Applying to a health professions program is an expensive and demanding process that requires long term, careful planning on your part. Each health profession application has a unique process and timeline. Becoming familiar with the application process well in advance helps to ensure that you will be able to matriculate immediately after graduation or to plan the appropriate amount of time off between finishing your undergraduate degree and beginning your studies at a health professions school. Once you commit to applying, ideally by January, you are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with the HPP Director to develop a customized application plan. In fact, in order to participate in the CMU HPP Committee Interview and Letter processes, each applicant is required to either attend the two-part application information seminar or meet one-on-one with Dr. D'Antonio to ensure you are aware of what materials are required and what is expected of you to apply.
If you missed any part of the most recent Application Information Workshops, you can access the zoom recordings:
Session 1 - October 25, 2021 (passcode: f4*uAuc9)
Session 2 - October 27, 2021 (passcode: P#7$X75L)
To participate in the CMU HPP Committee Interview process, applicants are required to complete the appropriate HPP application packet (see below). Applicants are also required to obtain letters of recommendation (see Letters of Recommendation section below).
Completed application packets should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or uploaded to CMU BOX if provided a link from the HPP office no later than one week prior to one's scheduled committee interview.
- If your are applying to MD/PhD programs, you must also complete two additional statements: 1) Why MD/PhD, and 2) Reserach Statement. For the CMU Committee Interview, please submit the MD/PhD supplement form for us to review your Why MD/PhD statement. The MD/PhD Research Statement should be developed in collaboration with your research advisor(s) to ensure accuracy and appropriate technical details.
Below are a list of useful resources that are recommended as you begin your preparations for studying for and taking the MCAT.
Identifying schools requires time and investment into learning about the "fit" between you and a school. You need to consider factors such as cost, geography, class size, curriculum, as well as each school's metrics, mission statement, and values. Proper research will help you identify schools with metrics that can support your training as well as programs and opportunities for you to enrich your particular skills and interests, for example, in primary care, rural medicine, or research.
Useful links to assist you in learning about health professions programs:
Writing the Personal Statement
As part your health professions school, you typically must submit a personal statement. Traditionally, this is a one-page, single-spaced essay. The personal statement is your chance to communicate something unique about yourself to the admissions committee, and is an extremely important component of your application. It must be well written with respect to style and grammar. Its content should be geared toward developing the strengths of your personality and experience, which might not come through in the data you otherwise provide on your application. The ultimate goal is to tell a story about your and your experiences that construct a picture of your motivations and reasons for becoming a clinician.
Suggestions for writing an effective personal statement:
- Reflection: Reflect on your academic and extracurricular experiences and how they have shaped your motivations for a career in health care.
- Inventory: Create a list of experiences that represent the evolution of your path to a career in health care. Also identity key people (faculty, mentors, advisors...) who have inspired you.
- Strategy: Think about the message you wish to convey and how you want to illustrate it.
- Organize the key elements in a manner that tells your story.
- If you start with a thesis statement, remember to return to that thesis at the end to provide closure.
- The body should illustrate your growth and maturation, using examples of life experiences, that have prepared you for a career in service to others: service, leadership, overcoming challenges, commitment to your endeavors, communication skills...
- The conclusion restates your focus in a way that shows how your story has evolved, over time, from observations to reflection to wisdom.
- Things to avoid:
- Language that is overly flowery or controversial or opinionated.
- Discussing why you don't want to become a researcher or type of clinician other than your intended career path.
- Using cliches such as, "I've wanted to be a doctor since I was ..."
- Proofread for errors, spelling, and subject-verb agreement. Make sure that you don't have sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Use punctuation correctly. Always have someone proofread your statement, and be mindful of your grammar.
The HPP office can offer guidance or ideas about how to build your personal statement, so feel free to request an appointment. Writing resources such as the Global Communications Center are recommended as starting points as you plan out your personal statement.
Letters of Recommendation
Applicants are encouraged to meet with individual faculty, advisors, mentors, coaches and supervisors to discuss your motivations and readiness for attending a health professions school. The goal is to obtain strong, supportive letters of recommendation that speak to your strengths and preparedness for graduate training. Highly effective letters are those that reflect real knowledge of you, your performance and growth, whether in the classroom, laboratory, clinical, or volunteer setting. When thinking about potential letter writers, you should consider people who know you well and who will be supportive of your application. When requesting letters, it is a professional courtesy to request letters at least one month in advance so please be mindful of your timing.
