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Medical, Dental, and other Health Professions

Medical and health professional applications have similarities with college apps, as well as differences.

All health profession programs require one or more essays. These include:

  • a basic background essay, similar to a Common Application diversity essay;
  • one or more essays explaining your interest in this field as well as in this school; and
  • explanations of any weaknesses in your file, especially poor grades.

There are two major differences between college applications and applications to medical and health programs: the timing of the applications, and the addition of an interview.  

The Application Timeline

Applications for graduate and professional schools operate on a very different schedule from those for colleges. Most "elite" colleges have only one application deadline each year, and only one application. That application includes all the essays you will need for that school. The deadlines for top colleges are usually in January (except for binding early decision programs).

Medical, dental, other health schools have much earlier application deadlines in order to accommodate the interview schedule. In addition, many of these schools have more than one deadline, reviewing files in successive waves. Some promise to save a portion of their seats for those who apply later, while others only read later applications on an "as needed" basis.

Perhaps more importantly, medical schools generally send a second application a month or so after receiving the first one. This second application often has several additional essay questions, and allows a very brief time for answering them; it is common to be given 10 days to two weeks to answer these often profound questions. (Some schools will allow you a later deadline, but recommend that you submit at a much earlier date.)

Because these secondary applications bestow themselves upon you without notice, you must either be prepared to "put on your thinking cap" at a moment's notice, or you must prepare a number of essays in advance, anticipating the commonest questions presented in these later applications.

The many additional steps and minutia involved in applying to medical schools guarantee that only the most organized and self-disciplined applicants will successfully complete the obstacle course that applications present.  

The Interview

Virtually all health profession schools conduct personal interviews. Unlike college admissions systems, not everyone is interviewed; many applicants are weeded out before the interview stage is reached. It is also possible, but rare, that a person is admitted without an interview. It's safe to say that such people have extraordinary grades, test scores, and recommendations.

The interview serves a multitude of purposes. It may be used to explore the applicant's motivation or to address weaknesses in the applicant's file. It may tell the interviewer whether you have the interpersonal skills necessary for the program you wish to enter. Interviews may also be used to verify that you are indeed the person who wrote your essays; writing skills, vocabulary level, and general presentation can all help the interviewer assess the likelihood that your essays are truly yours.

Interviews can also help the school to evaluate your level of maturity and dedication to your stated goal. A tendency to switch the interview topic toward your favorite sports team or hobby might lead the interviewer to believe that school is not foremost in your mind.

Finding the right level of formality, humor, and casual conversation can be challenging. That's why we believe that interview training is an essential part of completing your professional application.  

Where to Apply

In addition to these differences in the application process, the process of choosing health-related schools is controlled by factors very different from those in the college or law school process.

Both medical and dental schools pay far more attention to residency than do colleges and law schools; many state-supported health programs are open only to residents of that state. It is rare for a public school to take more than a handful of non-residents into a medical program. Private medical schools, on the other hand, pay far less attention to residency than do law schools; medical schools assume that you're willing to travel across the country in order to attend their school, while law schools almost always consider residency as a factor in the admissions process, even among the most elite schools.

Similarly, medical schools pay far more attention to a good programmatic fit, expecting each applicant to know details of the school's interests and specialties as well as teaching style; virtually no law school expects this level of familiarity with their program, nor do most colleges.

Test Scores

Surprisingly, grades and MCAT (or DAT) scores are often less important than are the corresponding numbers to colleges and law schools. The effect of US News rankings is diluted by the desire to attend an affordable state school whenever possible. This allows the applicant to consider a much broader range of schools, in terms of prestige, than college and law school applicants can.  

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Medical Schools

Research or Primary Care?

How similar or different would pre-med students at Harvard, Yale, or John Hopkins University be from one another?

How important is GPA in Medical School Admissions?

What score is needed on the MCAT to go to medical school?

Can you recount a time when you started off really badly as a freshman undergrad in premed but managed to get into your choice of medical school?

What is a good job that is medical related that a junior in college can take on?

Can I still go premed while in the Ross School of Business at UMich (and major in finance)?

Should I apply for a pre-med major or just do a few biology majors? Which will get me the most ready for the MCAT?

What is the best major for a pre-med med?

Should I volunteer at a clinic or at a large hospital as an intern?

If you are a pre-med student applying for medical school this summer, what are your most burning questions about medical school admissions?

Medical School Admissions

How Much Does Diversity Matter?

Can a 40 year old still become a doctor?

If I want to get admission at top medical college in US for M.D, what type of extra curricular activities do I need to do? Do I have to do social work? If yes, then what type of social work?

If I go to a less popular 4 year college as a pre-med, can I still get into a top medical school?

Graduate School Admissions: What is the difference between a B. Sc. medical and medicine?

Do UC medical schools give preference to Californians? – Answer by Doyen Rainey, reprinted with permission.

If rote memorization is considered bad, why is medicine heavily built on it?

What do I need to do to get into Harvard Medical School?

How do I go from CSUN to Harvard Medical School?

How can a Filipino student get into Harvard Medical School?

Should I volunteer at a clinic or at a large hospital as an intern?

Can a pre-med at Georgetown who is accepted for the Early Acceptance Program take time off before continuing to Georgetown's Medical School?

Can I still go premed while in the Ross School of Business at UMich (and major in finance)?

My sister intends on studying pre-med; where should she go: Duke, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth,or Rice?

Is it okay if I include actual and predicted marks in my Oxford University medicine application?

Does it count to have another bachelor degree to enter medical school with MCAT?

What are the biggest challenges faced by medical professionals who have strong foreign accents and speak English as a second language?

What are some tips for scoring high on the new MCAT?

Is it bad to be a "standard" pre-med (biochemistry major with a 4.0, research experience, volunteering in a hospital, 510+ MCAT score, etc.)? And why?

Should I apply for a pre-med major or just do a few biology majors? Which will get me the most ready for the MCAT?

What is the best way to memorize tons of English vocabulary, if I am preparing for the MCAT Verbal section?

What do med school admissions officers think of an applicant with a high verbal score but lower scores in the science sections?


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