About Us

(Scroll down for FAQs)

UCSB's Health Professions Advising is part of the Pre-Professional Advising Office located in 2105 North Hall. Our pre-health advisors provide academic advising services as well as career counseling for current UCSB students and alumni who are interested in pursuing careers in the health professions.  While our office directly reports to the College of Letters & Science Academic Advising Office, we work with students and alumni from all programs of study.

If you have questions, please email us at prehealthinfo@ltsc.ucsb.edu.  We also utilize our Pre-Health Listserv as the primary form of communication with UCSB students, so we strongly encourage all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even prospective students and parents to join the mailing list. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q. What is pre-health Advising?

A. Pre-health advising is academic advising that focuses on the unique needs of students who are interested in applying to health professions graduate programs after they complete an undergraduate degree at UCSB.

Q. Where do I go for pre-health advising?

A. Most pre-health advising and drop-in advising appointments take place in the Pre -Professional Advising Office, located in 2105 North Hall. Pre-Health Drop-In Advising: Please visit our home page for hours, as drop-in hours change from quarter to quarter. Scheduled Appointments: Pre-health Appointments scheduled with Dave Lawrence, Yessica Vazquez Arroyo, Dr. Blain, and the pre-health peer advisors will take place in 2105 North Hall, phone, or via Zoom

Q. What services do pre-health advisors provide?

A. Pre-health advisors help pre-health students understand the academic and extracurricular requirements that they must meet in order to prepare for create a competitive application to professional school. This includes helping pre-health students understand the prerequisite course requirements (and UCSB degree requirements), connect them to resources for obtaining shadowing, clinical, research, volunteer, and other experiences, helping them self-assess their competitiveness as applicants, and connecting them to resources to prepare for entrance exams and the application process.

Q: How do UCSB students fare when it comes to applying to medical school, dental school, and other health professions programs

A: Quite well. You can see data on this by visiting our homepage and scrolling down until you find the "heat map." There are also a number of hyperlinks that offer more detailed information on our students, to include what they majored in, what their GPAs were, how they did on admissions tests, etc. 

Just below the MD "Heat Map" is acceptance data for other health professions. UCSB's rigorous curriculum is well regarded throughout higher education, which is one of the reasons UCSB students' acceptance rates for professional schools consistently outperform the national average.

Q: How many UCSB students apply to professional schools every year?

A: Historically, between 250-280 UCSB students/graduates apply to medical schools (MD) annually. PA is our second most "popular" pre-health track, with about 100 students/year applying. Dentistry typically comes in third, with about 50 applications per year on average.

Q: Where are UCSB pre-meds actually going to medical school? What is their acceptance rate?

A:  Check out this Google sheet to see where UCSB grads have been admitted over the last several cycles. This kind of information is very valuable for students getting ready to enter the application cycle, as it gives them an idea of where UCSB students have been finding success in this highly competitive process.

The M.D. application cycle that began in June 2022 and concluded in the summer of 2023 was one of the most successful in recent UCSB memory: 123 of 259 UCSB grads who applied were admitted to at least one medical school--an acceptance rate that beats the national average by over 1.4 percentage points. 

Q: Any tips/suggestions for preparing for the MCAT?

A: In December 2023 and January 2024 I hosted MCAT info sessions with current students and (very) recent grads, each of whom scored > 90th percentile on their MCAT. One of the panelists also shared this great resource document; another panelist offered this incredibly helpful tip sheet for the CARS section--which is often the bane of an MCAT-taker's exisitence. Another student gave me the link to her MCAT study "progress tracker," which a number of students have found to be quite helpful. 

Q: Do you have any recordings of UCSB grads who've talked about their succesful application cycles for MD?

A: I try to host 10-12 zoom sessions per year with students who've enjoyed success in any number of facets of their pre-health journey: MD, PA, Dental, Post-Bacc, Research, etc. Going away the most well received was this talk from January 2023, with two recent UCSB grads who started medical school programs in summer '23. Between them, Isabel and Rahim were admitted to over two dozen medical schools. Listen to their stories here

Q: How do UCSB students perform when applying to dental school?

A: Our pre-dents are some of the brightest students we have the pleasure of working with (it helps to have a "ringer"--a retired pediatric dentist and former faculty/staff member at UCLA's School of Dentistry--in the person of Dr. Blain!) 

Every year, between 40-50 UCSB students/grads apply to dental school. They consistently outperform the national average when it comes to acceptances. Last cycle, 82.22% of UCSB applicants were accepted to at least one program (compared to 58.97% nationally); the previous cycle 72.09% of Gauchos were offered at least one acceptance (compared to a national clip of 56.62%). Those numbers are extraordinary. 