Individual letters of recommendation are not required in advance of participating in the committee interview process. Please arrange to have all letters of recommendation submitted to your veCollect account no later than June 1.
See the AAMC Letter Guidelines to learn more about the Core Competencies that you can discuss with your letter writers.
- Medical School: It is recommended you obtain 3-5 letters of recommendation. Two science faculty are strongly encouraged as some med schools require 2 science rec letters. DO applicants require a letter from a DO physician.
- Dental School: It is recommended you obtain 3-4 letters of recommendation, one of which should be from a dentist.
Below is a sample list of potential letter writers. NOTE: this is not a list of required letters!
- Two science faculty members whose classes you have taken. One letter can be from a research advisor. (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, BME, and some Psychology faculty members count as science)
- A research advisor (if MD/PhD, letter(s) from research advisors is required)
- A supervisor from a volunteer or service experience
- A work supervisor, athletic coach, mentor...
- A dentist, pharmacist, PA, physician, veterinarian, physical therapist, etc.
Applicants who complete a committee interview and obtain a committee letter (med & dental) need to indicate one letter in the AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS or AADSAS application:
- Letter Type = "committee letter"
- Author = "Dr. Jason D'Antonio" & contact information (email@example.com). The committee letter consists of the HPP committee letter plus all individual letters of recommendation. The HPP will upload this document packet to the appropriate application service starting sometime in late June/early July, provided we have received your MCAT or DAT score. FYI: Your committee letter is NOT required for you to submit your primary application!
Applicants who do not wish to have a committee letter may instead ask the HPP to upload a Letter Packet (compilation of individual letters of recommendation) to the appropriate application service.
veCollect for Individual Letters of Recommendation
The CMU HPP is using veCollect to enable applicants to request, track, and manage their individual letters of recommendation. Applicants who either plan to participate in the CMU HPP Committee Letter process or request a letter packet must register for and request all individual letters of recommendation via their veCollect account. Please arrange to have all letters of recommendation submitted to your veCollect account no later than June 1. To create your FREE account, please follow these instructions:
Create Your Profile:
- Visit veCollect: https://collect.virtualevals.com/
- Click “Login to veCollect” in upper right corner or “Click here to register for veCollect access” in the light green box on right
- Select “PA” for the state in the drop down menu on the left, click “Continue”
- Select “Carnegie Mellon University” from the drop down menu, click “Continue”
- In the registration page, enter the required info to create your profile and enter the appropriate authorization code (provided each year) to create your account. You can add your IDs like AMCAS later on. Click “Register for veCollect”
- Within ~48 hrs, you'll receive an email that your account is active.
Once active, Enter Evaluator Information:
- Login and click “My Evaluators” at the top
- Create an Evaluator Record: click “Create New Evaluator Record” – enter a letter writer’s info and click “Create Evaluator Record”. Feel free to use the HPP address if you do not know your letter writer's address: 5000 Forbes Ave., Pgh, PA 15213
- Create a Letter Record: click “Create New Letter Record” at bottom of page
- Select letter type from drop down:
- premed = “Medical schools”
- predental = “Dental schools”
- Read the FERPA statement, select “CONFIDENTIAL letter," enter your name to waive your FERPA rights, and click “Create Letter Record”
- Repeat steps 2-5 for each letter writer.
- Request letter: once record is created, click the envelope icon next to letter writer name – this will generate an email to the letter writer providing details about how to submit their letter. This email will include an attachment that provides useful tips for writing effective letters.
- Once a letter is uploaded, a pdf icon will appear next to the letter writer name (verification can take up to 48 hrs) – this enables you to track the receipt of rec letters.
When applying to health professions programs, you are required to request copies of your official transcripts be sent to the appropriate centralized application service(s). It is strongly recommended you obtain copies of your official transcript through SIO for entering your coursework into the online application. NOTE: When requesting transcripts, make sure that the name you indicate on your transcript request form is the same as the name indicated on your transcript!
coursework from CMU:
- Please submit a request through the HUB to have an e-transcript sent to the appropriate centralized application service (AMCAS, AACOMAS, AADSAS, TMDSAS, VMCAS, CASPA...)
