Required courses and their prerequisites

Students in prehealth programs must take the same sequence of courses no matter what college they attend. These courses are required by the professional schools, not by the undergraduate colleges. Fortunately, the requirements for the four-year doctoral programs in most of the healthcare professions are similar.

You should plan on taking the following courses:

Course No. Course Title Prerequisites
General Chemistry I & Lab MATH-UA 9 (or calculus ready)
General Chemistry II & Lab CHEM-UA 125
BIOL-UA 11 Principles of Biology I CHEM-UA 125 (pre- or co-requisite)
BIOL-UA 12 Principles of Biology II BIOL-UA 11 or permission, CHEM-UA 126 (pre- or co-requisite)
Principles of Biology Lab
BIOL-UA 11 or permission
CHEM-UA 225 Organic Chemistry I & Lab CHEM-UA 126
CHEM-UA 226 Organic Chemistry II & Lab CHEM-UA 225
PHYS-UA 11 General Physics I MATH-UA 121
PHYS-UA 12 General Physics II PHYS-UA 11
MATH-UA 121 Calculus I (or AP Calculus)
Writing the Essay

English Elective

These courses are the minimum requirements. Some schools may require additional courses, particularly in mathematics and/or biochemistry. You should familiarize yourself with the requirements for those schools to which you think you may apply. The best source for this information is the AAMC publication "Medical Schools Admissions Requirements."

The specific prehealth requirements outlined above must be completed before you matriculate into medical school. Since the MCAT is based upon the assumption that you have completed these courses, the normal procedure is to complete them before sitting for this examination.

You are probably most concerned about the science requirements and we will certainly address that below. For the moment, begin by noting the non-science requirements: Writing the Essay and English. Take them and all your liberal arts courses, even Core requirements, seriously; medical and other health professional schools want and value applicants who can write well and conduct research. A word to the wise: the English course really should be taken in the English Department, as this is what medical and other schools expect and as it may avoid any confusion. Do not take a course on literature in translation and hope that the schools will accept it; some may, but others may challenge it and require you to send them your course description and syllabus. 

As a general rule of thumb, all prehealth students will take General Chemistry (plus labs), Calculus (if no AP credit), and Writing the Essay as freshmen, regardless of their intended major. Potential Biology, Biochemistry, and Neural Science majors should take Biology during the first year in addition to General Chemistry. Students must take General Chemistry either before or with Biology.

Physics majors must take the "majors only" Physics I-II-III (PHYS-UA 91, PHYS-UA 93, PHYS-UA 95) and Labs I-II-III (PHYS-UA 92, PHYS-UA 94, PHYS-UA 96) - not General Physics I and II (PHYS-UA 11-12).

Biology majors are not required to take Principles of Biology Lab (BIOL-UA 123).

After the first year, non-science majors traditionally take Biology as sophomores, along with either Organic Chemistry (plus labs) or General Physics, because medical and other schools prefer applicants who take at least one year of “double science.” This leaves one science sequence for non-science majors to take in their junior year. They are strongly advised to take additional science courses as seniors.

In addition to these prehealth courses, you will also need to complete all the requirements for your Bachelor's degree.



Advanced placement credit, previous college credit, and foreign credit

One question that frequently arises is, “How do colleges and medical schools view students who have earned Advanced Placement credit, foreign transfer credit, and/or college credit while in high school?” These situations may sound very similar, and undergraduate colleges treat them all in the same way. However, most medical schools do not treat these credits the same way a four-year college does. Upon admission to the freshman class, NYU will grant credit towards the bachelor's degree for most Advanced Placement test scores of 4 or 5, and for courses from an accredited Foreign or U.S. College. For full details, consult the current College of Arts and Science Bulletin.

How medical schools view these credits

Here, the situation is different: although some medical schools do accept Advanced Placement credit to satisfy prehealth admissions requirements, many do not. Nor are the individual schools entirely clear or consistent on this matter. Even if a certain medical or health professional school does accept AP credit, you will be a much stronger candidate for admission if you take all of your science courses in college (rather than resting on your high school laurels).