See where those students are going, and how their GPAs and DAT scores compared to their fellow applicants nationwide by clicking here and here. And check out this interview I conducted in January 2024 with several successful applicants (one of whom completed his first semester at UCLA's School of Dentistry in the fall of 2023) here

Q: Do I have to major in biology in order to go to medical school, dental school, etc.

A: No. Most professional schools are not concerned with what your undergraduate major is; rather, they want to ensure you've taken the appropriate prerequisites for their program (and that you have a record of demonstrable academic excellence). Having said that, most of our pre-health students are biology majors, because a great many of the courses that are required for that major also happen to coincide nicely with pre-health course requirements. Also, it can be difficult to get into some chemistry and biology courses as a non-STEM major. You can see the majors of UCSB-to-medical-school-matriculants here

Q: Any suggestions for aspiring nurses?

A: UCSB does not offer a nursing degree (BSN). That said, Gauchos who, while studying at UCSB, discover that they want to go the RN route may look for accellerated BSN programs after earning their degree. 

In fact, I had a great conversation recently with a student who did just that.

Bailee was, by her own repeated admission, an up-and-down student while an undergrad here. Not long after graduation, she was admitted to a DPT program on the east coast, but within weeks realized she'd made a terrible decision. Like a lot of first gen students, she didn't know what she didn't know--which can be a very scary place to be.
That was by no means the end of her story, however. After dropping out of her DPT program and moving back to CA, she immediately turned around and applied to ABSN programs at Duke, Penn, Johns Hopkins, and Northeastern--and was admitted to all of them. She's been at Duke since August '23, and will finish her program in December of 2024. She reports she already has a job prospect lined up on an ICU floor beginning in January '25--and has a pretty clear plan in place to become a nurse anesthetist in another few years. 
Among the myriad things she talks about is job prospects in nursing, forging relationships with faculty (and classmates), a "week in the life" as an ABSN student at Duke, financial aid, self-advocacy.... Many thanks to all the students who turned out and asked great questions. You can also find a copy of the chat here.
Due to stormy NC weather on the night of our conversation, Bailee's video stream was often quite glitchy. That in no way diminishes the value of her insights. 

Q. Is there a difference between general advising and pre-health advising?

A. Yes; the primary focus of the pre-health advisors is ensuring pre-health students are meeting the unique requirements that health professions graduate programs expect of applicants. The pre-health peer advisors can help students with scheduling questions and general questions about pre-health requirements.

Q. Can I rely on social media instead of pre-health advising?

A. OK, so this isn't a real question, but... Reddit can be a useful tool, but like most social platforms, the admonition "trust, but verify" very much applies. Full disclosure: I occasionally lurk on Reddit and have been known to respond to students' queries or input on occasion (see here and here and here and here). Bottom line: Reddit can be a useful source...but it should not be the source.

Having said that, in the summer of 2023, a UCSB student made public a fifteen (15!) page pre-health "how to" Google doc. A quick read will demonstrate that there are no shortcuts. This student was incredibly thorough, and while the author remains anonymous to Pre-Health staff, I post it here without hesitation. New students should read it slowly, thoroughly, and repeatedly. 

It sets a very high bar, admittedly, but so, too, has the student who aspires to a career in the health professions. Welcome to pre-health life! Special thanks to the student who took the time to put this document together--and to the student who posted this great piece in Spring '24. I'd argue that students like these attest to the collaborative, collegial spirit I've seen time and again from UCSB's pre-health student population. Y'all make my job a treat! 

Finally: I periodically mine the FOMO, neurotic underworlds of pre-health social media in the (futile?) hope that my students don't subject themselves to same. "Comparison is the thief of joy," they say, and social media doomscrolling almost invariably has that kind of effect. But I'll occasionally find chestnut threads like this ab-suh-loot BANGER and share it with the good souls on the pre-health listserv.

Q: I understand research can be an important component to becoming a competitive applicant to professional school. How do I learn about research opportunities?

I'm grateful to the six amazing panelists from the August 2023 Zoom session who talked about how to get involved with research as an undergrad at UCSB. 

