The pre-medical program at Pacific Union College is the course of study for students aspiring to be medical doctors. PUC has a reputation for its quality pre-medical program and high acceptance rates to medical school for its graduates.
Pre-medical students from PUC typically apply to and are accepted at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. However, a significant number of PUC students are also accepted at other medical schools.
This site details the requirements and recommendations for planning your collegiate courses and entering graduate programs in the field of medicine. In addition to this site, students should seek information from their PUC pre-medical advisor, the PUC Career and Counseling Center, and the admissions offices of medical schools they are interested in attending.
In addition to the requirements for your major, you must also complete specific courses required by the medical school(s) to which you wish to apply. The following are courses and corresponding labs required or recommended by Loma Linda University Medical School.
- One year of Biological Foundations (BIOL 111-112-113)
- One year of General Chemistry (CHEM 111-112-113)
- One year of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 371-372-373)
- One year of General Physics (PHYS 111-112-113)
- Biochemistry I (CHEM 381)
- English and Religion (equivalent to satisfy baccalaureate degree requirement)
- Biochemistry II (CHEM 482)
- Introduction to Statistics (STAT 222)
- In addition, keyboard and computer skills are considered essential.
- PUC also recommends you take PSYC 121 General Psychology and SOCI 121 Introduction to Sociology to prepare for the Behavioral Science section of the MCAT.
Because an adequate math background is necessary for successful completion of General Chemistry, you should have completed Algebra I and Algebra II in high school or MATH 106 at PUC. It is recommended that if you lack this level of math for General Chemistry, you complete MATH 106 no later than by the end of the autumn quarter of the year that General Chemistry is taken.
The Admissions team has stated that regular attendance of GNRL 100: Community Speaker Series is one item that they notice.
In addition, successful applicants tend to take additional upper-division biology or biochemistry courses. Your pre-med advisor can help you to select some to fit your schedule and interests.
Students who have not completed high school chemistry may wish to consider enrolling in CHEM 101 Introductory Chemistry.
Be sure to attend the general meeting with the Associate Dean for Admissions from Loma Linda University School of Medicine. Information about medicine in general and Loma Linda University School of Medicine in specific is typically given. Plan to come to this meeting with questions. There will be time to speak to the dean personally if you so desire. The general meeting typically occurs in both Fall and Spring quarters.
Non-required Science Classes
The nonrequired courses listed below are useful to the pre-medical student in that they give either an introduction to an area that will be covered in considerably more depth in medical school or general background information that will be useful throughout the career of the physician or will aid in MCAT performance. It is important to note that if a student tried to take all these courses in addition to the classes for the chosen major, the student would be here more than four years. Many non-science majors find it helpful to take two or three of these courses.It is recommended that the student choose from this list as space and time are available during the junior and senior year. Course descriptions and prerequisites are listed in the General Catalog.
Alphabetical listing of popular non-required pre-med courses:
- Advanced Human Anatomy (BIOL 422)
- Biochemistry II (CHEM 482)
- Biochemistry III (CHEM 483)
- Cell and Molecular Biology (BIOL 320)
- Developmental Biology (BIOL 419)
- Genetics (BIOL 354)
- Histology (BIOL 426)
- Immunology (Biol 496)
- Medical Microbiology (Biol 366)
- Neurobiology (BIOL 430)
- Systems Physiology (BIOL 348)
Choosing a Major
Medical schools highly recommend you obtain a four-year undergraduate baccalaureate degree. There is no 'pre-med' degree or major, so in addition to your pre-med requirements you must complete a specific major. The different majors are listed in the college catalog. You should select a major in an area that is interesting to you and that you would be willing to use as a backup career should you not be accepted into medical school.
In general, science majors should broaden out in non-science areas, and non-science majors should add some additional science courses beyond the minimum science requirement.
Information & Requirements
Get into Med School
In order to qualify for admission to medical school, the pre-medical student must do the following:
- Complete a 4-year degree in a major of the student's choice.
- Complete the pre-med requirements.
- Take the MCAT.
- Apply to medical school with an AMCAS application at www.aamc.org/students/amcas/. In the application process you will be required to write out a personal statement.
- Obtain letters of recommendation and have them sent to the medical school(s) of your choice.
