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Pre-Health Core Studies Program

As a Core Studies student, you take the introductory science courses required for admission to most medical, dental, nursing, or veterinary schools: general chemistry, introductory biology, organic chemistry, physics, and biochemistry. General chemistry, introductory biology, organic chemistry, and physics sequences consist of two semesters, and each semester includes a lab. Many of the core courses are math-intensive and may require the minimum prerequisites listed below to be successful.

The admissions committee looks for evidence of math competency through recent coursework in college-level math such as pre-calculus, calculus, and statistics courses. Core Studies students may also demonstrate quantitative aptitude with strong SAT, ACT, or GRE scores. Most of the admitted students score well above the 50% percentile on standardized math tests. If your computational skills are rusty and you have not taken a college pre-calculus course or higher in the past 3-5 years, you may consider successfully completing a college-level math course prior to enrolling in chemistry and physics coursework at Penn.

At a minimum the prerequisite skills you are expected to have mastered for physics and chemistry include the following:

  • Basic algebraic operations; linear and quadratic equations; exponents and logarithms; and interpreting graphs and their properties
  • Basic geometry and trigonometry: finding area, angles, and other properties of basic planar shapes; Pythagorean theorem; conversions of degrees to radians; trigonometric functions, especially sine, cosine, and tangent
  • Scientific notation and unit conversions

If you intend to complete the requirements in one year, your core studies must begin in the summer with chemistry. The following academic year includes biology, organic chemistry, physics, and biochemistry, thus preparing students for the May-June MCAT, DAT, or GRE.

If you attend part-time, you may start in the summer or fall term and it will take you two years to complete the program. Part-time Core Studies students generally take biology and chemistry the first year, and physics, organic chemistry, and biochemistry in the second year, planning for the May-June MCAT, DAT, or GRE. 

Note that fall and spring classes are rostered in the evenings and summer courses are rostered in the morning, afternoon, and evening. 

Students enrolled in the Pre-Health Core Studies program often take additional courses beyond the minimum admissions requirements. Most core students take a total of 13 to 16 course units*. These additional courses may include topics like biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, genetics, microbiology, histology, human anatomy, or history and sociology of medicine. These classes help deepen knowledge and preparation for medical, dental, veterinary, or nursing training.

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.

Professional school linkages

Linkages provide the opportunity to accelerate your entrance into a medical, veterinary, nursing, or dental school.

Broaden your perspective

Explore a range of interests with our student-run organizations while connecting with peers and the community.

Advising, workshops, and much more

Take advantage of the specially designed resources developed by the Pre-Health Post-Baccalaureate Programs team for your success.