Planning for the Health Professions--Timeline
(4/3/06, by Dr. C. B. Wilson)
Professional schools differ in details of requirements and application processes, but share some similarities in the time lines for preparation.
In general, most applicants apply after the third year of college (or equivalent), and begin post graduate professional school programs after graduation after the fourth year. The exceptions are those students who qualify for early admission to dental, pharmacy and optometry programs—early admission is less common for other programs, such as veterinary school and medical school.
Each year of an undergraduate career brings opportunities to plan ahead for your application to professional programs:
- Take required beginning science (math, chemistry, biology) and general education classes (don’t take all general education courses in first year!)
- Adapt to the university environment (improve time management skills, study skills, ability to focus on long-term goals)
- Consult a health professions advisor to identify your goals, plan a curriculum to meet those goals, and discuss back-up plans
- Work hard to keep your grades good, beginning with your first semester!
- Begin gathering information from on-line and other sources about your intended postgraduate program
- Participate in pre-health student and/or community organizations
- Take organic chemistry, more biology courses, required or recommended non-science courses and general education requirements
- Get to know your professors! You will eventually need science professors (and possibly non-science ones) to write letters of evaluation for you.
- Continue to discuss proposed program with health professions advisor—work toward understanding the application process before you need to submit your application
- Start thinking about admissions exam and application process—including the GPA required and exam scores that will support your application
- Be cautious about repeating courses in which you earned grades of C or better--many professional school admissions committees regard the repeat as an indicator of academic problems that is as serious as the C grade.
- Consider gaining experience that may support your application (volunteer work, leadership opportunities, work experience, undergraduate research, shadowing a professional in your intended field)
- Continue gathering information from on-line and other sources about your intended postgraduate program—consult web pages for schools you are interested in and the relevant professional sites
- Take courses such as physics, biochemistry, and advanced biology courses
- Prepare for admissions exams (consider value/expense of private review courses, review books/CD’s, sample tests)
- Apply for exam in a timely manner (comply with deadlines for registering for exams)
- Talk to potential evaluators in person—provide signed waiver forms and/or matching forms when appropriate and prepare a statement of your background (resume) to help the evaluator with writing a letter for you.
- Spring/summer after year 3: Take admissions exam (some can be delayed until fall—check application requirements)
- Allow for time to repeat the admissions exam if necessary
- Summer after year 3: Complete paper or on-line applications carefully—consult the health professions advisor for help with personal statements and other sections of application as needed (most applications should be submitted no later than the end of the third summer for admission in the fall after graduation).
- Finish graduation requirements, major requirements, and take courses that will be useful for beginning your professional school program
- Apply for graduation in the fall semester (correct spring enrollment if necessary)
- Follow up on submitted application to check progress and status of application
- Prepare for interviews (timing of interviews varies for different programs and schools)
- If you are not accepted, especially if you were an alternate or on a waiting list, ask admissions office how you can improve your credentials before you re-apply.
Beginning in the middle—-
Not everyone proceeds directly along this path—if you have already earned a college degree and pursued a non-health related career, you can still prepare for admissions exams and apply successfully to professional school programs. Consult a health professions advisor for help planning a curriculum that will suit your needs.