- For AMCAS, transcript ID (7-digit number) can be found under 'Schools Attended'. It populates after you add CMU to the list of schools attended.
- If you are finishing up a semester, please select the option to wait for final grades to post before sending - this will likely occur in mid-May at the earliest so plan accordingly.
- Paper copies can be obtained via the HUB.
Coursework from outside CMU:
- If classes were taken through the consortium (e.g., at Pitt or Duquesne during the semester), you may not have a transcript at the other institution but always call their Registrar's office to confirm.
- If at a US school other than CMU, you will need to request an official transcript from the school's Registrar's office.
- If at a non-US sponsored international school or if through study-abroad where courses may or may not show up on your CMU transcript, please review the transcript guidelines for each application service to determine whether you need a transcript or if you can request a waiver.
Interviewing at a health professions program is a critical opportunity for applicants to share their narratives and illuminate their motivations for becoming a clinician. Health professions programs only invite applicants to interview once they are satisfied that an applicant is sufficiently fit and competitive for the programs’ missions and goals. The goals of the interview are two-fold: 1) for the health professions programs to assess an applicant's fit for their program, and 2) for you as an applicant to further evaluate if that school is ideal for your future clinical training.
Interview Types (in-person and virtual):
- Traditional one-on-one interviews: Applicant responds to structured questions or shares an informal conversation with a faculty/staff member or medical student
- Panel interviews: Applicant answers structured questions from a panel of interviewers
- Group interviews: Multiple applicants engage in a guided discussion
- MMI (multiple mini interview): Applicant rotates through short interview stations, focused on individual role-play scenarios, behavioral or situational ethics questions, and writing or collaborative activities
- Hybrid interviews: Applicant encounters some combination of the above interview structures
- Blinded or partially blinded: Applicant encounters an interviewer who has seen little or none of their application materials
Strategies for virtual interviews (adapted from Dr. Caleb Marsh):
- Dress professionally, from head to toe, as you would for an in-person interview - this will get you into the proper mindset and prevent wardrobe issues.
- Turn off your cell phone - not just mute - and put it away! (Unless you must interview using your phone).
- Create a professional screen name, preferably your first and last name so interviewers can easily identify you.
- If you use a video background, make sure it is simple and professional - nothing quirky or humorous.
- Update your virtual conference software.
- Familiarize yourself with breakout room functionality: how they work, where notifications from breakout rooms come from, and how to move in and out of them.
- Mute your microphone when not speaking, especially during powerpoint presentations.
- Identify a simple and quiet location to conduct your interview. Do not try to impress your interviewer with your location or background image.
- It's okay to excuse yourself during an interview to use the restroom, just make sure you let everyone know you need to step away for a minute.
- Upload a professional headshot so that your face is still present if you need to turn off your video at any time during the interview.
Appropriate dress is formal business attire. Regardless of whether you interview in-person or virtual, dressing professionally is a way to demonstrate professionalism!
Thank You Letters:
Remember to write thank you notes (email or hand-written is fine) to the admission's office (and to people you spoke with unless you are specifically asked not to) as soon as possible. In the letter, you want to acknowledge the opportunity to interview while highlighting specific things you liked: the people, the learning environment, the school's mission, access to service or research opportunities, the curriculum, the clinical resources, etc. Writing thank you letters shows interest and professionalism – desirable traits in an applicant.
CASPer = Situation Judgment Test (SJT) that examines an applicant’s general competencies related to problem solving, critical thinking, and communication to get a sense of what you would do in response to open-ended situations...and why. Many health professions schools are now requring applicants to complete in addition to the primary and secondary applications.
- 100-120 minutes
- Two sections:
- Section 1: Typed responses to 3 text-based scenarios & 6 video-based scenarios
- Section 2: Video responses to 2 text-based scenarios & 4 video-based scenarios
- Each scenario asks you to respond to 3 open-ended questions
- "Why" you choose what you do is more important than "what" you choose to do
- Designed to test for 10 competencies:
- Problem Solving
- Programs that require CASPer – just over 100 use it as of 2020 Application cycle.
