Can I PDF my English course?
Question: For the English pre-med requirement, I have taken a writing seminar and have PDF-ed another English course. However, I was told that PDF-ing does not count toward my requirements. Is this true? Do I need to take another English course for a grade?
Answer: Yes. All requirements for health professional school need to be graded. In all likelihood, you will end up applying to some medical schools that require two semesters of English (about half of them do), and all classes that are required for admission or entrance, whether science or humanities, need to be graded.
Does it have to be completed before I apply?
Question: I had a question about the English requirement. I have completed a writing seminar, but still need to take one more literature class. Does this have to be completed before I apply to medical schools? I'm a junior and plan to apply to medical schools this summer. Does this mean I need to complete the English requirement this spring before applying or would taking an English class senior year be fine? Thank you for your help.
Answer: That is the one requirement you can leave until after you apply (if you’re a junior). You need to put your courses for next year down on the AMCAS application when you apply, so the schools will see you are intending to take it. Keep in mind, though, that there is a Verbal Reasoning section on the MCAT, so honing your reading speed and reading comprehension skills prior to application will still be important.
Question: To whom it may concern, I was wondering if one of the Freshman Seminars could fulfill one of the two required English classes for med school. During Orientation, I was told that a Freshman Seminar could count as an English class if it specifically refers to the English language as the main focus. Thank you.
Answer: As usual with these requirements (especially the "English" requirement), it’s better to err on the safe side. We advise you only to count a freshman seminar as one of your English classes for medical school if the course has "literature" in its title, or specifically sounds like something that could be taught in the English department. It's not quite as simple as saying that the course should focus on the English language. Some medical schools state that one of their two required terms of English must focus on literature; while there are not many schools that make this distinction, there are enough of them that we would advise you to be careful. We also recommend ensuring that at least half of your grade is based on written work, particularly papers that require a drafting process, which will provide further evidence that you're focusing on your writing skills. And, as you know, your Freshman Writing Seminar (not to be confused with a Freshman Seminar!) counts as your other English class.
The only exception that we know of, to the above comments, is one Canadian medical school (Univ of British Columbia) which insists that "English" courses be taught only in the English Dept. Unless you're Canadian, you do not need to worry!
Question: Does the freshman writing seminar fulfill the English requirement for medical schools?
Answer: Your freshman writing class fulfills half of the English requirement that some med schools have. Any other class taught through the English Dept or with "literature" in the title (taught in the English language) will fulfill the other half. Roughly two-thirds of U.S. medical schools require English, and of these they almost all require two semesters.
Choosing an English Requirement Course
Question: HI HPA – I’m trying to decide between three options for my English course for premed: Creative Writing – Poetry (CWR 204); The Great Russian Novel (SLA 220); and Growing up Global: Novels and Memoirs of Transnational Childhoods (AAS 374). Would you recommend one over the others from a med school admissions point of view?
Answer: Definitely not CWR – the courses are only pdf, and do not involve analyzing literature and writing about it. Medical schools are looking for classes taken for a grade that allow you to practice your critical reading and writing skills. SLA 220 sounds good if you just look at the title, but the majority of the grading is exams and participation, so there is a chance that a school may end up scrutinizing the choice and not accepting the course (I think it’s doubtful, since the course has the word ‘novel’ in the title, but it could happen). That leaves Growing up Global, which sounds like a great course – lots of reading and writing including a book analysis, learning about other cultures, which is critically important if you want to be a culturally-sensitive health care provider, and the opportunity to write about your own experiences, which will be a nice warm-up to writing your personal statement when you apply to medical school. Of these three, that would be our recommendation!
How specifically "English" does the class need to be?
Question: I’m trying to choose my classes for next semester. I’m a little curious about the English requirement for medical school. How specifically “English” does the class need to be? Does it need to be a class in English literature? Can it be literature in translation? Can it be a history or philosophy course that is writing intensive? Would any LA requirements count as an “English" class? I’ve also heard that all writing seminars count as a semester of the English requirement. Is this true? Thanks a lot.
Answer: As it is with many coursework issues, medical schools vary on this one! Your Writing Seminar will count as a semester of the English requirement. For the other course, we recommend a literature class, ideally a course that begins “ENG,” in which at least half of your grade is based on written work. This is the simplest way to go. Some medical schools state that one of their two required terms of English must focus on literature, some are most concerned with your practicing your written communication. Comp Lit classes are fine, as are some classes taught by foreign language faculty as long as the course is taught in English. The course does not necessarily have to be an LA, nor does every LA fulfill this English requirement for medical school (for example, Creative Writing courses do not count because the course must be taken for a grade, and you are not analyzing literature and writing about it in Creative Writing). Most history and philosophy courses would likely not count because you’re not analyzing literature in them. We are somewhat partial to courses that will help you develop cultural competency, since this may help you relate to future patients and colleagues (this semester, examples of these courses include AAS 318, AAS 359, EAS 231, COM 388), course is fine. If you have another humanities course in mind outside of these guidelines, and it is writing intensive, you may send us a link to course offerings or a copy of the syllabus and we’ll look it over.
