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Find Your Starting Point

I'm just starting my pre-medicine path

It's never too early or too late to start planning for a medical career. We suggest you take a wide variety of courses to explore your interests, start building relationships with your professors, and get involved with extracurricular activities to find your niche.

If you're looking for suggested next steps, check out the timeline below. Keep in mind, this is for reference only! It's totally fine to complete these tasks later in your academic career, or even after you graduate.

Suggested Timeline


I’m a first-year student and I'm not sure my grades are good enough

Your grades are only one factor in the admissions process. While it is true that your science GPA is important, admissions committees look at your grades within the context of the whole picture. You do want to achieve an overall strong performance in the biological and physical sciences, however, no specific grade point average or MCAT score guarantees acceptance into medical school.  

Do not be disheartened or discouraged from pursuing medicine if you have a few grades that do not meet your expectations, especially during your first year in college. Your first year is a time of getting used to a new setting, new friends, and new ways of teaching and studying. Medical school admissions committees understand this and look with favor on an upward trend in your record of academic performance.

There is no need to rush and overload with science courses during your first year. Many students feel that they should get their premedical course requirements "out of the way" during their first two years in college. In fact, the majority of applicants to medical school in recent years have waited until their senior year rather than their junior year to apply to medical school. This allows students four years to fulfill the premed requirements. If you’re willing to remain flexible with your timeline, you can also take some or even all of your premedical requirements after you graduate from college. Furthermore, the decision to become a doctor cannot be made in the classroom. You should definitely begin to test your interest in medicine by volunteering health care setting, too!

Get started with HPA or connect with an advisor.

I want to take a year off before attending medical school

It’s absolutely okay to take time off before attending medical school! In fact, around 60% of Northwestern students who are accepted to medical school choose to take one or more gap/bridge years. There are many, many things you can pursue during your bridge year(s) that will strengthen your application and provide you with excellent experiences.

Advisors can also help you figure out what timeline works best for your individual needs. Connect with an advisor.


I’m a currently an undergrad, but I haven’t taken any pre-medicine courses

It’s never too late to consider pursuing a career in the health professions, as long as you are able to remain flexible with your timeline. There are many different pathways and timelines you can follow to reach medical school, and one is not better or worse than another; you just have to choose the path that works best for your individual situation. Health professions advisors at the HPA office are happy to help you figure out a timeline that works for you!

I’m a Northwestern alum and recently decided to pursue a medical career

Health professions advisors at the HPA office are happy to work with Northwestern undergraduate alumni! You might wonder, “Is it too late for me to do this?” Applicant pools are becoming more diverse in many ways. Medical schools routinely admit students who have not come straight from college. Your real world experience is important, and it likely has made you more mature and given you useful skills that will be transferrable to medicine. Many medical schools will recognize this and value your indirect path.

Talking with an advisor will help you assess what actions you can take to begin preparing to pursue your medical career!

Get started with HPA or connect with an advisor.


I want to go straight into medical school after graduation

If you want to go directly into medical school after graduating from Northwestern, you will ideally be submitting your application to medical school in June of your junior year. This also means making sure you have fulfilled the science coursework requirements, taken the MCAT, and have solid research and clinical volunteer experiences by that time. Advisors are happy to work with students who have the goal of matriculating straight into medical school, and we recommend meeting with an advisor early in your Northwestern career so you can begin to understand the medical school expectations and application processes, and start to establish your timeline.