- MD & DO – tested together
- Dentistry, PA, PT, Optometry, Vet, Graduate Nursing – tested together
- If you appy to MD and Dental programs, you take two different CASPer tests
AAMC PREview test
The AAMC PREview test is a situational judgement test that, according to the AAMC and partner medical schools, is "designed to to assess examinees’ understanding of effective pre-professional behavior across eight core competencies for entering medical school." Beyond grades and MCAT score, medical schools are interested in assessing you possess these competencies. To do so, the PREview test examines your responses to ethical scenarios.
The eight CORE competencies evaluated by PREview:
- Service Orientation
- Social Skills
- Cultural Competence
- Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
- Resilience and Adaptability
- Reliability and Dependability
- Capacity for Improvement
Letters of Update / Intent
So it's been several months since you submitted your secondary applications and you have not heard from some schools. Or, it has been a few weeks since you interviewed and you expect to hear soon. In either situation, you are feeling anxious and you are thinking you might want to send a letter to schools.
You may be interested in sending a "letter of update" to possibly trigger an interview. Things to consider:
- Does school X accept updates / letters? Some schools, e.g., Penn State SOM, do not. It would be ill-advised to send a letter to these schools.
- Make sure to research the program to include a few specific details about the SOM in your letter.
- Letters are generally 3/4 to 1 full page - recommend keeping it to 1 page.
- Include your name, application ID#, and email.
- Direct and email the letter to the Office of Admissions, unless directed otherwise on the SOM's website.
- Feel free to use these template letters to give you ideas of how to construct an effective letter of update.
Perhaps you have interviewed at a few schools (A, B, X, Z) and wish to send a letter of continued interest to schools A, X and Z - but there is no clear top choice - to hopefully secure a seat. The goal of this letter is to identify strengths and connections between you and a given school, highlighting specifics about the school's mission and training environment and how you are a solid fit. Feel free to use the above sample letters to give you ideas about how to draft a letter of continued interest.
What if you have identified a clear top choice and want to tell that school they are your #1. Below are a few templates to give you some ideas about how to draft a letter of intent. Like with a letter of continued interest, you are highlighting strengths, shared mission, opportunities for continued growth, and how you will enhance your incoming class. Be mindful that not all schools accept these types of letters nor do all schools factor them in their decision making.
- Letters are generally 3/4 to 1 full page - recommend keeping it to 1 page.
- Include your name, application ID#, and email. Indicate the date of your interview.
- Include names of people with whom you had meaningful interactions.
- Direct and email the letter to the Office of Admissions. If you want to direct the letter to a specific person in admissions (e.g., Assoc Dean of admissions), still email the letter to the general admissions email.
- Feel free to use these template letters to give you ideas of how to construct an effective letter of intent. (can be easily modified for letters of continued interest, as well)
Thinking about how you are going to pay for medical, dental, vet or pharmacy school? For most applicants, this is a significant factor in selecting a health professions school. You should start reading and learning about your options well before the start of the application cycle so you are well informed. In addition to speaking with the financial aid office at CMU, below are a few resources.
- Pay for med school through service
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
- 7 ways to reduce medical school debt
Dental schools: ADEA Financing Options
Pharmacy schools: see individual school websites for information on financial aid
Physical Therapy schools: Allied Health Schools financial aid
PA schools: see individual school websites for information on financial aid.
Vet schools: AVMA
I've been accepted...now what?
First, let us extend our congratulations on your acceptance!
Here are a few important things to do now that you have an acceptance:
- Confirm your acceptance with the school and reserve your seat. I.e., pay the required deposit and complete any additional paperwork.
- Does paying a deposit mean I am required to matriculate at this school? NO! You can continue to interview and receive acceptances. (See CYMS Tool for AMCAS medical schools for more information about timelines). When in doubt, check the school-specific policies!
- AMCAS: If you hold at least one acceptance to an allopathic medical school in AMCAS or TMDSAS, be mindful of two important dates in relation to the AMCAS Choose Your Medical School Tool (CYMS). DO schools do NOT use CYMS.
- Late February: "Plan To Enroll" Consider selecting PTE at one school where you hold an acceptance and where you likely will enroll. At this point you can stay on waitlists, continue to interview, and receive more acceptances. AAMC would like applicants with multiple acceptances to narrow down to no more than three.
