The Application Process

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:

Junior year:

  • Continue taking prerequisite classes and gaining experiences.
  • Select which schools you plan to apply to.
  • Work on personal statement and resume. 
  • Ask for letters of recommendation.
  • Study for test and schedule it for late spring/early summer.
  • Begin application and try to submit it early in the cycle.

Senior year:

  • With application submitted, wait for interview invites.
    • Some schools may allow applicants to submit updates (grades, experiences, achievements) that might take place after the application is submitted.
  • Many schools offer “2nd look” in the spring – a chance to revisit the school now that you’ve been admitted. 

Application cycle open dates:

Deadlines vary by school. 

Audiology/Speech Language: October

Dental: May

Medicine:

  • MD: May
  • DO: May

Occupational Therapy: July

Optometry: June

Pharmacy: July

Physical Therapy: June

Physician Assistant: April 

Podiatry: August

Veterinary: June

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.

  • Career Changer: caters to students who have completed none or very few of the prerequisite courses. They might have pursued a different major/career or decided late in their undergraduate career to pursue health profession school.
  • Record Enhancer: caters to students who need to improve/enhance their GPA through additional science coursework.
  • Special Master’s Program (SMP): a type of Recorder Enhancer program where students take 1st year medical school courses alongside 1st year medical school students.
  • Programs designed for students underrepresented in medicine in terms of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. These programs might be geared towards students either applying or who have already applied to medical school.

Post-bacc programs vary greatly:

  • Anywhere from 1-2 years in length
  • May or may not require a standardized test (MCAT, DAT, GRE) for admission 
  • Could be comprised of undergraduate or graduate courses
  • Might result in a certificate or Master’s degree
  • Offered either full or part time
  • Offered either in a cohort model (where all students take the same classes in a set curriculum and enter in the fall semester only) or more flexible in terms of which classes can be taken each semester

Outside of coursework, post-bacc programs can offer (this varies by program):

  • Advising and support for the application process
  • A direct linkage (guaranteed admission agreement) to health profession school
  • Test prep – MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.
  • Extracurricular experiences – research, community service, clinical activities

While post-bacc programs can be a great option for students, there are some things to consider:

  • Post-bacc programs tend to be expensive.
  • If you need a post-bacc program, it’s in your best interest to complete the post-bacc first, and then apply to health profession school (so that you can demonstrate an upward trend and show through the post-bacc courses that you can handle advanced science courses). This likely means you’re going to have at least one gap year.
  • If you don’t do well in a post-bacc program, health profession schools likely won’t have confidence that you will do well in their program.

Who needs a post-bacc program?

  • For Career Changer programs: students who need to complete prerequisite courses. While it’s possible to complete prereq classes at Mason or another institution, some students prefer to complete a post-bacc program for extra structure or support.
  • For Record Enhancer programs: students whose academic record is not strong enough to be admitted to health profession school based on their undergraduate record alone. These students’s cumulative and science GPA typically falls between 3.0-3.5 (this varies by post-bacc program). While each student’s situation is unique, post-bacc programs look closely at student’s academic records to ensure that the students will succeed in their program and have the potential to succeed in a future health profession school. 

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:

Application Materials

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:

Biographical Information

  • Name, Age, Gender, Current and Permanent Address, Citizenship Status, Race and Ethnicity, Family Information, High School and Universities Attended

Transcript Entry

  • Using your transcript, you will be asked to enter all courses completed (including repeated classes) from all colleges/universities attended into the application. This will be used to calculate a cumulative GPA, science/math GPA, and other GPAs (including undergrad GPA, graduate/post-baccalaureate GPA, non-science GPA, GPAs by subject area, GPAs by year, etc.).
  • You will also submit official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended directly to the CAS.
  • You can indicate any courses in progress (current semester) or planned for future semesters.
    • Most application services allow you to update in-progress grades even after your application is submitted. 

Standardized Tests

  • You will enter your unofficial scores and test date directly into the application and submit official score reports to the CAS or the CAS will link directly to the test service website and allow you to pull over your official scores and test dates. 
  • All test scores must be reported. Schools vary in whether they will look at the most recent attempt, the highest attempt, or all attempts.
  • Some schools will accept other test scores beyond the preferred test (for example, they might prefer MCAT, but also accept GRE or DAT scores). It’s important to check directly with school websites to see which score is required/preferred. 

