It is our goal to assist you with the application process while stressing the need for you to: think and plan ahead, educate yourself regarding the requirements and expectations involved in the application process, maintain focus on details, and be aware of deadlines. Professional schools can be fastidious in their demands, but there is a direct correlation between success in admission and the initiative and seriousness in the student’s approach to the application process. We are available to assist you in this process.
When to Apply
It is important to apply to health professions schools when your application is strong and most competitive. That may mean applying after your junior year, or it may mean applying after your senior year or later. Our Self-Assessment form and Applying to Professional Programs workshop may help you determine whether or not you are a competitive applicant. Please note: Completing the central application early will usually improve your chances of being invited to interviews and being accepted by schools. Remember, it will take the central application services time to verify your application before sending it out to the schools you designate, as the application cycle progresses this can take as long as four to six weeks.
You can find more resources on choosing schools for your profession in our Prerequisite and Details section.
Please watch our Choosing Schools for Health Professions workshop. You should begin researching professional graduate programs as early as your sophomore year. It is important to consider how your personal goals and characteristics match professional schools.
When considering a school, find out whether they consider out-of-state residents (if it is in a state of which you are not a resident), the average GPA and test scores of recently accepted applicants, tuition, location (do you want to live there for four years?), and special programs/initiatives.
Make sure you only apply to schools you would consider attending!
Note: Having a GPA and test score higher than a school’s average does not mean you will be accepted, or even invited for an interview. Many other factors will be considered for admission including health care experience, motivation, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, personal statement, maturity, well-rounded education, commitment to health care, course loads, etc.
Once you select schools of interest, the best way to find out about individual schools is to search the schools’ websites or contact them directly and ask for informational brochures, catalogs, etc. If you have further questions about information not in their printed information, call the schools and ask questions.
Have one file folder for each school you select. Carefully review the website and jot down information important to you. Begin a list of questions for each school where the answers cannot be found on the website. This list of questions will be helpful for when you go to an interview.
The Pre-Health Advising Office library has catalogs for many healthcare profession programs. Feel free to come in and review these.
Factors to Consider
Some of the issues important to keep in mind when selecting professional schools are:
Search the websites of each school. Carefully read the mission statements of the schools. These vary widely and it is important to note how your personal goals and demonstrated academics and activities coincide with the mission statement of the schools you plan to apply to.
Curriculum varies from program to program and school to school. In considering schools to apply to it is important to recognize how you learn best and what type of curriculum best supports your learning style.
Some schools maintain a traditional pattern with the first two years containing basic science courses such as: biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc.). This is followed by two years of clerkships or elective rotations. Many schools are shifting to include student exposure to clinical patient care within the first two years or an introduction of problem based learning.
Depending on the location of the medical school, exposure to the types and numbers of patients will vary. It is a remarkably different experience if one is at an urban, inner city facility versus a suburban or rural facility. Keeping in mind how this varies is important to your decision.
What area of the country do you wish to live in? Is it important to live close to your family or support system? Do you want to be in an urban, suburban or rural environment? What are the living situation and cost of living in different areas? Are there work opportunities for your spouse or partner? Also consider the year round climate of location of school. There are many questions of personal importance to consider when selecting where you will spend the next four years.
Public or private institution? The cost factors are remarkably different. State public institutions receive state tax funds to reduce the cost of health professions education. Private schools will cost more. You will need to explore financial aid options along with scholarships.
Know how you perform best. Do you require the competitive nature of receiving grades for academic performance and a competitive environment or do you thrive in an atmosphere where grades are “pass or fail?”
Please watch the Personal Statement Workshop. Each application service requires a personal statement, and each has its own instructions. This is your opportunity to demonstrate to the admission committees the personal side of you. The committees want to know what motivates you to pursue this profession, how you’ve explored the profession, what you’ve learned from these experiences and what impact the experiences have on your desire to be a healthcare professional. This gives you an opportunity to go into more depth about experiences that cannot be found in other areas of the application or did not get a chance to describe in enough detail.