- Late April/Early May: "Commit To Enroll" At this time, the AAMC expects applicants with at least one acceptance to select CTE at their top choice school and release all other applications. This means withdrawing from other acceptances, and removing your application from waitlists and all other schools. Selection of CTE should happen as soon after CTE becomes available. Be mindful that many medical schools require selecting CTE no later than THREE weeks prior to matriculation. Last: to officially accept an offer and withdraw applications from remaining schools, this must be communicated directly to each school, separate from CYMS.
- NOTE: CYMS is not the final decision process. Always communicate directlywith medical schools to officially accept an offer and withdraw other applications.
- All schools: Communicate with your accepted health professions school about financial aid sometime in spring - this information often is key before making the final decision and matriculating.
- Update your pre-health advisor - please - and send thank you letters to all of your letter writers...they would love to hear about your acceptance and school choice.
Serving the community as a health care provider requires a strong knowledge base in the sciences, a deep commitment to service, the ability to empathize and be compassionate, as well as integrity and trustworthiness. Many health professions programs inquire about institutional actions because academic and conduct violations raise concerns about integrity and trustworthiness. While not all violations are the same, health professions programs look for an applicant with a violation to 1) show a sense of ownership, 2) express remorse, 3) offer evidence of reflection and 4) disuss personal growth as a result of 1-3. Students with violations must provide evidence of these four elements for schools to feel comfortable that an applicant has grown and learned from the experience. In fact, some individuals emerge stronger and more prepared for the demands of clinical practice having overcome life challenges such as academic or behavioral violations. However, multiple or repeat violations are especially concerning.
Based on the wording in health professions programs' applications, the expectation is that an applicant report ANY violation regardless of whether one's academic record has been expunged or sealed. See below for language from AMCAS:
AMCAS (online applicaiton)
You must answer "Yes" even if the action does not appear on or has been deleted or expunged from your official transcripts due to institutional policy or personal petition.
Were you ever the recipient of any institutional action by any college or medical school for unacceptable academic performance or conduct violation, even though such action may not have interrupted your enrollment or required you to withdraw?
Institutional Action (as described in AMCAS manual)
If you were ever the recipient of any institutional action by any college or medical school for unacceptable academic performance or conduct violation, you must answer Yes, even if such actions did not interrupt your enrollment or require you to withdraw. Furthermore, select Yes even if the action does not appear on, or has been deleted or expunged from, your official transcripts as a consequence of institutional policy or personal petition.
Failure to provide an accurate answer to the question about institutional action or, if applicable, failure to complete the form provided by the school will result in an investigation. Medical schools require you to answer the question accurately and provide all relevant information. Medical schools understand that many individuals learn from the past and emerge stronger as a result. Full disclosure will enable medical schools to evaluate the information more effectively within the context of your application.
If you become the subject of an institutional action after certifying and submitting the AMCAS application, you must inform your designated medical school(s) within 10 business days of the date of the occurrence.
If you have any questions about academic or conduct violations, or want to learn more about how to best remediate a violation, please schedule an appointment with the Director of the Health Professions Program.
General Applicant Info:
- Can pre-meds apply to both MD and DO schools: YES
- Can pre-dental applicants apply to both DDS and DMD schools: YES
- Is it a good idea to apply to both MD and DO schools: It depends on your personal mission for becoming a physician and whether or not that mission aligns with the MD and DO schools to which you apply
- What is the difference b/w DDS and DMD dental programs: Nothing, really, same accreditation
- If I have not gotten an acceptance to an MD school by December, should I apply to DO schools: NO, this is not advised for several reasons. Contact Dr. D’Antonio to discuss.
- Can I practice any specialty or sub-specialty of medicine as a DO: YES
- Do we submit a PS specific to each school: NO, you submit one PS to a centralized application service, which sends that PS to all schools to which you apply.
- Can the PS be a story: YES, but it must address the prompt and provide illustrative points to support your reasoning for why you want to become a clinician.
- Can the PS include personally sensitive information: YES, you can include whatever is comfortable for you to include.
- Can I write about experiences that are not medically related: YES, especially if those experiences help craft a compelling narrative that you are prepared for the rigors of medical training and practice.
- If I worked during college, is that relevant to talk about: YES, in fact, you should write about having to work as a student and what you learned about professionalism, reliability, service, integrity, etc.