School Selection

  • Designating which Health Profession Schools you want to submit applications to.
  • Some schools have additional applications – called secondary or supplemental applications. Secondary/supplemental applications are either directly accessible in the CAS, on the school website, or sent out via link after the primary is screened by the school. 

Personal Statement

  • An essay that should explain your motivations for the career, what experiences you’ve had that demonstrate your fit for the career, and shares relevant information about what will make you a good candidate.
  • Essay prompts and character lengths vary by profession. 

Activities/Experiences/Achievements

  • An overview of your extracurricular experiences relevant to your journey to Health Profession School. 
  • Includes clinical, shadowing, volunteering, research, student organizations, work/jobs, leadership positions, presentations/publications, honors/awards, other.
  • Most applications will allow you to describe the experience, the amount of time you were involved (total hours, hours per week), your role in the experience, and ask for a contact person who can verify your involvement (name, phone number, email address).

Letters of Evaluation

  • You will enter name, contact information (phone number, email) for individuals writing you a letter of evaluation/recommendation.
  • Schools vary in the number of letters they accept and who those letters should be from (academic or professional). 
  • For most schools, once you’ve entered the contact information into your application, the letter writer will receive a link to upload a letter on your behalf. 

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:

  • Make your statement clear and concise.
    • Make it easy for the reader to understand what you’re trying to say.  
    • This isn’t a creative writing piece. 
  • Your statement should answer the question “why this health profession (why medicine? why dentistry? etc.).”
  • The majority of your statement should be about you and your experiences.
    • It’s likely people in your life have influenced you, whether that’s a doctor you shadowed or a grandparent who was ill. However, they aren’t applying and you are. It’s ok to mention them, but keep the focus on you.
  • Focus on the experiences that have been meaningful to your path towards a career in healthcare – not the most meaningful experiences in your life. 

Brainstorming Ideas

  • Utilize the Writing Center’s Brainstorming Guide
  • Read through the AAMC Core Competencies, and write down which of the competencies are your top strengths.
    • You can certainly consider other soft skills beyond the competencies, too.
  • For your top three strengths, think of an experience/anecdote that illustrates a time when you used that competency.
  • Flesh that experience out into a story.
    • Why did you pursue that experience?
    • How did you feel during the experience?
    • What did you learn from the experience?
    • How did that experience influence where you are today – applying to health profession school?

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.

  • Someone who can read it critically and objectively for grammar and syntax. The Writing Center is good for this. 
  • Someone who knows you well and can confirm whether your voice is coming through. This might be a family member or friend.
  • Someone who knows healthcare and can comment on your motivations and fit for the profession. This might be a doctor you’ve worked with or a mentor.  

You can certainly ask more people to review it, but at some point you might get too many opinions. 

Tips by Profession

Video: Creating a Great Personal Statement

Dental School

Medical School

PA School

Need Help?

Set up an appointment with the Writing Center or review their Personal Statement Guide.

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.

Prewriting

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. 

  • Use a Word, Excel, or Google document to track secondary prompts and start prewriting responses.
    • As you start receiving secondaries, track release and due dates in your tracking document. It’s likely that you’ll receive many secondaries all at once, so it’s important to prioritize deadlines.
  • When writing, don’t worry initially about word limits. Try to write authentically and answer the question thoroughly.
  • After you’ve written a response, don’t delete anything. Keep one edition of the response as fully written and copy/paste when you make edits to fit character/word limits for specific schools.
  • Don’t repeat any information from your primary application when answering secondary questions. The admissions committee is going to read your entire application, not just your secondary responses and you should highlight different anecdotes and/or experiences than you did in your Personal Statement or Experiences section.
  • Especially when prewriting general responses that can be adapted for different secondaries, be sure to proofread before submitting! Make sure the school name, any unique programs, and other school-specific information is correct for the school you’re submitting it to.

Common Secondary Prompts

There are some secondary questions that are commonly asked by schools.

