Career Planning: Pre-Health Resource

 Career Planning: Pre-Health Resource

In collaboration with Pre-SOMA, a student organization, and the Biology Department, CORE is excited to share this resource with students interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. We hope this will assist students in planning their experiences and utilizing their resources throughout their time at Augustana. 

4 Year Timeline: Key Things to Remember

Year 1:

  • Spend time adjusting to college life, your classes, etc.
  • Attend activities fair and look into clubs and organizations that interest you.
  • Review to learn about potential paths and expectations for your interest area.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Viking Score and accomplish tasks outlined in Level 1.
  • Research ways to gain experience such as obtaining your CNA or EMT, scribing, shadowing, research, etc.
  • Apply early for opportunities to gain experience during the summer
  • Meet with your academic advisor during spring term for major declaration
  • Attend Pre-Health meetings through academic departments

Year 2:

  • Volunteer or shadow in a related field
  • Stay on track with academic coursework and prerequisites
  • Connect with faculty and professional mentors, including your academic advisor
  • Continue meeting with academic advisor
  • Look for research opportunities
  • Think about parallel plans—what else are you interested in? What other careers are out there?
  • Apply early for opportunities to gain experience during the summer

Year 3:

  • Assess your experiences to this point. Is this your application cycle or is a delayed cycle more strategic? Would a gap year be more beneficial in the long run?
  • Select your top schools strategically. Think about your metrics, desired location, and overall fit, but also keep in mind some other options as well (including but not limited to a gap year).

The AAMC produces a resource called the Medical School Admissions Requirements Database (MSAR) which is a good starting point. There is a one-time subscription fee. MD programs ONLY. AACOM produces a similar resource called the College Information Book (CIB). There is no fee. DO programs ONLY.

  • Register and prepare for admissions exams
  • Visit CORE to get your house in order for letters of recommendation: be prepared to provide references with a polished resume and ideas about your personal statement. Also, take advantage of campus resources: reading and writing center, CORE, etc.
  • Secure letters of recommendation and write your application materials
  • Continue to gain experience through volunteering, leadership positions, and research projects
  • Submit your applications in a timely manner
  • Develop parallel plan to provide a strong alternative

Year 4:

  • Prepare for interviews—visit CORE to practice!
  • Receive decision letters and plan accordingly. If you are rejected, remember your alternatives and consider a gap year or post-baccalaureate program to strengthen your applications for the next cycle.

Pre-Health Experiential Learning:


  • Many hospitals have volunteer programs. This is a great way to gain exposure to the environment and make connections with practitioners. Locally, Unity-Point Trinity has a volunteer program available (application and interview required). Genesis Health System also has a volunteer program for students.
  • Assisted living centers and hospice organizations are almost always looking for volunteers. For example:

-Beacon of Hope Hospice
-Heartland Hospice
-Hope Creek
-Friendship Manor

  • Social Service Agencies

-Alzheimer’s Associations
-Crisis Lines

  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) [Courses offered through community colleges, fire departments, and ambulance companies]


  • ER Techs (Complete EMT Basic Training or CNA)
  • Phlebotomist (training required)
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) [Courses offered through community colleges]
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) [Courses offered through community colleges, fire departments, and ambulance companies]
  • Scribe (
  • Medical Translator


  • Start with your own personal network (i.e. your family physician, family friends, classmates, etc.)
  • Start looking early! Finding the right placement can take time.
  • Don’t be afraid to call local clinics/private practices.
  • Make sure to keep a journal to emphasize what you’ve learned about the field and how it ties into your desire to become a healthcare practitioner. Make sure to write down anecdotes and scenarios that you learned from. Also, keep track of your hours!
  • Shadowing positions can count as an internship for credit. Visit CORE for more information.


  • On-Campus (approach your professors)

CHEM 313 (Organic Chemistry III) has a lab waiver for students who wish to do research. Open to all majors, but there is an application process which takes place during CHEM 312 (Organic Chemistry II).

  • Summer programs by AAMC
  • Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU’s) [Fred Hutch Database, National Science Foundation]

Augustana Programs:

  • Cardiology Rotation Program (Applications are accepted in Spring for the following year)
  • Texas Medical Summer Research Internship (Applications are accepted in fall of your Junior year)

Clinical Experience Exposure Scale:

  • Each experience is what you make it, but inherent in the different jobs are different levels of clinical exposure.
  • Different experiences require different levels of certification, each which different levels of training and a different scope of practice.
  • [Least amount of hands-on clinical experience] Shadowing < Scribing < CNA < EMT [Most amount of hands-on clinical experience]

Centralized Application Systems and Admissions Exams:

Allopathic Medicine (M.D.):  AMCAS MCAT
Communication Sciences & Disorders: CSDCAS GRE
Nursing: NursingCAS
Occupational Therapy: OTCAS GRE
Osteopathic Medicine (D.O): AACOMAS MCAT
Pharmacy: PharmCAS PCAT
Physical Therapy: PTCAS GRE
Physician Assistant: CASPA GRE
Public Health: SOPHAS GRE
Veterinary Medicine: VMCAS GRE

Advisor Advice:

