Frequently Asked Questions

 

General Questions:

Prerequisites and Requirements:

Course Selection:

Study Abroad:

Volunteering:

Research:

Transfer Students:

Applying to Medical School


General Questions:

Q: Where can I find information or seek advising about pre-health professions?

A: You can find the Dean for Health Professions Advising in the Dean of Studies Office in room 105 in Milbank Hall. You may contact us at prehealthadvising@barnard.edu or 212-854-2024. 

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Q: If I am interested in pre-health professions and/or applying to medical school, what should I do to get started?
A: You can get started by making an appointment with the Dean for Health Professions Advising, who will explore options with you, and then make sure you are in our office tracking system so that you can receive regular communications, updates, and information. You can also speak with fellow students, and we can help you get in touch with alumnae or others in the field.

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Q: I'm a junior or senior who recently decided to pursue a career in the health professions: what do I need to know?

A: It is never too late to decide to pursue your goal! There really is no such thing as being behind schedule; everyone's path is individual, and many pre-med and pre-health students/alumnae take different roads to medical or health professional school. If you are a junior or senior, or alumna, who has recently discovered that she is interested in attending graduate school in the health fields, feel free to contact us and discuss your particular situation.

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Q: When will we be assigned a Pre-Health adviser?

A:  Dean Cohen is your Pre-Health Advisor. You will also have a faculty advisor that may be well-versed with pre-health and therefore a wonderful resource, but Dean Cohen is here to support and guide all of you. 

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Prerequisites and Requirements:

Q: Is there any major that you recommend for pre-med students? Can I major in a non-science field and still go to medical school?

A: We STRONGLY encourage you to pursue a major of study that interests you! You do not have to be science major to be a competitive applicant for medical or any health professional school. In fact, many health professional schools appreciate students that pursue the humanities or other majors outside of the sciences because it allows for diversity of backgrounds and promotes well-rounded individuals. Pre-med prerequisites will provide you with science knowledge helpful for pre-health professional schools, but science does not have to be your main academic focus. That being said, if you love science and want to pursue science, GO FOR IT!

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Q: How possible is it to double major or do a major and a minor while also doing pre-med and studying abroad? 

A: In regards to pursuing a double major and/or major/minor - this is certainly possible. We encourage you to explore this with your advisor.

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Q: What are Barnard College's pre-medical prerequisite courses?

A: Two semesters of Biology at the pre-medical level with lab each semester (i.e., Biology BC1500-1502 with labs BC1501 and BC1503). Four semesters of Chemistry, which include: 2 semesters of General Chemistry with at least one, 2-credit lab and two semesters of Organic Chemistry with at least one, 2-credit lab. (i.e., Chemistry BC2001, BC3230, BC3231, BC3328 and BC3232). Two semesters of General Physics with two semesters of lab. (i.e., Physics BC2001-2002 OR Physics V1201-1202). Two semesters of Math at the Calculus level, which can be fulfilled by taking either two semesters of Calculus or one semester of Calculus and one semester of Statistics. Two semesters of English taken in college (Advanced Placement level courses from high school do not count). To learn more, visit our Coursework page.

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Q: Are Barnard's pre-dental prerequisites different from its pre-medical prerequisites?

A: No, Barnard College's prerequisites are the same for dental school and for medical school.

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Q: Is there a deadline by which I need to fulfill all of my prerequisite courses?

A:  There is no single path to medical school, and some students don't finish all their prerequisites during their four years of college. You should be aware, however, that the application cycle to dental school or medical school begins on June 1; for other programs, the deadlines may be different. You should, ideally, be finished with your pre-medical/dental prerequisites by June 1 of the summer in which you are applying to medical school. For example, if you plan to attend medical school immediately upon graduating from college, than you must complete all of your pre-med prerequisites by the summer immediately following your junior year of college. If you would like to take a "gap" year before starting medical school, then you must complete all of your pre-med prerequisites by the summer immediately following your senior year of college.

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Q: What are some additional courses that may be required by medical schools?

A: Medical schools vary in their requirements; we strongly encourage students to do research on the individual schools to which they apply. A number of medical schools require Biochemistry and/or Genetics, and we encourage students to take these courses at Barnard. Please be aware that there may be some medical schools that require applicants to complete other courses (in addition to or in lieu of Biochemistry and Genetics).  