- Interview with the medical school representative.
The medical school application process is highly competitive. Obviously, many applicants are not accepted and must seek other options. You must learn what makes an applicant competitive so you can maximize your chances. Much of the information you will find in this handbook will be useful regardless of which medical schools you are applying to. Some of this, however, is specific to Loma Linda University School of Medicine. IF YOU APPLY TO OTHER MEDICAL SCHOOLS, MAKE SURE YOU ARE THOROUGHLY FAMILIAR WITH THEIR APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS.
Letters of Recommendation
Upon receipt of the application forms from AMCAS, medical schools will send a supplementary application packet which is specific for that school. You will be required to have letters of recommendation written on your behalf. Recommendation letters are used by the admission's committee to learn more about the character, aptitude, maturity, ethics, and attitude of the applicant from individuals who know them well.
In addition, students applying to LLUSM as well as to many other medical schools are required to have a recommendation from the PUC Medical Recommendations Committee (MRC). Prospective applicants should advise the secretary to the Academic Dean of their intentions and supply a list of medical school addresses to which recommendation letters should be sent.
There is a broad representation on the committee, representing input from different aspects of campus life. Most medical schools take the committee recommendation very seriously and consider this the most reliable recommendation. Prior to a meeting, each committee member will encourage input from each member of his/her department who has had contact with the students being evaluated. This information is brought to the committee and integrated into the evaluation.
In addition to the MRC recommendation, personal letters of recommendation will be required by many medical schools. The student should get recommendation letters from individuals with whom he/she is well-acquainted. Admissions committees are looking for accurate, in-depth evaluations, and a casual acquaintance, no matter in how important a position, will not know enough about you to give a qualified recommendation.
If an instructor is asked for a recommendation but the student rarely participated in class or seldom came to the instructor's office, the instructor has little to go on except a list of scores. The recommender is asked to provide their opinion on your motivation, ethical standards, maturity, character, independent thinking ability, communication skills, creative ability, personality, and commitment to the practice of medicine.Several checks in the "Lack of Information" column will result in a weak recommendation. If you have never taken the opportunity to get acquainted, how can an evaluator reasonably evaluate your commitment to service, integrity, maturity, interpersonal skills, or emotional stability? We recommend that you obtain a copy of the personal recommendation form from the office of the academic dean. Read it and put yourself in the place of the recommender.
Students who find it difficult or impossible to live within the guidelines established for life on a Christian campus such as PUC should expect a teacher or dean to indicate this fact in the "cooperation" section of the form. (Even nondenominational organizations are interested in whether or not a student displays a cooperative attitude.)
In light of the fact that we claim Christ as our example, the teacher filling the "Commitment to Service" part of the form must ascertain to what degree the student's interest in medicine is motivated by a desire to be of service to his/her fellow man in a Christ-like way.
Our advice to students: Be friendly, get acquainted with your deans and teachers. Let them know of your goals, aspirations, and motivation for medicine. Don't be afraid to open up a bit. You will find that most will be happy to learn of your interests as you visit with them.
Junior/Senior Application Checklist
Checklist of Tasks to Accomplish Before Fall Quarter of Senior Year
- Take the MCAT.
- Make appointment for an interview with the Associate Dean of Loma Linda University Medical School in May.
- For Early Decision students only, request recommendation from PUC Medical Recommendations Committee by contacting the Academic Dean's office before May 1.
- Complete the AMCAS application and send it in to AMCAS by September 1.Submit the original and keep a completed copy of your application in your file. For the Early Decision program, get your application in to AMCAS by August 1.
- As soon as you receive the secondary application materials from the medical schools to which you have applied, take enclosed recommendation forms to the individuals that you want to recommend you, within a week. Request your recommenders to return the completed recommendation within a week. You may need to follow up on some of your recommenders if they seem to be slow in getting their recommendations in. Return, within a week, any other information that the medical school requests. Being diligent pays huge dividends. Take nothing for granted!
Checklist of Tasks to Accomplish During Your Senior Year
- Request a recommendation from the PUC Medical Recommendations Committee by contacting the academic dean's office as soon as autumn quarter begins.
- Make an appointment at the academic dean's office for an interview with the associate dean of Loma Linda University Medical School when she is here during Fall quarter.