Questions to reflect on before you begin writing:
- You volunteered a lot of hours, what did you experience?
- How did your experiences motivate you even further to pursue this career?
- What unique qualities/experiences do you have that you would like the committee to know about?
- What did you learn about your profession?
- What did you learn about being a patient?
- What did you learn about the clinician/patient relationship?
Tips for Personal Statements
- Watch or attend the Personal Statement workshop.
- Use the Writing Studio in 302 Tigert Hall to review what you have written.
- Let several people who know you well and several people you don’t know as well read what you’ve written. Have them tell you if they can identify your motivation and passion clearly.
- You can have a FINAL copy of your personal statement ready reviewed by a Pre-Health advisor before submitting it with your online application.
Please see the information for your profession in our Prerequisties and Details section.
A Pre-Health résumé is an easy way to keep track of all of your activities and honors as a student. While you won’t need to submit a résumé with your application, you will need to give a copy of your résumé to the people who write your letters of recommendation. You will also use it to fill out your application to professional school.
- A pre-health résumé is designed to be roughly 3-4 pages in length that highlights all your experience and activities history (both pre-health and not). This is different than a 1 page professional résumé.
- Some relevant information to provide: personal information, name, address, phone, email, education (major, minor, overall GPA, and science/math GPA).
- The basic categories should include: healthcare experiences, volunteer/community service, employment, leadership, research, honors and awards, military service, extracurricular activities/affiliations (those that do not fit above), hobbies and interests, and skills.
Sample résumé (PDF, 203 KB).
Letters of Recommendation
Almost all professional schools require letters of recommendation. However, letters of recommendation have varying influence depending upon the realism and depth of insight into the candidate the letters provide. Many letters are superficial and are only frustrating to the admissions committee. Typically the longer the writer has been acquainted with pre-professional students in general, and with you in particular, the greater the depth and the validity of the evaluation; thus the letter would have greater influence on the admissions committee’s deliberations. The most meaningful letters are from professionals who have known you well as a student, or those who supervised you and have a basis of comparison to other pre-professional students.
How many letters?
This will vary by profession and school. Please see the information for your profession on our Prerequisites and Details page.
Make sure you check the requirements for the specific schools you are applying to as requirements can change or vary.
Requesting Letters from Your Recommenders
Any time after your first term at the University of Florida, and prior to applying to professional school, ask at least three faculty members if they would be willing to write detailed and favorable letters of evaluation on your behalf. Some of your letters should be from professors you have taken courses with recently.
During your sophomore year, you should be able to list 3 faculty members (both science and non-science) and at least 1 character reference as possible recommenders. If not, you know what you need to do in the upcoming year.
Request your letters early (beginning in the fall semester in the year of application) as many students are requesting letters from the same faculty members and letters may be delayed. Having to wait for letters may delay consideration of your application; seriously reducing your chances of admission.
Provide recommenders with a copy of:
- Your personal statement
- Your résumé
- Instructions for submitting the letter
- If your recommender is an employee of the University of Florida, you need to provide your recommender with a completed and signed UF waiver form.
Recommenders must submit letters. Applicants do not submit the letters. Submission of letters is usually done through the centralized application service, but is occasionally done directly to the schools or through commercial vendors such as Interfolio.
Please see our Prerequisites and Details page for information on the exam for your profession.
Most all professional graduate schools require an entrance exam. DO NOT TAKE AN EXAM JUST TO SEE WHAT IT IS LIKE. Only take an entrance exam when you are ready and you want exam scores reported to the schools you are applying to. There are preparation services and information available to assist students to become prepared to take the exams. Ideally you would take the exam only once, but in some situations you may choose to retake the exam. Our “Should I Retake the MCAT?” handout may help you decide whether or not you should retake your exam, or feel free to come in and see us!
