Introduction to Premed Advising
Thank you for your interest in the premedical program at California State University, Fresno. This web site is an effort to organize many of the frequently asked questions and concerns that premed students have.
We hope you find the accompanying information useful. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Dr. Larry Riley
Associate Professor of Biology and Primary Premed Advisor
I will assume that you are reading this because you have a strong motivation to be accepted into medical school and become a physician. Motivation and tenacity are key characteristics to success in this quest, but by themselves are not enough. Self-discipline, excellent organizational skills, and a willingness to work very, very hard are also necessary. Our premed advising program is geared to providing you with the information that you need to present yourself to admissions committees in the strongest possible light. Please understand that there is no official "Premed" major, since medical schools will accept qualified graduates with any major. See the link "What Should I Major In?" for more information.
The principal components of our program are the premedical advising and informational sessions, the Health Careers Opportunity Program, the premedical student club, and a service to send your letters of recommendation to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) or to non-member medical schools to which you are applying.
Two (identical) informational sessions about getting into medical school are given each semester. As soon as you suspect that you want to pursue medicine as a career, attend one of these informational sessions, which review the whole process in more detail than is possible on a one-on-one basis. Carefully read the information on this website. Then, make an appointment with me to answer any specific questions and to be sure that you are on track. (Note: if you are a Biology major, make an appointment with Dr. Fred Schreiber of the Biology Department. to discuss an academic plan for that major. Please see me to discuss other aspects of preparation for your application to med school.) It is very important to meet early on with your academic advisor and with myself so that you can become a competitive applicant. Beyond top grades and strong MCAT scores, you need to have a history of COMMUNITY SERVICE, some engagement with MEDICAL PRACTICE, and letters of evaluation from faculty who have known you over time and can write in detail about your competence and character, All of this takes planning at the earliest stages of your college education.
It is particularly easy to make serious errors if you do not see an individual trained in premedical advising. For example, many campuses offer introductory biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses at three different levels. There is usually one introductory course in each major that is particularly rigorous and is only required of students in those majors. Another introductory course that is difficult yet somewhat less theoretical is often offered for students majoring in other sciences. Non-science majors are provided a somewhat easier course that offers a broad overview of subject matter. While the distinction between these three levels is often not apparent within a college catalog, medical schools require that students take the chemistry and biology courses required for majors. However, the calculus and physics courses need not be at the major's level. The LSAMP program at Fresno State offers facilitation workshops to help students achieve the grades needed to competitively apply to medical school.
I would also strongly suggest that these required courses be taken at Fresno State, or at a UC. Med schools may be skeptical of grades from AP courses or from community colleges. If you have taken prerequisite courses at a community college, I would urge you to either repeat the course(s) at Fresno State, or take upper division courses in that science at Fresno State.
Care should be taken to take those courses that will enable you to do well on the Medical School Admissions Test (MCAT) as well as apply to and be accepted by medical schools. There are a number of other equally serious course selection problems that are solved in discussions with your premedical advisor or by attending the informational sessions.
The Health Careers Opportunity Program is a student support program under the auspices of the College of Science and Mathematics. The HCOP office, located in the Science I building, room 136, offers an array of services to pre-health professional students that include the following for all pre-medical students: Medical School Resource Center; information on pre-health and research summer programs; Academic Excellence workshops in chemistry, physics, biology and calculus; facilitation of MCAT study groups; general pre-med advising and information of interest to premedical students. HCOP shares this space with the Health Careers Information Office.
The Fresno State Premedical Club is a student organization for students anticipating a career in medicine. This organization arranges activities focused on community service and of interest to the membership. Meetings are also an opportunity to get together with other students with similar goals, and a source of information about available premedical opportunities. Another student club, AMSA, includes premeds among other healthcare professions.
Letters of recommendation are sent to medical schools at the time secondary applications are being completed. Because the on-line application service AMCAS now collects and distributes letters of recommendation, you have the option of having your letter writers send in their letters directly to AMCAS, or to send them to the Science and Health Careers Information Center, Science 1-136, and we will forward them to AMCAS at your instruction. See the Letters of Recommendation page on this website for a discussion of these options.
Other opportunities available to premedical students include two courses well received by premedical students: The Art and Practice of Medicine (NSCI 1) and Practicum in Medicine (NSCI 110). The Practicum in Medicine course, also called the Academic Research Associates course, is offered at the University Medical Center in connection with the Emergency Department. "Ethics for Supper" meetings held once a semester address ethical issues in medicine. Many of our students are selected for the Scribe Program. Scribes are paid to work one-on-one with an emergency department physicians at St. Agnes Hospital. Volunteer work, medically or non-medically related, is also important. Research experience certainly adds to an application, but is not as important as gaining medical experience. Participate in a research experience only if you have the time to devote so that the experience will have depth.
Check bulletin boards periodically in central stairwell in Science I for information on upcoming events of interest to premedical students.
We are particularly proud of the premedical courses and advisory program at CSUF. A number of positive things can be said about the quality of our faculty and students, smaller class sizes and positive learning atmosphere, the commitment of faculty to teaching, the success of students in their programs of study, and the involvement of the university and surrounding medical community. Overall, however, the true success of the program is best reflected in data showing that the percentage of our applicants that matriculate into medical school are consistent with, or exceed, the national average. Obviously our program provides a solid premedical foundation and our capable students do get into medical school.