Applying to a health professions program is an extensive process that requires 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, make an appointment with Dr. D'Antonio to develop a customized application plan.
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
Strong, positive letters of recommendation are critical! Health professions schools are interested in receiving letters of recommendation from a diverse group of people who know you well and are supportive of your application and career choice. For admissions committees, the most useful letters are those that reflect real knowledge of you and your performance, whether in the classroom, in the laboratory or in a clinical or volunteer setting. When deciding whom to ask to write letters on your behalf, you should consider a diverse set of people who know you well and who will be supportive of your application.
- Medical School: It is recommended you seek 3-5 letters of recommendation. Two science faculty are strongly encouraged as some med schools require 2 science rec letters.
- Dental School: It is recommended you obtain 3-4 letters of recommendation.
Below is a sample list of people from whom to request letters.
- Two science faculty members whose classes you have taken. (engineers often substitute a CIT faculty member for one of these)
- 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. whom you have shadowed
Letters should be requested at least 1 – 2 months prior to your committee interview. Applicants must complete and distribute an appropriate Letter of Recommendation Waiver Form for each letter writer. As specified on the waiver form, letters should arrive at the HPP office with a signed electronic or physical copy of the waiver form, ONE week prior to your scheduled committee meeting.
Applicants who complete a committee meeting need to indicate one letter in the AMCAS, AACOMAS, TMDSAS or AADSAS application:
- Letter Type = "committee letter"
- Author = "Dr. Jason D'Antonio" & contact information (firstname.lastname@example.org). The committee letter consists of the HPP committee letter plus the 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.
When applying to health professions programs, you are required to request copies of your official transcripts be sent to the centralized application service(s) through which you are applying. It is strongly recommended you obtain copies of your official transcript through SIO for entering your coursework into the online application.
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...)
- 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.
The health professions school interview is among the final steps toward acceptance at many types of programs. Applicants should be sure to review both the available information about the school they are visiting, as well as the information they have provided to the school in their applications. It is generally a good idea to practice descriptions of important experiences such as research, volunteering and medical shadowing.
- helps admissions members determine your fit for their program,
- helps you determine if a given program is a good fit for you,
- provides you a chance to meet the people at the school, experience the learning environment, and get a sense for the living environment,
- provides you the chance to sell your story in person.
Appropriate dress is formal business attire:
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.
Thinking about how you are going to pay for medical or dental or vet or pharmacy school? For most applicants, this is a significant factor in where one will attend 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. Here are a few resources where you can begin your research.
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