The Pre-Health Track as a DNS undergraduate

Students considering medicine, physical therapy, dentistry, physical assistantship, nursing, or other advanced medical training need have similar undergraduate course requirements. This page provides information for DNS students in or considering a pre-health track, including Required, Recommended, or Valuable Courses, how to Register as a Pre-Health Student, considerations for Transfer Students, and Getting Pre-Health Experience, as well as information about other opportunities for getting pre-health experience. This information is not a substitute for meeting with a pre-health advisor as soon as possible.

More information about pre-health paths can be found in annual guides from Cornell Career Services (103 Barnes Hall): the Guide for First- and Second-Year Pre-Med Students and the Guide for Advanced Pre-Medical Students (available from the Career Services website) as well as via pre-health advisors in each College




  • BIOG 1500 Investigative Biology Laboratory (Fall/Spring, 2 cr) AND
  • BIOMG 1350 Introductory Biology: Cell and Developmental Biology (Fall/Spring, 3 cr) AND
  • [BIOG 1440 Introductory Biology OR BIOG 1445* Comparative Physiology (both Fall/Spring, 3 cr)]

* BIOG 1445 is a personalized instruction alternative format with an abbreviated lab component; BIOG 1440 has no lab.

Other introductory biology lectures that fulfill major requirements (i.e., BIOEE 1610 or 1780) still permit application to medical programs but do not offer the same preparation for the MCAT.


One of the following:

  1. NS 3200 Introduction to Human Biochemistry (Fall, 4 cr) OR
  2. BIOMG 3310 Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins and Metabolism (F, 3 cr) AND BIOMG 3320 Principles of Biochemistry: Molecular Biology (S, 2 cr) OR
  3. BIOMG 3300 Biochemistry, Individualized Instruction (Fall/Spring, 4 cr) OR
  4. BIOMG 3350 Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins, Metabolism, and Molecular Biology (S, 4 cr) OR
  5. BIOMG 3330 Principles of Biochemistry: Proteins, Metabolism, and Molecular Biology (Summer, 4 cr)

Physiology (see notes and consult with a pre-health advisor)

  • Anatomy/physiology lecture (e.g. NS 3410; S, 4 cr)*
  • Anatomy/physiology laboratory (e.g. NS 3420; S, 2 cr)^

* An anatomy and physiology lecture is required for the NS and HBHS majors, but not required for pre-health (or the GPHS major).

 ^ An anatomy and physiology lab is not required for the NS, HBHS, or GPHS majors, but many pre-health students find the lecture and lab to be helpful for MCAT preparation and/or pre-health applications.

Biology (not required, but recommended)

Further courses in areas of interest, such as:

  • Genetics (strongly recommended, e.g. BIOMG 2800 or 2810)
  • Microbiology (e.g. BIOMI 2900 or VETMI 4310)
  • Neurobiology (e.g. BIONG 2210, 2220, or 4280)
  • Cell Biology (e.g. BIOMG 4320)
  • Physiology (beyond requirements, e.g. BIOAP 3110)
  • Biochemistry (beyond requirements)
  • Evolution (e.g. NS 2750 or BIOEE 1780)
  • Ecology (e.g. BIOEE 1610 Introductory Biology: Ecology and the Environment
  • Nutrition (e.g. NS 3030, 3220, 3310, 4310, or 4410)

General Chemistry

  • Two semesters introductory chemistry (e.g. CHEM 2070-2080, held as a fall-spring pair) with labs

Organic Chemistry

  • Two semesters organic chemistry (e.g. CHEM 3570-3580 (Fall and Spring) OR CHEM 3590-3600 (Spring and Fall) AND
  • Organic chemistry lab (e.g. CHEM 2510; Fall/Spring /Summer, 2 cr)


The two-semester First-year Writing Seminar sequence usually satisfies this. For rare exceptions, see the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) Guide.


One semester each of calculus and statistics.

General Physics

Two semesters physics (crossovers acceptable with consult with Physics dept), such as:

  • PHYS 1101-1102 (individualized instruction, not calculus-based) OR
  • PHYS 2207-2208 (lecture, not calculus-based) OR
  • PHYS 1112-2208 (lecture, calculus-based)

Social Science

One semester, preferably Psychology or Sociology. Consult with a pre-health advisor to find a relevant course.

In addition to the required and recommended courses listed on the previous page, a number of other Cornell courses may be valuable to pre-health students in DNS, depending on personal interests. Some of these classes are listed below in alphabetical order, not in order of potential value.

