These are some general resources for Health Services students planning to attend graduate school.
Choosing How Many Schools to Apply To
- How competitive is your application?
- How much money are you planning to spend on the application process? You will have to cover application fees as well as visiting and interviewing expenses.
- How much time do you have to complete secondary applications and go on to interviews? Many schools only allow several weeks to submit a secondary application, which often involves writing a number of additional essays. Talk to your adviser to help you decide on a good number for you.
Things to Consider
- Does program’s mission statement fit with what you want? Note any emphasis on special areas, i.e. service, research, primary care, etc.
- Research Opportunities
- Types and timing of patient contact
- Admissions statistics (average scores and GPAs of accepted students)
- Out-of-State vs. In-state admission ratio
- Grading System
- Special Programs (i.e. MD/PHD)
- Service and study abroad opportunities
- Location and size of school
- Personal and student support networks
- Student involvement / leadership opportunities
- Cost / Availability of financial aid
- Diversity and diversity initiatives
Choosing a School
- Talk to current students and faculty members about the program and their areas of research/clinical interest.
- Visit the school and see the surrounding area, and stay overnight if possible.
- Write down questions, thoughts, and impressions (likes and dislikes) throughout the day when visiting a school.
- Explore each school’s website for specific information on the school and the application process.
- Take a look at the curriculum and course catalog.
Only apply to schools that you can imagine yourself attending!
Be sure to talk to your academic adviser and an HSAC adviser to collaboratively plan your course schedule and to make sure you have the necessary prerequisites for your professional program. Research the schools you plan to apply to.
- Not all programs have the same prerequisites.
- Vet schools, dental schools, pharmacy schools and physical therapy schools are especially varied in their required coursework.
- Medical schools are generally fairly uniform in the courses they require. Click here for medical prerequisite details.
- Do your research early so you can schedule your coursework accordingly.
- Make a spreadsheet for prerequisites: required and recommended courses.
- Fill it in with schools you may be interested in.
- Search for commonalities, and plan your schedule and schools from there.
Many fields publish official guides, from year to year, with full listings of schools and their prerequisites (along with other useful information). The HSAC strongly recommends that you purchase a personal copy, if the field you are pursuing has such a guide.
- Medical School: Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR)
- Dental School: The ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools
- Veterinary School: Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements (VMSAR)
- Pharmacy School: Pharmacy School Admissions Requirements (PSAR)
It is possible to study abroad. It just takes careful planning so that you will fulfill your prerequisites before you take your entrance exams. Consult with your academic adviser and/or HSAC adviser for guidance.
Grades & Community College
What if my grades are not high enough to get in?
There are options available to strengthen your application. The most common option is enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program. You can also speak to the HSAC chair or your HSAC adviser to develop an individualized plan.
For medical schools, the HSAC strongly advises against using community college courses as prerequisites. The courses won’t carry the weight that a rigorous four-year program will. For fields other than medical schools, please consult your school(s) of choice: not all schools will accept community college classes as prerequisites.
Being knowledgeable about the costs of schooling as well as potential grants, scholarships, and loans will help to make the payment process manageable. Be active in deciding which loans and payment options are the best match for you. Resources:
- Financing Graduate School (general)
- Brown University: Top Ten Things to Know
- SimpleTuition: Interactive loan-finder
- Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools (FIRST)
Healthcare Scholarships and Loan Repayment Assistance
- The Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program
- Faculty Loan Repayment Program
- National Health Service Corps: Loan Repayment Program
- National Health Service Corps: Scholarship Program
- Nursing Scholarship Program
- Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program
- If you are interested in more programs where you agree to work in underserved areas in exchange for tuition assistance, look at the Health Resources and Services Administration site, or do a google search for Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) to learn more about such programs.
- Applying for admissions fee assistance / exemption
Army Healthcare Recruiting
The army will pay tuition and fees in exchange for years of service in the army following professional school graduation.
There are opportunities for medical, dental, veterinary, optometry, and nursing students.
The HSAC has connections to the army healthcare recruiters through SFC Amie M. Macklin.
Army Medicine and Scholarships
- Health Professions Scholarship Program
- Inspiring Doctors, Aspiring Medicine
- GoArmy Medicine
SFC Amie M. Macklin’s Contact Information
US Army Health Care Recruiter
HSAC Committee Letters of Recommendation
Most medical schools, many dental schools, and some veterinary and optometry schools require that you submit a “committee letter of recommendation” (also called an “institution letter of recommendation”). Some schools in other fields may require a committee letter, so be sure to research your schools and their admissions requirements for letters of recommendation.
The committee letter of recommendation process
- Instead of having your professors/bosses send their letters directly to the school you are applying to, you will instruct them to send the letters to the HSAC chair.
