Frequently Asked Questions
FAQs Including Information Regarding COVID-19
WCU Pre-Medical Program recognizes that the ever evolving and fluid nature of COVID-19 is creating many questions for pre-medical and pre-health students. These are new and constantly evolving times and health programs are also adapting to circumstances, just like we are. Together, we will figure out what all this looks like moving forward. We wanted to provide one central location for students, advisors and faculty to read up to the date information and guidance from our office that is applicable for pre-medical students. We have created a section here on our FAQ page that we will update as more information is gained from the healthcare graduate programs.
Below the COVID-19 questions are a series of commonly asked questions, segmented by key topic areas. Simply click on the section to expand to see questions and answers.
I am a new student to WCU. How can I get started with the Pre-Medical Program?
The Pre-Medical Program office will be providing personal Zoom sessions with the director.
How and where can I meet with my pre-medical advisor this fall?
Via Zoom. Schedule a meeting or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your availability and we will do our best to accommodate your request.
How do I continue to cultivate relationships with faculty this fall?
As each of you and your faculty members will be engaging through different modalities we understand this is a concern for your learning and for obtaining letters of recommendation for your future application. Keep engaging in ways we would traditionally suggest, such as utilizing office hours and engaging in class.
I don’t feel like I’m doing enough to prepare for medicine. What else can I do?
There are a lot of additional types of activities and newer opportunities that you can engage with that will make you a better future clinician. Spend time reflecting and journaling on this time. Consider topics such as what did you do during this time and why, how does racism and structural inequity impact healthcare, what have you learned about yourself and your continued interest in becoming a healthcare professional, and what core competencies you have been developing and how by adapting through this time of change. You can also seek out other resources such as free online learning opportunities, read relevant books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch documentaries. Developing as a whole person has always been important and you could consider using this time to cultivate areas of your life such as life & “adulting” skills, self-care, and hobbies. You can find some resources for all of these areas in Duke University's NAAHP document. Lastly, you can consider reaching out to conduct informational interviews with healthcare professionals. This allows you to have conversations with professionals in a focused manner and ask questions that are tailored to your interests. We suggest brainstorming questions prior to your virtual meeting.
I’m pursuing Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine, Physician Assistant, Nursing or another pre-health pathway. Does my information look different?
We have tried to be intentional in the COVID-19 FAQ section to highlight what is pre-medical specific and what is generalized for all pre-health students. If you have questions and you do not see a clear answer for your pathway please contact the pre-health advisor for your pathway to ensure you have the most up to date information.
Have the ways to fulfill the pre-med prerequisites changed at all?
For the majority of the students the answer to this is no. Please see advising handout for each discipline.
Can I take my pre-med or other health professions prerequisite labs online?
This continues to be a common question that will be personal and based on several factors including what career you are preparing for. Health professions programs may have different requirements or guidance. There does not seem to be a clear consensus at this time across all pre-health programs or schools. Please refer to the following sources for different health professions programs for their policies.
First, check with your state school(s) and schools of interest to see if they have published policies. Individual webpages are a good place to start. You can also supplement that with the following resources:
Princeton HPA has a compiled list of some popular medical school pages
MSAR (the COVID-19 sections are free and/or the MSAR data compiled)
Osteopathic School Policies from AACOM.
Secondly, consider where you are in your academic path and what course it is. For some students to stay in sequence it might make more sense to take the course. For others, who have more flexibility and it is just a choice to take it now or later, you may consider planning differently. Based on your timing you may also consider how you learn best. Now that you’ve experienced part of a semester remote, you may have different insight into your preferences and strengths as a learner.
Some schools have different policies or guidelines for Spring 2020, Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 so we would encourage you to continue to look at policies even if you had already done so previously.
There are a variety of options for the delivery of my courses this fall. Do health profession programs prefer in person, hybrid, or remote courses?
In reference to lab courses specifically please see the above. Traditionally, speaking medical schools accept in person courses. However, medical schools encourage you to enroll in the courses that make the most sense for you based on your needs and learning styles. We encourage you to reflect on and journal some of the reasons you are making these choices so when it comes time to apply to medical school you can share these as part of your narrative as appropriate.
In the Spring I was able to utilize S/E for my courses, will I still be able to consider that for Fall 2020 if I’m pre-med?
