Frequently asked questions

Your nature is to ask questions. Our nature is to help you answer them.

How does Iowa State prepare me for medical school?

You’ll find the perfect conditions to prepare for medical school at Iowa State. We’ll give you an education grounded in science and practice. We’ll provide you with our pre-professional pathways—Pre-Med and Pre-Health—which you can tailor to your needs. These pathways are excellent guidelines to follow while you’re enrolled in a specific major. Pathways and majors differ slightly: while a pathway refers to your destination after graduation (like medical school), a major is your specific course of study at Iowa State. For example, a student might major in psychology while on the Pre-Med pathway. 

You’ll also receive endless support along the way. A team of advisors will work together to help you achieve your goals and stand out as a medical school applicant. Your instructors, peers, and greater Cyclone community will assist you as you unearth your potential. When you become a Cyclone, we’ll set you up to succeed.

Is Iowa State a good choice if I want to pursue medical school after earning my undergraduate degree?

Yes! For starters, Iowa State is a Carnegie R1 research institution—here, you can let your interests converge. Apply your class concepts to hands-on work in a research lab. Learn practical skills and knowledge from campus researchers at the top of their fields. Feed your curiosity. Make a discovery. Learn more from the experts themselves.

If you want to shadow some medical providers, why not leverage our living alumni network? It’s ¼ of a million Cyclones strong. Our alumni are everywhere! Cyclones love working with other Cyclones, so network with them. Someone might hold the key to the shadowing or mentoring opportunity of a lifetime. Additionally, Iowa State University is an easy drive away from Des Moines, where many more medical providers and opportunities await you.

Finally, no matter what you major in—from kinesiology to mechanical engineering and everything in between—we’ll help you complete any core courses required for admission into medical school. Study what interests you, and we’ll help you take care of the rest. 

Not sure what to major in? You can enroll at Iowa State as a general pre-professional student. You’ll work with a Pre-Health advisor who will help you determine the best major—across the university—for your goals and interests. Once you’ve declared a major, you’ll have two advisors to help you: one for your major and one for Pre-Health.

Talk about a great deal!

I want to go to medical school. What should I major in?

The short answer: something that excites you! The longer answer: all majors are excellent pathways into the world of health and medicine. Majors in the arts, humanities, and sciences are admitted into medical programs at similar rates. Your core coursework may vary depending on your program—dentistry, human medicine, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, or physician assistant—but regardless of your major, Iowa State will help you complete those requirements. We’ve had Cyclones majoring in everything from music to biochemistry get accepted into medical programs, so everything circles back to you. Study whatever feeds your curiosity. Study whatever motivates you. With a little research and planning, you’ll have a strong application in the making.

What are the most common majors Iowa State students study prior to medical school?

While any major will start you on the right path, these are the most common majors for students who’ve proceeded to medical school:

  • Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Kinesiology and Health
  • Genetics
  • Nursing
  • Psychology
  • Athletic training
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Economics
  • English
  • History
  • Music

How does Pre-Med/Health advising work?

As a pre-professional student, you’ll receive a two-for-one special on advisors! One for your academic major and one for Pre-Health. Your major advisor helps you meet all your graduation requirements; your Pre-Health advisor supports you throughout the medical school preparation and application process. If you need assistance integrating medical school coursework into your academic major, they can also help you with this process. Either way, Iowa State has your back.

What will I need to be a strong medical school applicant?

Applying to medical school can be a team effort, and the good news is Iowa State’s full of team players. For your medical school applications, you’ll work with your professors to collect recommendation letters. You’ll collaborate with your Pre-Health advisor and other mentors to craft a personal statement that’s true to you. Medical schools also like to see students with competitive standardized test scores (like the MCAT, GRE, or PCAT) and strong GPAs (if you can, strive for a 3.5). But there’s another part of your application worth mentioning—your activities and service to others.

At Iowa State, we believe in experiential learning. Your medical schools do, too. Check out some examples of valuable activities to round out your student experience:

  • Participating in research (luckily, you have faculty and advisors to help you make connections)
  • Embracing leadership roles (in clubs, in your residence hall, at your job)
  • Volunteering (medical or non-medical)
  • Shadowing a variety of medical professionals
  • Collecting direct patient care hours

Let your activities speak to who you are as a person, a student, and an aspiring medical professional. Raise your hand. Get involved. Find what moves you.

Where have Iowa State students been accepted for medical school?

You’ll find your fellow Cyclones in medical schools all over the country! Including:

  • Creighton University
  • Des Moines University
  • Drake University
  • Harvard University
  • Penn State University
  • St. Louis University
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Yale University

No matter where your studies lead you, Iowa State can help you get there.

Should I do undergraduate research to be accepted to professional school?

Many Iowa State students enjoy our strong undergraduate research culture and the opportunity to go beyond the classroom. Research is not required for professional school admittance, but it strengthens your application. Whether you’re interested in cancer, neuroscience, or nutrition, you’ll gain an understanding of the research process, sharpen your scientific skills and engage with exceptional faculty.

How do I find letters of recommendation?

Get to know your professors. Form relationships with faculty members by attending office hours, becoming a TA, conducting research or tutoring. Students often begin gathering letters of recommendation in early spring of their junior year. Plan to have those conversations early in case a faculty member is away for a semester or unable to assist for another reason.

How do I create a strong personal statement?

As you gain experiences in research, shadowing, volunteering, and leadership, track each one. You can do this through a spreadsheet, a notebook or other system. Note what you did and your hours, reflect on what you gained and consider what you’ll do next after each experience. When you’re ready to write your personal statement, these reflections will be invaluable as you think about your motivations, strengths, and future goals.

Your pre-professional health advisor can give you additional guidance and resources on preparing a good personal statement.

How do I find a shadowing experience?

Our students often shadow providers in their home communities during academic breaks and in the summer. Mary Greeley Medical Center and McFarland Clinic are easily accessible to ISU students via the CyRide bus system (fare-free to students). Iowa State is also within easy driving distance of Des Moines and many major medical providers and specialists. Additionally, Cyclones are everywhere! Our alumni often visit campus and provide a great network of opportunities.

Most programs do not have a set number of shadowing hours that are required for admission. You should have multiple shadowing experiences to challenge yourself and gain a well-rounded perspective in your desired profession.

How can I get patient care hours?

We encourage many students to complete their CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). You will gain experience caring for patients, and it provides a good return on your investment. Some students also become EMTs (Emergency Medical Technician), although many EMT positions are volunteer positions.

Can you help me with my professional school interview?

The Career Services team can help you practice mock interviews and find internship opportunities to strengthen your application. Current students can set up an appointment to meet with their staff and learn how they can assist you.

Can I become a nurse at Iowa State?

Iowa State’s bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) completion program helps nurses further their education in health promotion, disease prevention and the overall culture of health. This is a program available only to registered nurses who have already completed a pre-licensure program.

Bachelor of Science: Nursing

Where can I learn more?

Iowa State has many resources to support students who want to become doctors and health professionals of any kind. Here are some of the key websites where you can explore: