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Division of Natural Sciences & MathematicsDepartment of Biological Sciences

Undergraduate Handbook

Degree Programs

Undergraduate Student Handbook

[Note: Follow the bookmarks in .pdf files for easy navigation.]

General information about application to graduate programs in medicine or basic science. (.pdf file)

Questions about what to do to prepare for a career in health care?

For pre-health profession advising, contact the PreProfessional/Allied Health Advising Center.

Graduating with Distinction in Biological Sciences

Guidelines for Undergraduate Honors Research (.pdf file) - contents include:

  • General requirements
  • Choosing a research advisor & when to start research
  • Registering for research credit
  • Off campus research
  • Proposal & the written thesis
  • Poster presentation

Undergraduate Honors/Distinction Schedule for Spring 2015

  • By Friday - April 10, 2015 - Register and submit an abstract to the Undergraduate Research Center for presentation of your poster at the Symposium of Undergraduate Research (see May 6th, below). Information on the Symposium and a link to register and submit your abstract are attached to this document. For any questions regarding the 2015 Symposium, please contact
  • Monday - April 13, 2015 - Submit your honors thesis via E-mail to Prof. Daniel Linseman ( with an Email from your thesis advisor that she or he approves you submitting your thesis at this time. Electronic submissions are due by 5 PM on 4/13. See your advisor about preparing a poster to describe your work. Your poster will be presented twice (see symposia details below).
  • Monday - April 20, 2015 - Electronic copies of your thesis with faculty reviewer’s comments will be returned by 5 PM on 4/20. Revisions may be required, confer with your thesis advisor about how to prepare the final draft of your thesis.
  • Monday - April 27, 2015 - Submit final thesis with any corrections requested by the Honors Committee to your advisor via E-mail and cc: Prof. Daniel Linseman ( You should also attach a brief paragraph describing how you responded to the faculty reviewers’ comments. If you incorporated essentially all of the suggested revisions, then a simple statement to that effect will suffice.
  • Friday – May 1, 2015 - Biology Department Poster Presentation - Have a poster prepared, presenting the highlights of your work, to post near your lab and defend from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Stay as a guest of honor for a reception for all honors students and faculty members from 5:00 to 5:30. Parents and friends are welcome. See the office for instructions on how to print your poster. It is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that posters are printed several days prior to 05/01.
  • Wednesday - May 6, 2015 - University Symposium of Undergraduate Research - Defend the poster, or make an oral presentation, at the Symposium of Undergraduate Research ( sponsored by the Undergraduate Research Center (URC), University Honors Program, PinS program, and Phi Beta Kappa. Free food.

Frequently asked questions from students interested in graduate training in medicine or basic sciences:

1. What academic credentials are required for admission to medical school?
  • At University of Colorado School of Medicine the Class of 2013 looks like this: 160 students (selected from 3660 applicants ... 693 applicants were interviewed); median MCAT 32 P and median GPA 3.71; median age 24 years, 3 months (oldest 49, youngest 21). Six DU alumni are included in this group.
2. What are the general requirements for gaining admission to the graduate program of my choice?
  • Most students entering a professional graduate program have earned an undergraduate degree from a college or university in a traditional academic discipline. The most popular undergraduate majors are Biological Sciences and Chemistry/Biochem. You DO NOT have to major in a science, but you MUST satisfy the prerequisites for application. A Biology major with elective coursework in your areas of interest will prepare you to succeed in graduate training and in your chosen career. See the response to Question #4 below for a listing of the minimum science requirements for application to most graduate level health care programs (medical, dental, veterinary).
3. Do I have an advantage if I major in one subject instead of another?
  • No. There is no "pre-med" major. Instead, students choose a major based upon personal interests. Classes both inside and outside the major are selected to satisfy prerequisites for application. Most medical programs favor students with strong background in the "liberal arts and sciences", including arts, humanities, and social sciences along with science and mathematics (DU's University requirements). Courses in our Common Curriculum plus elective coursework outside the major will offer this academic preparation. No particular major is required for application to medical programs, but a Biology major can help to build a strong academic foundation for graduate training.
4. What are the specific "required" courses for application to a professional school or graduate program?
  • In addition to the required general education courses (Writing, Math, Common Curriculum), the following courses in science are almost universally listed as the minimum requirements for admission to medical, dental or veterinary schools.
    • 2 years of Chemistry with labs = 1 yr of inorganic + 1 yr of organic
    • 1 year of Biological Sciences with labs
    • 1 year of Physics with labs

    Most graduate programs require college-level mathematics; many schools recommend college calculus. We strongly recommend courses in Cell Structure and Function, General Genetics, and Human Physiology before taking the Medical College Admission Test.  Other courses may be required/recommended by an individual school. It is the responsibility of each applicant to learn about specific requirements for schools of interest.  Graduate programs in the basic sciences may require additional coursework in math and science.  Look for additional information about specific programs online.

5. When do I make application to graduate school?
  • As a general rule, your application should be submitted during the year preceding your planned enrollment. You will begin assembling your application materials in the spring of your Junior (next-to-last) year. The application will be completed and submitted in the summer or fall of that year, depending upon the application deadline for the programs that you have selected.
6. How are letters of recommendation submitted?
  • Letters of recommendation to support applications to graduate medical programs are submitted electronically to the respective online application service: 
    • allopathic medical schools  - the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)
    • osteopathic medical schools - the Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) 
    • dental schools - the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
    • veterinary colleges - the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS)
    • graduate programs generally use online application services - check program websites for additional information
7. What should I be doing during my undergraduate years to prepare for graduate application?
  • Take advantage of the rich experience that is offered at University of Denver to develop as a "whole person". 
    • FIRST YEAR: Get involved on campus; begin to develop strong academic credentials and work to maintain strong academic standing throughout your undergraduate career.  You do not have to be a straight-A student to go on to graduate training, but you need to be consistent in your accomplishments.
    • SECOND YEAR: Get involved with clinical work (job or volunteer) or undergraduate research; investigate prerequisites for medical programs of interest.
    • THIRD YEAR: MCAT (or appropriate entrance exam) preparation and testing. June - complete applications; solicit letters of recommendation from faculty and non-academic referees.
    • FOURTH YEAR: Fall - follow-up with referees to make sure letters of recommendation have been submitted; Nov-Dec - Prepare for upcoming interviews; Nov-Jan - Complete supplemental applications if required; Participate in interviews (as invited); Feb - Submit more recent transcript (if it strengthens application); WAIT !! Contact waiting-list schools to express your continuing interest in their training program. Be willing to reapply if needed.
8. What is the acceptance rate for DU students applying to professional schools?
  • During the past 8-10 years, the acceptance rate of our students has ranged from 60-75%. Nationally, the average age of entering first-year medical students is 24- to 26- years old. Life experience, clinical experience, and maturity are important credentials. Any student with a genuine interest in pursuing a health care career must be willing to reapply to their program(s) of choice if not accepted in the first round of application.
  • More and more students are becoming interested in MS and PhD graduate programs.
9. If I re-apply for graduate training, can I use old letters that were submitted in a previous application cycle?
  • Online application systems purge their data files at the end of each application cycle. New letters need to be submitted in each cycle of application. In order to strengthen your application, be sure to update each letter writer about what you have accomplished in the interim year, so the letter can be up-to-date and accurate in profiling your qualifications for graduate training.