- Have a complete transcript of your grades sent to the medical schools that you are applying to after each quarter of your senior year.
- Notification of acceptances will be sent to you sometime after the beginning of Christmas break. Almost all individuals will have been notified by the end of April.
Juniors Prepare to Apply During the Summer
Juniors, plan to start your AMCAS application before you leave for the summer. It is to your advantage to complete your application during the summer and submit it to AMCAS before you return to school next fall. AMCAS distributes your application to all the schools that you specify; and that takes a bit of time, especially when 40-50 thousand individuals are applying for medical school. So don't wait until the last minute. Completing your application takes several days by the time you write your essay and carefully check it over. Be sure to save a copy of your application.
Early Decision Program
Juniors with superior scholarship may receive a letter of acceptance to the medical school of their choice by October under the Early Decision Program. In this program, a junior makes regular application to the school of his/her choice, requesting an early decision. If this is granted, the student has the assurance of acceptance throughout the entire senior year. The only drawback is that one is locked into the school that gave the early acceptance. Juniors wishing to apply for Early Decision should (1) Immediately request a recommendation from the PUC Medical Recommendation Committee by registering your request at the academic dean's office; (2) Take the MCAT; and (3) Complete an AMCAS application and get it in by August 1.
Personal Interview with the representative from Loma Linda University
The representative, from Loma Linda University, interviews students during Spring and Fall quarter's each year. During the spring interview, the representative from Loma Linda University is anxious to see all juniors who will be applying either for Early Decision or the regular acceptance programs for enrollment in the following year's freshman medical class. The Fall interview is for the regularly applying seniors, not the Early Decision seniors. By this time, the Early Decision seniors should have already received notification of the status of their application (acceptance or non-acceptance). During this time, the representative from Loma Linda University will take approximately one hour to interview you.
At the end of each quarter (fall, winter, and spring) you must have a transcript of your grades sent to the medical schools to which you have applied/been accepted. To do this, you go in person to the records office in Graf Hall and make this request. Failure to do this could jeopardize your being accepted or cause you to lose an acceptance you currently have.
If your graduation does not occur or is delayed, immediately notify the medical school and work out a solution with them. The medical school is expecting you to graduate.
Don't neglect caring for either of these two items. Your final matriculation could depend upon them. In all cases, after receiving your acceptance letter and responding in the affirmative, keep the medical school informed of any irregularities.
The Almighty GPA
The average GPA of those accepted into the Loma Linda University School of Medicine has been around 3.8 for several years. (Many medical schools have similar data.) It is essential that a pre-medical student establish a good academic record so the Medical School Admission Committee has some confidence that the applicant is qualified academically. They are not at all anxious to accept an academically marginal student and subject him or her to the rigors and intense competition found in medical school.
On the other hand, even a 4.0 GPA is no assurance that a student will be successful in medical school and competent as a physician. Usually the overall and science GPAs are computed separately. Both of these should be above average. (Remember the average college grade is closer to a "B" than a "C.") It is important that a student's record be consistent. The "roller coaster" effect (grades which are high one term and low the next) does not favorably impress an admissions committee; neither does all "A's" in chemistry, biology, and physics and "C's" in social and behavioral sciences, or vice versa.
If a student has a poor freshman and/or sophomore year, it may be impossible to reach a competitive GPA, even with excellent junior and senior years. Most medical schools will consider such an applicant, but he/she will be competing with many others with three years of good records. (Acceptances are made during the senior year, so the Admissions Committee usually sees only three-year transcripts.)
Students applying to medical school must take the MCAT at least one year before the anticipated date of medical school admission. The MCAT is usually taken after the completion of General Chemistry, General Physics, Foundations of Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry I. For most pre-med students this will be during the spring quarter of the junior year or during the summer after the junior year.
The purpose of the MCAT is to help medical school admissions committees predict which applications will be successful in medical school. It tests areas and skills that medical educators and physicians consider important for success in the field.
For information and registration, visit https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/about.
A competitive MCAT score is at or above the 75 percentile.
Every qualified pre-medical student will be evaluated by a representative of the medical school to which he/she is applying. Although this may consist of only a single interview for other medical schools, Loma Linda University encourages its potential applicants to meet with their representative annually.
