- Covid-19 Updates
For students who want to go from Mason to Health Profession School (without taking a gap year), the traditional time to apply is spring or summer of Junior year. The application process takes place throughout the summer and during Senior year fall and spring semesters.
Freshman and Sophomore years:
Application cycle open dates:
Deadlines vary by school.
Audiology/Speech Language: October
Occupational Therapy: July
Physical Therapy: June
Physician Assistant: April
What is a Gap Year?
Instead of applying during the summer after Junior year, you delay applying until the summer after Senior year, or even future summers. This means you won’t start Health Profession School immediately after graduating from Mason, but will have a year or more gap between undergrad and Health Profession School.
Is a Gap Year a Good Thing for my Application?
Yes, it can be – if you use your gap year productively. It’s challenging to be a competitive traditional applicant in three years. Many students aren’t able to do well in school, have time to study and take the standardized test, and gain sufficient experiences to be well-rounded. Taking a gap year allows you extra time to be a stronger applicant.
Schools value applicants who have life experiences and have developed the core competencies to succeed in Health Profession School and in their future careers. Often, students who have taken gap years simply have more time to gain life experiences and mature.
Due to how competitive it is to be admitted to Health Profession Schools, it’s becoming the norm for admitted students to take gap years. For example, for the most recently admitted cohort of medical students, over 65% had taken at least one gap year.
What should I do in my Gap Year?
This varies by student. Some students need to improve their academics (taking more classes, enrolling in a post-bacc program, having more time to study for the test) whereas other students need more experiences.
In addition to using your gap year to improve your application, it’s also valid to take a gap year to save money for Health Profession School, to travel or accomplish bucket list items, or to take a mental break before the next (lengthy) step in your academic career starts.
If you aren’t admitted to Health Profession School the first time, you might end up taking a gap year anyway if you end up reapplying. It’s important to be continuously working towards improving your application. Choose activities in your gap year that bring you happiness, but also further your purpose towards Health Profession School.
What is a post-bacc program?
A post-baccalaureate (post-bacc) program is designed for pre-health students who either 1) need additional science coursework to improve their science and/or cumulative GPA or 2) need to complete all or most prerequisite science courses in order to apply for health profession programs. Post-bacc programs are completed after graduating from a bachelor’s degree.
While post-bacc programs primarily cater to pre-medical students, select post-bacc programs also cater to other health professions including pre-dentistry, pre-PA, or pre-Pharmacy.
There are different types of post-bacc programs.
Post-bacc programs vary greatly:
Outside of coursework, post-bacc programs can offer (this varies by program):
While post-bacc programs can be a great option for students, there are some things to consider:
Who needs a post-bacc program?
What post-bacc programs do Mason students pursue?
Explore all post-bacc programs. There are a number of post-bacc programs in the area that are popular destinations for Mason grads.
Record Enhancer programs:
Career Changer programs:
While some Health Profession Schools use their own application offered through their school website, most Health Profession Schools utilize a Centralized Application Service (CAS) as the primary application. The benefit of the CAS is that you can apply to multiple schools using the same application. Parts of the CAS application:
Letters of Evaluation
The personal statement is your chance to share who you are, beyond your metrics, to highlight meaningful qualities and experiences, and to share why you want to pursue a career in that health profession field.
Personal statement tips:
Refining and Editing
It’s not uncommon to write multiple drafts and edit your statement many times. Get your thoughts on paper and then give yourself time away from your statement. Come back with fresh eyes to edit.
Plan to have at least three people review your Personal Statement.
You can certainly ask more people to review it, but at some point you might get too many opinions.
Tips by Profession
What is a secondary application?
After submitting your primary CAS application, some schools will have an additional application with questions specific to that school. These applications are called secondary or supplemental applications.
Almost every medical school (MD and DO) has a secondary application. Some schools send secondaries as soon as the primary has been submitted. Some schools wait until after the primary application is processed. Still others will wait until the primary is processed, and then screen applicants based on the primary, and only send secondary applications to selected applicants. Secondary applications for medical school often involve one or many essay questions, and often involve a fee, anywhere from $50 to $150.
Other health professions might have secondary or supplemental applications, but it varies greatly by school. They are rarely as essay-intensive as medical school secondaries.
One strategy for preparing for secondaries is to prewrite common secondary prompts. Some schools use the same secondary prompts every year, while other schools change them. Here’s a list of secondary questions sortable by school and year.
Common Secondary Prompts
There are some secondary questions that are commonly asked by schools.
Some schools have optional essays. Should I answer them?
Yes, you should take advantage of every opportunity to make your case for admission. If you’re unsure what to write about, adapt a response from another secondary. Just make sure you aren’t repeating information from other parts of your application.
When should I submit my secondaries?
Some schools have deadlines for their secondaries. Generally, submitting secondaries within 2 weeks is the standard. If you don’t submit secondaries in a timely fashion, that might signal to schools that you’re not really interested in their program.
How many letters are required? Who should I ask for letters?
While requirements can vary by health profession and by individual school, in general schools require two letters of recommendation from science faculty and one additional letter (that can be academic or professional). Generally, a science faculty includes any biology, chemistry, or physics course. Some schools will allow other fields including neuroscience, engineering, or kinesiology to count towards the science requirement, but it’s important to check directly with the school.
