Taking Classes Away


You should plan to take most of the prehealth requirements at Duke so that health professions schools will know that you've received a sound foundation in the sciences. Your coursework and grades from Duke will also tell them that you have developed rigorous study habits and efficient time management skills and are capable of handling the advanced course work in a health professions school. Summer school at Duke or the Duke Marine Laboratory is always acceptable.

If you find it difficult to fit in all required prehealth courses over your four years at Duke, you may choose to take some courses at home during the summer at a local university or college.  Here are a few things to know about taking courses away:

  • If you take a required course in Physics, Chemistry, Math, or Biology at another school in the U.S., it should be equivalent to what is taught at Duke.  You might obtain a course description, a syllabus, and/or the title of the textbook used and compare these with the corresponding Duke course. If you have questions, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) in the Duke department in which the comparable course is taught for advice. If the course is required for your major, be certain that your major department will accept the course.
  • You may choose to transfer the course(s) back to Duke so they appear on your Duke transcript (the courses appear, but not the grades).  Trinity students can transfer 2 course credits and Pratt students can transfer 4 credits. You should receive approval from the DUS and your academic dean before taking a course to be sure it will be approved for transfer. See the procedures for requesting transfer credit for Trinity and Pratt students. 
  • If a course is not necessary for a major or a requirement at Duke, you can choose NOT to transfer it to Duke. When you apply to health professions schools, you are required to send transcripts from all U.S. colleges and universities that you've enrolled in, so health professions schools will see courses and grades.
  • Do not take the required courses in Chemistry, Math, Biology and Physics at a community college, online, or on a pass/fail basis.  The level of instruction is often not as rigorous and many health professions schools will not accept them.  You also cannot receive transfer credit for these.   You are also not allowed to take a course elsewhere and then repeat it at Duke. While this may seem like a good way to prepare for a difficult course, it is against Duke policy and health profession schools will see it as a lack of confidence. If you are worried about a particular course(s), talk with your Prehealth Advisor so that you can develop a workable plan.
  • And do not take the required courses in Chemistry, Math, Biology and Physics at a university outside of the U.S.  Medical and other health professions schools will not accept them.  However, it is fine to take other science courses abroad, especially if they are part of your major or are of interest.
A Note on Study Abroad

​Health professions schools are interested in individuals who are broadly educated. Experiences such as study abroad may be particularly useful if you immerse yourself in learning about the culture and people of the country in which you study. Studying abroad might also give you experience in areas of interest such as global health.  Approximately 50% of Duke students will study away at some time during their four years at Duke.   Some study abroad in a fall or spring semester, some in the summer and some choose to spend an entire year abroad.  Others participate in Duke Engage in an international setting, learning about different cultures in a service environment rather than in an academic one.  So study abroad is recommended if this is of interest.  If you do study away, take into consideration is the timing of the MCAT or other standardized exam.  Preparation for exams generally takes several months of effort, and studying for the exam or taking the exam while abroad can be difficult at a time when you most want to learn and grow from new experiences.  For information on Duke-In study abroad programs and Duke-approved study abroad programs, see the Global Education for Undergraduate website. If you are interested in global and civic opportunities, schedule a meeting with a Director of Academic Engagement.