Starting with Summer 2020, WCU returned to normal grading policies. Traditionally, health professions programs do not accept S/E grades for prerequisites, but many amended that policy during the pandemic. First, please check with your school(s) to see if they have published policies. You can check their individual websites or use MSAR (the COVID-19) sections are free. If you are considering choosing a S/E grading policy for a prerequisite course, especially those pursuing health professions programs other than medical school, you are encouraged to talk with your pre-med advisor.
Some schools have different policies or guidelines for Spring 2020, Summer 2020 and Fall 2020 so we would encourage you to continue to look at policies even if you had already done so previously. And remember, health professions schools are figuring out all of these policies along with the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic—be patient!
Will my admissions test exam be impacted at all?
The MCAT is currently being administered as long as it is safe in person through the end of September 2020, using a shortened format. AAMC and Pearson VUE are closely monitoring the situation and up to date information can be found on AAMC’s MCAT Coronavirus webpage. The remainder of the 2020 MCAT calendar will have a shortened exam and will have multiple start times a day.
The GRE currently has a variety of options for completing the test. For the most up
to date information please see the Coronavirus GRE Testing Updates
The DAT is currently being administered. The most up to date information can be found at the ADA’s DAT webpage.
The PA-CAT is currently being administered. The most up to date information can be found at PA-CAT.com
The OAT is currently being administered. The most up to date information can be found at the OAT webpage.
The PCAT is currently being administered. The most up to date information can be found on the PCAT webpage.
When will I be able to shadow? Will health professions schools be open to less shadowing?
At this time shadowing is not available, for most professions. Some health profession programs may be open to accepting virtual shadowing. It is best to contact any place of interest and see their availability.
Will I be able to volunteer with patients this fall?
As of this summer, in person volunteering has been suspended at many places. However, there are still ways for you to engage with patients in a virtual setting. This could include things like volunteering with Crisis Text Line, and other emerging options. The professional organization of health professions advisors across the country, NAAHP, has compiled a document filled with a host of ideas for pre-health students to consider during the current time dominated and disrupted by the effects of COVID-19.
Will I still be able to volunteer in the community?
This could depend on the outside organization and it will likely look different than normal. Some organizations may suspend activities, while others may move to remote options. NAAHP, has compiled a document filled with a host of ideas for pre-health students to consider during the current time dominated and disrupted by the effects of COVID-19. Our communities will likely have new and emerging needs as well as we continue to navigate the pandemic. Wherever you are, look at what your communities’ needs are and what local organizations are doing to help meet that need. Needs may be met remotely or in person.
Will I be able to do research this semester?
This could be dependent on a few factors, such as what class year you are, the type of lab experience you are engaged with and your individual lab’s reopening plans. The pre-medical director will send out any research opportunities that are received via email.
My mother is a doctor and she says I have to be a Biology major. My roommate says medical schools prefer science majors. My brother says it’s better to do English or History. My academic advisor says I should choose what I am most passionate about. Who's right?
Medical schools in general expect you to major in what you are most interested in, regardless of the field. They state it clearly in the introductory chapters of the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR): “The medical profession needs individuals from diverse educational backgrounds who will bring to the profession a variety of talents and interests.” So you should develop your own unique skills and talents. If you look at the acceptance rates in previous years, you will find that choice of major had no effect. What is important is to engage rigorously in all that you do.
Surely medical schools will be impressed with me if I double-major? If I triple-major?
No. Double majoring often means that you need to enroll in courses you have little interest in, and you lose the opportunity to take other courses that would be more meaningful. Double majors may also require you to take courses in summer school, which limits your opportunities for jobs, research, clinical experience, service, and out-of-the-classroom experience. The important question to ask is, “Have I excelled in an academically rigorous program, including my science courses?”
Tell me what courses I need to take and what GPA I need to have to get in to medical school, and I’ll do it. Or, to put it another way, what do medical schools really look for?
Health professions schools look at AND beyond coursework. There is no guaranteed path. They will look at your overall application in various ways: demonstrated skills in the sciences (GPA, MCAT scores), intellectual curiosity and ability to focus, evidence of altruism and demonstrated service, awareness of the medical profession as it is today, and confidence that you can deal with the changes as they come, motivation, integrity, flexibility, and responsibility. Students will demonstrate these traits in different ways. You should do whatever is best for you.
What if I do all these things and don’t get into medical school?
