Applying to Professional School

Applying for admission to a health professions school requires hard work, perseverance, and gaining experience that separates you from other applicants. Getting this experience is something you should work toward throughout your time at Albion College. We will help you, but you have to take an active role!

From the application and evaluation letter to the essay and interview, staff and affiliated faculty of the Wilson Institute for Medicine are available to assist you as you work through this process. Information is provided here to get you started. It is important you stay in touch and seek us out!

Don't be a stranger!

Primary Applications
Most health professions schools use a centralized application service to gather preliminary information about applicants. Demographic, academic, and personal information (including personal essays) are gathered in a standardized format and forwarded to the schools you indicate. The application service will also typically forward standardized test scores to the selected schools. A standard processing fee is charged, with an additional fee added per school to which you apply. (Most application services have fee reduction opportunities available for qualified applicants. Information about these waivers can be found at the application web sites.)

Most of the primary applications are computerized or web-based, a few allow paper applications to be filed. For professions/schools with no application service, application must be made directly to the individual schools to which you wish to apply. Again, the Wilson Institute for Medicine will guide you through the process.

Secondary Applications
Following receipt of the primary application, admissions committees at the individual schools determine whether they wish to learn more about each applicant. If so, they will often send a secondary application to the applicant. Depending on the school, the secondary application may simply ask for a little more information and clarification of your academic record, or it may require you to submit several topic-specific essays. You will most likely also be asked to submit an additional application fee of $40 - $100 directly to the school.

At this time, the school will also request you to submit your letters of evaluation—advisory committee letters and individual letters from work supervisors, etc.

Evaluation Letters
All health professions schools require applicants to submit letters of evaluation; however, the format of these letters differs between professions. Medical (human) and dental schools almost uniformly require applicants to submit a composite evaluation letter from a pre-health professions committee—a letter based on evaluation letters written by faculty members and on the committee members' knowledge of the applicant. Veterinary medical schools and most other health professions schools require applicants to submit letters or evaluation forms from individual faculty members or work supervisors. In almost all cases, a letter from a health professional is also either required or highly desirable.

Admissions committees are looking for candid evaluations of an applicant's suitability for a career as a health professional and ability to handle an academically demanding curriculum. Evaluation criteria include integrity, emotional maturity, teamwork, motivation, leadership, social adjustment, and academic skills.

Essay and Personal Statement
It is never too early for you to begin working on your essay. It is a good idea to keep a journal of ideas, activities, and experiences from which you can draw when you begin writing the essay. Record thoughts about your motivations, describe a particularly inspirational event, and/or record thoughts about your health care experiences. Two to three months before you submit your application, begin constructing the essay. Create some structure and think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Put the essay aside, then come back to it a week later. Find its strengths and weaknesses, and make adjustments. If you repeat this process each week, by the time you need to submit the essay, you should be very comfortable about its ability to portray you accurately to the admissions committee.

Don’t get rid of your earlier notes and drafts. Most schools will ask you to write 1 – 5 additional essays when you submit your secondary application. The notes might provide good resource material for those essays (which is important since you will typically only have two weeks in which to write them).

Essay tips:

  1. Thoroughly review instructions for application to each school. You must be sure to include the information they request in the expected format.
  2. Remember that the essay is intended to be autobiographical. Write about yourself; don’t try to educate the admissions committee about what defines the medical, dental, etc. field.
  3. Discuss how you know that medicine, etc. is the correct career choice for you. ("I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember" and "I want to help people" are not adequate explanations for why you have chosen a career in the health professions. Be prepared to back up these answers with concrete examples from your life.)
  4. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Use examples from your life to illustrate your strengths (e.g. strong interpersonal skills, maturity, integrity, diversity) and to truthfully assess your weaknesses. Your examples may be medically relevant, but more likely they will come from other areas of your life.
  5. Explain how your experiences, strengths, etc. will make you a better health care professional and an asset to the medical profession.
  6. Highlight aspects of your life that make you unique from the hundreds to thousands of other applicants whose statements the committee members will also be reading.
  7. Briefly address any obvious deviations from your normal academic performance which could be viewed negatively by an admissions committee. Do not, however, attempt to make excuses for that lower performance.
  8. Do not repeat information that is contained elsewhere in your application unless it is something unique that deserves special attention or amplification. You have limited space for your essay, so don't waste any of it.
  9. Make sure the essay is well written, grammatically correct, and accurately spelled. You do not want to make an unprofessional impression on the admissions committee.
Most important, engage readers from the Institute and faculty at Albion College!

The Interview
General information
Interviews are only offered to the top group of applicants at each professional school; however, schools interview students for different reasons and use different criteria to determine who is a "top" candidate. Some schools offer interviews to nearly every student who meets a certain set of (usually numeric) criteria; they then use the interview to find out who the applicant really is and to determine whether that individual would make a good addition to their program. Other schools evaluate an applicant's numeric criteria, evaluation letters, and essays to determine who should be the best students for their school; the interview is then used to confirm whether an appropriate decision has been made. In the former case, as much as 80% of the applicant pool may be interviewed, whereas in the latter case, only about 10% of the applicant pool is interviewed.

Every professional school is unique in the way it handles interviews. Some interview students in small groups, some use a single interview with a faculty member or administrator, while others schedule as many as five interviews per applicant. At about half the schools, the interviewer has full access to the applicant's file, while at the other half, the interviewer only knows the student's name and the college that s/he attends (or attended). The strategy the applicant wants to use is different for each type of interview, so it is helpful to talk with a pre-health professions advisor about a school's interview format before going to an interview.

The interview is a formal event, and the interviewee should be as professional as possible throughout the process. Attending mock interviews is the best way to prepare as well as get feedback. Mock interviews can be scheduled regularly with Institute staff.

The Albion College healthcare professions committee has compiled a list of common interview questions that may be obtained from the Institute office.