You can find the video of that information session here, and at this link you'll find the time-stamped chat (that has a few great links in it, as well).
As I was reflecting about the conversation I had with these remarkable students, it occurred to me that some of the new students who watch this video may observe the confidence and erudition evident in each of the panelists and think to themselves, "Yikes, I can't compete with the likes of those students. I'm in the wrong place." 
No, you are not. 
I dare say that each of these panelists (to include me) have, at one time or another, been hounded by Imposter Syndrome. It's a credit to each of them that, despite this fact, they refuse to let that villain get the better of them. 
As Yessica and I tell hundreds of new students during myriad orientation presentations every summer, you are not here at UCSB by accident. You were each admitted with the firm conviction that you have the potential not just to survive here, but to thrive. 
These panelists are living embodiments of that idea. And I look forward next year to selecting from new students from our email distribution list who can share their own success stories. Not on that list? Sign up today! I also recommend you get on the Biology Department's Undergraduate Mailing List and explore UCSB's Faculty Research Assistance Program page. 
Q: Any tips or suggestions on obtaining recommendation letters from faculty/staff? 
A: In the summer of 2023 I went through the AMCAS summaries of all accepted MD students from the last cycle; there were over 160 UCSB faculty and staff who wrote recommendation letters for them. I then contacted all of those letter writers and asked if they'd contribute to a document that might help students navigate this process. A number of them responded with some great suggestions, which can be found here. There are over 10 pages of golden insights about rec letters found in this document.
It was a pretty open prompt: What are your timelines for students? How should they make the ask? What predisposes you to write on their behalf, and what would be a turn-off? Anything else? If you're going to be looking for a recommendation letter (for grad school, professional school, or even the workforce), I'd strongly urge you to read through this document.
Q: I'm feeling an incredible amount of stress. What can I do? 
A: First off, you're not alone. The spotlight effect is real. So, too, is imposter syndrome. When deadlines come at your fast and furious, the pressure can feel insurmountable. 
To be sure, not all stressors are created equal. Neither is how we as individuals handle that pressure. And the truth is, once you get stuck in your head it can be difficult to break that cycle of negativity. 
The good news is UCSB has resources that can help. Most students are aware of/familiar with Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). UCSB's Student Mental Health Coordination Services is another invaluable resource--especially if you notice some distressing signs in a friend or classmate and you're unsure what to do. And if you or someone you know is thinking about harming themselves or taking their life, call the suicide hotline at 9-8-8. 
For less acute forms of stress, I'd suggest trying to tap into the mind-body connection. The science is in, folks, and the connection is clear. Get outside, get the heart pumping, get to the gym, go for a run, a swim, play some hoops... whatever gets you going.
And don't overlook the power of focused breathing. I sent an email with some thoughts about Pranayama and other "meditation-adjacent" techniques that a number of students subsequently emailed me about. You can find that message, along with the links I'd included in the email, here.  
Q: I got my first interview invite! Can I schedule a mock interview with you?
A: Getting that first interview invite (II) is an enormous moment in a student's pre-health journey. It's "game on!" Yessica, Dr. Blain, and I are happy to do mock interviews with students. That said, there's only three of us, which necessarily means a finite amount of bandwidth.
The good news is UCSB students have access to a very robust mock interview platform called "Big Interview" (they're the gold standard for this type of thing). I sent an email to the listserv in the fall of 2023 walking with a simple, step-by-step process of setting up a session. You can find the text of that email (along w/ screenshots) here. It's also a great resource if you have an upcoming interview as an MA, scribe, or other employment opportunity. Hitting an interview cold is NEVER a good idea; there's no excuse for not getting plenty of practice!
Q: Any other practical tips for interviews?
A: My listserv probably gets tired of hearing from me, but you can see some previous messages here and here and here

Q. How can I schedule an appointment?

A1. Pre-Health Drop-In Advising: Students do not need to schedule an appointment to see a pre-health advisor during drop-in hours. Drop-in appointments are meant to be brief (10-15 minutes) and address student issues/concerns regarding academic probation, add and/or drop a course, withdrawing form a course, repeating a course, changing/adding/dropping major or minor, transferring colleges (L&S→ Engineering) or to a new institution, studying abroad.

A2. Pre-Health Scheduled Appointments: Scheduled appointments run 30 minutes and are meant to address issues/concerns that require more in-depth discussion, which cannot be sufficiently addressed during a drop-in. Students should schedule an appointment with a pre-health staff or peer advisor (Typically, peer advisors meet with 1st and 2nd year students.) to discuss topics including, but not limited to, choosing a major or exploring a pre-health career, considering a double-major, senior checks, degree/progress check, discuss taking time off, long-range planning of extracurricular experiences, discussing competitiveness as an applicant, questions regarding the application process, questions regarding entrance exams.

Q. How can I get pre-health advising if I have already graduated, and is there a "statute of limitations"?

A. We love working with UCSB grads to help them achieve their health profession dreams, regardless of when they graduated from UCSB. Send an email to prehealthinfo@ltsc.ucsb.edu to schedule a phone, Zoom, or in-person meeting.

Q. How should I prepare for my advising appointment?

A. Prior to attending your advising appointment, we expect all pre-health students to have gone to the Health Professions Advising website, joined the Pre-Health Listserv, and reviewed, at minimum, the information relevant to their pre-health track or the pre-health track(s) that they are interested in pursuing while at UCSB. Additionally, we expect students to utilize the Degree Audit tool in Gold to keep track of their progress in meeting GE and major requirements. Lastly, students should come prepared with specific questions for the pre-health advisor and take notes, as needed, during their appointment