Talk with a pre-health advisor and the deans/directors of admissions at the schools where you were interviewed or perhaps wait-listed to see if there was something that was viewed as a weakness. If so, correct it. If you’re serious about medicine, reapply. But be sure that your reapplication is different from your original application, i.e., make sure that you have addressed whatever might have been perceived as a weakness in your first application. This might require that you wait a year before reapplying.
How do I find out what changes have occurred in the health professions and what it might mean for my career goals?
Watch for seminars and discussions throughout the year. Read healthcare blogs on the internet and journals like the New England Journal of Medicine. Talk to MDs, nurses, hospital staff, relatives, anyone working in or with contact in the health professions -- the more views the better.
How do I find out what medical schools are in my state?
Refer to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) available here. Or do an internet search.
I think I might be interested in a health professions career, but not as a doctor. How do I find out?
Talk to a pre-medical advisor. Get information on volunteer opportunities during the semester or summer so you can try out a few activities.
I am interested in Penn/Johns Hopkins/Duke/Stanford, etc. Are there special qualifications?
There are many published rankings of medical schools, based on a variety of criteria -- sometimes very superficial ones. You should avoid choosing a medical school based solely on where that medical school ranks in one (or more) lists of medical schools. Medical schools can be quite different and each applicant should try to determine where s/he will be most comfortable during a very stressful time of his/her life. You should also avoid having your heart set on a particular school. It just might not work out. If you are interested in admission to one of the more competitive schools, your credentials will have to be exceedingly strong. Not only will you have to have a very strong GPA and MCAT scores, but you will be expected to have challenged yourself in your course selection (e.g., course overloads, graduate level courses, research) and your choice of extracurricular activities.
I can graduate in three years. Won’t medical schools be impressed and be more likely to accept me?
No. They usually feel that these are your four years to explore, learn, grow and mature. Squeezing in the basic courses in three years is not advisable, and you’re not taking advantage of the opportunities that are here for you. Moreover, if you apply after two years of classes, your application will simply not be as rich as a student who has had 3 or more years. Health profession schools are looking for older, more mature, more experienced applicants. If you are that far ahead because of AP credits, you might take advantage of research opportunities, take advanced level course work, spend time abroad, get involved in activities. You might decide to graduate in three years if finances are a concern, but plan to take some time off before applying. Talk with your pre-medical advisor about options.
I am a biology/chemistry student and I love science. Do I have to take humanities courses, and where would I fit them in?
Engineers should realize that currently many medical schools place a great deal of emphasis on the breadth of education that a future health care professional has. This may be particularly challenging to students studying more technical fields such as engineering. You will need to find some time in the summer or during the academic year to fit in some humanities and social science courses. Don’t use the few electives you have to take more science courses and leave yourself without humanities and social science courses.
I don’t know what to do with my life. What if I graduate and work two years and then decide to go to medical school?
That would be just fine. If you are fairly convinced that you will eventually (within 3 or so years) apply to medical school and you want to go ahead and complete your science courses and take the MCAT, that may be a good plan for you. If, however, you are still thinking of medical school as only a possibility you might want to use your course work at WCU to take courses outside of the sciences that you have an interest in or courses that might help you to decide what other career path you might follow. Should you decide at a later date that you would like to become a physician, you can always take the core required courses for medical school as a non-degree student at WCU or at another college or university or in a special structured post-baccalaureate program and then prepare for and take the MCAT. Students who graduate and work for a time before applying often demonstrate desired skills in terms of maturity, achievement, capability, far better than an undergraduate.
What kind of grades will I need to be accepted to medical school?
Currently, applicants with a strong B+/A- (3.5 GPA) average and an MCAT score in the 75 percentile (509-511), with at least 126 on each section, can be reasonably confident that they will get an interview and get an acceptance into medical school. The top schools typically look for students with A- averages or higher. You can get an excellent medical education at any U.S. medical school.
How do medical schools calculate my GPA?
AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) takes all the grades that you've earned from any U.S. or Canadian college or university, and calculates one GPA for all courses taken, and another for all biology, chemistry, physics and math courses taken. The West Chester University (WCU) pre-medical committee will also look at the grades you've earned at WCU, to see how you've performed in relation to other students in your class.
Will health professions schools think poorly of me if I have a C in a course like General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Math, Physics, etc.?
A solitary C isn’t the end of the world and if all your other science grades are A’s and B’s, you may be fine. However, consistent C grades in the sciences will result in a GPA of 2.0, which is not competitive for medical schools. If the C grade occurs earlier in your program but later science courses show improvement, this upward trend will be helpful.