Question: Dear Pre-med Advisors, I want to take the class listed as LIN 201 as my pre-med English requirement. Will this class fulfill this requirement? Thank you.
Answer: No, we’re afraid not. After your Freshman Writing Seminar, the second half of the year’s worth of English that many health professional schools require needs to be “writing intensive.” Many schools specify this. There are no essay assignments in LIN 201 and 202.
Question: Dear HPA, I’m interested in taking Public Speaking next fall (ENG 230). It counts toward my LA requirement. Will it count as English for medical school, too?
Answer: Public Speaking is a course we’d certainly recommend. It will help you, no doubt, in your future presentations as a med student and doctor. However, it is not a literature course, and we would advise you to not try and count it as your second English class (after your writing seminar). The second English class for medical school needs to be literature-based. Some med schools do specify that they want you to have some expository writing and some literature. Your freshman writing seminar takes care of the writing component; your second class should take care of the literature component. We realize that this is confusing since Public Speaking is taught through the English Dept.
Summer Non-Science Courses
Question: Hi HPA – I’m thinking of taking an English course to satisfy premed requirements over the summer. I know HPA says that medical schools prefer that we take prerequisites in the school year. Does this apply to English or just to sciences?
Answer: This applies more to sciences: schools want evidence that you can succeed in rigorous science courses, so taking science courses within a full course load during the academic year best simulates the demands of the science course work in health professions school. It’s less of an issue to take non-sciences in the summer, but keep in mind that there’s an added cost to taking the course, it’ll move fast since summer terms are condensed, and it may take away from your ability to gain other experience that’s important to your holistic candidacy to medical school (e.g., clinical experience, research, service). If you take a class, it might be nice to balance it with some volunteer time at a nearby hospital, clinic, or other patient care facility. Be sure to get pre-approval through your residential college so that the course will count for credit here, and even if you don’t want the course to count toward graduation requirements, every course that you take at a college or university must be reported in your medical school application, so try your best to do well!
Why Do They Require English Anyway?
Question: HPA told me my writing seminar (WRI) from my frosh year can count as one of my English requirements for medical school. I know I need one more course to fulfill my English prerequisite for most medical schools. Does it need to be a literature course? Would another course in the humanities work so long as it has a lot of reading and writing in it? Why do they require English anyway?
Answer: Medical schools want students who have prepared for a medical education by cultivating humanistic qualities inside and outside the classroom. By requiring English, medical schools hope to help you achieve these goals in at least three ways. First, reading literature challenges you to broaden your perspective so that you will attend to the individual and communal power of narratives. In “Why Doctors Should Read Fiction,” Sam Kean highlights the recent work of medical humanists, who argue that fiction helps the medical student better confront their own limitations—in understanding patients’ dilemmas—than the tried-and-true medical school case study. Second, literary analysis encourages you to reach for an emotional understanding of the complex lives you encounter on the page, which prepares you to elicit, encounter, and respond to patients’ narratives as a health professional. Finally, writing a critical analysis of the literature you read helps you develop respectful and insightful ways to question, explore, and understand another’s experiences; it also helps you consider how you can communicate these insights to others. More immediately, you will need to hone your critical analysis and reading skills for the MCAT and convey your thoughts effectively via writing in your medical school applications. The more that you flex your reading and writing muscles, the more successful you are likely to be in these imminent tasks and in your longer term work in your career.
Most medical schools require that applicants complete one year of English coursework. Princeton’s Writing Seminars fit this English requirement, so you need add only one more English literature course to fulfill this prerequisite. Medical schools are typically looking for a course where you (a) read literature (e.g., novels, short stories, plays, poetry) in English, (b) write critical analyses of that literature, and (c) include significant graded writing count toward the overall course grade. Not all humanities or LA coursework will require you to read literature; many will instead have you read historical monographs and religious or philosophical essays. Not all humanities will have a sufficient writing load either. Anytime you are unsure whether a course seems like a good fit for the English prerequisite, you can email the name of the class, a course description, and a syllabus to firstname.lastname@example.org – we will be happy to give you our thoughts. Additional FAQs about the English requirement can be found on the HPA website.