Information for Applicants to Medical/Professional Schools
Like being a good healthcare provider, getting into professional school requires multiple talents. PreMed/PreHealth students often focus on the purely academic aspects of the process, getting good grades and performing well on the admissions exam. But being admitted to professional school requires more than academic achievements. Each year there are students with outstanding academic achievements who fail to get into professional schools because they never took the time to be informed about the process involved in applying to professional school. The quality and quantity of applicants in the professional healthcare field has increased over the years. There is a lot of competition for a limited number of seats. Knowing the requirements for professional and graduate schools and working to meet and exceed these requirements is key.
PreMed/PreHealth track students will need to adequately prepare for professional and graduate school applications process during their junior and/or senior year. Informing yourself of the application process will be essential in planning, gathering, and completing all aspects of the application in a timely manner.
Note: For sophomore/second year students, there are early assurance programs that offer early acceptance to professional programs. Early assurance programs are designed to free students from the pressures and expense associated with applying to numerous schools. Accepted students matriculate once they complete their bachelor's degree.
Prior to submitting the primary application, you should begin collecting individual recommendation letters (via Interfolio), writing your personal statement, and participate in the SUNY Geneseo committee letter process. Having these pieces finalized before the primary application will allow you to focus on completing the application in a timely manner.
Beginning the application process, most professional schools require a primary application to be completed through a central application service; these application services do have a fee. Medical and other professional schools operate on a yearly cycle with rolling admissions. Medical schools start accepting applications in June of the year prior to when one would start school (i.e. 14 months before you would start classes). Because admissions are rolling, applicants are at a disadvantage if they apply late; for borderline candidates (and this is a substantial portion of candidates!), a late application keeps them out of medical school at least for a year. Applying the fall of your senior year is TOO LATE; students should plan to apply in June; and applying in June requires some preparation before June.
Central Application Services:
- Dentistry: AADSAS
- US MD: AACAS
- US DO: AACOMAS
- Optometry: OptomCAS
- Pharmacy: PharmCAS
- Physical Therapy: PTCAS
- Physician Assistant: CASPA
- Podiatry: AACPMAS
- Veterinary: VMCAS
These services make the application process easier than it would be otherwise (although it is still time consuming). They allow applicants to fill out one set of forms, online, and an application is then sent to all the schools that the applicant wishes to apply to. The service has a set fee, please check the website for each service to determine the cost. There are additional fees depending upon how many schools you apply to (i.e.$30 for each school after the first for AMCAS in 2005). Applicants need to arrange to have their transcripts from all institutions where they took college courses sent to the application services.
The application is straightforward although it does take some time to complete. You do not need to complete the application all at once; you are able to save it online and log on repeatedly to review, add information, and modify what you have already saved. You are asked for a variety of information relating to coursework and grades, biographical information, awards and honors, extracurricular activities, employment, volunteer work and medically related experiences. Do not feel that you have to completely fill up the spaces; activities/awards from high school generally are not relevant unless they are sustained through college. A long list may simply reveal that you have done lots of little things which usually is not as valuable as having done a few things that are more substantial. Having had some medically related experience is nearly essential, so make sure that you get some! Activities that demonstrate compassion for others and an ability to work with and for others are also very significant. The form also asks if you have been subject to any disciplinary action. Be honest here, as the same question will be addressed in the letter from the Premedical Advisory Committee (we are expected to check your standing with the Dean’s Office). Being subject to disciplinary action does NOT result in an automatic rejection, but being dishonest does! If you have questions, talk with the Senior PreHealth Coordinator.
Secondary (Supplemental) Application
Once you submit your primary application via the central application service, it is verified and released to the schools you wish to apply to; these schools consider your credentials, as revealed by your transcripts, your application exam scores, and your primary application, and if you pass muster, the schools will then ask for ‘secondary applications.’ These applications are school-specific and require an additional fee averaging around $100. Requests for ‘secondaries’ may come one to two months after submitting the primary application, although it often is slower than this if your application scores are not yet available. You will usually need to answer additional essay questions as part of the secondary application. Make sure you are aware of the secondary application deadlines.
The admissions interview is the last component of the application process. The interviews typically start in September and continue through-out the spring semester until the school has filled enrollment.
PreMed/PreHealth Admissions Tests
For professional programs, you will be required to take an admissions test as part of your dossier. It is recommended that you take your admissions test no later than June of your application year. Some students choose to take the test earlier in order to have the option of a re-take while others choose to take the test later in the hopes that more study time will result in a higher score. However, it is important to note the application deadlines, so we highly recommend that the exam is not taken later than June.
- Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
All US dental schools require this exam. Prior to taking the test, you will need to have completed the biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry course requirements. The test is administered year round.
The GRE is required for most graduate programs; some programs may accept another admissions exam. The test will measure verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing. The test is administered year round.
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
All US medical schools, both MD and DO, require this exam. The test has four components examining: biology/biochemistry, chemistry/physics, verbal reasoning, and the psychological, social and biological basis of behavior. Prior to taking the test, you will need to have completed all of the PreMed prerequisites. Exams are not offered in October, November, or December; most exams take place between April and September.
- Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)
All US optometry schools require this exam. Prior to taking the text, you will need to have completed all of the PreOptometry prerequisites. The test is administered year round.
- Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT)
Launching spring of 2020, the PA-CAT is a specialized test that is designed to measure applicant knowledge and application in key prerequisite science subjects typically required for PA school. The PA-CAT measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for success in the demanding Physician Assistant curriculum. As this is a new exam, many PA programs will take GRE and PA-CAT exam scores, but it is anticipated that programs will gradually phase out the GRE and phase in the PA-CAT.
- Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)
The PCAT is required for most pharmacy programs; however, some may accept another admissions exam. Prior to taking the text, you will have needed to complete all of the PrePharmacy prerequisites. The exam is offered at varying points through-out the year; be sure to visit the website for more information regarding the exam schedule.
PCAT Study Schedule resource: https://onlinepharmd.sjfc.edu/resources/pcat-prep-two-four-month-study-schedules/
- Test Preparation
Often times, as PreHealth advisors, we are asked about test preparation. We find that test preparation preferences vary from student to student, so it is important that you determine what works best for you. Some students rather study on their own, while others prefer to purchase test preparation programs. Please note that some companies offer practice tests that students can take for free, so do your research.
No matter which route you choose to go, all students benefit from focused, intensive review before taking an admissions test. Plan your study schedule well in advance of taking the examination in order to adequately prepare yourself for all sections of the exam.
Admissions committees view an open-ended essay as an opportunity to get to know the applicant. The main theme of your personal statement should be why do you want to be a doctor, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian, podiatrist, etc. and what you bring to the table or what experiences have prepared for this profession.
What You Say
There is no way around it. Writing about yourself is about the most difficult and humiliating kind of writing that you will ever have to do. Simply recognizing this fact at the outset may be a big help in getting you through the ordeal. Grit your teeth and pretend, for the first draft, that you are singing the praises of a close friend of yours. You might even try writing the first draft in the third person, to see if that makes the process any easier.
It's easy to get off the track and turn the essay into a mini–biography. Remember, this is not exactly what you should be focusing on. Rather, you need to always keep in mind that what you are about is telling your readers what qualities make you a "can't–miss" candidate for professional school. You should be concerned with character–what kind of person you are; with intellectual accomplishments––remember, attending professional school is a serious academic exercise; and with experience––including research and volunteer experience.
It is also important in your writing that you learn how to be specific. There should be at least one or two places in the essay where you relate a specific incident, whether academic or personal. Ask yourself in such places "Is this as specific as I can make it?" My experience in reading draft copies of personal statements I that it usually isn't. Few know how to do this well. Often, students will think they are being specific when they are still being very general. Suppose, for example, you want to make the point that you have worked your way through school, and that has made you a person who is able to take on responsibility, who knows the meaning of hard work. You might be inclined to say "I worked summers and after school at Palmer's Fish market, and learned the meaning of hard work." A more specific way of framing it would be something like this: "My third day on the job, when Mr. Palmer told me to get into the big lobster tank and clean it out, I learned the meaning of hard work." You should ask yourself whether anything in you school work, your research, your volunteering, or your extra–curricular activities lends itself to this kind of specificity. Your ability to do this will keep your statement from sounding generic.
How You Say It
Don't be afraid to be creative, but don't let creativity substitute for substance. If there is something unique that you have done, or that has happened to you, by all means put it in and highlight it. But don't push too far, that is, don't make this unique thing take the place of the variety of accomplishments that you need to show in order to make yourself look compelling to those who will read your statement.
Make sure others get to read the essay before you print out the final copy. This is not just, or even primarily, for proofreading, though this is important. You can miss the mark in an essay like this by being too humble, or by being too arrogant. it is often easier for someone else to pick up this kind of thing that for you to pick it up yourself. You might use as a kind of checklist the kind of questions that your readers are likely to ask. What are the strategies/interests of this candidate? How is this candidate different from other potential candidates? Is this applicant serious/motivated?
Remember that you will also be judged––even if only unconsciously–by the quality of your writing. A good personal essay should not only be well– written, it should be (and appear to be) well re–written. Make sure that you smooth over the rough edges and carefully proofread before you print out your final copy.
Use a single line between paragraphs; don't worry about indenting. Don't use more than 1 space between paragraphs. Use professional font, size, and margins.
Recommended text: Barron's Essays that will get you into Medical School
- AACPMA: 4500
- CASPA: 5000
- OptomCAS: 4500
- PTCAS: 4500
- PharmCAS: 4500
- VMCAS: 5000
Character Limits (with spaces)
- AMCAS & AACOMAS: 5300
- AADSAS: 4500
Letters of Recommendation
Students planning on professional school and post-graduate experiences need to obtain letters of recommendation from faculty and often from non-faculty (e.g. employers, clinical experiences, etc.). At SUNY Geneseo, PreHealth students are required to utilize Interfolio, which is a commercial, internet-based operation as a storage place for letters of recommendation.
Students should set up an account via Interfolio; this registration has a fee. While you can register for a one or multiple year subscription, we highly recommend students getting at least a five-year subscription. When you register, be sure to affiliate with SUNY Geneseo Pre-Med; this will make it possible for the PreMed/PreHealth Advisory Committee to access the letters.
Once you have registered with Interfolio, you can ask references to write and submit their individual letters of recommendation. We strongly urge that you do this earlier rather than later. Unless you are going to continue interacting with the recommender, there is no point in waiting. Your references will submit letters to Interfolio, but you will need to tell Interfolio the letter is coming. Interfolio will supply you with a link that allows letters to be submitted electronically, or it can be submitted by mail. You can add letters whenever you have the opportunity.
We recommend at least four letters of recommendation:
- two from science faculty
- one from a non-science faculty that can speak to other academic skills and/or characteristics
- one from a clinical experience (if applying MD and DO, you should have a letter from both physicians)
Your individual letters of recommendation should be confidential, so be sure to waive your right to see them.
If you are applying to a professional school in which a committee letter is suggested (i.e. medical, dentistry, podiatry, optometry, veterinary), you must be sure to follow the timeline listed below in order to obtain a committee letter.
Getting into professional school and becoming a good healthcare provider requires many skills in addition to doing well in classes. Among other things, getting into professional school requires paying attention to details, meeting deadlines, and being respectful of others trying to help you in your journey. With that said, we'll mention what should be obvious. Be sure that you start off on the right foot with the committee by: signing up for an interview when notified to do, submitting your materials on time, dressing appropriately for the interview, and being on time! Please don't call or write in the summer saying you weren't able to come to the interview, and please don't come to the interview unless you have submitted all required materials.
All materials must be submitted to your PreMed/PreHealth Committee letter-writer by June 1 of your application year; there is no guarantee of having a committee letter if all the materials are not in by the due date. It is important to note that a committee letter is not required to submit an application to professional schools, but it is a red flag that as a school that does provide a committee letter, that you are applying without one.
Students must have a 3.0 GPA in order to obtain a committee letter; however, if you do not have a 3.0 GPA, you may petition via letter sent to Dr. Pogozelski prior to April 30th of your application year.
This must be done the year you plan to submit your application:
Attend the Application Process Preparation Session
Gather required materials in preparation for the Mock Interview:
- your completed Cover Sheet
- your signed waiver statement (NO copies or scanned documents; original signature only in black ink)
- a recent photograph of yourself
- a draft of your resumé
- a draft of your personal statement
- your unofficial SUNY Geneseo transcript (KnightWeb -- Student, Student Records, Academic Transcript)
Interfolio release to the PreMed/PreHealth Committee
- You will be contacted at your SUNY Geneseo email address the week of Study Day with the exact time and location of your Mock Interview
- The Mock Interview is held on Study Day
**Please note that the SUNY Geneseo PreMed/PreHealth Committee will write composite letters for alumni; it is recommended that an applicant complete the process listed above prior to graduation. Composite letters will be written for alumni who graduated from Geneseo within the last five years of the composite letter request.