatomy (BIOS 311) and Cellular Physiology (BIOS 465), and undergraduate research have proven to be relevant and useful additions to the core scientific curriculum.

Dental schools usually require psychology courses such as Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 102) and Lifespan Development: Childhood Through Adulthood (PSYC 225).

Medical schools recommend psychology and sociology courses (along with the traditional sciences) since those topics are found on the MCAT.

Optometry schools require Calculus I (MATH 229), Elementary Statistics (STAT 200), Microbiology (BIOS 313) and Introduction to Psychology (PSYC 102).

Pharmacy schools require Calculus I (MATH 229), Principles of Microeconomics (ECON 260) or Principles of Macroeconomics (ECON 261), and Functional Human Anatomy (BIOS 311) or Human Anatomy (BIOS 355).

Veterinary schools usually require a Biochemistry class (CHEM 470) and Elementary Statistics (STAT 200).

Physician's assistant schools usually require Elementary Statistics (STAT 200), Medical Terminology (HSCI 318), 3000-plus patient contact hours (equivalent to a part-time employee for one year).

Suggested Preparation Timelines

Freshman and Sophomore Years

Start reading regularly. Students who perform well on the reading comprehension part of the MCAT are usually active recreational readers.

  • Maintain regular contact with your pre-professional health advisor in the Academic Advising Center. Due to the range of choices, it is important to discuss options and plans with your pre-professional advisor. Call 815-753-2573 to make an appointment.
  • Consider joining the Pre-Professional Association which meets regularly throughout the year.
  • Consider shadowing or internships with health sciences organizations.
  • Participate in Research Rookies and other research opportunities to present your work.
  • Start reading health-related articles at Healthline. com or in addition to journals related to your program (such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Health Affairs or JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association).

Junior/Pre-application Year

  • Give yourself four months to study for the MCAT. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website ( can help you build a study plan.
  • Do not take the MCAT until you have completed courses that cover the exam material.
  • MCAT registration is available online. Space is limited so register early.
  • Take the professional school entrance exam (MCAT, DAT, PCAT) in the late spring or early summer in the year before you expect to gain admission to a professional program.
  • Schedule a mock interview with the pre-professional health advisor.
  • Begin online research to familiarize yourself with the application process.

Senior/Application Year

  • Draft your personal statement and vita; listing honors, extracurricular activities, service (volunteering, shadowing, internships) and research to share with your recommenders.
  • Begin contacting your professional references for letters of recommendation. One reference should be from a doctor of the medical profession you are seeking entrance to. Another letter should come from your research mentor. Your third reference should be from an instructor from a class you did exceptionally well in. Make sure you receive their letters before the end of May.
  • Apply to professional schools over the summer.
  • Complete any secondary applications within two weeks of the date you receive them via email.
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