Advice for Premeds

Some Advice for Premeds Who Are Thinking About Taking Physics Away from Wellesley

American medical schools generally require for admission a full year of college level physics. Wellesley students can fulfill this requirement either with the Physics 104 /106 sequence or with the Physics 107 / 108 sequence. With many competing demands on their time, Wellesley students who want to go to medical school sometimes consider fulfilling their physics requirement by taking one or two semesters of physics over the summer at another institution. The issues of whether this is a good idea and whether one will receive Wellesley credit for these summer courses are complicated ones. The Department Chair typically has conversations lasting around 30 minutes with students who are considering doing this. Here's a quick summary of some of the issues that can serve as background for such a discussion:

  • In order to be eligible for receiving Wellesley credit for the course it is absolutely necessary to have the Chair sign the necessary forms from the registrar before you take the course. We won't consider requests after the course has started.
  • In order to qualify for credit we (the Physics Department) try to ascertain that the course is at least comparable to our Physics 104 (for first semester physics) or Physics 106 (for second semester physics). For example, since 104 and 106 are calculus-based courses, we look to see whether the proposed summer course is calculus-based. There are other factors that we look at, but looking at the math used in the course is good place to start.
  • Medical schools make their own judgment about the merits of a particular summer course and the institution where you have taken it, independent of whether or not you have received Wellesley credit. The main thing that getting Wellesley credit does for you is that it means that you can take one less Wellesley course and still graduate. (31 instead of 32.) This is often not very important to students, particularly premeds, since they usually have more than enough credits to graduate. Getting credit for the course means you could take 3 courses one semester instead of 4, but that's something you may not want to do since taking only 3 courses doesn't look so good on a transcript. The main question you should be asking then, is usually not"Will I receive Wellesley credit for the summer course?" but rather, "What kind of a learning experience will I have with this course?"
  • Many (but certainly not all) of the summer physics courses that exist end up not being very good learning experiences for the students. The material is often crammed into a 4 or 5 week period and there is little time for "digestion and reflection". Since there is not a selective admissions process in these courses, the students' abilities often vary widely. Remember that this is material that's on the MCATs, so from a purely "strategic" point of view it's important to take a course where you learn the material well.
  • There are some institutions that have such condensed summer courses that it is possible to take an entire year's worth of physics in something like a 10 week period. We think this is usually a bad idea and will not "sign off" on such a plan.

If you want to talk more about these issues, please make an appointment to see the Department Chair.