I really want to be a doctor, but I’ve gotten C’s in General Chemistry and now Biology 110. I study in the library for hours at a time. What am I doing wrong?
Talk with your professors and try to identify where the problem is. Get a tutor, and/or join a study group. It is possible that the study skills that served you well in high school are outdated and inappropriate and not sufficiently rigorous for WCU classes. If you are very serious about a health professions career and feel that you are going to have to really work on improving your study skills, then you might take only a single science course for the next semester or two and concentrate on that one course and your study skills, and then add additional courses as you become more capable and confident. You should also consider the amount of time you are spending on extracurricular activities, as you may be over-committed.
If you become discouraged with your performance in science courses and/or lose your self confidence due to several poor grades in the sciences, a good idea might be to take a semester with no science courses at all. If you find yourself enjoying your other courses and not missing the science, you might want to reevaluate your choices. If you find that you miss the sciences and want to take more, then add them back slowly.
You should realize that if you have a long history of C’s in the sciences at WCU, then you will appear to medical school admissions committees to be someone who doesn’t know how to study well, someone who doesn’t choose to study well, or someone with insufficient skills in the sciences. Be honest with yourself. It may be an indication that you are better suited for another career. Talk with a pre-medical advisor about this.
I’m getting B’s and C’s in the sciences. Medical school is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do but I just don’t like the science classes here. Can’t I tell medical schools that I’ll do better in medical school? If I do lots of extracurricular volunteering, will that help?
Medical school courses are primarily science courses. If science classes and labs are not appealing, you might consider this is a sign that you should consider other careers. You may be attracted to medicine because of the challenges, lifestyle, prestige, power, etc. but these are found in other careers as well. Work/volunteer in the medical center where you can see what a doctor’s life really is these days, and whether you enjoy working with sick people. Sometimes experience will help you appreciate the classes. Also, look at your overall grades. If you’re getting C’s in the sciences and A’s in History or English or some non-science area, it may be that your real interests and talents lie elsewhere.
I got a D in Chem 231. Should I retake it or go on to Chem 232?
You will have to repeat the course. Most medical schools require grades of C or better in all prerequisite courses. In addition, experience shows that most students who make a D in the first semester of Organic Chemistry are not prepared for the second semester.
I spent my freshman year having fun, only now I realize I really want to go to medical school. What can I do about those C’s and D’s?
You need to show proficiency and skills in the sciences. Continue on in your science courses. Repeat any with D grades. Put in the effort to get your grades up, and wait to apply until you can show competency and achievement. Usually this means at least 4 semesters of A and B grades before you can apply. You will need to continue taking upper level science courses because you can’t stop until you demonstrate proficiency.
Remember, all medical schools stress that applicants should submit the strongest application they can the first time they apply. It is a sign of poor judgment to submit a seriously weak application with the intent of submitting an improved application in the event the first is not successful.
I got A’s in General Chemistry, but C’s in Organic Chemistry. Should I retake these at another institution during the summer?
If your overall knowledge of organic chemistry is satisfactory, a better idea would be to go on and take Biochemistry and work at it, earning a grade of A or B. That will show that you are capable of doing upper level Chemistry. Your MCAT scores will also be important. If you had a really terrible time in Organic Chemistry and don’t feel that you understand the subject, then that is a problem. Talk with your pre-medical advisor.
What if I'm determined to be a doctor, but my grades aren't good enough?
Many applicants take a few years after graduation to strengthen their academic records. They sometimes choose to take additional science courses at a local university or enroll in a formal postbaccalaureate program that is designed for students that are interested in medical school and want to improve their credentials. If you feel that your credentials may not be strong enough, be sure to consult with the pre-medical director about your situation.
I want to spend my entire junior year abroad, but then I won’t be able to fit in the required courses before the end of my junior year.
That's OK. Some WCU students complete the required courses over four years. Go abroad, finish your courses in your senior year, and then apply.
Will medical schools think badly of me if I study abroad in Spain and take literature and history courses there? (This question goes along with: my roommate told me I can’t be premed and spend a semester abroad; or, my father told me spending a semester abroad is a waste of time if I want to go to medical school.)
Medical schools consider these four years to be YOUR four years, time to read and study and explore whatever you find fascinating. It is most likely the last time you will have to explore non-science areas. It is also a time to develop confidence, maturity, an ability to relate to people of different cultures, and a knowledge of the world we live in. These will help you succeed as a physician. Sometimes your outside interests will be of use in your career later (like speaking a foreign language or being computer-proficient or using good writing skills). Study abroad fits in well with these skills and it is encouraged if you want to do it.