Loma Linda University School of Medicine sends the associate dean for admissions to the PUC campus twice a year, during the autumn and spring quarters. Appointments can be made at the academic dean's office.
During the freshman and sophomore year, a personal interview is not necessary unless an individual has a unique situation which necessitates counsel. The Loma Linda University School of Medicine representative holds a general meeting for freshman pre-medical students and any other interested students during the fall and spring quarter of each year. After a brief presentation describing the LLU School of Medicine, students are encouraged to ask any questions regarding the medical school, requirements, and the application process. Every freshman/new pre-medical student should be at this meeting.
Sophomores and juniors should plan to see the associate dean of admissions from Loma Linda at the general meeting. During her visit in the spring, juniors should have a personal interview.
Most other medical schools will interview by invitation only. An interview will be granted if the preliminary judgment of the medical school (based on grades and MCAT) is favorable. Usually the interview will take place on the medical school campus.
Applying to Medical School
Applications to most medical schools in the United States are handled by the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The AMCAS application packet must be correctly completed by a specific deadline date (approximately one year before the anticipated date of admission). Generally November 1 is the deadline for submission of the application to AMCAS. Other common deadlines for the submission of the application are October 15 or November 15.
After AMCAS has processed your application, they will send the information to each medical school that you have indicated. Upon receipt of the material from AMCAS, each medical school will evaluate your application and inform you by letter. You may be advised at this point that you are not competitive at a particular medical school or you may be asked to fill out supplementary application material specific to a particular school, obtain letters of recommendation, and subsequently be invited for an interview.
Realize that filling out the AMCAS application is only the first step in the application process. It may take AMCAS and each medical school several weeks to process your application. Medical schools will not even consider an applicant until his/her file is complete, including all supplementary materials and recommendation letters.
Association of American Medical Colleges (AMCAS)
The AAMC Home Page contains considerable information helpful to pre-med students.
The AMCAS application autobiographical sketch (personal statement) is your opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants. This part of your application should not be taken lightly, and considerable effort and thought should be expended to make a positive statement. The following questions should serve to stimulate your thinking, but they need not all be answered.
- What experience or background makes you unique?
- What experiences have motivated you to pursue medicine as a career?
- What attributes do you have that qualify you to successfully complete a rigorous medical school curriculum?
- What personal strengths of yours will make you a competent, caring physician?
- What experiences have served to enlighten you on what medicine is all about and why you think you have the qualifications and commitment to successfully complete medical school and be a competent physician?
Some people use this opportunity to explain fluctuations in their academic record. If you feel this is necessary, be very careful that you don't just sound as if you are making excuses for poor performance.
A suggested plan of attack for preparing the personal statement is as follows:
- List specific points you wish to make.
- Develop each topic fully with a complete paragraph.
- Decrease the quantity of words in each paragraph so that each point is presented crisply and concisely.
- Rigorously check for correct grammar and punctuation.
- Make sure the statement reads smoothly in addition to being concise.
Med School Interview
During the autumn quarter of the senior year the formal interview takes place. The Loma Linda University School of Medicine associate dean for admissions visits the PUC campus during the autumn quarter and expects to interview every pre-medical student who is applying for admission the next summer. The interview is an important part of the profile which is developed on the applicant, but it should not be a time for excess anxiety, since the student will have had contact with the representative during the previous three years.
The applicant should be prepared to ask and answer questions during the interview. Although the interviewer may ask a wide variety of questions, there are some obvious ones which the applicant should be prepared to answer. It is reasonable to expect that you have thought about why you want to study medicine and that your are aware of the demands of the profession. What have you done that shows that you have a genuine interest in medicine (besides taking the pre-med requirements)? What attributes do you have that qualify you for this demanding profession? Why are you applying to Loma Linda (or other school)? What makes the medical school appealing to you? Have you discussed the medical program with any graduates or current medical students? Are you aware of any special accomplishments for which the school is noted? What about specific personalities at the medical school who have gained recognition nationally or internationally? Does the school have a combined degree program (M.D./Ph.D. or M.D./M.S.)? You can ask questions about the medical school, but ask intelligent ones. Don't just make up questions to fill dead space.
Be on time for your interview! A late applicant starts off on the wrong foot. The interviewer typically makes a note of your being late.
