Skip to Content

Academic Preparation

In order to become a competitive applicant, students must demonstrate academic excellence through strong entrance exam scores, and a competitive overall and prerequisite grade-point average. Students should be aware of admissions standards for each of these measures at their specific schools of interest, keeping an eye out for specific coursework required for eligibility and recommended for competitive applicants.

General Academic Planning

Health-professions schools place a priority on well-rounded achievement. Be sure to demonstrate your academic abilities and excellence through completing your major requirements and pre-requisite courses with excellence and rigor. Go beyond the minimal expectations when possible.

      • Be sure to demonstrate your ability to engage in rigorous course loads by taking 15–17 credits and two sciences each semester (after your first semester at Clemson). Try to maintain strong overall and science GPAs of 3.5 or higher.
      • Be careful not to get over-involved outside of the classroom: Remember a general rule of thumb is to leave approximately two to three hours of study time for each credit hour spent in class. For example, if a student carries 15 credits during the semester, plan approximately 30 – 45 hours in study and course preparation time outside the classroom. This amounts to a full time job! Your academics come first. You may require some help with developing new study skills or time management skills. Use campus resources like the Academic Success Center available to you. Be involved but manage your time well.
      • Health-professions schools place emphasis on well-educated and well-rounded applicants: Pursue not only the pre-requisite courses but also courses that demonstrate your love for learning, personality, interests and intellectual breadth outside of the sciences.


Professional programs do not require students to major in any one particular area, nor do they give preference to certain majors over others. Students are encouraged to choose a major based on their strengths, interests, and personalities. As long as you are able to accommodate the specific prerequisite course requirements of your particular schools of interest, you may pursue any academic program and be eligible for admission. You will also be evaluated on the rigor of the courses you take and the number of credits you take each semester. Completing two majors and/or two minors will not inherently make you more competitive.

AP, IB and Other Exemption Credits

Many professional schools will not accept AP or IB credit by itself to fulfill prerequisite requirements. Therefore, if you have earned AP or IB course credit in prerequisite courses, we recommend that you either retake these courses or take higher level courses in the same area. When discussing whether to repeat courses you have AP/IB credit for or take upper division courses in the same areas, consider whether these courses taken at the high school level are adequate preparation for not only upper-division biology, chemistry, math and physics courses, but for entrance exams and the foundational courses you will encounter in the professional schools.

Repeating Courses, Withdrawals and Academic Forgiveness

Repeating courses: Repeating a course in which you have already earned a C or better is not looked upon favorably by professional schools in most cases. You need to demonstrate that you can successfully complete courses the first time you see the material. Professional schools would rather see stronger performance in a higher-level course than a repeated course. If you do not do well in your early foundation courses, we recommend that you take upper division coursework in the same area to demonstrate academic proficiency in that area.

      • All grades in all attempts must be reported to healthcare professions schools. There is not grade forgiveness or grade averaging. Therefore, all attempts will count toward your transcript.
      • The majority of health professional schools do not accept grades less than a “C” in pre-requisite or required coursework. If you earn a “C-” or below, repeat the course.
      • If you struggled in or earned a “C-” or below in the first half of a sequenced or required course, do not take the second course in the sequence. Please speak with your instructor or an advisor.
      • If you completed prerequisite courses five or more years ago you will need to check with the schools you plan to apply to in order to determine whether or not you need to repeat them.

Withdrawals: Healthcare professions admission committees will look for academic patterns when they review applications for admission. It is important not to establish a pattern of withdrawing from your courses or saving courses to take during the summer or with a lighter course load.

      • If you believe you are able to earn a “C” or above in the course, we recommend that you complete the course and then take a higher level course in the same area to demonstrate academic abilities.
      • If you believe you will earn a “C-” or below, please talk with your academic and health professions advisor to determine whether it is best to withdrawl. If you decide to do so, it is best to drop the course with an understanding it will be important to earn a “B+” or preferably an “A” in the second attempt.

Academic Forgiveness: The Academic Forgiveness Policy (AFP) allows a student enrolled beginning Fall 2013 to eliminate from the GPA calculation up to three courses in which a D or F was earned.

      • It is important to note that the D or F is only removed from the Clemson GPA calculation, and a reference to the course attempt will appear on your transcript.
      • Many health professional schools do not recognize this policiy in their admissions process. Therefore, the original grade may be calculated in your application GPA.
      • Students are highly discouraged from purposefully earning a D or F in a course in anticipation of using Academic Forgiveness.


Elective courses are a great way for you to pursue your own interests and to prepare for the humanistic, social, and ethical sides of healthcare. Use them to learn about your future patients: their cultures, languages, and the social challenges they may face. Do not choose courses just because you think they will help you improve your GPA.

Graduating Early

You may have arrived at Clemson with numerous advanced credits. Many students may be able to complete their major in three years, and some students believe professional schools look positively on students completing their degrees earlier than in four years; however, that is not typically the case, as an application filed after only two years will certainly not be as rich as one filed after three or four years of demonstrated academics and experiences. If for financial necessity or other reasons you complete your degree in three years, consider taking a gap year between undergraduate and professional school to work or continue service activities. This way your application will reflect a full three years of academic performance and will be a stronger, more competitive application. When in doubt, feel free to consult with a health-professions advisor.