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Q: Do some medical and dental schools require coursework in addition to Barnard's Pre-med requirements?

A: Some do. It is the responsibility of each student/alumna to become familiar with the requirements of each of the medical schools of interest. Leave yourself time to call or email the schools to verify whether a particular medical/dental school requires additional courses. Please know that with some exceptions, most medical/dental schools expect applicants to complete these additional requirements prior to applying to their particular institution.

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Q: Do other health professional schools have uniform prerequisites for each of their health areas (e.g., do all nursing schools or physical therapy programs have the exact same prerequisites)?

A:  There are no uniform requirements, although these schools often share similar requirements. As soon as you think you may be interested in a health professional school outside of medicine and dentistry, feel free to contact us to discuss a strategy for meeting the requirements put forth by the particular schools/programs in your area of interest.

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Q: I'm a bit confused as to what the premed requirements are for math. Would you care to clarify? Is it Calc I, Calc II and Statistics? What would you suggest the order of the requirements to be if we are planning to take a gap year before medical school? 

A: The math requirements actually vary for medical schools; however, the majority of medical schools only require one semester of math. That being said, our physics courses require Calculus I and Calculus II OR permission of the instructor. So, you have a choice: we think it’s best to take at least Calculus I and Statistics in preparation for medical school and the MCAT exam (note: calculus is not on the MCAT exam but statistics is helpful). In regards to the order of sciences,  suggest you begin with either Chemistry or Biology. 

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Q: If I decide to fulfill my math prerequisite with one semester of statistics, what are some statistics courses that will fulfill this requirement?

A: A statistics course may possibly be in the math, psychology, or economics department. Examples of some courses that you can use to fulfill one half of Barnard's pre-med math requirement include: STAT W1111, STAT W1211, PSYC BC1101, BIO BC2286, STAT W2024, STAT W2025. Please note that the course entitled Introduction to Statistical Reasoning (STAT W1001x,y) will not count towards your pre-health prerequisite.

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Q: If I received a 5 on my AP Calculus AB exam, will I be able to take Calculus II first semester?

A: The math department will hold advising hours during NSOP for calc placement if you wish to take Calculus but are unsure which level to enroll in. For the purpose of medical school, Calculus I is sufficient. For the purpose of our physics courses, you will need calculus I and Calculus II or III OR permission of the instructor, so this means Calculus II or III is not an absolute requirement. 

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Q: Can my First-Year English or First-Year Seminar fulfill my pre-medical English requirement?

A: Yes; but all pre-med students are strongly encouraged to take at least one additional semester of English. Taking an additional English course can also help you strengthen your reading, analytical, and verbal skills which may be helpful to you when preparing for the MCAT, while also demonstrating to medical schools that you are well-versed in literature and the humanities -- a quality medical schools find increasingly attractive.

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Q: Do most health professional schools require one or more courses in a foreign language?

A: No, but having taken such a course, or being proficient in a foreign language, can be extremely beneficial to your future work with patients as a healthcare provider. It also is a factor that many health professional schools look upon favorably.

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Course Selection:

Q: In terms of Pre-Med and the other requirements, it is common for people to graduate in four years?

A: Yes, it is very common and quite doable to complete all of the pre-medical / pre-health requirements and graduate in four years. Check out some sample course sequencing plans on our website: https://barnard.edu/student-services/dean-studies/your-education-beyond-...

 

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Q: I need to fulfill my math requirement and I am not sure if I can take Intro to Calc if I got a 4 on my exam. Do I need to take a placement test?

A: Here’s a First Year Blog Post about choosing the right math class and placement advice from the Mathematics Department: http://barnardfirstyear.blogspot.com/2017/06/faq-picking-right-math-or-s...   You can also reference our 'coursework' page for information about fulfilling the math requirement for health professional schools: https://barnard.edu/student-services/dean-studies/graduate-school-advisi...

 

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Q: If I took AP calculus in high school and got a 5 on the AP, should I take calc 2 or 3 next year?  Or should I even continue with calc? Should I take stats or a math like computer science instead?

A: In regards to math, you can choose to take Calc 2 or 3 (many students prefer Calc 3) next year, but it is not necessary if you have AP credit. Note: Math is the only subject that I encourage using AP credit to satisfy pre-med/pre-health requirements. I do encourage you to take Statistics as this is useful for medical/health professional school as well as the MCAT.