For the third letter, some schools will require a letter from a healthcare provider in that profession (for example, you might need a letter from a DO doctor you’ve worked or shadowed with to apply to a DO school). Other schools will accept another academic letter (from a non-science faculty), a letter from a mentor/supervisor from an extracurricular experience or job, or a letter from a research P.I.
Some schools might allow or ask for more than three letters. It’s important to check with individual school requirements.
Who shouldn’t I ask for a letter?
You shouldn’t ask for character letters (from your friends or family), or letters from important people who don’t know you in an academic or professional capacity (for example, politicians who are family friends).
What should they write about?
Letter writers should talk about your potential to do well academically in health profession school and your professionalism and preparation for your future profession. They should refer to the core competencies when describing your potential.
How do I get to know professors?
Just like it takes effort to build a relationship with friends, it takes effort for you to build a relationship with professors.
How do I ask for a letter?
It might seem intimidating to ask for a letter, but most faculty have written letters in the past and are used to the process. Be polite and provide information to make it easier for the individual to write you a letter.
When should I ask for letters?
Earlier is always better. If you plan to apply in the summer, ask for letters in March/April. If you’re asking the individual for a letter, other students are likely asking that individual, too. Be respectful of their time and ask far in advance of when you need the letter.
If you ask for a letter, expect them to need at least 1-2 months to write the letter. It’s unrealistic (and rude) to expect someone to write you a letter in a week, so it falls on you to plan ahead. Asking in March/April should allow the individual plenty of time to write you a letter by June/July.
I’ve asked for a letter from my professor, but they haven’t responded. What should I do?
First, when did you ask for the letter? Was it a day ago, a week ago, or a month ago? Give professors 2 weeks to respond to your email. If they don’t respond after 2 weeks, follow up with another email. If they don’t respond to that email and you aren’t able to connect with them in person, it’s unlikely that they won’t be willing to write you a letter and you should reach out to another professor.
Can I submit letters directly into my application?
You don’t submit any letters into your application. You will enter your letter writer’s contact information into your application and then they will receive a personalized email link/prompt with instructions for them to upload their letter into the application system.
The best practice when it comes to letters of recommendation is for you to waive access to your letter in your application. That means you won’t be able to read the letter after the application is submitted, allowing the letter writer to be honest in their comments. Whether your letter writer sends you a copy of their letter is up to them, but it’s best not to pressure them to do so.
Can I ask for a copy of my letter in case I have to reapply?
Whether your letter writer chooses to share their letter with you should be their choice (and is not typically done), but if they do share, you still won’t be able to upload a letter into any future application. Letters always have to come from the letter writer.
If you need to reapply, stay in touch with your letter writers and ask if they would be willing to update or submit the same letter from the prior application(s). Many individuals save letters of recommendation from year to year and can easily update the date on the letter to resubmit.
Another option is a third party letter collection service like Interfolio which allows you to collect letters (without being able to read them) from letter writers and then submit letters to applications whenever you need to.
MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test)
GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
DAT (Dental Admissions Test)
PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test)
OAT (Optometry Admissions Test)
PA-CAT (Physician Assistant College Admissions Test)
What schools should I apply to?
There are several factors to consider when deciding on schools.
Budget: Applying to schools is expensive (see the Finances section below). You should only apply to schools if you know you will fully be able to pay all application fees.
Metrics: Most schools release data regarding admitted student averages or ranges for GPA/standardized tests. Some professions have the information in a database and most schools list that information on their website.
It’s important to be realistic about your chances of being admitted to that school. If you fall way below their average or range, your chances are slim.
In-State/Out-of-State/Private: Health profession schools are either publicly or privately funded.
Ranking: The U.S. News and World Report releases rankings for health profession programs. While attending a high ranking school is not necessary for success in your career, in some professions, ranking can have an influence on your network and post-graduate opportunities.
Applicants vs. Interviews vs. Matriculants: Some schools receive 5+ times the number of applications than they have spots available in their class. Most schools release data on the number of applicants who apply, the number who are offered interviews, and the number who matriculate into the program. Schools that have high number of applicants and low acceptance rate are known as high yield or more selective.
Mission of school: Every school has a mission statement, usually found on their website, which drives the type of education they provide. For example, some schools are teaching institutions, some are research intensive institutions, and some are service driven.
Opportunities for Current Students:
What is a SJT?
A Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is a screening tool that presents the test-taker with hypothetical scenarios and asks them to identify the most appropriate response. SJTs assess core competencies (soft skills or people skills).
SJT are additional tools that Health Profession Schools utilize to differentiate and assess candidates.
When you get invited:
Week of interview:
Day before interview:
Day of interview:
Check with the school to learn how the interview will be structured.
These are questions you should have prepared and rehearsed before your interview.
Tell me about yourself.
Here’s a full-proof way to approach this question. This question should be answered in 1-1.5 minutes.
Why this school?
What (specifically) about the school interests you?
Why this profession?
This should compliment your personal statement by outlining the activities/experiences that have shaped you and demonstrate your fit for the profession.
