The Pre-Health Student Survival Guide

Lolita Wood-Hill Offers 11 Tips for Students Pursuing a Career in Medicine or Dentistry

With the need for health care professionals in high-demand, more and more students are choosing to pursue careers in this fast-growing industry.

Lolita Wood-Hill is the director of pre-health advisement at Yeshiva College.

“Yeshiva College students have consistently sought careers in medicine and dentistry but the past several years have shown a marked increase in the number of students applying to these programs,” says Lolita Wood-Hill, director of pre-health advisement at Yeshiva College. “With the increased interest in healthcare, we have also seen the quality of our applicant pool rise, attesting to the high-caliber students Yeshiva University is able to attract.”

Yeshiva College is not alone. At Stern College for Women, “the number of students interested in the health fields has grown substantially,” according to Dr. Brenda Loewy, pre-health adviser at Stern College, “and the acceptance rate has gotten better and better.”

With a medical school acceptance rate of 88 percent—well above the national average (approximately 50 percent)—and a 90 percent acceptance rate to dental schools in 2011, YU students have gone on to pursue graduate degrees at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and a host of Ivy League schools including Columbia, Harvard and Cornell.

However, for most students, figuring out how to get started can be a bit confusing and overwhelming.

“It’s never too early to start the process,” says Lolita Wood-Hill, director of pre-health advisement at Yeshiva College. “Students in their first and second years of undergraduate school beginning a pre-health track can do several things now to make the application process go more smoothly as they reach their junior and senior years.”

Below, Wood-Hill offers 11 tips for students interested in careers in medicine and dentistry track at Yeshiva University.

1.       Get Great Grades

A B+ and above in all science and math courses is essential to any successful application.

“If your grades are not reflective of someone who can manage the rigors of a medical school or dental school curriculum, you are doomed to fail,” says Wood-Hill. “Having a dual curriculum at YU gives you a great bonus when schools consider your application. You can be in class 12 hours a day and take approximately 26 credits a semester! This enhances how you look to professional schools. However, your science and math GPA is the second most important factor in weighing your competitiveness for a medical or dental career. A GPA of less than 3.7 for medical school, and less than 3.3 in the sciences for dental school, will significantly hamper an otherwise outstanding application. And extraordinary MCAT or DAT scores will not compensate for this.”

2.       Find a Tutor

Great grades may require some assistance. Contact Academic Advising about a private tutor at the beginning of the semester—not after you’ve done poorly on your first exam! “Tutors help your organize your thoughts and time,” says Wood-Hill.

3.       Discover Your Interests

Think about what you are interested in studying. Visit YU’s Career Development Center (CDC) and see how your values, interests and skills translate into a major. “Do not assume biology is the only major for pre-med and pre-dental students,” says Wood-Hill. “Utilize the many internship opportunities available through the CDC.”

4.       Connect with Faculty

According to Wood-Hill, students “need to make connections with their science and math faculty as soon as possible.”

In fact, you should start to ask for letters of recommendation at the end of your first semester at YU.

“Getting a letter from a faculty member every semester gives a clear picture to schools of your intellectual growth throughout your college career,” says Wood-Hill. “You will also want to ask for letters from courses outside of the sciences that may have been particularly engaging or meaningful to you.”

 5.       Volunteer

Students who go to Israel for a year abroad should plan on beginning their volunteer work the summer they return.

“Volunteer work is more than just getting experience,” says Wood-Hill. “It is a potential resume builder that can make a big impression on medical or dental schools, or it can be a mundane, everybody-does-it experience that will not help set your application apart from everyone else’s.”

To avoid the latter, do not keep working at the same camp, the same hospital or the even in the same community you’ve been working in since high school. Explore new areas of engagement. Work at a nursing home. Read to children in the hospital. Shadow a local dentist or do some dental research at nearby dental schools.

6.       Research

Research is essential. Research can be done in a lab or in a clinical setting. It can be research on the Bible or on the economic conditions that caused the Great Depression. Schools want a set of skills—not a finished product. “A solution is not what schools are looking for,” says Wood-Hill. “It is the way in which you focus your inquiries and the dedication and tenacity you show that will draw positive attention your way.”

7.       Pay Attention to Deadlines

“Do not wait until the last minute to get things Plan ahead and save yourself the aggravation of missing out on scholarships, internships and research opportunities.

8.       Prepare for Your Professional Exams

Mediocre scores on the MCAT or DAT will not be considered. Period!

Check out all the test prep companies and see if one seems particularly worthy of the time and money you will invest. “Prepare continuously,” says Wood-Hill. “Read articles in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly, and other sources of reading material that will help you continually refine your critical reading skills.” Take full length practice tests as often as possible.

9.       Read Broadly for the New MCAT

With the 2015 MCAT, you will have many more courses to complete before you can begin the application process: biochemistry, genetics, statistics, behavioral science. Take advantage of courses that will give you a better understanding of the outside world and the many cultures it holds. Cultural competency, cultural sensitivity, issues related to poverty and public health, as well as familiarity with basic statistical analysis will all be covered in the new exam.

10.   Talk to Upperclassmen

Speak to fellow students who know what you’re going through! Ask for a peer mentor. These are people who have an interest in your success. They have made mistakes that hopefully you can avoid or they have learned how to avoid pitfalls that can negatively impact on your application. Do not be afraid to ask for their guidance.

11.   And Most Importantly… Enjoy Your Time at YU!

“These are the years for personal, professional and intellectual growth,” says Wood-Hill. “Make the best use of all YU has to offer and graduate knowing that you have been enriched by the meticulous care given by the faculty and staff here.”

The Pre-Health Advisement Office is here to work with you throughout your undergraduate experience and help you reach your goals. Be sure to schedule an appointment with a pre-health adviser on the Wilf Campus or Beren Campus today. You can also join the Pre-Health Advisement Office e-mail list, which provides helpful information about events that would be of interest to your educational and professional goals.

Have any additional questions? Send an e-mail to

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