Wear clothing that is reasonably conservative. Women should wear a dress or a skirt and blouse that is a bit more formal than that worn every day to school. Men should wear a sport coat, slacks, and tie, or a suit. Wear clothing in which you will be comfortable. Appearance also includes neatness, cleanliness, posture, and composure. You have only one time to make a first impression. You are applying for a profession; look professional. Notice how medical doctors dress and keep themselves, and do likewise.
Greet the interviewer in a friendly manner. Don't slouch, tap your feet or nervously play with objects during the interview. Do not chew gum! When conversing, show yourself to be a good listener. Listen intently and allow the interviewer to finish the question. Answer specifically and concisely; do not ramble. If you don't know something, admit it. Don't try to give an answer regarding an issue about which you are ignorant. The interviewer understands that you are in a somewhat stressful situation and expects you to display some nervousness, so don't worry about it. The Counseling Center has several videos on how to have a successful interview.
Medical schools other than LLU will notify each student if he/she is to be granted an interview. If the student's application gets past the first "cut," and the MCAT score is good, the interview may be granted. Typically, the applicant must travel to the medical school for the interview.
Early Decision Program
Loma Linda and many other medical schools have an early decision program (EDP). The EDP allows an applicant to secure an acceptance in a participating school by October 1st, which then affords the applicant sufficient time to apply to other schools if not accepted through the EDP.
If you decide to participate in the EDP and are accepted, you may not apply and be accepted to any other medical school. Students who qualify for early acceptance are relatively few and typically have very good qualifications. If you are interested in the EDP contact your pre-med advisor for further information.
Medical School Admissions Committees are interested in applicants having more than just good grades and high MCAT scores. They are anxious to see "well-rounded" individuals with a variety of interests and abilities. Extracurricular activities are not necessary, but can be an asset to make a more competitive application. Involvement in student government, campus clubs, or college publications should be evidence of leadership skills and ability to deal effectively with people. These activities are time-consuming, however, and extracurricular involvement to the detriment of academics will not be an asset to your application. Students getting involved in extracurricular activities should do so moderately at first. Once it is clear you can handle your academics and some extras, you may decide to do a bit more.
There is another area of extracurricular activity that serves two purposes. Working or serving as a volunteer in a hospital should be helpful in making a decision as to whether or not you are suited to medicine. In addition, an admissions committee may well feel that an applicant with hospital experience is making a more thoughtful and informed career choice than an individual with no such experience.
Neither of these extracurricular activities (student government or hospital work experience) are essential to assure acceptance. Of these two, experience in a medical setting is more important. When you notify the Medical Recommendation Committee that your are applying to medical school and need a recommendation, you should give the academic dean's secretary a list of your extracurricular activities.
Once accepted, requesting a deferred enrollment from Loma Linda University School of Medicine is generally discouraged. It is highly recommended that students wishing to spend a year abroad (student missions, ACA etc.) should complete this experience prior to the senior year in college.
Visit www.aamc.org to find websites describing each of the U.S. medical schools.
Visit www.aacom.org, the website of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.
To find out about foreign medical students, visit the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates at www.ecfmg.org. Some students who have difficulty obtaining admission to a U.S. medical school apply to a foreign medical school. The most popular are located in Mexico or the Caribbean. Keep in mind the axiom "Let the buyer beware" when considering a foreign medical school. It would be wise to talk with someone who has successfully completed a program at the school.
Armed Forces Scholarships
Air Force, Navy, Army and National Guard Medical Scholarships are available on a competitive basis. Contact your pre-med advisor for current information.
There are a number of alternative careers in the health care area. While gathering information on medicine, the student should also investigate some of the following medically related occupations:
- Medical Technology
- Nurse Practitioner
- Occupational Therapy
- Osteopathic Medicine
- Physical Therapy
- Physician Assistant
- Respiratory Therapy
- Speech Pathology and Audiology
- Surgical Technician
- Veterinary Medicine
- American Academy of Physician Assistants
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
- American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine
- American Association of Dental Schools
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP)
- American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine
- American Dental Association (ADA)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- American Podiatric Medical Association
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AMCAS)
- Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges
- The American Academy of Optometry
- Student Doctor Network
MCAT Review Courses: