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Pre-Health Core Studies Program

As a Core Studies student, you will take the introductory science courses required for admission to most medical, dental, 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 corresponding lab course. These basic science courses are time-intensive and students are strongly discouraged from working in any capacity while enrolled in the Core Studies programs. The core courses are also math-intensive and require the math prerequisites listed below to be successful.

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 this content is new to you—that is, if you do not have evidence of a prior college-level pre-calculus course or higher or AP calculus in high school--you will be required to complete a college-level pre-calculus course prior to beginning your general chemistry or physic course work at Penn.

The admissions committee also looks for evidence of math competency through all recent college coursework requiring quantitative abilities. Core Studies applicants may further demonstrate quantitative aptitude with strong SAT, ACT, or GRE scores. Most of the admitted core students score well above the 50% percentile on standardized math tests.

All admitted Core Studies students are allowed a two-year timeline for completing their program requirements and students may enter the program with either a summer start or a fall start. Coursework is typically distributed across one-and-a-half to two years allowing core students to incorporate clinical and/or research experiences to enhance their academic program. See sample schedules for Core Studies.

Students enrolled in the Pre-Health Core Studies program often take additional courses beyond the 12 course unit (c.u.)* minimum requirement with most core students taking a total of 13 to 16 c.u. course units. These additional courses may include topics like cell biology, physiology, genetics, microbiology, histology, human anatomy, or history and sociology of medicine. These classes help deepen your knowledge and preparation for medical, dental, or veterinary training.

If you aspire to complete the Core Studies program requirements at an accelerated pace within a one-year timeline, you must obtain prior approval from the program director. Your core studies would begin in the summer with the general chemistry series (CHEM1012, CHEM1101, and CHEM1022 or CHEM1102). Accelerated students are required to have two semesters of AP calculus or two semesters of college-level calculus for this summer chemistry series. The following fall and spring semesters include the introductory biology sequence with labs, the general physics sequence with labs, the organic chemistry sequence with labs, and biochemistry. MCAT or DAT preparation would also occur during the spring term if students intend to prepare for a June application cycle.

All admitted Core Studies students are required to complete an online Pre-Health Math On-Ramp (ALEKS) course prior to enrolling in a chemistry or physics course. This requirement assures a baseline level of competency for all incoming core students. More information will be available to students upon admission to the Pre-Health program.

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


*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, 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.