Student's Guide to Becoming a Competitive Applicant

Freshman Year

  • Talk with your advisor about tailoring your liberal arts education to select distribution courses that would build on your desire to enter a health profession.
  • Begin to include some of the basic pre-professional requirements from Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics.
  • Establish good study habits in order to achieve competitive grades. This is your first priority and then balance your academics with a social life that includes involvement in campus activities and community service.
  • Carefully select extracurricular activities on campus and in the community that are of interest to you! Do what you enjoy. If you are not interested in an organization, do not join it just because you think it will "look good". Ultimately you may want to run for an executive office of a club you really enjoy.
  • Start to obtain health care experience. Develop a realistic view of a particular health care career by shadowing or volunteering in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or private medical office. Summer time is a good time to begin this exploration since it can be done without the need to give up your 'paying' summer job.

Sophomore Year

  • Continue to take the coursework that is required for your professional program while maintaining competitive academic standing.
  • Make an appointment to see one of the members of the Health Professions Advisory Committee to review your career aspirations, your course selection, campus involvement, and community service activities. If your profession requires it, do you have the math prerequisites for physics?
  • Check the web sites for the profession to which you aspire in order to make sure that specific courses (i.e. speech for some Physical Therapy programs) have been planned into your course selection sequence. Do you have the health care experience, they are expecting of you?
  • If you wish to be considered for early admission for cooperative programs in Optometry, Pharmacy, Podiatry, see the Chair of HPAC by October.
  • Investigate the possibility of doing summer research either at Lycoming or at many of the universities throughout the United States. We have had a number of students accepted for summer research through a federal program called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). If you type this into Google, within milliseconds you will find the listing of participating universities.

Junior Year

  • Maintain competitive academic standing as you complete the upper level courses required for admission to your professional program. Most often you will be taking physics during this year.
  • Begin your preparation to take the particular exam required for entrance into your health care profession. MCAT (medicine), DAT (dentistry), OAT (optometry), VAT (veterinary medicine), GRE (used by several professions) are among the exams that must be taken to be considered for admission. YOU MUST PLAN A SERIOUS AND THOROUGH REVIEW FOR THESE EXAMS SINCE THIS HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST FACTOR THAT HAS BROUGHT STUDENTS' CAREER ASPIRATIONS TO A HALT! It is advisable to complete a formal review course to give you the best chance of scoring well the first time you take one of these entrance exams. {Yes, it is quite expensive, but it is your future!}
  • Consider sitting in Bio 110/111 to review the biology needed for your standardized exams.
  • If you haven't done research, you are encouraged to investigate the possible summer programs to which you can apply-either on or off campus. Although the REU program is one of the largest, many other universities and research institutes, and even some corporations do sponsor summer research for undergraduates.
  • The MCAT should be taken at the end of your junior year. Check the MCAT web site for locations and reserve your date and seat. Plan ahead since these exams are given at testing centers that have limited seating.
  • The web sites for your specific profession will provide suggested time lines for completion of entrance exams, applications, and submission of supporting materials. Do you have all the required coursework completed or scheduled?
  • If you are going to use a Composite Letter of Recommendation from HPAC, you must have these things in your file before the end of your spring semester!
  • Six letters of recommendation – at least two from the natural sciences with others from faculty who know you well. {recommendation forms are available from the Chair of HPAC}
  • Web Advisor transcript
  • A personal essay – that documents your reasons for choosing a particular health profession. (one to two pages – this will typically be reviewed so the revised copy can be included in your application for admission to professional school.
  • Your resume or a sheet that outlines the activities, volunteer work, campus involvement, community service, awards, and research you have completed.
  • During final exam week of the second semester, you will be invited to meet with the Chair of HPAC in order to review your file and to make sure you understand the application process for your specific professional program.

Summer Before Your Senior Year

  • As soon as they are open….begin completing your applications online at the centralized application center that service your profession. For allopathic medicine, you will using AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), osteopathic medicine uses AACOMAS, Podiatry applicants will use (AACPMAS), physician assistant, physical therapy, veterinary medicine, dentistry, and most professions have a centralized service that processes its applications.
  • In the electronic application, you will be asked for the e-mail address of the health professions chairperson from whom they will request your recommendation. If you are using three individual recommenders, then their individual e-mail addresses would be listed. Your recommendations will be electronically submitted to the service…
  • Your file at the professional school is complete when they have the (1) completed electronic application from the application service, (2) recommendations from HPAC or individual faculty, (3) all fees paid to the application service, (4) transcripts from Lycoming sent to the application service, and (5) your standardized test scores.
  • Once your electronic application is sent to the medical schools, you will receive secondary applications to be completed. Get these completed quickly and be careful to be thorough and careful with these responses since you want these to reflect your best effort.
  • Get everything done as early as possible…certainly before you come back to campus since you want to interview in the fall so you can know if you are accepted as early as possible!

Senior Year

  • Prepare for fall or winter interviews. Get an appointment with the Chair of HPAC or the Career Development Center to review suggestions about interviewing. You may also wish to do a mock interview to make sure you will do your best in the interview.
  • Expect to hear about being invited for an interview anytime from late fall right up to late spring. Patience and a tolerance for uncertainty helps at this stage.
  • If you don't receive an interview, it is important to talk with your advisor and the Chair of HPAC to explore all your options. There are many alternatives that would certainly include reapplication, but many decide to attend graduate school to strengthen their chances for acceptance after additional study.
  • Adopt the attitude that your senior year will be your best year both academically and socially as you complete your degree. Continued to be involved and be proud of your accomplishments!