See our Resources page on how to get a copy of an entrance exam preparation book. With the completion of each of your science pre-requisite courses, review that section of the book to keep up review of content and knowledge.
Application to professional schools is usually a multi-step process that includes a primary application, a secondary application, and an interview.
Centralized Application Services
Most professional schools utilize a centralized application service. The applicant sends one application to a central processing location that verifies transcripts, calculates GPAs, and forwards the information to the schools the student designated. Not all schools utilize such services, so it is important to check with each school to make sure you know how to initiate an application. Most schools, after receiving the preliminary application from the centralized application service, will require additional information, and an additional application fee. IT IS CRUCIAL FOR STUDENTS TO READ THE APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS PRIOR TO BEGINNING THE APPLICATION. Be sure to be aware of all DEADLINES associated with the application cycle for your profession.
Please see the information on centralized application services for your profession in our Prerequisties and Details section.
After completing the primary application you will likely receive invitations to complete supplemental applications (or supplemental questions will be included as part of the primary application). Some professional schools send out supplemental (secondary) applications to all applicants while others send them to select students after an initial review of the primary application. Make sure these are completed and returned well before deadline dates. The quality of your supplemental applications is VERY important. Take your time and be sure you are answering the questions asked. We recommend returning them within 2-3 weeks.
The interview format may vary from school to school, but it generally consists of one to three interviews, conducted on a one-on-one basis or by a committee, which last from thirty minutes to an hour. There is an increasing trend by some schools to conduct a group interview and there are variations on this theme. This can be in the format of one interviewee and a panel of interviewers or a panel of interviewees and a panel of interviewers. Expect to be assigned a group activity if you are in a group interview. Some professional schools are using an interview format called Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). You can find more information about MMIs online, or see a pre-health advisor to talk about how to prepare.
Interview discussions are normally friendly and open, revolving around general questions concerning your academic career, your motive for choosing a career in the health profession, and the basis for that decision. There is usually no formal list of questions, but some topics commonly discussed will probe your knowledge of social, ethical, and political issues affecting the current and future practice of the profession. If there is any particular weakness in your application, you can expect to be asked about it. Near the end of the interview, you will have an opportunity to ask questions about the program, so be prepared with at least a couple of questions.
- Review primary and secondary applications, along with your personal statement. Any information you included is open for discussion. Be sure you can clearly verbalize anything found in these documents.
- Make sure you scope out such things as transportation to and from the interview, be sure to bring extra money should you need to take public transportation from the airport to the hotel and interview site.
- Arrive early. If possible, locate the room that the interview will be held in the day before.
- Bring a snack and water. Your throat may get parched from nerves or talking and water is the best way to fight a dry mouth. You may wish to bring a small package of mints.
- Don’t forget copies of your application/résumé (bring at least 3).
- Bring a notepad or tablet that can be easily carried throughout the day to jot down notes from the interview or questions you have.
- Dress for success. This is not a time for business casual or to be too flashy.
- Do a last minute “mirror check.”
- Do bring an extra pair of comfortable shoes to walk in should you be invited for a campus tour.
- If you have the opportunity, meet with current students. You want to have as much information as possible to make a good decision on whether or not the school is a good fit for you.
During the Interview
- Wait to sit until invited by the interviewer. Once seated, try not to make distracting moves like tapping your foot.
- Make sure to get your interviewers’ names so that you can send thank you notes later. Write down the names in your notebook before you leave the interview room or very quickly at the beginning of the interview.
- Maintain eye contact. Do not look at your feet, the floor, or your hands. This may give the perception that you are less than confident about your talents.
- Be careful about your language. THINK before you answer. It is okay to pause before answering. Don’t be too wordy or talk around the questions. Also, be careful about repeating words or phrases (“like,” “you know,” “um”).
- Do not be afraid of saying “I don’t know.” It is better than making up a meaningless answer.