 

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Q: Can we use AP credits to pass out of the pre-med math requirement? How do we use this AP credit?  

A: An AP credit for Calculus is sufficient. There technically is no "pre-med" path or major so you don’t need to worry about satisfying requirements for Barnard's sake. It’s all for prep for applying to medical schools/health professional schools and meeting admissions requirements. Check out our course requirements page for information about satisfying the math requirement for medical school: https://barnard.edu/dos/graduate-school/pre-health/resources/basics. 

 

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Q: There are also many stats course options such as a calculus based stats or psychology stats.  Which do you suggest for pre-med students? 

A: Many of our students take Psych Stats and it is a great course (especially great if you are a psychology or neuroscience major). You do NOT need calculus-based statistics for medical / health professional schools. Check out our coursework chart for some options (note: you will need to be logged into your gBear account to access it): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1smHGTMNNGFvPsiVOawZ3oujmOIyFLXCY...

 

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Q: I am beginning with a physics sequence in the fall. Is that uncommon?  

A: This is possible, although not the 'typical' start. Unless you are exploring a physics major, I encourage students to begin with Chemistry or Biology in their first year. Barnard physics courses require Calculus I (or AP equivalent) and Calculus II or III or permission of the instructor. If you wish to take Physics at Barnard, which I encourage, then you will either need to take Calculus II or III or get permission from the instructor (meaning not to take Calc II or III and just have Calc I). You should be aware that Physics at Columbia ONLY requires Calculus I or AP equivalent. This information is also available on our 'Academic Preparation' page on our website: https://barnard.edu/dos/graduate-school/pre-health/resources/basics

Q: Can I begin the chemistry sequence in the spring and take it for both sophomore semesters? 

A: The chemistry sequence is quite rigid and thus you can only begin it in the Fall at Barnard with General Chemistry I (it is only offered in the Fall). 

 

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Q: Is there space for first years in Biology 1500 and General Chemistry I? 

A: YES; a lot of space remains.  both classes are saving spots for entering students and everyone will be waitlisted at first -- professors will admit students one by one from the waitlist in early September.  

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Q: For Biology 1500, it says BIOL-1001 or equivalent preparation is required. Would taking AP Biology in high school count as equivalent preparation? Without AP Bio - is BIOL-1001 a semester long?

A: Receiving a 4 or 5 on AP Biology would count as equivalent preparation for Biology 1500. Students who wish to strengthen their biology background before beginning the Biology sequence can take BIOL-1001 in the fall and take BIOL-1502/1503 in the spring and BIOL-1500/1501 the following fall. Biology 1500/1501 and Biology 1502-1503 are NOT preprequisites for each other and do not have to be taken in sequential order. Check out the bio department website which has advice and a chart for introductory course selection: https://biology.barnard.edu/introductory-biology-courses-0   

 

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Q: Can I take the 1500 Bio course both in the spring and fall? On the website I saw that in the fall the course focuses on organismal biology and in the spring it focuses on molecular biology? Should I choose between one or the other?

A: The courses are not offered at the same time, only in separate semesters. You will need to take both courses to satisfy the pre-requisites for health professional schools.  

 

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Q: Should I begin the chemistry or biology sequence my first year?

A: This is a very good and challenging question as it really depends on the individual. Professor Jacob Alexander gives some wonderful advice about starting with Chemistry. Check it out on the FY Blog: http://barnardfirstyear.blogspot.com/2017/06/advice-from-science-prof-fo...

 

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Q: When debating whether we should take bio or chemistry during the first year, do we consider which one would help us to achieve a higher GPA for the first year?  

A: I personally wouldn't approach it in that manner. I would consider a few things: A) Am I interested in a chemistry or biology major? B) Which subject do I feel stronger in? C) Do I want to study abroad at some point? There is no one 'right' choice. 

 

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Q: I do not plan on majoring in the sciences, but I do hope to study abroad. You said earlier that it might be a good idea to begin with the chemistry sequence if one plans to study abroad, but I am stronger in Biology. Should I start with the biology or chemistry sequence?