I plan to travel or live abroad after college. Can I apply from overseas?
Yes, you can apply from overseas because the applications are web-based and most secondary applications are also online. However, it will be more complicated, and will require very careful planning and attention to detail. It will be easier if you choose to travel or live in a place with a reasonably good computer (check the AMCAS website for browser requirements), phone, mail, and travel access. You will also need to designate a responsible person (usually a parent) who will serve as a U.S. contact point between you and the medical schools.
You will have to figure out a way to handle interviews, perhaps by planning to be in the U.S. for several weeks in December to travel to a number of schools.
I took physics at another institution during the summer and got two C’s. Do I have to submit a transcript and report the grades when I apply to medical schools?
Yes. You have to submit transcripts of all college work you have attempted or completed, even if it was at multiple colleges.
Can I take Physics at a different school this summer instead of taking it here at WCU?
Probably. Compare it with WCU’s physics courses. If you have questions, check with the department chair in Physics. Remember that you will be tested on Physics for the MCAT. Therefore, you should make sure the course is a rigorous one.
Will medical schools think poorly of me if I take a required class at another institution?
The answer to this will depend to some extent upon your record at WCU and your reasons for doing so. If you have chosen to take the bare minimum of science courses required to make application to medical school and then have taken some of those at a less demanding institution, the medical schools might question either your self-confidence, your abilities, or both. However, if you take most of your required courses as part of a challenging curriculum at WCU, but choose to take a required course at another solid institution for financial or scheduling reasons, they are not likely to be too concerned. If the course is one that is tested on the MCAT, they may look to your MCAT score to be sure you were well prepared.
Find out information on where and when the MCAT is given
When should I take the MCAT?
The MCATs are computerized and are offered on 30 dates per year at testing centers around the U.S. and in select sites internationally. Because it is important to have a complete application as soon as possible, you should aim to take the test before the end of July (at the latest). Taking an earlier test may give you the opportunity to re-take it, if necessary. As there are limited seats at each test site, you should register for your preferred date as soon as registration becomes available.
Should I take an MCAT prep course?
Some students find the structure of a prep course and the frequent practice tests very useful. Others have the discipline to study on their own and do well without it. The AAMC offers free resources, such as 1,100 videos and 3,000 review questions, on Khan Academy and through an online tool: "What's on the MCAT Exam."
Do I have to have completed the second semester of physics before taking the MCAT? (A similar question is whether one needs to complete a course in physiology, or Chem 476 before the MCAT.)
We recommend that all pre-medical students complete the required science courses before taking a standardized exam. There is no reason to rush. Should you take the MCAT not well prepared and score low, health professions schools will see it as an error of judgment and will wonder why you didn't consider the exam seriously enough to prepare for it.
Having said that, there are occasionally students who have strong backgrounds and who will self-study or have experience and will take take the MCAT without having had a physiology or other course. But it is a risk.
I have a low score on a section of the MCAT? Do I need to retake the MCAT?
The question of retaking the MCAT should always be discussed with the pre-medical director. It may depend on what your score was, your academic record at WCU (the types of courses you've taken and grades), and if you can identify the reason for the low score.
I’m sure I want to be a doctor, but I won’t have time to volunteer with patients or shadow until after I apply to med schools. Is that OK?
No. In our experience, this will not make you competitive for medical school admissions. Medical schools want to be assured that you know what is involved in the practice of medicine and this knowledge comes from experience watching physicians and interacting with patients. If you cannot fit in these experiences while you're at WCU, you should plan to delay your application until you can.
I don’t have time for clinical volunteering while I’m here at WCU, but I did a lot in high school. My experiences were moving and profound and left me totally committed to medicine. Is this OK?
Everyone matures a great deal between the ages of 14 and 20. Your response to an experience at age 20 might be completely different from that which you had at 14. And your appreciation of and reflections on your experiences will change as a result of the coursework you do at WCU. Your recent experiences may also contribute significantly to how you write your personal statement, and answer questions during interviews. Thus, while you might have had good experiences at an earlier age, you should continue and expand them during college. Use your summers if you need to.
I don’t have time to volunteer in the medical center, but my sister has been chronically ill for years and I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals with her, enough so that I know what goes on and what it will take to be a good physician. I’m sure of myself. Is that OK?
