Pre-Health Resources

Arts & Sciences Student Services focuses on providing Arts & Sciences students resources and guidance to:

  • Explore the various health careers
  • Design an academic plan that best fits your interests
  • Plan extracurricular activities to explore and prepare for health professional schools
  • Manage mental health and its impacts on your academic experience
  • Identify and apply to internship, research, experiential learning, and job opportunities
  • General interview advice and practice interview support

Exploring Health Careers

The liberal arts experience in Arts & Sciences offers the perfect preparation for the health careers, as it offers contact with the full range of perspectives on the human experience. As an Arts & Sciences student, you will be exposed to a broad base of knowledge while you hone your critical thinking, creative, and analytical skills. You can take a mix of classes in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences that provides an excellent foundation for future study in this growing field.

If you are unsure which field within the health profession is a good fit for you:

  • Visit the Explore Health Careers website to explore
  • Meet with Career Development to discuss resources and options

Academic Preparation

Major and Minor Choices

Cornell does not have a "pre-med" major. Instead, you take a series of required and recommended courses to prepare for health professional school. You may choose any of the 40 majors in the College that interest you. Consult with your advising dean if you need help choosing and when you are ready to affiliate, apply to the major you want, usually by the end of your sophomore year. 

A minor is not required for health professional schools. You are encouraged to pursue any minors you would like. Schedule an appointment  with your advising dean to design an academic plan to explore your interests and to prepare for professional schools. 

Prerequisite and Recommended Coursework


The Pre-Health Academic Preparation provides detailed information on course requirements and recommendations. All required coursework must be taken for a letter grade (A-F).

Sample plans provide examples to guide your conversation with your advising dean. Focus on incorporating major and college requirements into your plan. Explore your comfort zone and plan on taking these challenging courses when you are most ready.

Advanced Placement Credits

The decision to use AP/IB credits is up to you. Acceptance of these credits vary from school to school. Check the requirements from schools you may be interested in applying. You can choose to be safe and plan to take the required coursework or should you choose to use your AP, consider taking upper-level course/s to demonstrate proficiency in that particular area. If you are unsure, consult with the pre-health FAQ or discuss your decision with your advising dean.

Activities Planning

Experiences outside the classroom allow you to not only explore the health career that you want but also provide important learning opportunities to prepare for health professional schools. As you plan for activities, consider why they are important for you, what  you hope to learn, and how these activities help you demonstrate the Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students established by the American Association of Medical Colleges. 

Health professional schools do not have preferences or rank what activities are good or bad. Instead, they are interested in knowing why these activities are important to you. Therefore, do not approach your activities planning as a checklist. Review the Pre-Health Activities, which offers a guideline on designing your activities. If you need help planning, consult with Career Development

How to Find Activities

It can be intimidating to seek out activities. The process requires thoughtful and careful planning. Be careful to balance your academics with your activities.

Clinical Experiences

  • Networking: Do you know someone in your social circle who is a physician/dentist/vet? How about your or your family physician/dentist? Ask them. Career Development can offer ideas on how to network with Cornell alum.
  • Handshake: Opportunities are posted regularly. Sign up here.
  • Cold-email/call: Look for local professionals in your community (private and public clinical settings). Call or email to introduce yourself and state your interest in shadowing them.
  • Volunteer in hospice/rehab center/other clinical settings in your area by visiting the organizations' websites.
  • Apply to work or volunteer as an EMT in your local community. Cornell University Emergency Medical Service provides opportunities to service the Ithaca campus.
  • Apply to work as a certified nursing assistant or medical scribe to gain hands-on experience working with patients.

Service Experiences

Medicine is a service-oriented profession, what are you doing to show that you care about people and that you like working with people? This is where you can get creative. Some ideas include:

  • Becoming a teaching assistant or tutor: Ask a professor if you can sign up to tutor for their class. Apply for a position with the LSC, the Knight Writing Institute, or serve as a student advisor in the OUB. If your classmates or friends struggle academically, offer them the opportunity for one-on-one tutoring. You do not need an official position to justify the experience. It is the act of service that counts. You may also search for outside tutoring opportunities by searching the web.
  • Work on campus: Service experiences can be earned through paid employment. Cornell offers student employment opportunities.
  • The Public Service Center provides many on-campus and off-campus volunteer opportunities.