  • Why are you interested in our school?
    • How to answer this question: Review the school website and try to incorporate specific aspects of the school mission, curriculum, research institutes/programs, and student extracurricular opportunities as they relate to your own experiences and interests. It shows that you researched their programs and features, and that you’re not just copying and pasting generic reasons that can apply to any other school.
    • Tie your interests and values to 1) that school’s mission statement and 2) a specific component of that school. Whatever you value, write about your experience, then write about how you plan to continue pursuing that interest by incorporating the name of a specific program or organization that you plan to get involved with at that school.
  • How will you contribute to this school’s diversity?
    • How to answer this question: Many people tend to think of diversity as race and culture, but there are other possible ways to address this question. What unique experiences or perspectives do you have? What makes you different from other applicants?
    • Ideally, you’d find some way to relate your experiences/perspectives back to how they will help you in medical school, or at least relate it back to being able to use that unique experience or quality to connect with people. 
  • What are your plans for your application year?
    • How to answer this question: Schools want to know what you’ve got planned from the time you submit your application until you would start their program. Whether you’re currently enrolled in courses or in a gap year, it’s important to highlight what your plans are for the months ahead. Ideally, you will continue pursuing some of the experiences you’ve described in your application.
  • Describe a challenge and/or failure you’ve faced.
    • How to answer this question: Focus on a challenge that allowed you to grow as a person. Don’t blame others; be honest about your weaknesses. If faced with a similar challenge again, it’s important to address what you would do differently to prevent a similar result.
  • How has COVID-19 affected you?
    • How to answer this question: This is a chance for you to provide context to challenges you faced, or opportunities you missed out on as a result of the pandemic.

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. 

  • Be an active participant in class. Sit in the front row. Ask questions. 
  • Go to office hours.
    • Don’t just go to office hours and ask your professor to reteach you material. Go prepared. Try to figure out the answer on your own first, and go to office hours to clarify specific questions and concepts. 
    • Ask about professor’s research, ask about their background, or how class material applies to one of your other interests. Ask for advice on your future career goals.
  • Try to take the same professor for more than one class.
  • Stay in touch. Check in with your professors (either by email or by dropping by their office) after class ends. 

Here are some tips for getting to know professors in online classes

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.

  • Set up a meeting with the individual. 
  • In the meeting, ask if they would be willing to provide you a positive letter of recommendation. Let them the know the timeline of when you need a letter from them and how the letter will be added to your application (for example, they will receive an email with a link to upload the letter to your application).
    • If they say no, or say it won’t be a positive letter, then it’s best for you to ask someone else.  
  • If they say yes, ask what you can provide that will help them write their letter.
    • Follow-up with the requested materials as soon as possible. 
    • If they don’t know what materials they would need, provide a copy of your Personal Statement, Resume, and any relevant projects/papers/assignments from their class. It can be helpful to write a short statement of what you learned from them or concepts/examples of items discussed in their class that have helped you in future classes.
  • Let them write the letter. Don’t pester them. If you provided enough advance notice (see below) and gave them your timeline, you don’t need to email them daily to ask why the letter hasn’t been submitted.

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. 

More letter recommendation tips here.

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.

  • Public schools, which are supported by state funds, often have stipulations that a certain percentage of their class must be in-state residents. If you’re from that state, you have a stronger chance of being competitive.
    • If you’re an out of state resident, it’s important to look at the number of applicants they interview and accept from out of state. If it’s very competitive for out of state students to be admitted, it’s likely that school only considers out of state students with very strong metrics.
  • Private schools are not primarily supported by state funds and typically do not prefer in-state residents.
  • Some schools might ask what tie or connection you have to that state. If you have family from that state, attended school in that state, or lived there (even if it’s not your primary state), those are all factors schools consider in their admission review.  