A: If you feel stronger in Biology, you can begin with Biology and we can work out a course sequence that allows you to study abroad. It may just require some summer courses to "catch up" but it's not insurmountable

 

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Study Abroad:

Q: Is it impossible to do a study abroad program and then attend medical school directly after undergrad? 

A: We want to take this opportunity to encourage you all to explore study abroad, if that is something of interest to you, and encourage you to consider waiting until your senior year to apply to medical school. There are number of reasons this timeline can be favorable. 75% of our applicants to medical school apply in their senior year or 1-2 years post graduation. And now the average age of an entering medical student is 26 years old! So it certainly means that many students are taking at least one glide year post-graduation.

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Q: Are there any study abroad programs that will allow us to take some of the pre-med requirements while there? 
A: I encourage you to explore our undergraduate courses that are available to you through the School of Public Health. You may also want to reach out to our Study Abroad Dean, Wendy Garay. You can also check out the list of approved study abroad programs: barnard.edu/global/reach. Our students have also volunteered with such organizations as Global Brigade during school breaks We hope to have more information about this topic soon!
 

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Q: Should I take Biology or Chemistry first semester if we plan to study abroad junior year?

A:  We are really pleased to hear you are considering studying abroad- this can be a wonderful experience and something that will add breadth and insight to your pre-health portfolio. We would recommend you begin with Chemistry if you wish to study abroad in your junior year. This is because chemistry is a 5- course sequence (General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry), so starting early will give you more flexibility in your junior and senior year.

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Volunteering:

Q: What type of volunteer experience should I have prior to applying to medical school?

A: We encourage you to explore clinical opportunities in areas of healthcare that interest YOU. While many of our students volunteer at our neighboring hospitals, this is not the only way to gain clinical experience. Yes, we think you should step foot in a hospital at some point prior to applying to medical school, as you certainly want to be familiar with the environment, but many of our students working in community clinics to gain experience. Find something that you are PASSIONATE about. If there is a  particular population you wish to work with or explore, go for it! To learn more about available opportunities, come to a Pre-Health Overview and visit our Gaining Experience page.

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Q: What type of volunteer experience should I have prior to applying to dental school?

A: Prior to applying to dental school, you must have experience shadowing one or more dentists. Taking the time to shadow more than one dentist  will expose you to varied practice areas of dentistry. You should aim to have obtained substantial dental shadowing experience prior to June 1st of the same summer that you are applying to dental school. 

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Q: Where at Barnard can I find out about possible pre-med and pre-health volunteer, internship, job and/or networking opportunities?

A: You can find more opportunities at Barnard College's Career Development Office.

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Q:  Is it possible to start working at a community clinic during our freshman year?

A: Absolutely! We encourage you to begin engaging in clinical experience as soon as possible! It is the best way to build your knowledge of medicine and demonstrate your commitment to the field, in addition to serving our community and building relationships with members of our NYC community. 

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Q: I know that CUEMS offers EMT training to students. Is this recommended for pre-med students? Or would you recommend a CNA (certified nurse assistant) program where we can experience more patient care/ learn more about bedside manner? I love the idea of both, but I would rather choose one that is better for med school applications.

A: Some of our students pursue EMT training and really enjoy this experience. You do not need to pursue a CNA experience to gain experience working at the bedside. As a volunteer at a hospital, you will have the opportunity to interact with patients, their families and the health care team. We believe a CNA would be appropriate if you wish to pursue a nursing track, which is also a wonderful career choice!

Additionally, many of our students who speak multiple languages also pursue being a medical translator at a hospital and have a wonderful experience with this. There are SO many ways to get exposure and experience. We love that you are all thinking about this! 

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Research

Q: How can I get involved in research? Is there someone I can contact now to get started?

A: There are many wonderful and rich opportunities on campus to engage in research. I encourage you to begin exploring the various departments on campus by reading about our faculty and their research. When you are on campus next month, you can then contact the departments to set up meetings with faculty to begin exploring further.

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Q: How available is research to first-years? Could a first-year start doing research with a professor without having taken any classes with that professor? 

A: There are many possibilities for first years. Our faculty research and their support our students is such a wonderful feature of Barnard. When you are on campus, you can contact departments to find out more about research opportunities for first years. Don't feel that you must begin research right away. In fact, research is not "required" for entry into health professional schools. I encourage you to take the first few months at Barnard to get acclimated, get settled with your classes, begin speaking with faculty and then exploring. Again, there is no rush!