No. This will not help you be competitive. Caring for those we love can be an excellent learning experience, but you should extend your work to other individuals who are ill. This gives you more breadth in understanding the variety and challenges of health care, and will demonstrate to admissions committees that you are knowledgeable and experienced. If you only have one health care experience, admissions committees may be unsure if you know what it means to be a physician from the professional perspective.
I am very grateful to the orthopedic surgeon who set my leg when I broke it playing soccer. I want to be like him/her and do the same for other athletes. Is this enough to tell medical schools why I want to be a physician?
No. An emotional response is not sufficient. You must go beyond that to actually experience health care in different settings. Only after multiple exposures and experiences will you be confident enough to determine if medicine is for you.
I’ve worked in a pediatric research lab for three years and volunteer in the summers in a camp for seriously ill children, but I’ve never worked in a hospital. Is this OK?
Possibly. The work in the lab can show you one side of medicine and the camp may demonstrate your commitment to working with sick children and your understanding of health care issues. If either experience provides exposure to clinical care in a healthcare setting than they provide a good foundation. If they don't, you will want to add more experiences.
Do I have to do research at WCU? I don’t think I will like it.
Research is viewed as a sign of intellectual curiosity, an ability to solve problems, and to assess and evaluate results competently. Research activities can help you demonstrate many of the core competencies that admissions committees look for. If you are interested in M.D./Ph.D. programs or in a medical school that stresses research, or if you are interested in going into academic medicine (being on the faculty of a medical school), then research experience at WCU (or at other schools in the summers) will be very important.
I love research. Will that look good on my application?
Research can demonstrate independence, motivation, stamina and skills in the lab, as well as clear and logical thought and deductive reasoning. It is an excellent way to find out how research discoveries make their way from the bench to the bedside. But you should engage in research only if you find it appealing. Doing things that “look good” may backfire. If you’re not really interested in research, you may not be very engaged in your lab, and it will take time away from things that you really enjoy doing. And if you are asked about your research during a medical school interview and you are only able to give a half-hearted, blah response (because you were only doing it to be able to list "research" on your application), then it will be to your disadvantage.
What transcripts are required? Where/when should they be sent?
You must request transcripts from ALL U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities
you've attended, including those you may have attended in high school, even if those
courses are on your WCU transcript. If you have studied abroad, you must request a
transcript from the American college that sponsored your program. AMCAS and AACOMAS
will not begin to process your application until they have all of your transcripts.
It makes sense to request transcripts in May from schools where your work is complete, as there may be some bureaucratic delay. If you are a current student, you should wait for your spring semester grades to be on your transcript before having it sent.
How much does it cost to apply to health professional schools?
Applying to health professional schools can be costly. For example, AMCAS charges are approximately $170 for the first school and $40 for each additional school that you apply to, and most schools then have additional fees as part of their secondary applications. You should plan on spending about $2,800 on application fees alone. If you have extreme financial limitations, you can apply for a waiver of those fees, but waivers are granted on a financial need basis only. You must also consider the cost of traveling to interviews.
When should I apply to medical school?
APPLY EARLY! You can submit your AMCAS application, for example, in early June; that
is what you should aim for, no matter when the actual medical school deadlines are.
Most schools evaluate applicants on a rolling basis, so naturally, it is best to have
your application complete when there are still seats available. Also, you will find
it easier, emotionally, to be one of the first to have interviews and acceptances,
rather than one of the last.
You should apply to medical school when your candidacy is at its strongest. That means good grades, good scores, and good non-academic experiences. Most WCU students are choosing to take time in-between graduation and medical school, to either strengthen their candidacies or to spend time doing other interesting things. If there is a weakness in your application, it is a wise strategy to take some time to correct it, rather than to go ahead and waste your time and money applying.
If you plan to attend medical school immediately after graduation, you need to apply in June, after your junior year (3rd year).
What are AMCAS and AACOMAS?
AMCAS is a centralized application service that you must use to apply to nearly all U.S. allopathic (M.D.) medical schools. AACOMAS is a similar centralized service that is used for all but one of the osteopathic (D.O.) medical schools.
Should I apply early decision?
Probably not. Unlike undergraduate school, there is no advantage to applying to medical school early decision (ED). In fact, it puts you at a disadvantage, because you can only apply ED to one school and if you are rejected, it is then very late to apply to a broader list of schools. The only people who should contemplate ED are those with a very concrete and compelling reason why they could only attend one particular school.
