How to be a Competitive Candidate

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Admission to the health professions schools tend to be very competitive. While there is no "magic formula" for gaining admission to a particular program, general expectations include the following:

  • A very solid academic performance, with especially high grades in science pre-requisite courses, as well as overall. As a general rule, a 3.5 or above cumulative grade point average is desirable, although each institution has different expectations.

  • Scoring highly on health professions admissions tests (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, GRE, etc.). This not only demonstrates command of the subject material, but also indicates ability to succeed on tests "down the road," including professional licensing examinations. Various test preparation strategies are available, including self-study guides and preparation courses through Kaplan, Princeton Review, or other companies.

  • Volunteer experience, including a substantial amount of exposure to the profession of interest. Professional schools expect or require this! In general, experiences:

    • Should show that you work well with a wide variety of people (leadership is good)

    • Should show that you like to help people (philanthropies)

    • Should show that you have learned about the profession through clinical experience with patient contact, informational interviews with practitioners, etc.

  • Excellent letters of reference. It is important early on to get to know your professors!

    • What kind: will vary, but may include two science faculty, two non-science faculty, and two personal

  • Well-prepared applications, including essays.

  • Being well-prepared during interviews. This will be your chance to talk with the admissions committee, and explain your motivations for entering the profession and tell them why you will make a good practitioner. Remember: You can't just say it–you must have lived it!

    • When: autumn, winter, and spring depending on test results and the competitiveness of the application file you presented.