Carnegie Mellon University
  1. What is the CMU HPP?
    • The CMU HPP is an advising resource center that assists CMU students and alumni with nearly every aspect of pursuing a career in health care, as well as biomedical research.
  2. How does the CMU HPP assist with applying to health professions schools?
    • The HPP advises students from the moment they arrive.
    • Assistance is provided with four-year planning, course selection, as well as obtaining clinical, research, and volunteering experiences.
    • The HPP provides information sessions to assist with the application process.
    • The HPP provides a committee interview and committee letter writing.
  3. Am I eligible for HPP advising and other resources?
  4. What major should I pursue to be competitive for medical / dental school?
    • Schools today are looking for competitive GPAs as well as entrance exam scores that convey competency. However, they also place large emphasis on life experience that tells a story about your commitment to service to others. Leadership, teamwork, athletics, research, volunteerism, employment…are all experiences that are considered when reviewing an application. These types of experiences enhance applicants’ intra- and interpersonal skills, communications kills, analytical and critical thinking skills, competence in the scientific method, and cultural awareness, as well as personal traits such as maturity, reliability, resilience, dependability, commitment, and integrity.
  5. Do I need a minor or additional major to be competitive for medical / dental school?
    • No. The goal is to study what you are intellectually curious or interested in; however, pursuing an additional major or minor can enhance one’s preparation for post-graduate training in health care.
  6. Do I need to take additional courses outside the natural sciences?
    • No; however, it is strongly recommended that you do.
    • Courses in philosophy, ethics, history, economics, psychology, social decision sciences, foreign languages, statistics, anthropology, public health…are ideal options for future health care providers.
    • Additional coursework in the Biological Sciences, such as Cell Biology, Genetics and Immunology will only enhance your preparation for medical, dental and Vet schools.
  7. What is the difference between osteopathic and allopathic medical school?
    • Allopathic medical school trains medical students to diagnosed and treat patients based on the cellular and molecular aspects of biology, chemistry, pharmacology and biochemistry.  Please see AAMC.
    • Osteopathic medical schools (AACOM) provide the same curricular experience as allopathic medical schools with the addition of OMM (osteopathic manipulative medicine). OMM consists of hands-on training in order to enhance medical student understanding of human anatomy and how the neuroskeletalmuscular systems coordinate with one another. This additional training speaks to the fundamental philosophical difference between DO and MD programs, such that DO programs have traditionally emphasized holistic approaches to patient interaction, diagnosis and treatment. DO programs often emphasize service to underserved or more rural areas; however, the lines between DO and MD continue to blur as the state of health care evolves and the demand for holistic care increases.
  8. What is the difference between a DMD and a DDS degree in dentistry?
    • In practice, they are the same. There are more DDS awarding schools than DMD.
    • Historically, dental practitioners earned a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery degree); however, Harvard University created the DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree due to issues translating DDS into Latin.
What courses are required for:
  1. Medical school (MD & DO)?
  2. Dental school?
  3. Veterinary school?
  4. PA school?
  5. Pharmacy school?
  6. Physical therapy school
  7. For programs not listed, please contact the HPP office.
  1. What types of extracurricular activities should I pursue while in college?
    • Most anything and everything in which you are passionate, curious, interested.
    • Athletics, student organizations, teaching, Resident Assistant, Community Advisor, Orientation Counselor, Camp Counselor, EXCEL /SI Leader, school newspaper, abroad service experiences, emergency medical services, student government…
  2. Do schools factor in /evaluate artistic endeavors?
    • YES. Art, music, writing, singing…any creative outlet or passion you engage is something that tells about your life story.
    • These endeavors speak to your personality and your intellectual diversity, as well as your sense of cerativity and your ability to find balance in life.
  3. Why is life/work balance and health important in college?
    • College can be very stressful, and graduate school will be also.
    • Being able to find balance and maintain your health in college establishes healthy habits for adapting to the new stresses of medical and dental school, and helps prevent fatigue and burnout.
  1. How much clinical experience should I get while in college?
    • While there is no set minimum, students are strongly encouraged to obtain at least 200 hours for medical and dental school. These hours can consist of shadowing as well as volunteering.
    • For PA school, plan to acquire at least 1000 hours of experience before applying. While shadowing is acceptable, experiences should focus on patient contact.
    • Quality is more important than quantity so focus on a diverse set of experiences that broadly educate you about a career in health care.
  2. What type(s) of clinical experiences should I pursue?
    • Shadowing physicians, nurses, PAs, pharmacists, dentists, Veterinarians, clinical psychologists, PTs, OTs, speach therapists, clinical social workers...
    • Volunteering at a hospital, cancer center, hospice center, children’s center, out-patient center, urgent care center, free health care clinics.
    • Employment such as EMT, phlebotomist, nurses aid, clinical researcher.
    • Medical Scribe
    • Experiences that involve patient contact are ideal.
  3. When should I start getting experience in the clinical setting?
    • As early as the freshman year, perhaps over winter break is an ideal time to start shadowing.