- Be enthusiastic and consistent in your answers. If asked about information on your application, do not simply repeat what you’ve already listed; use this time to expand upon your experiences.
- ou may be asked about ethical issues. Remember that ethical decisions are not opinions. They are based on an ethical framework and may or may not be what you THINK should be done. Ethical decisions should be based on what is the right thing to do. You have a right to your opinions but be sure to keep an open mind.
- Relax. It is natural and healthy to be a little nervous. Try to be confident, but not overly so.
- Answer questions honestly. Do not try to be what they want, be you.
- Come prepared to ask questions. It is important to demonstrate an honest interest in the school. Do your homework about the school before the interview. Remember, do not ask questions where the answers can be found on the school’s website.
After the Interview
- Soon after your interview, write down your impressions of the school and how your interview went. Are there things you can improve upon? What did you do particularly well? Keep these in the individual files you started for each individual school.
- Not all schools want a barrage of thank you notes, but be sure to send one to each interviewer if they are welcomed.
- If a decision is not made for quite some time, you may wish to update the admissions office of new activities, new transcripts, etc. Significant events are worth noting but do not bother them with trivial experiences. You want to stand out for the right reasons, not because you’ve repeatedly called to see if you’ve been admitted.
What if I didn’t get in?
If your first attempt at applying to professional school was not successful, you may be considering applying again. There are many factors you should consider when making your decision.
First, ask yourself a few questions:
Why do you think you were not admitted? What were your weaknesses?
There are many factors that could have contributed to the outcome of your first application. Did you apply late? Did you only apply to a small number of schools? Are your GPA’s and test scores competitive? Are your extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation strong? Did you put together a quality, error-free application? Many schools will give feedback to denied applicants on ways you can improve your application. Check school websites to see if this is an option for you, and take advantage of it. Pre-Health advisors can also do an application review for you.
Have I improved my application in the year(s) since I originally applied?
If you identified your weaknesses, did you improve upon them? There is little sense in re-applying right away if you are submitting essentially the same application as you did the first time. When you re-apply, you want the new application to be stronger, and to have addressed your weaknesses. Otherwise, why would you expect a different result.
Am I prepared to submit a quality application EARLY in the application cycle?
If you plan to reapply in the year directly following your first application, be sure you have enough time to ask for letters of recommendation, revise your personal statement, etc. prior to the time that the application opens for submission.
If you decide to reapply, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Don’t submit the same application!
- Revise your personal statement. Even if you think you had the most stellar personal statement of all time, it’s best to change it when you re-apply. After all, you want to send the message that something has changed between this year and when you first applied.
- Ask for new letters of recommendation. Some of your letter writers can be the same, but all of your letters should be updated, and no more than 6-12 months old. It’s best if you have at least one new letter writer.
- Make improvements to the narrative of your application. Can the descriptions of your extracurricular activities be improved? Did you use the space you had available wisely? Did your application tell your story and highlight your strengths? Did you directly answer the questions that were asked on secondary applications? Were there typos or other errors in your application?
- Apply to a reasonable selection of schools. You want to be sure you are applying to a sufficient number of schools (see our Prerequisites page for averages for your profession), and to a smart combination of in-state and out of state programs. You can watch our Choosing Schools for Health Professions workshops for more help in choosing where to apply. If you are pre-med, did you only apply to allopathic programs? Have you considered applying to Osteopathic or off-shore (Caribbean) schools?
- Apply EARLY! Don’t let timing be a factor in the admission decision. Always apply early for your best chance of admission.
Please view the Applying to Professional Programs: Are You a Competitive Applicant? workshop. It is in your best interest to apply as early in the application cycle as possible. OHLPA offers many support services to you during the application process including Q&As, individual advising, and workshops. Some workshop topics are:
- Applying to Medical School
- Applying to Dental School
- Are You a Competitive Applicant?
- Choosing Schools for Health Professions
- Personal Statement
- Résumés and Letter of Recommendation
- Preparing for Interviews