- You can ask as many people as you want to send letters of recommendation.
- They will all be synthesized into one letter, so the more contacts you include, the more facets your letter is likely to have.
- However, it is best to only ask contacts who know you well and care about your success. Otherwise, those letters will not be adding much substance to the committee letter.
- Your adviser and the chair will then pull the highlights out of each letter he/she receives in order to write the committee letter.
- Following the mock interview, your personal committee will draw upon information from your interview in order to enhance the committee letter.
It is your responsibility to send school addresses to the HSAC, so your adviser can send the committee letter to your schools!
You should request letters from:
- Faculty from SMCM or another university you attended
- You should choose professors who have seen your best academic performance and/or your best improvements and effort.
- Choosing faculty members in the humanities is great and helps paint you as a well-rounded student, but make sure you choose at least one or two faculty members from the sciences. A strong science background is key, and professional schools want to see testaments to your drive and ability to perform well in science courses.
- Professionals in your future career field that mentored you in your practical experience
- Internship Mentors
- Bosses that knew you well and/or oversaw good work you did
- Anyone you did research with, especially if the research is related to your field
- Coaches or other non-academic mentors
*Note: The committee letter cannot and will not be used for any purposes other than applying to professional schools in the health sciences. That means that you cannot use this letter for internships, grad schools outside of the health sciences, or other jobs/programs that require letter of recommendations.
If your program requires a committee letter of recommendation, you must give your HSAC adviser and the HSAC chair the accurate addresses for the institutions you are applying to. If you do not do this, the programs will not get the letter of recommendation and your application will not be complete.
Note: The veterinary school recommendation submission process is different! The committee will submit the letter online through VMCAS instead.
How to submit the addresses to the HSAC:
- Create a word document of the addresses that you continue to update and send [to the HSAC] as an attachment throughout your application process.
- Sending this list early, during the primary process, may result in incorrect addresses for letters as these addresses sometimes change.
- Sending letters to the address listed in the AAMC or web may also be incorrect. Make sure you convey the exact name of the medical school and the exact address to us.
- Your list will grow throughout the summer. Include the full name of the program in this list even if it is not part of the address. Make a note, for your records and for ours, as to when the secondary was received and returned.
- Every time you send an updated version of your address list, you should update the file title by including the date. This way all your HSAC chair/adviser will need to do is drag the file into your folder and it would shuffle in place.
Note: When your chair puts the address into the letter, he or she will copy and paste it as YOU typed it. In this way typos are on the your shoulders and not on your adviser’s! This system allows the adviser to check back and be sure he or she sent all the letters that were requested and is especially helpful when letters go astray.
The interview is one of the most important pieces of your professional school application. It is during the interview that you will have a chance to present yourself as a friendly, confident, and professional applicant while allowing your personality to shine through. The HSAC recognizes the importance of the interview process and has installed the mandatory mock interview for all medical, veterinary, and dental students.
For students whose schools do not require an official HSAC file: You may choose to undergo a mock interview anyway, in order to get the practice and the feedback. If this is the case, please contact the chair and it will be possible to schedule a mock interview for you.
Structure of the Mock Interview
- Your personal committee will act as the interviewers.
- You will be the only interviewee (no group interviews).
- At the beginning of the meeting, you will step out briefly so your personal committee can prepare.
- The interview will run similar to a typical professional school interview.
- Prepare for it as if it is a real interview!
- Following the interview, you will step out again while your personal committee discusses how it went.
- You will then come back in, and the members of your personal committee will provide you with feedback that should help you use your interview to your best advantage.
Purpose of Mock Interviews
- Allows you to practice your interview skills with people you are comfortable with.
- Helps you get out the nerves and jitters!
- Gives you prompt and candid feedback on how the interview went.
- Because your personal committee will know you well, they will be able to advise you personally on how to best present your strengths and weaknesses.
Interview Resources and Tips
- Answer the questions as if the interviewers have not read your statement or know anything about your file.
- Some interviews are cold or blind, and the interviewers may be put off by statements like, “as you saw in my statement”. Even for the mock interview, answer questions as if none of the interviewers know anything about you or your application.
- An interview is just as much an opportunity for you to learn about the school, as it is for them to learn about you. Do some research about the school beforehand, and ask informed questions about their program. This will demonstrate your interest in their program.
- Speak from example: tell stories about your path, drawing from academic and practical experiences. Be honest about your weaknesses, and avoid “humble bragging”. i.e. “I am too organized and detail-driven; sometimes it drives my friends crazy.”
Common Interview Questions
- So why do you want to come to our (insert program here) school? This is a bit different than why do you want to be a doctor and should make the student realize they should know something about the school they are applying to as well as themselves.
