St. Mary's College of Maryland

Prospective Students

Hello and welcome! Here on the "prospective students" pages, you will find all the information you need to decide if pursuing pre-health at St. Mary's is the right choice for you. To get you started we have provided some frequently asked questions below:

What is HSAC?

The Health Sciences Advisory Committee (HSAC) stands to provide advice and guidance to students interested in preparing for graduate programs in the health sciences.

Why is an HSAC file necessary?

One of the HSAC's major roles is to write committee letters of recommendation for students applying to medical, and most dental, veterinary, optometry, podiatry, and osteopathic medical schools. Students interested in nuclear medicine, nursing, physical therapy, sports medicine, and many other programs that do not require a committee letter of recommendation, do not need to establish an HSAC file, but are encouraged to discuss their academic plan with the chair of the HSAC.

What is included in an HSAC file?

Your HSAC file will include all necessary application materials for admission into your professional school program. These materials include:

  • Your personal statement.
  • A resume highlighting your activities and accomplishments.
  • A current St. Mary's College transcript, and transcripts from classes taken outside of St. Mary's College.
  • Previous MCAT/VCAT/GRE/DAT/OAT test scores.
  • A letter of recommendation written by your committee, based on the following letter of recommendations that you gather:
    • Two letters of recommendation from faculty within your major.
    • One letter of recommendation from faculty outside your major.
    • At least one letter of recommendation from a supervisor of practical experience in health care.
    • Any other professional contacts who you believe would write a solid letter of recommendation.

Which health fields require an HSAC file?

  • Medical Schools
  • Veterinary Schools
  • Most Dental Schools
  • Optometry Schools
  • Podiatry Schools
  • Osteopathic Medical Schools

Does the HSAC advise students who are not pre-medical, pre-veterinary, or pre-dental?

Students interested in nuclear medicine, nursing, physical therapy, sports medicine, and many other programs that do not require a committee letter of recommendation, do not need to establish an HSAC file, but are encouraged to discuss their academic plan with the chair of the HSAC.

Can I get into my professional school of choice without starting an HSAC file?

If you apply to a medical school that expects a committee letter of recommendation without submitting a committee letter, they may ask "why?" This may require a letter from you explaining why you are not providing a committee letter.

One reason might be that you have completed a graduate degree and have a stronger relationship with your new graduate professors. Usually it is best to try to come back to SMCM and work with HSAC for a committee letter. We have worked with students as far as ten years post graduation to help them with their files.

What services can the HSAC offer me?

  • The HSAC holds monthly information meetings that often include a special guest visitor speaking about some element of health care or funding for graduate programs.
  • The HSAC encourages students to strengthen their profiles throughout their education at St. Mary's so that they are strong applicants when they do apply.
  • Students applying to medical, vet, dental, and some other programs as requested undergo a mock interview with a committee of faculty who know them best. This experience often makes a huge difference when students go on to their actual first interviews.

How is the advisory program structured?

  • The HSAC chair is in charge of early advising and monthly meetings. The chairperson holds office hours and is the go-to person for questions and help in building files.
  • Once a student approaches their application season, the student is assigned to a committee advisor who will help the student through the mock interview. The advisor will also compile the committee letter of recommendation.

How will I be matched to an advisor?

The HSAC chair distributes applicants to different advisors. Often an advisor has a particularly strong relationship with a student, having had them in classes or talked informally about the student's career interests. Other times a student's research interests overlap with an advisor and that makes a good fit. The chair often carries many of the older post graduate applicants.

Which professional schools have St. Mary's alumni been accepted to?

Click here to see the full list.

Do all the pre-health students ever meet at the same time, or is HSAC an entirely individualized advisory program?

There are monthly general meetings that all students are invited to attend, this is an especially good way to get a good overview of what is to come and how to prepare. Students also often come during weekly office hours to talk one on one about their progress and plans.

What is the purpose of the HSAC monthly meetings, and what do I do if I have to miss one?

Students should plan to come to one or two meetings a year at the start to be sure they are on track and to have their questions answered. If a particular visitor is important to them (i.e. someone speaking about international medicine, veterinary medicine, how to pay for your medical degree), then students should plan to attend those sessions as well.

What professional fields are most commonly pursued by SMCM students?

The majority of SMCM students go on to medical school, but HSAC supports students from other disciplines as well. Click here to see the breakdown.

How many St. Mary's Students typically go straight into professional school after graduation?

HSAC accommodates students with many different plans and timelines. Click here to see the breakdown.

Will the HSAC continue to work with me after I have graduated?

Yes. We have worked with students as far as ten years post graduation to help them with their files. Click here for more information about keeping in touch with the HSAC after graduation.

Do I have to be a biology major to be advised by the HSAC?

No! We advise any student from any major interested in a career in health sciences. Some past majors include:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Psychology
  • History
  • International Languages and Cultures
  • Anthropology
  • Physics
  • Political Science
  • Art

Why should I choose St. Mary's for pre-health?

Our students are well-received by graduate programs in health sciences. Programs are looking for broadly trained strong communicators- individuals who know how to work in teams, write, and speak effectively. Our size allows us to really get to know our students, and that strengthens what we can share about each student as he/she applies to professional school. Due to our small size, we are also able to step in and keep students on track as they progress.

How important are undergraduate grades?

Grades are the first handshake for any applicant. It is how you demonstrate your ability to learn and potential for success in the course work for any graduate program in health care. They won’t open the door for you unless you can convince them you are strong enough so survive the curriculum of their program. So, grades matter. For medical school they will look at your overall and science GPA. They expect that by your junior and senior year you are achieving in the 3.5-3.7+ range. Average applicant GPA for University of Maryland medical students for overall GPA = 3.7 (range 3.5-4.0) and for science GPA = 3.7 (range 3.4-4.0). They will forgive you a slow start, first year, but by the second year you should be moving up the numbers and by junior and senior year you should be cranking on all cylinders. Science grades are important, you can’t be the King or Queen of “B”s and get to medical school – by junior and senior year, get As in the sciences and show them you can do it. If your grades are not high enough (< 3.5), consider a postbac or other application-strengthening program.

What if my grades aren't high enough?

There are options available to strengthen your application. The most common option is enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program. You can also speak to the HSAC chair or your HSAC advisor to develop an individualized plan.

Is it okay to take community college courses as pre-requisites for professional school?

  • For medical schools, the HSAC strongly advises against using community college courses as prerequisites. The courses won't carry the weight that a rigorous four-year program will.
  • For fields other than medical schools, please consult your school(s) of choice: not all schools will accept community college classes as prerequisites.

Is it possible to study abroad and still be on track to graduate on time as a pre-health student?

Yes. It just takes careful planning so that you will fulfill your prerequisites before you take your entrance exams. Consult with your academic advisor and/or HSAC advisor for guidance.

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