Research and Other Scholarly Activities

Research can be obtained in several ways:

  • The College of Arts & Sciences offers many opportunities for research.   

  • The Nexus Scholars Program is an excellent way to conduct summer research on campus, and is specially designed to help students obtain their first research experience. 

  • Browse any departmental website or the OUB's research database: Check out professors' websites, look at their research and if you are interested, send them an email. Introduce yourself, state your intention, ask for a meeting or opportunity to further discuss the possibility of joining their lab.
  • The Humanities Scholars Program offers sophomores opportunities to engage in humanities research. There is also funding to support your work!
  • If you are interested in designing an independent study project in your major, discuss with your faculty advisor on the best way to get started. If you are interested in independent study outside of your major, discuss with a professor whom you think will be able to serve as your mentor.

Leadership Experiences

Summer Experiences

  • Structured programs require application and possibly letters of recommendation. You can expect to submit applications between the months of January through March. You can find these opportunities by visiting the OUB, NAAHP, and NSF-REU. These are just some a few sites to get you started. If you have a specific program in mind, search for it on their website.
  • You can also design your activities to fill your summer days. Think about getting involved in activities you normally do not have time for or that you do not have access to because of being in Ithaca during the academic terms.

When to Engage in Activities

The question of timing depends on what is available and whether or not you have time for the activities. For example, research is available during the academic year as well as the summer. Must you engage in research year-round? That's up to you. Some students do work on research during the summer but they add on some sort of community service when possible.

Summer and winter breaks are great times to engage in activities that are somewhat time-consuming where they normally would conflict with your academic demands. For example, shadowing or other clinical experiences may be challenging to balance with a full academic load; therefore, summer and winter breaks are great times to engage in these.

Dean's Certification Letters

  • If your school requires a Dean's Certification Letter, complete this Information Release Request form to authorize Cornell to release your academic and disciplinary information (If you are unable to access the form with Cornell's two-step log-in, please use this release form). Allow four weeks for this process. Once your record has been checked, a letter is prepared and kept on file to be sent out with the medical school forms.
  • Submit the Dean's Certification form (a.k.a. College Questionnaire, College Certification) from the medical school, along with a stamped envelope addressed to the school, at least four weeks before the school’s application deadline for admissions.
  • Pre-health students who were external transfers to Cornell must provide copies of both their Cornell transcript and the transcript from the external institution when applying to medical school.

Contact Us

Arts & Sciences Advising:

The Health Professions Advising Center (HPAC) at Cornell University is your home for pre-health advising and serves as a centralized hub that provides academic and professional-development support and resources to assist students and alumni exploring healthcare careers, including preparation to apply to professional schools for medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, pharmacy, chiropractic, occupational therapy, nursing, physician assistant, veterinary medicine, or other health professions! The HPAC team is a great resource and offers appointments and drop-in advising. 

Student Services Partners

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I take honors track or upper-level course if I’m using AP credits?

This is a personal decision. Do you feel that your AP preparation is proficient and that you are confident you will do well in the honors/upper-level course? If so, you should consider it but note that it is not required by professional schools.

Do I need to take biology, chemistry, and math in my first semester?

Not necessarily, your academic plan should reflect your comfort zone. Your advising dean can help you craft one that best fits your needs. Don't take this combination of courses if you are not comfortable. You have four years to complete these pre-reqs, so don't rush it.

Will I be able to study abroad if I’m pre-med?

Yes, you should work with a study abroad advisor to discuss your plan for the study broad. You can consult with them on how this will impact your plan of study. For reference, you can access the sample academic plans to help guide your conversation.

I need help deciding whether or not I should take a bridge year.

You should meet with Health Professions Advising Center.