One of the longest education pathways is that of an MD, DO, or DVM which requires 2 years of preclinical and clinical courses at a medical school, as well as a minimum of one year of residency (a post-graduate internship). Most doctors then add a multi-year fellowship to specialize in a certain field such as neurosurgery or dermatology.
Virtually all careers in Health Care have challenging admissions processes and requirements.
Advanced schools are highly competitive, the training is academically challenging, time-intensive (think min. 10 hours days 6 days a week) and schools seek mature individuals who can demonstrate that they are well rounded, compassionate, and service-oriented.
Admission committees for all programs look at you as a whole person.
Each individual career is slightly different and prerequisites change; different schools offer the same degree but require applicants to have different prerequisites. This makes Pre-medical advising somewhat of a challenge.
There are common goals for your undergraduate education and we're here to help you navigate the process and achieve your goals!
Common Components of a Graduate Application
Applications to graduate and professional schools are typically highly competitive. Students tend to focus on just their GPA. Your GPA is only one component of a good application.
Generally, there are three questions the application needs to answer:
- Can you apply?
- Yes, this is what your GPA indicates…most competitive programs require an overall GPA>3.5
- BCMP-GPA focuses on biology, chemistry, physics, and math and typically should be >3.0
- standardized test score: GRE, MCAT or other specific standardized tests
- Will you be able to succeed in this career?
- A personal statement is the most important indicator to evaluate this question
- Documentation of motivation (‘wanting to serve’)
- Documentation that you know what you are getting yourself into (internships, shadowing experience)
- Should you apply?
- No matter how badly you want it, this question is answered by others, e.g. in confidential reference letters from 3-5 professors who know you well, maybe a former employer, coaches, etc.
- Admission interviews
GRE and/or MCAT?
Colleges programs across the country differ – while it might be easy to get an ‘A’ with one instructor, another one proves more demanding. Graduate programs are worried about being able to identify top students as grade inflation muddies GPAs.
Therefore they also rely on standardized tests such as the GRE, MCAT or another discipline-specific test (DAT or the now obsolete VCAT). Which test score you need to show depends on the program you apply to and is listed in the admission requirements.
Taking these tests costs money and requires serious preparation.
While prep courses are big business and cost $$$$, they are generally not necessary. Many free online resources exist (e.g.Kahn Academy) and with a few months of dedicated studying, students achieve competitive test scores.
Standardized test don’t really require you to know many facts (most don’t suggest more than intro-level college classes), but they test if you can extract and transfer knowledge.
A typical question consists of a few paragraphs giving you background, followed by a multiple-choice question that requires you to extract the relevant information and apply it to the question. This is a very different challenge from most of the exam questions you get asked in classes (which more typically test if you studied the material) and hence you need to practice.
If you want to seamlessly apply to a graduate program, i.e. not have a gap year between college graduation and a graduate program, you’ll have to start tackling a standardized test in your Junior Summer!
Preparation takes several weeks/month, test dates are not always available, and test results take time to become available. Many of our students decide to use a ‘grade enhancer’ post-baccalaureate program during a gap year to achieve a competitive MCAT score for medical graduate programs.
Documenting that you know what you are getting yourself into is an important component of every application to a professional school.
Professional program retention (i.e. not losing any students along the way) is of utmost importance, so you need to demonstrate that you won’t be surprised by the realities of the program.
How do you show this?
The easiest way is internships and shadowing experience.
A total of around 100 hours of career-relevant experiences is generally recommended before you apply.
- Commit to working with a professor as Research Student on a research project, ideally over several semesters
- Shadow a local doctor, dentist, vet during the semester, or at home over the summer, or intern in a pharmacy
- Intern in a residential care home (e.g. The Woodland)
- Apply for a summer undergraduate research program
- Participate in a rotation at CENTRA Southside Community Hospital