Roadmap for Year One

The PPHS program is intended for students interested in health-science professions other than nursing, dietetics, or counseling (for which there are other specialized programs at SPU). You do not major in PPHS but enroll in a series of three PPHS seminar courses over four years.

Popular majors for PPHS students include Applied Human Biology, Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Physiology, which include the coursework typically required for admission into different types of graduate training programs. However, you may choose any major as long as you are willing to take additional courses that are pre-requisites for your intended type of professional training.

During your first year, you should enroll in Chemistry and Biology courses (this may vary somewhat, depending on guidance you receive from your academic counselor or faculty advisor). Consider joining clubs and participating in other extracurricular activities, but be mindful of the time they demand. Your focus should be on building a solid academic foundation, even if that means postponing commitments to clubs, community service, and other activities. You can make up for lost time in those areas later. Meet with your faculty advisor each quarter to review your academic progress and develop an appropriate two-year or four-year plan.

Pre-professional coursework demands analytical skills rather than just mastery of specific facts. Some students struggle with the transition from high-school habits (memorization and rote work) to studying for understanding and applying information. You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the free tutoring and group-study opportunities offered by the Center for Learning.

Keep in mind that low grades during the first year are not career-ending, but you should establish an upward-trending grade-point average (GPA) over the course of your college studies. You may repeat a course or take a similar upper-level course in order to demonstrate competence in a subject. Note that 3.0 is the minimum GPA for most graduate programs; most medical schools require a GPA of at least 3.5.

Take PPHS 1200 (Introduction to the Health Professions) in winter quarter. This one-credit pass-fail course provides instruction as well as inspiration and peer support. You will learn about the wide variety of health care professions, explore current issues, and prepare for volunteering and job shadowing.

We don’t expect incoming PPHS students to have already made all the important decisions about their life’s work. Your first year or two at SPU should be a time of exploration. Be open to new possibilities. Give yourself a chance to evaluate your original plans, investigate alternatives, and take your time to identify a career path that will be both practical and rewarding for you. You can find information about potential health care careers under Health Care Professions.  The Center for Career and Calling also offers seminars and other guidance about choosing a career.

Whatever you do, don’t gauge your chances for future success on the grades you receive in introductory Biology and Chemistry courses! Also keep in mind the high expectations for pre-professional students and adhere to the standards for academic integrity and personal conduct as outlined in the SPU Student Handbook. You can find more advice under Professionalism (requires SPU login).

Visit the John Perkins Center to discover ways to get involved in community service. You can find more advice in the Community Service handout (requires SPU login).

Prepare to shadow. Regardless of your intended professional goal, you need to know what you are getting into. Health care job shadowing is unpaid observation of a health care provider interacting with patients and colleagues. You can find more advice in the Shadowing handout (requires SPU login).

Make summer plans. Consider applying for a health-related job, although any job that involves customer service is a great way to sharpen your communication skills and demonstrate reliability. Working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or certified nursing assistant (CNA) will require training, which you must pay for.

If you are eligible, apply for a summer internship such as the Summer Health Professions Education Program ( Look for notices of internships or other summer enrichment programs on the websites of large universities with professional schools. The SPU Biology Department keeps a list of additional opportunities and advice about preparing a strong application. More internships are listed here. Applications are generally due between January and March and may require a recommendation from a professor (requires SPU login).

During your first year, start a log, journal, or e-portfolio to document your community service, job shadowing, and other relevant experiences. Include details (names, places, hours) as well as your reflections. Add notes about your coursework and conversations with your mentors. Make an effort to follow the news and read books and articles about health care and health care providers. Summarize what you learn in your portfolio. This material will be invaluable when you begin to work on your personal statement as part of your application to professional school, and you can quickly review your records when you are preparing for interviews.

Year One Checklist

This checklist describes important action steps for first-year PPHS students.