Applying to Professional Schools

Applying to Healthcare Programs

Applying to healthcare programs is generally a year-long process that requires you to complete many tasks simultaneously. While you are preparing to take the appropriate entry exams, you will also need to write your personal statement, research schools and obtain letters of recommendation.

By the time you start contacting programs, you should have narrowed your choice to at least 10 schools, taken the entry exams, obtained all recommendation letters and written the final copy of your personal statement.

Chiropractic Pharmacy
Dentistry Physical Therapy
Genetic Counseling Physician Assistant
Medicine Podiatry
Nursing Public Health
Occupational Therapy Veterinary Medicine
Optometry  

Centralized Application Services

The majority of professional schools participate in a centralized application service. These services are typically run or housed by the professional organization that governs a particular field. For example, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) owns the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). You will want to find the website for the application service for your particular field early and refer to it often. 

Transcripts

You will need to provide official transcripts from each and every community college or university you ever attended. Even if you were enrolled and dropped before the course was completed, you will need to supply a transcript. Official transcripts from UC Merced are requested through the Office of the Registrar.  You may request them online through the Registrar's office or in the web portal.

Letters of Reference

In general, many healthcare professional schools need at least three letters of recommendation (two from science faculty members and one from a non-science faculty member). You should have more than three letters available as some medical schools are open to receiving more, but remember, it is not the quantity but the quality of letters that is important.  

Have a variety of letters at your disposal. You might find yourself in a situation where one of your science letters is from your principal investigator in the laboratory where you volunteer, and though this is a science-related letter, it still might not be acceptable to a medical school. You will need to submit a letter from a professor from a science course that you have taken and by the time you get that letter, it could be too late.

Letters should include comments about general intelligence, oral and written communication skills, ability to deal with complex and abstract ideas and evidence of being a lifelong independent learner. A letter that merely states the grade earned by an applicant in class has very limited value. Comments on the applicant's exposure to the realities of medicine are also very valuable.

For clarification, a committee packet or committee letter is not a packet of letters that is composed when your professors gather together and write a letter about you and forward it to a medical school. For some students, there exists an impression that this constitutes a committee packet. The committee packet is typically a composite letter written by a pre-med/pre-health advisor on behalf of several faculty members who interview an applicant to medical school. 

We do not offer this service. However, if you are applying to schools that request such a letter, our pre-health advisor has a letter explaining that we do not have such a service.

The Center for Career and Professional Advancement offers a Letters of Reference File service for students and alumni.

The primary purpose of the file is to help those who write your recommendations. Rather than write a separate letter for each of the many programs to which you apply, the author writes one letter that remains on file for your use whenever you need it. Once established, the file can become a reliable repository for all subsequent letters of reference throughout your academic career.

Many academic institutions expect your references to be in such a file, and there is a certain advantage from the "halo effect" of having your recommendations arrive under the University of California cover.

Personal Statement

The statement of purpose, which is also commonly referred to as the personal statement, is a written piece that may encompass the applicant's aspirations, career goals, educational background, personal experiences, research and so on. The personal statement is the initial opportunity for applicants to present themselves as interesting and unique individuals who deserve a closer look.

The personal statement should:

  • Discuss the experiences, people and events that influenced your decision to seek a healthcare career and/or prepared you to enter this field;
  • Use one or two specific incidents to show what has been learned from various experiences;
  • Discuss your motivation for healthcare;
  • Describe clearly and succinctly what you have learned from extracurricular and work accomplishments;
  • Discuss any disciplinary actions during college;
  • Explain how these experiences provide for personal growth;
  • Explain what makes you uniquely suitable for this professional school;
  • Be specific and use concrete example and experiences that distinguish you from others;
  • Be about you and what interests and excites you

For more details about writing your personal statement and what to include, please attend the Personal Statement Workshop, which is typically offered during the spring semester. 

The Center for Career and Professional Advancement is in SSB 230 and can be reached at 209-228-7272 or at careerservices@ucmerced.edu.

Exam Preparation

Preparation for the MCAT, DAT, OAT and GRE is highly recommended. The following are links to the common prep courses offered. Many students have been successful without any structured courses. The courses do differ in their approach and how often they meet.

Kaplan

Princeton Review

ExamKrackers

Interview

Receiving an invitation to an admission interview at a professional school means that the school is very interested in you. This is the final step in the review process before an admissions decision is made. At this point, the admissions committee wants to get to know you and to see if the match between you and the school would be a good one. You can prepare for the interview by reviewing the school's website, mission and recent research or clinical highlights.

Some other tips include:

  • Arrive early;
  • Dress professionally and conservatively;
  • Be prepared to answer questions about medical ethics and the healthcare system;
  • Be prepared to talk about why you want to join the healthcare profession;
  • Think before you answer;
  • Answers should not be too brief or too long;
  • Be enthusiastic;
  • Don't be arrogant

You can also prepare for the interview by scheduling an appointment for a mock interview at the Career Services Center. 

Professionalism

Please be sure your Facebook, Twitter, blog or other social networking sites are either set to private or show you in the most professional manner possible. Admissions committees might randomly check these sites and others to determine whether an applicant is being truthful. You would not want any admissions committee members seeing inappropriate photos or comments left for, about or by you.

Other Resources

Sample Interview Questions
Frequently Asked Questions about Applying