- Can I get help in drafting my PS: YES…you are very much encouraged to do so.
- Where can I get help in drafting my PS: CMU Global Communications Center (SASC), the HPP Director, your favorite faculty, mentor, advisor, peers…
- Should I talk about how important clinicians are in my PS: NO, it’s best not to preach to clinicians about what it’s like to be a clinician.
- Who is eligible for a committee interview: any CMU pre-health applicant (current or alum)
- Can I select any faculty member to serve on my committee: YES
- Can I select a committee member from my letter writers: YES
- Can I select a humanities, engineering, computer science, art, music… professor: YES
- Can I choose both faculty members on my committee: YES
- Can I select my research advisor: YES, even if not in Pittsburgh
- How do I schedule my committee interview: Once you identify a faculty who agrees to serve on your committee for a given date and time (90 mins), contact the HPP office to schedule
- Can I submit my primary app without my MCAT or DAT score: YES
- Can I submit my primary app without rec letters: YES
- When should I submit my AMCAS application: ideally no later than mid-June
- When should I submit my AACOMAS application: ideally no later than the end of June
- When should I submit my AADSAS application: ideally no later than the end of July
- Can I make changes to my primary application after submitting: Yes, but very little can be changed so make sure to read the application manual before submitting.
- Do all schools send 2ndary apps: NO, but many do
- How many essays are there in each 2ndary app: varies (can be 1 or many)
- How long are 2ndary apps: range from about 100-500 words
- How much time do you recommend we dedicate to 2ndary apps in the summer: it will vary, but some weeks you will put in many hours/day, whereas others could be less, but plan for a lot of writing in July.
- Are the any 2ndary apps I can pre-write: YES, 1) the diversity essay, 2) the challenge essay, 3) why our school essay, 4) COVID-19 essay
- When should I send my completed secondaries: Ideally within 2-4 weeks
Letters or Recommendation – General info:
- Do I need to create a veCollect account to get a committee letter: YES
- Can I have all rec letters sent to my veCollect account: YES…please do!
- Where should letter writers send their letters: to your veCollect account
- What email should I indicate for Dr. D’Antonio: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Can I include an additional rec letter separate from the CL: YES, you will enter that letter author as a separate line item and select “Individual Letter.” Send that author a letter request form.
- Does the HPP office / HPP Director pre-screen rec letters: NO, letters are confidential
Letters of Recommendation – Medical School:
- Do I have to have my rec letters to submit my primary application: NO
- Do I have to have my rec letters to conduct my committee interview: NO
- How many science letters do I need: it is strongly advised to have 2 science letters
- Science letters: Bio, Chem, Physics, Biochem, BME, Neuroscience, Research advisors
- Should I get a non-science letter: YES, if you can, but it’s not required
- Are letters from volunteer coordinators, employers, coaches, mentors valuable: YES
- Do I need a rec letter from a DO to apply to Osteopathic med schools: YES, some require it
- I’m applying MD/PhD…do I need a rec letter from all research advisors: YES!!!
Letters of Recommendation – Dental School:
- Do I have to have my rec letters to submit my primary application: NO
- Do I have to have my rec letters to conduct my committee interview: NO
- Should I obtain a rec letter from a dentist: YES, it is strongly advised
- Do I have to take the MCAT and have my score before submitting my primary application: NO
- Do I have to have my MCAT score before conducting my CMU committee interview: NO…but you will not be put into the CL queue until you provide the HPP office with your MCAT score
- When is the latest I can take the MCAT for the current cycle: technically, a Sept MCAT will be accepted by many med schools; however, the general recommendation is to take the MCAT no later than end of June. The reason being: a June MCAT score will arrive in July, around the time schools begin reviewing apps for interviews.
- How long do MCAT scores last: roughly 3-5 years depending on school
- Do I have to take the DAT and have my score before submitting my primary application: NO
- Do I have to have my DAT score before conducting my CMU committee interview: NO …but you will not be put into the CL queue until you provide the HPP office with your DAT score
- When is the latest I can take the DAT for the AY23 cycle: Recommend no later than end of August, ideally by the end of June if possible
- In general, is there a lower-end threshold for DAT scores: Dental schools have indicated that an overall or section score below 17 is likely not viable