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:

  • Scholarships
    • Does the school offer scholarships at admission or to current students?
    • What does it take to be eligible?
  • Research
    • Does the school offer research opportunities for current students?
    • Do students have to be enrolled in a specific course/pathway to participate in research or is it open to any student?
  • Curriculum
    • Are classes offered Pass/Fail?
    • Is class attendance mandatory?
    • Is there a dress code?
    • Does the curriculum incorporate problem based learning or small group discussion?
    • Do students set up their own clinical experiences or does the school do it for them?
    • Is the school located on an undergraduate campus, a health sciences campus, or a satellite campus?
    • Where are the clinical sites located (in relation to where classes are located)? Will students need to travel more than one hour to get their clinical sites?
  • Student Experience
    • What student organizations are available?
    • How does the administration handle student feedback?
    • What opportunities are available for national meetings/professional memberships?
    • What opportunities are available for dual-degrees? International experiences?
    • What opportunities are available for interdisciplinary education?
    • Are tutoring services available?
  • Location
    • Is it located in an urban, suburban, or rural area?
    • What’s the cost of living in that area?
    • Will you need a car to get to the school or to your clinical rotation sites? Is public transportation available?
    • How far is it from your home? 
    • Is there on campus housing?
  • Graduate Outcomes
    • What are the success markers for graduates? This might include residency/fellowship match rates or job offers. 

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. 

CASPer: 

  • https://takecasper.com/
  • What is it: 90 minute online test. Test-takers watch 12 video scenarios and type out timed responses to 3 follow-up questions. 
  • Cost: $12 to take, $12 per school to send scores
  • Prep
  • Used by: Dental, Medicine (MD and DO), Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant, Speech Language Pathology, Veterinary
    • Not universally used; varies by school
  • Timing: Take during application cycle; results only valid for current cycle

AAMC SJT: 

Audiology/Speech Language: CSDCAS 

Dental: AADSAS 

Medicine:

Occupational Therapy: OTCAS 

Optometry: OptomCAS

Pharmacy: PharmCAS 

Physical Therapy: PTCAS

Physician Assistant: CASPA 

Podiatry: AACPMAS 

Veterinary: VMCAS 

Interviews

Mock Interviews

  • Ask friends and family to conduct mock interviews
  • Sign up for a mock interview with Career Services through Handshake or with Pre-Health Advising through Navigate
  • Attend a Career Services Interview Practice Workshop
  • Practice using Interview Stream
  • Using your phone or computer, film yourself and critique your body language, eye contact, and word choices (especially filler words).

Resources

Virtual Interviews

Dental Schools – Virtual Interview Tips

Medical Schools – Virtual Interview Tips

Practice Questions

500 Practice Questions

  • Create flashcards and go through five questions a day

When you get invited:

  • Plan your travel.
  • Begin practicing.
  • Review your entire application.
  • Print out or write out questions you want to ask interviewers. Bring questions to your interview in a folder or document holder.

Week of interview:

  • If you have questions for the admissions office, reach out earlier than the day before or the day of the interview; just as you’re busy preparing to interview, they are also busy preparing for you to visit.
  • Try on your interview outfit
    • Health professions are notoriously traditional/conservative and you don’t want your outfit/appearance to be the thing your interviewers remember about you.  

Day before interview:

  • If possible, do a practice run to figure out where you will park or be dropped off and the exact path you’ll walk to get to the interview location.
  • Try to wear the same shoes so that you know whether a change of shoes is necessary (blisters are no fun!).
  • Make sure your interview outfit is clean and ironed (wrinkles are unprofessional!).
  • Do something you enjoy to calm your mind. Exercise, eat healthy, and get a good night’s sleep.

Day of interview:

  • Eat a hearty breakfast.
  • Bring your ID and have it easily accessible.
  • Plan to arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Before you enter the building, turn off your cell phone. Keep it off the entire time you’re in the building. It is too distracting and being on your phone will be viewed negatively.
  • Be polite and respectful to everyone on campus. You never know who is connected to the admissions committee.

Check with the school to learn how the interview will be structured.

  • Closed File/Blind – The interviewer(s) does not have access to your application before/during the interview.
  • Semi-Blinded – The interviewer(s) has access to limited information from your application (for example, only your essay/letters/experiences or only your grades/test scores)
  • Open File – The interviewer(s) has access to your entire application, and will likely review it before the interview. Some of the interview questions might refer directly to information from your application.

 

  • Traditional – One or two interviewers will interview you for a set amount of time (30 mins, 45 mins, 60 mins).
  • Group – You will be interviewed by one-four interviewers alongside one-three other candidates. There might be some individual questions asked of you, and there might be a group discussion question/problem that all candidates will solve/answer together.
  • Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) – A series of timed interview stations/scenarios (each one-on-one with an interviewer). Typically you will move through six-ten interview stations with each interview lasting six-eight minutes.
  • Hybrid – Some combination of the above interview types.