When will I find out whether I got in?
The earliest that medical schools can accept you is October 15th. The latest is the first day of classes.
Are medical schools less likely to consider my application if I don't attend immediately following college?
No. The average age of people starting medical school is 24, and you may choose to take some time off. This allows you the chance to do interesting things, like research, teaching, travel, or community service. These extra experiences can make your application even more impressive to the medical school admissions committees. It also allows for your senior year grades to be included in the application/final GPA.
Should I apply to osteopathic schools?
Osteopathy is a branch of medicine that focuses on healing the whole person and uses physical manipulation as one form of diagnosis and treatment. While osteopathic physicians are in every medical specialty, most are oriented towards primary care. Osteopathic training is similar to allopathic training, with four years of medical school leading to a D.O. degree, with residency following. If you think you may be interested in this approach, you should investigate osteopathy further by shadowing or volunteering with a D.O. A recommendation for a D.O. is often recommended or required when applying to D.O. programs.
What is the committee letter?
As a WCU recommended student or alumnus applying to medical school or other health
professional program supported through our office, the West Chester University pre-medical
committee produces a letter of recommendation for you. The actual letter is written
by the director of the pre-medical program.
The committee letter is a composite letter which consists of five to ten individual letters of recommendation that the you solicit from professors, advisors, coaches, supervisors, and/or medical professionals. In the committee letter, there is also an overview of your academic performance, extra-curricular activities, medical experience, and the pre-medical committee interview evaluation. All individual letters of recommendation are attached as an appendix to the composite letter to provide context if necessary.
The pre-medical program office provides the committee letter directly to the centralized application service that you have selected. The schools that you have applied to will download the packet when they are ready to evaluate the file.
Whom should I ask for letters of recommendation?
You will need a minimum of five letters of recommendation for the committee letter. You should ask professors in whose courses you've done very well (B+ or higher). You should get at least two letters from science professors in different disciplines, a non-science letter, and if possible, a letter from a coach or a supervisor in a job or a volunteer experience, and one medical professional in your chosen discipline. Do not get letters from family friends, "important" physicians, congressmen, or others who you may think would be impressive. If you have any sense that a faculty member has any dissatisfaction with your work or your behavior, it is wise not to ask them for a letter. The individual letters are photocopied and attached to your committee letter; the whole packet is then scanned and transmitted to the medical schools via a secure web-based service.
Can I see the letters?
It is advisable for you to sign the recommendation waiver, giving up your right to see the letters of recommendation, so that they will have more credibility with the medical schools. Once you've done that, the pre-medical director cannot give you any hint of the contents of the letter.
What is the pre-medical committee interview?
The pre-medical committee interview is offered to all students in the pre-medical program that are in good academic standing (3.2 GPA or higher), have accumulated five letters of recommendation, and have submitted both a personal statement and a resume to the pre-medical program.
During the interview, the members of the pre-medical program committee will ask you questions regarding your career goals, academic experience, medical experience, and other relevant topics.
How does the application process to health professional schools work?
To apply to professional school, you must submit your centralized application and have all your transcripts sent to the centralized application service (e.g., AMCAS, ACCOMAS, CASPA). They process your application and then send it on to the schools that you indicate. When the designated schools receive your application, most schools will automatically send you a secondary application, which should be completed and sent back within two weeks. (Some schools only send secondary applications to students who make it through an initial cut.) Once schools have received your completed secondary application and your committee letter, they will evaluate your application and decide whether to invite you in for an interview. After the interview, they will accept you, reject you, or put you on "hold" or on a wait list. This may happen within a few weeks or you may not receive any notification for months.
How should I choose what schools to apply to?
Most students apply to about 15-20 schools. You may know that you would prefer a case
study approach to learning, or a focus on research, or an urban setting, and these
considerations should enter into your decision-making. You should plan on a mix of
schools where you are likely to be a very strong candidate, schools where it is a
bit of a reach, and only a few "dream" schools.
You may want to purchase the online Medical School Admission Requirements publication ($28) from the AAMC, which has the most accurate and authoritative information on individual medical schools. There is a description of each medical school, which includes the median overall and science GPAs and MCATs of the first year class. You should apply to most, if not all, the schools in your home state, and be very selective when applying to schools in other states that only accept a few out-of-state students. You can get an excellent education at any accredited U.S. medical school.
Where can I find the applications for medical school or other health profession?