We also have a wonderful Summer Research Institute that you can apply for in your first year for your summer after your first year. This is accompanied by funding for the summer. More information about SRI will be available in the Fall and a session will be held.

 

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Q: How accessible is research at Columbia for Barnard students?

A: There are many wonderful opportunities to engage in research at Barnard, at Columbia and up at Columbia Medical Center.

 

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MCAT 2015:

Q: I heard that the MCAT changed in 2015. Where can I obtain more information pertaining to the new MCAT 2015 exam?

A: You can access important information regarding the 2015 MCAT exam by going directly to the Association of American Medical College's website: aamc.org/mcat2015. Please feel free to meet with the Health Professions Advising Team to discuss your individual thoughts and plans regarding the timing of applying to medical school and taking the MCAT.

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Transfer FAQs:

Q: How likely is it for a student to begin most of their pre med pre requisites their sophomore year and still go on to medical school directly after college without taking a gap year?

A: It really depends on which pre-med courses they still need and what other courses they still need to complete prior to graduation to fulfill the foundations or major requirements. It's not insurmountable though. It's more of a question of how robust your portfolio will be- not just on an academic level, but your level of competency and demonstration of knowledge and commitment to medicine through clinical and community activities. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the core competencies of a successful medical student to guide your next three years. https://www.aamc.org/initiatives/admissionsinitiative/competencies/

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Q: I was wondering if there are any specific courses that should be taken each semester. For instance, whether Organic Chemistry should be taken in the fall as opposed to the spring?

A: Yes, the majority of science courses are only offered in specific semesters. For exampled, Organic Chemistry I is only offered in the Spring at Barnard and Orgo II is offered in the Fall. So this means you would start with General Chemistry I in the Fall, Orgo I in the Spring followed by Orgo II and Gen Chem IV the following year.

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Q: Do many students pair Gen Chem with Bio at Barnard?

A: If students begin taking the premedical courses and wish to take two in one semester, it very appropriate and advised to take Gen Chem and Bio. That being said, it is not always the best plan for everyone--it truly is an individual decision. Two science courses can be rigorous. You should have at least one year of double sciences to demonstrate you can handle the rigor of the science curriculum, but you may wish to wait until you are more settled at Barnard to tackle this. I encourage you to talk to your advisor and I am certainly available to discuss further.

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Q: Do you recommend any other English courses besides Writing 3103 or 3104?

A: You should complete at least two semesters of English and/or Writing courses in preparation for medical schools. Other than that, I encourage you to take what looks interesting to you! Transfer students may take any 3-point English literature course taught by the Barnard English department to satisfy the College Writing requirement.

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Applying to Medical School

Q: Do most Barnard grads who were pre-med go to med school right after or do most take one (or more) gap year(s)? 

A: The majority of our students, 75% in fact!, take at least one year off after graduating before entering into medical school. However, there is no set timeline for all, it’s all about finding the right timeline for you! 

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Q: What aspects of my application should I focus on (aside from grades), to ensure that I appear a well-rounded student but also someone who can excel at medical school throughout my three years?

A: This is a great question. As you have already hinted, there is more to an application than just good grades. Medical schools are looking for well-rounded individuals. We encourage you to check out our 'Gaining Experience' page (https://barnard.edu/student-services/dean-studies/graduate-school-advisi...) to understand what these dimensions may be. And this is something we will talk about in depth at our Pre-Health Overview sessions, which everyone should attend as their "first" pre-health advising session with Dean Cohen.

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Q: What is the Flex Med program?

A: Flex Med is a program offered through the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (on the Upper East Side of Manhattan) that supports students who are interested in the arts and humanities and wish to have more flexibility in their coursework. You apply in your sophomore year to be accepted to Mt Sinai SOM and matriculate following graduation. It is not a binding program, but a very competitive admissions process.  Here is the program's website: http://icahn.mssm.edu/education/medical/admissions/flexmed

Q: Do med schools like seeing varsity athletes? Is it possible to balance sports at Columbia with the pre-medical requirements? 

A: Yes, schools love varsity athletes. They love well-rounded individuals who can demonstrate commitment, hard work, and teamwork!

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