When answering questions, you should:
How much should I prepare?
Research conducted on the medical school admissions process shows that interview results become the most important factor considered post-interview in whether to admit a candidate or not.
It’s important to sufficiently prepare for interviews, although the level of preparation is different for each candidate; some people are more comfortable in an interview setting than others. If you are not a natural and get nervous in an interview setting, doing mock interviews, going over practice questions, and reviewing your application and experiences for at least one hour/day for one-two weeks before the interview is a good idea.
Should I repeat info from my application?
Yes. It’s important to tie your answers back to the experiences you talked about in your application as those are the key reasons why you chose to apply. It’s good to expand upon experiences in your application and also have different examples and other experiences not talked about in your application that you can refer to, if needed. Depending on the type of interview (blind vs. open), the interviewer might or might not be aware of your experiences in your application.
How long should my responses be?
Your responses shouldn’t be too short that the question isn’t sufficiently answered (leaving the interviewer wanting to know more) and not too long that the response loses focus or goes into unnecessary detail. Most questions can be answered in under 3 minutes, but longer questions might require longer responses. It’s important to read the body language of the interviewer, as they usually give visual cues as to when to keep talking and when to wrap up your response.
What if I don’t know how to answer the question or don’t have a relevant experience?
It’s important to answer all questions. If you don’t know how to respond at first, it’s acceptable to ask for a moment or two to gather your thoughts. If you’ve never been in a similar scenario to the question asked, you can state that, and follow-up by outlining how you would respond hypothetically.
What if I don’t connect with the interviewer?
That’s normal and don’t take it personally. Not all interviewers will be friendly, outgoing, or welcoming. Some schools train interviewers to be cold, distant, or to not respond with positive feedback so that the interview is less biased.
Focus on answering their questions and be professional, polite, and genuine. At the end of the interview always extend your thanks for their time.
Should I send a thank you note/email?
Yes, a follow-up thank you email is recommended and professionally appropriate.
If you don’t have the contact information for the individual interviewer(s), you can send a thank you email to the admissions office.
Applying to Health Profession School is expensive. Application fees, test prep and test registration fees, the costs associated with traveling to interview at schools, and paying a deposit to hold your seat at your accepted schools can add up. Setting up a budget before you apply can help you figure out the number of schools you are able to apply to. There are fee assistance programs available, which can assist with application costs for students who qualify.
Application Fees and Fee Assistance Programs
GRE (Audiology/Speech Language, OT, PT, PA, Veterinary):
MCAT (Medicine, Podiatry):
Health profession schools are expensive and most graduates incur debt. Before beginning school, it’s important to explore options to finance your education.
Audiology/Speech Language Pathology: https://www.asha.org/students/financial-aid/
Occupational Therapy: https://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Find-School/Aid.aspx
Physical Therapy: https://www.apta.org/your-career/financial-management
Physician Assistant: http://pafocus.org/applying-to-pa-programs/paying-for-pa-school/
Attending health profession school is expensive and the majority of students rely on loans to pay for tuition, fees, and living expenses. Most graduates have high debt burdens; the average debt for medical school graduates is $200,000. Scholarships are not as prevalent in health profession schools. According to a recent report from Association of American Medical Colleges, Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School: 2020 Update, “four-year scholarship totals of at least $100,000 – or $25,000 per year – were uncommon; just 12% of public school graduates and 27% of private school graduates reported receiving such amounts, and even among these recipients, the median education debt amounts were six figures.” While it’s true that you’ll ultimately earn a salary that will make it very possible to pay off debt and live a comfortable lifestyle, it’s important to be aware of the debt burden associated with pursuing education in a health profession field.
Resources for International Students
Admission to Health Profession Schools is competitive and many applicants end up reapplying. For example, every year, approximately 25% of medical school applicants are re-applicants.
In most cases, reapplying is not seen negatively, as long as you objectively reassess your application’s strengths and weaknesses and only reapply when you have strengthened your application. Reapplying with the exact same application will not result in a different response the second time. Schools do not have to settle for a weaker applicant when they have hundreds (or thousands) of other applicants who are better qualified.
Each student’s situation is unique, so it’s best to schedule an advising appointment and talk about strategies to be a more competitive applicant. Some Health Profession Schools might provide feedback to applicants after the cycle ends, too.
The most common reason an applicant isn’t competitive for Health Profession Schools is because they have not shown they are academically qualified – through grades and/or test scores. Schools might not share their minimum GPA/test score cutoffs, but they often share their average GPA/test score or a range for those admitted. If your cumulative GPA, science/math GPA, and/or test scores are below the average, that could be the area you need to strengthen.
Some applicants lack enough experience (significant hours/commitment) and/or relevant experience that demonstrates the applicant understands what it means to practice in healthcare and care for patients. While strong extracurricular experiences will never compensate for lacking GPA/test scores, having weak extracurricular activities makes schools question whether you have the proper motivation and fit to succeed in a future healthcare career.
Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation, Interviews, and Other Parts of your Application
Other areas to consider when reapplying:
Hear directly from Medical Schools how to improve your chances as a re-applicant: