What should I major in?
Professional schools appreciate academic diversity amongst its applicants and matriculants. You can major in whichever field you would like! It is encouraged to select a field of study that you are interested, and will be successful in. Please note, if you are selecting a non-science major, meet with both your academic advisor and the PPAC to ensure you are meeting professional school prerequisite requirements.
What are the common prerequisites for professional school?
Please reference specific professional programs above, but generally, professional schools require:
- General Biology: One year w/lab
- General Chemistry: One year w/lab
- Organic Chemistry: One year w/lab
- Physics: One year w/lab
How is my professional school GPA calculated?
One of the toughest pieces to understand about your professional school application is the difference between your professional school calculated GPA and your university GPA. There can be a difference for several reasons, including transfer credits and repeats. Generally speaking, ALL courses you have taken at the undergraduate level, from EVERY institution you have attended count towards your professional school GPA. Also, professional schools calculate your “science GPA”, which is your GPA based on grades in your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math classes. There shouldn’t be a big discrepancy between your cumulative and science GPA, as this may indicate to the committee that you have trouble with science rigor. For an excellent GPA calculator, google “AAMC GPA Calculator” and click the spreadsheet link.
How do I fill out the GPA calculator?
Download the spreadsheet and save to your computer. Using your transcripts from all institutions you have attended, enter each course you have taken with the title, grade, and credit hours. If it is a Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Math course, check the box on the right side. A few tips for filling out the calculator:
- Remember to enter ALL grades, even repeats. Professional schools count all grades from every course you have taken in to your GPA
- Remedial courses/grades need to be entered into the calculator, as they count towards your GPA
- You do not need to enter grades of S/U as part of this particular GPA calculator
- If you would like an accurate trend line, ensure you are correctly adding courses by freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year
How do I apply for professional school?
Each professional school has its own application process. For a quick overview, read:
For more specific information, visit the following websites:
- Physician Assistant
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy
What test is required for professional school and when do I take it?
Students generally take their respective professional school test the spring of the year they are applying. The PPAC encourages all students to study for at least 3-4 months ahead of taking the test. The PPAC has resources available for students to aid in studying and can help develop an appropriate study plan. For more information about each required test, visit the websites below:
What are good upper division classes to take for professional school?
A robust upper division science schedule is crucial for showing admissions committees you can handle rigor of professional school. A vast majority of professional schools recommend students take a variety of upper division science classes that will not only prepare them for their professional school test, but also the difficult professional school curriculum. The following are recommended classes for students to take:
- Cell Physiology
- A & P (Biol upper division sequence)
- Molecular Biology
- Animal Science based (for pre-vet)
How do I prepare a personal statement?
Your personal statement is a key piece to your application. It can make or break your admission. It is important that you allow ample time to draft your statement (at least 3-4 months). This isn’t something that should be written overnight! You will want to start on your statement at least 3-4 months ahead of when you want to apply. For help, come to a workshop! The PPAC holds monthly personal statement workshops in the spring that provide pivotal information on how to write your personal statement. You can also work with the Writing Center on campus or a faculty member who has experience in pre-professional advising. Once you have a more finalized version of your statement, the PPAC is happy to review and provide feedback. Please allow at least two weeks for review.
Who do I ask for letters of recommendation?
You need to reference your specific programs for their requirements on letters of recommendation, as they vary school to school. Typically, you will want to have 3-5 letters of recommendation for your file. You should have one letter from the practicing professional you have shadowed or done ample clinical experience with, one from a professor (usually science, but again, check the requirements), and one humanitarian letter. If you have done research, it is important to also have a letter from the PI or lab coordinator.
Begin asking your letter writers for letters in the spring of the year you are applying. Ensure you are giving them enough time- at least 4-6 weeks. Writers will submit their letters to either the application service directly or a third party letter collection agency such as Interfolio. If you use an outside agency, ensure your application service accepts letters through that particular avenue.
How do I know what programs to apply to?
Research! Visit each professional school's respective website (referenced above); they have tons of tools for prospective students!
Generally, students should consider the following when deciding where to apply:
- Mission statement and focus
- Programs offered (MD, dual degree, research)
- Curriculum and teaching methods
- Support and wellness structures in place for students
- Preparation of students for USMLE, graduation; where do students match and in to what residencies?
- GPA/test score requirements
- Specific or unique prerequisites
- Size and demographics
- Cost to attend; scholarships
For a template to help with your research, please click here