    • The key is to pursue exposures consistently over your time in college.
  4. What other types of service experiences should/can I pursue?
    • Teaching assistant, EXCEL / SI Leader
    • Volunteering: Outreach, Donut Dash, Greek life, fund raising, 1000Plus…
    • Leadership in student organizations
    • Mentoring on campus or in the community
    • Volunteering at your local church, food bank, community center, charity.
  5. What is the difference between shadowing and volunteering in a clinical setting?
    • Shadowing is when a student follows a clinician to observe the daily interactions between patient and clinician. These can be in primary care, internal medicine, surgery, or any sub-specialty.
    • Volunteering places one in an active role, providing a service that contributes the mission of that organization. Volunteerism can consist of clinical and non-clinical experiences.
  1. Why should I pursue research in college?
    • Engaging in a research project under the mentorship of a faculty member offers you a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience performing experiments, the chance to apply your classroom knowledge in a real research setting, and the opportunity to network with scientists and graduate students.
    • Engaging in research will enhance your understanding of the scientific method, your problem-solving skills, as well as your communication skills. It will make you a better student of the sciences, more capable of engaging the research element of modern medical training and practice.
  2. If I want to pursue research, what type?
    • Research of all types is/can be valuable.
    • The type will/should depend on your interests – if you are not interested in the research of a particular lab, look elsewhere. Consider your academic interests as a starting point.
    • Wet lab, behavioral, engineering, public health…most any area is worth considering because the experience of doing research is often more important than the research itself.
  3. In what areas have students from CMU pursued research?
    • Biology
    • Biomedical Science
    • Biochemistry
    • Bioinformatics (CS)
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology & Behavioral Science
    • Social and Decision Science
    • Public Health
    • Biomedical Engineering
    • Chemical Engineering
    • Mechanical Engineering
    • Material Science Engineering
    • Physics / Biophysics
    • Clinical data analysis
  4. Where should I look for research opportunities?
    • CMU
    • Pitt
    • UPMC
    • National Institutes of Health
    • Major research centers across the US
    • Biotech and Pharma
    • The CDC
    • Research centers abroad
  1. When do CMU students typically apply to medical / dental school?
    • Medical: Traditionally, students apply in June at the end of the junior year; however, there has been a noticeable shift in students delaying their application until June at the end of their senior year. This results in a gap (bridge) year between undergrad and medical school. Some have opted for more than one gap year.
    • Dental:  Students most often apply in June/July at the end of their junior year. Some have decided to apply at the end of the senior year, resulting in a gap year.
    • Veterinary: Students most often apply in June/July at the end of their junior year. Some have decided to apply at the end of the senior year, resulting in a gap year.
  2. To how many schools do students typically apply?
    • National average (medical) = 15 schools
    • CMU (medical) = about 20
    • CMU (dental) = about 10
    • CMU (Vet) = about 5-10
  3. When do CMU students start preparing for the application?
    • By the February before the upcoming application cycle, students start preparing their personal statements, meeting with professors/mentors/employers for letter of recommendation, and researching schools.
    • The CMU HPP holds an application seminar in early February that reviews the entire process.
    • The CMU HPP coordinates a panel discussion in April that engages future applicants with applicants who have been successful in the current cycle.
    • HPP Committee Interviews start in April and end in June (medical) or July (dental).
  4. Does the CMU HPP offer assistance with personal statements?
    • Yes, the HPP Director meets with each applicant to discuss content and design of the personal statement. Applicants are strongly encouraged to meet with a writing tutor at the Global Communications Center (GCC) if you need assistance with writing.
    • Once the personal statement is written, applicants can seek assistance from the HPP office as well the GCC for feedback and critique.
  5. Where can I find info about the various application services? 
    • Allopathic medical schools - AAMCAS
    • Osteopathic medical schools - AACOMAS
    • Texas medical & dental schools - TMDSAS
    • Dental schools - AADSAS
    • Veterinary medical schools - VMCAS
  6. Do medical, dental and vet schools require a committee letter?
    • Medical: No, but most strongly prefer it over individual letters. Nearly 100% of CMU pre-med applicants obtain a CMU committee letter.
    • Dental: No, but many prefer it over individual letters. Nearly all CMU pre-dental applicants obtain a CMU committee letter.
    • Veterinary: No. Vet schools prefer individual letters over committee letters.
  7. Does my committee letter need to be submitted in order to submit my primary application to AMCAS, AACOMAS, or AADSAS?
    • NO. Primary applications can be submitted without the rec letters and committee letters.
  8. When will the CMU HPP submit my committee letter?
    • The goal is to submit committee letters starting in late June / early July because transmission of verified applications begins in late June. Then secondary applications are sent to applicants, whisch should be completed and sent back within 1-3 weeks. Only after receipt of secondaries will schools look to receive rec letters/committee letters.
  9. Do medical schools consider experiences in high school?
    • In general, No. Admissions committees tend to focus on experiences during college (and post-graduate if applicable) years. However, if the experience was substantial in nature or duration, or perhaps you continued with it into college, then it might be considered.