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.

  • Who you are, where you’re from: your name, background, education, what you’re doing in life right now – any relevant details that help explain your path to health profession school/your future career.
  • A fun/interesting fact about you. This can help break the ice, make you and the interviewer feel at ease, and make you come across as human/relatable

Why this school?

What (specifically) about the school interests you?

  • Should be tangible things about the school such as curriculum, student experiences, faculty/research, program opportunities, career outcomes.
    • Things like geographical location, weather, distance from your home, cost of attendance shouldn’t be the most important aspects of why you’re interested in this school. 
  • Most importantly, how does the school’s mission/offerings fit into the experiences you’ve had and your goals for health profession school/your career. Connect your experiences to what the school offers and talk about why that school will help you reach future goals. 
  • Review the school website, watch videos, webinars, and seek out current student feedback.

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:

  • Always answer the question being asked first.
  • Use an example/past experience to flush out your answer and demonstrate core competencies.
  • Be detailed in describing your experiences by using the STAR method.

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.

Financing

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

Audiology/Speech Language:

Dental:

Medicine:

Occupational Therapy:

Optometry:

  • $180 for the first program, $70 for each additional program
  • No Fee Assistance Program

Pharmacy:

Physical Therapy:

Physician Assistant:

Podiatry:

  • $180 for the first program, $45 for each additional program
  • No Fee Assistance Program

Veterinary:

Test Fees

DAT (Dental):

GRE (Audiology/Speech Language, OT, PT, PA, Veterinary):

MCAT (Medicine, Podiatry):

  • $320

OAT (Optometry):

PCAT (Pharmacy):

  • $210

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.

Things to consider when paying for your Health Profession degree:

Loans:

  • Most graduate students qualify for federally funded loans which offer flexible repayment plans and lower interest than private loans.
  • Federal Financial Aid: https://studentaid.gov/ 

Scholarship:

Resources for International Students

Service Programs:

Military Service:

Reapplying

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.

Academic Metrics

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. 

  • Retake science/math courses you did poorly in or take more advanced science coursework to boost your science/math GPA and show an upward trend.
  • Pursue a graduate degree or a post-baccalaureate (post-bacc) program.  
  • Study and retake the test.

Experiences

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. 

  • Read here for the types of extracurricular experiences make applicants competitive.
  • Continue gaining experiences during your application year(s). 
  • Consider adding new or diverse experiences to make your application more well-rounded. 
  • Reflect on your experiences and use anecdotes/stories from your experiences in your personal statement, essays, and interviews as the backbone of why you want to pursue a career in healthcare.

Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation, Interviews, and Other Parts of your Application

  • Update your Personal Statement. You aren’t the same applicant today as you were one year ago, and you shouldn’t reuse the same Personal Statement. There might be elements of your prior Personal Statement that are still applicable (such as why you initially got interested in that career), but you should highlight new experiences and what you’ve done to improve and grow.
  • Reassess whether your letter writers were the best individuals to positively write about you and your accomplishments. As you get involved in new activities, develop relationships with mentors early on. Make an effort to get to know mentors, form rapport, and respect their time by asking for letters early. Stay connected to your letter writers and ask if they would be willing to update letters with new information. 
  • Continue to practice for interviews. Strike up conversations with people, consider taking a public speaking course, create flashcards with commonly asked interview questions and practice during your free time.

Other areas to consider when reapplying:

  • Timeline: Are you applying early? If you retake the test, retake it before the application opens or earlier in the application cycle if possible.
  • School Selection: Are you selecting the right schools to apply to? Are all your schools within reach (either based on academic metrics, in-state/out-of-state numbers, or whether you meet their mission as evidenced by your experiences)? Will you be able to complete quality applications for all the schools you plan to apply to?
  • Secondary Applications: Are you finishing secondary applications in a timely manner? Are you tailoring your secondary responses to the individual school? Just like with the Personal Statement, you shouldn’t reuse the same exact responses as prior application cycles.