  • ANTHR 2468 Medicine, Culture, and Society
  • BIOMI 2500 Public Health Microbiology
  • BIOMI 2900 General Microbiology
  • BIOMI / BIOMS 4310 Medical Parasitology
  • BIONB 4270 Darwinian Medicine
  • BSOC 4411 Philosophy of Medicine
  • COMM 2850 / STS 2851 Communication, Environment, Science, and Health
  • DSOC / LSP 2200 Sociology of Health and Ethnic Minorities
  • DSOC 3111 / BSOC 3111 / SOC 3130 / STS 3111 Sociology of Medicine
  • ENTOM 2100 Plagues and People
  • ENTOM / TOX 3070 Pesticides, the Environment, and Human Health
  • HD 2180 Human Development: Adulthood and Aging
  • FDSC 4220 Fundamental Foods and Dietary Supplements for Health
  • HD 1150 Human Development: Infancy and Childhood
  • FSAD 4390 Biomedical Materials and Devices for Human Body Repair
  • HD 1170 Human Development: Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood
  • HD 2180 Human Development: Adulthood and Aging
  • HD 2200 The Human Brain and Mind: Biological Issues in Human Development
  • HD / SOC 2510 Social Gerontology: Aging and the Life Course
  • HD 3300 Developmental Psychology
  • HD 3250 Neurochemistry of Human Behavior
  • HD 3570 / SOC 3670 Social Inequalities in Physical and Mental Health
  • HD 3660 Affective and Social Neuroscience
  • HD 3700 / PSYCH 32510 Adult Psychopathology
  • HD 3250 Neurochemistry of Human Behavior
  • HD / SOC 4570 Health and Social Behavior
  • HD 4590 Life Transitions Across the Life Span
  • NS 3150 Obesity and the Regulation of Body Weight
  • NS 3600 Epidemiology
  • NS 3310 Human Nutrition and Nutrient Metabolism (helpful for the MCAT, fundamental nutrition knowledge useful to non-nutrition majors)
  • NS 4250 Nutrition Communications & Counseling
  • NS 4500 Public Health Nutrition
  • PAM / DSOC 3280 Fundamentals of Population Health
  • PAM 2350 The U.S. Healthcare System
  • PAM 3110 Pharmaceutical Management and Policy
  • PAM 3780 Sick Around the World? Comparing Health Care Systems Around the World
  • PAM 4050 Reproductive Health Policy
  • PAM 4280 / ECON 3710 The Economics of Risky Health Behaviors
  • PAM 4370 / ECON 3720 The Economics of Health Care Markets
  • SOC 3130 / BSOC 3111 / DSOC 3111 / STS 3111 Sociology of Medicine
  • PLPPM 2950 Biology of Infectious Disease: From Molecules to Ecosystems

AND courses in languages, oral communications, and culture and religion.

The Health Career Evaluation Committee (HCEC) at Cornell provides a letter of evaluation (not a letter of recommendation) that is part of most pre-health students’ applications to health professional schools (i.e., schools of allopathic and osteopathic medicine, dentistry, optometry, and podiatry). HCEC prepares the letter of evaluation and appends the student’s letters of recommendation to it. Cornell students usually register with the HCEC early in the spring semester of their junior year. Students those who plan to apply to after their senior year usually wait until spring semester of their senior year to register. More information about the HCEC and its processes can be found on the Cornell HCEC home page.

According to the Health Career Evaluation Committee (HCEC) at Cornell HCEC:

“Transfer students with less than 30 letter-graded credit hours in Cornell courses should register at the usual time and submit transcript(s) from other institution(s) to the HCEC. [The HCEC will obtain a copy of your Cornell transcript.] However, an interviewer will be assigned only after thirty credit hours at Cornell have been completed and all non-Cornell transcripts have been received.  For juniors who have completed two semesters with less than 30 credits, the options include:

  1. taking a Cornell course during the 3-week summer session in late May – June
  2. getting a letter from your previous institution, or
  3. waiting until your senior year to register with the HCEC and apply to medical school. 

Interviews for transfer students are typically conducted during the late spring, in Ithaca, at the convenience of the interviewer. Transfer students may contact the HCEC via email to determine eligibility and deadlines.”

Transfer students considering the pre-health track at Cornell should see a pre-health advisor to discuss:

  • the pros and cons of using Cornell's HCEC or of using the committee at your previous institution
  • suitable sources of letters of recommendation and supplementary letters
  • issues to consider in deciding the optimum time to apply
  • procedures for postponing your interview when you have completed your semester credit hours
  • proceeding with an HCEC Letter without an HCEC interview

Coursework is only one important part of preparing for a career in medicine and health. Many other activities and resources can help you to decide whether a career in medicine is right for you, assess what type of career in medicine interests you, and gain early insight into the skills and thought processes involved in a career in medicine and health. Some of these are described briefly below, and students can also search among a wide range of opportunities on the Experience Cornell website.

  • CU Alumni Connections Program

Students can apply to the CU Alumni Connections Program to shadow a Cornell alum in one of the health professions.

  • Field Experience in Your Major

Field experience in your major can provide unique opportunities for your education and personal professional growth. More information about getting this field experience—and getting credit for that experience, most likely through NS 4020 Supervised Fieldwork.

  • Research

Undergraduates can participate in research for credit, as a volunteer, and or through the DNS Honors Program; more information can be found within Undergraduate Research and DNS Honors Program. Participating in research and working closely with a faculty member can help you decide how interested you are in the research aspects of nutrition and medicine.

  • Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers

Students may apply for the eight-week summer Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers program (usually after sophomore or junior year) in New York City gaining experience in health care fields.

  • Student Volunteer Opportunities

Information on volunteer opportunities at Cornell, in Ithaca, and in your hometown can be found using keywords Student Volunteer Opportunities or Cornell Campus Volunteering. The Pre-Medical Community Mentorship Program gives selected Cornell students the opportunity to observe up close some of the realities of the medical profession. Spending two half days shadowing a Tompkins County physician, students are connected with a mentor who can answer questions about opportunities in the diverse field of medicine and preparation for a medical career. This program is offered for Cornell undergraduates seriously considering a career in medicine. Call (607) 255-4782 to find out more.

  • Summer Experience

Volunteer to help health care providers and community support programs in your neighborhood or hometown.