- How has attending a small public liberal arts college enhanced your preparation for the health sciences?
- How has participating in: sports, student government, clubs, etc., helped you to realize that medicine is the career path for you. Connections to make: teamwork, business end of medicine, leadership, life long learning, problems solving, that you like people, curious, etc..
- Describe three strengths you feel you will bring to this field of medicine.
- Describe a time when you failed and how it made you feel.
- Tell us about your weaknesses and what you are doing to address them.
- Tell us about your practical experiences in health care.
- Describe a health problem you feel exists on campus and what you would do as a student leader to help with that problem.
- Describe one major health problem that our society faces and what you think should be done about it?
- Explain your thoughts on abortion, euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, antibiotic abuse/misuse, stem cell research, 60 year old women having babies, obesity, type II diabetes, diet supplements for weight control or body building, HMOs, insurance issues, malpractice suits, etc. You should be thinking about these kinds of issues.
- You are giving a dinner party and can invite any three people from your past or anywhere throughout history. Who would you invite and why?
- You may be asked about a current event issue; you should be up on things that are happening in the world.
- This one is asked to everyone: What will you do if you don’t get in?
- The answer we like to hear: “Reapply.”
However, be honest! If your answer makes you seem insincere or fickle (or rubs your personal committee the wrong way), they will work with you on how to make your truthful answer sound more definitive.
Scheduling Your Mock Interview
You are responsible for scheduling your mock interview. This involves contacting all of the members of your personal committee and finding a time when you can all meet for the interview.
Things to keep in mind when scheduling your interview
- Choose your non-HSAC faculty advisers prior to scheduling the interview.
- Aim to schedule your mock interview for at least several weeks prior to your first professional school interview. Do not wait until the last minute. Your advisers are probably just as busy as you are.
- Like many other aspects of your professional school application process, your adviser will not be there to remind you and keep you on your toes while planning the interview.
- The mock interview is meant to be a helping tool for your own benefit, so take advantage of it.
When writing your personal statement:
- Follow the personal statement general guidelines for all career fields
- For healthcare specific applications, refer to questions on the HSAC application and introductory worksheet
- Consult with the HSAC Committee and your personal committee.
The personal statement is an important part of your professional school application because it is one of your main chances to really sell yourself and why you want to go to professional school.
The personal statement is often the distinguishing element at the first evaluation for fields that have separate primary and secondary applications. All applicants will be expected to have good grades, strong admissions test scores and a healthy laundry list of activities/honors. The committee letter of support won’t be sent until the secondary application, so students must make the first cut on their own; hence, the importance of grades, MCAT scores, and that personal statement.
The staff at the career center are trained to help you write the best personal statement you possibly can.
Tell your story in chronological order, it’s easier to write and easier to follow.
Consider 3 or 4 paragraphs.
- What got you interested in your chosen career?
- How have you prepared, through school and academic activities, for this career?
- What practical experience has taught you about yourself and this field?
- How can you “wrap it up” and bring your statement full circle showing that you are ready to begin…the rest of your life.
- Set aside a good bit of time to write your first draft. List out the ideas that you want to include
- Plan on at least 5 drafts and share them with people who know you well. Your friends and family, can all give you valuable feedback. The folks at the writing center and career services are also happy to help with this type of statement.
- If you are pursuing a career in healthcare the HSAC committee and your personal committee are happy to help
- General statements that could be written by any applicant should be rewritten and personalized.
- This may be the one element of your application that distinguishes you from thousands of other applicants. Grades and exam scores don’t really help you stand out; they just put you in a group of other students with similar grades and scores. This statement often precedes any letters of recommendation. You make the first cut on your own.
- Guard against being redundant.
- Speak from example. Tell a story about an experience that helped you to know that you wanted to pursue this career. One or two examples help make your statement interesting and memorable.
- Be active in your writing. Be direct, your audience won’t bother looking you up to clarify points.
- Don’t waste words listing information that is somewhere else in your application.
- Don’t waste words telling them what a professional in their program is.
- Don’t do the job of your letters of reference writers; let us brag about you while you just tell them who you are and why you want to enter their program.
Elements you might want to include:
- If you start with your childhood, don’t spend too much time with it, they need to know who you are now.
- Tell them how attending a small liberal arts college has helped prepare you for this career choice.
- Tell them about your practical experiences. Speaking from example is powerful and convincing.
- Reflection is important; tell them about what you have learned along the way.
- Err on the positive. Don’t tell them lab research is terrible, unfulfilling or boring. Many of the folks interviewing you may be research scientists. Instead, tell them lab research helped you to see how much you missed one on one interaction with people.