  • Prioritize your academic success. Of all the experiences you need to fulfill in these years to prepare yourself for the future, it’s only your coursework that cannot be easily repeated. For example, you have only one chance to do well in a course like Human Physiology. Repeating coursework is expensive and not a true replacement of that initial grade.
  • Your personal statement matters. In these large applications, it is one of the only opportunities you have to tell them who you are beyond your metrics and resume. Have many people read this personal essay. Make sure these people are willing to give you critical feedback. You need it.
  • Self-assess. At the end of every academic year (or at another interval that makes sense to you), be sure to spend some time evaluating your work thus far. Especially in years 1 and 2. Are you on track with your initial goals? Should new goals be set that respond to where you really are? These questions may be directed at either the specific professional track or the timeline to pursue it.
  • We cannot help you if we don’t know you! At the very least, meet with your advisor every term. Make sure that your discussion extends beyond planning your course schedule for next term.
  • Start early. Everything. Get out and shadow sooner rather than later. Use your breaks wisely and your summer. Do not attempt to cram for an entrance exam. Really prepare. If you are far behind target on your application submission, consider the next cycle.
  • Changing your goals will not disappoint us. We want to help you get to a next step that is right for you. We want you to be happy.

Student Advice:

  • Freshman year grades matter!
  • Get to know your professors. They are gatekeepers to research opportunities, internships, and building a relationship will never yield anything negative. The better they know you, the better they’ll be able to push you and help you succeed.
  • Your advisors (both academic and career) are some of the most important people on campus. Get to know them early, and don’t be afraid to pop your head in during office hours even if it’s just to say hello!
  • Save your notes from classes that will later be tested on the MCAT (General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Cell Biology, Physiology, Genetics, etc).
  • Use your perspectives as opportunities to broaden your horizons. It’s easy to see perspectives as a burden, but they can provide a nice change of pace in subject matter and coursework or tie in nicely with your academic objectives.
  • It’s better to be invested in a few clubs/activities and commit to leadership within them than be involved in 50 different things.
  • Make time for yourself. Your first and foremost priority should always be your health and well-being. Learn how to let go of stress in a healthy way, be it working out, listening to music, meditation, or whatever suits your fancy.
  • It’s okay to fail!  You’re not defined by a C+ on a chemistry or physics test. Everything is learning experience!
  • Be real with yourself.  If you want to go into healthcare for the money, fame, or prestige, then take a serious look at your vocational reasoning.
  • You’re responsible for putting the work in – nobody is going to do the work for you or cut you a break because you didn’t do your homework.
  • Major in happiness. You don’t have to be a biology or biochemistry major to go to medical school – study what you’re passionate about.
  • Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Nobody else is going to!
  • Balance is important. Not everything has to be related to your graduate school application. Graduate schools are looking for what will set you apart.

Career Coach Advice:

Who is my career coach?

The career coach for Pre-Health fields is Beth Ford

In Career Coaching we:

  • Focus on you. We’re here for you and what’s important to you. We can help you with a wide range of issues ranging from broad career exploration to specific plans for reaching your internship, job, or higher education goals.
  • Are confidential, safe, and supportive. We respect your privacy, your values, and your uniqueness.
  • Need you to participate. In order to make progress you need to be an active participant. We can advise you about appropriate action steps but you must be the one to act.
  • Recommend career information resources. Career Coaches have a breadth of knowledge about a variety of career fields, but our main expertise lies in the career planning process. Instead of telling you details about careers, we can help you find the resources to get the information you need.
  • Recommend tactics and strategies for finding a job or internship. We talk with you about ways you can discover job or internship opportunities but we cannot provide you a ready-made list of open positions that fit your exact situation.

In Career Coaching we are not:

  • Always a quick solution to your problems. We cannot provide you with a list of employers, graduate school programs, or jobs that are a fit for you. We can point you toward resources for you to develop your own unique lists.
  • Predictive or omniscient. We cannot tell you what career path is best for you or what you should do, nor do we have a “test” that will do so. We can discuss strategies for exploring your options and making informed decisions.
  • Academic advisers. You need to meet with your academic advisor(s) for advice about your coursework and scheduling.
  • A job placement service. The Career Development Office provides many opportunities for you to connect with employers in person and online. We do not have a hidden database of jobs or internships for our clients and we cannot make referrals for you.
  • A resume writing service. Instead we will help you develop and revise your own resumes and cover letters.

As a Pre-Health student at Augustana College, it’s important to remember that planning is key. Your academics and class performance is certainly the focus; however, your professional development and goals for after college should also be at the forefront. Whether your plans entail professional/graduate school or obtaining a job after college, make sure that you visit CORE early and often throughout your undergraduate career. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Use your Viking Score card as a guide. This tool can help you plan out your professional goals throughout your 4 years here. Think about study away programs, internships, and professional materials (resume, cover letter, etc.) and set goals for completion.
  • Be open. There are so many opportunities and experiences available to you-utilize them to explore your passions and interests. It’s okay to change your mind, backtrack, try new things, and reflect on your experiences (in fact, it’s encouraged!).
  • Start early! Get to know your Career Coach, ask questions, and create action plans to get experience and try out potential careers. This also applies to applications for internships, research experiences, and jobs. Deadlines for Undergraduate Research Experiences, for example, are usually in December or January for the following summer. For full-time jobs, it can take up to 6 months to find the right position.
  • Manage your expectations. Do your research and understand your responsibilities in your own professional development. Career Coaches are here to guide you and empower you; however, we will not do the work for you. Our hope is that you will leave here armed with the skills to be successful in your career.
  • Keep in mind that your programs are different from other majors; therefore, your experiences and requirements will look different! For example, your internship will usually consist of one thing: observation. You are allowed to shadow for internship credit! This type of experience is what’s needed to help you gain skills and insight into the field.

For more information and assistance, schedule an appointment in Handshake with your Career Coach by visiting