A good rule of thumb is: If you can present an official transcript from a four-year U.S. college with a grade for these subjects, you are safe; if not, you may have difficulties. With most U.S. college credit, therefore, you have no problems, although students are warned that science courses taken at a local college while in high school may not be as rigorous as NYU's science classes, and therefore may not prepare you well for the MCAT or for upper-level science if you choose to take it. Students in this situation may need to repeat science courses here.

With Advanced Placement credit and foreign transfer credit, you may experience difficulty with medical schools, and it is therefore necessary to approach the topic with some caution. Each subject has its own peculiarities and we will consider each separately.

For all of these situations, please keep in mind that skipping over an introductory-level science class has led to poor grades in the more advanced courses for more than one student in the past—even for those who were A students in high school science classes and had AP credit. That is why you are often advised to forfeit your AP credit or previous college credit in the sciences and begin with introductory courses.

AP Biology

AP credit in biology is considered preparation for Principles of Biology I and II (BIOL-UA 11-12) at NYU. The vast majority of students forfeit their AP credit and take Principles here. This is a good thing, because all medical schools require one year of biology taken in college.

Only a tiny number of students are allowed, based on their score, to use their AP credit to skip Principles of Biology altogether. They place into Molecular and Cellular Biology, which they are not allowed to take until sophomore year. This is the case for two reasons:
1) Principles of Biology will give you a superb foundation for the Biological Sciences section of the MCAT, much better than your AP course ever could.
2) Medical schools require one year of biology with labs. If during and after taking the Molecular and Cell Biology sequence, a student elects not to continue with the biology major, he or she will still need one year of biology coursework with lab.

AP Chemistry

Prehealth students with Advanced Placement credit in chemistry must forfeit their AP credit and take the subject here. Advanced General Chemistry is a heavily Calculus and Physics based course. To enroll in Advanced General Chemistry you must provide evidence of earning a 4 or better on the AP Calculus exam, have completed one year of high school physics and, and have completed one year of high school chemistry (AP chemistry preferred). Students must also pass the placement exam which is held during CAS orientation. 

AP Physics

The only way to satisfy the two-semester physics requirement with AP credit is to score a 5 on the Physics B exam, or to score a 4 or 5 on both of the Physics C exams. Even if you can meet this high standard, you will be a much stronger candidate for medical school if you take physics at NYU. Many medical schools prefer that you take physics in college, and some have been known not to accept AP credit. The safest thing for non-physics majors to do is to forfeit their AP credit and take General Physics I and II (PHYS-UA 11-12) at NYU. Using your AP credit to skip over General Physics and go into a more advanced course is not advisable for non-majors.

Note that the Physics I-II-III sequence, with accompanying labs (PHYS-UA 91, PHYS-UA 93, PHYS-UA 95, and PHYS-UA 92, PHYS-UA 94, PHYS-UA 96) is only recommended for physics majors. If you start this three-course sequence, you must finish it, to ensure that you have the requisite labs that some medical schools require and the background you will need for the MCAT.

The physics sequence at NYU is very challenging and markedly different from AP Physics courses taken in high school. You should always consult with a department advisor to determine course sequencing.

AP Mathematics

Some medical schools require one or two semesters of college math, and most of these schools will accept AP credit.

Foreign college credit

If you have foreign college credit in the sciences and do not want to retake the corresponding course or take one of the higher-level alternatives, please reconsider. Medical schools strongly advise or require that all of the required prehealth science courses be taken at an American institution.

However, you may opt to have your foreign transcript evaluated by a reputable evaluation agency. You would be well-advised to call early to several medical schools to which you plan to apply to obtain a consensus on "acceptable" evaluation agencies. Do this early as many agencies have to get information from the foreign schools you attended, and these schools may take months (even years) to respond.