According to the AAMC: Physicians/medical doctors support and manage the health care of people of all ages. They take medical histories, perform physical examinations, conduct diagnostic tests, recommend, and provide treatment, conduct research, and advise patients on their overall health and well-being. While there are many different types of physicians, they can usually be divided into three broad categories:
- Primary care physicians are the doctors patients usually visit most frequently. They treat a wide range of illnesses and regularly provide preventive care, and they also enjoy long-term relationships with their patients. Pediatricians, family practitioners and general internists are primary care physicians.
- Surgeons perform operations to treat diseases and repair injuries.
- Specialists have expertise related to specific diseases as well as body parts, organs, and systems. Cardiologists, oncologists, neurologists, and ophthalmologists are examples of specialists.
There are two types of practicing physicians in the U.S.:
- The M.D. degree refers to allopathic physicians.
- The D.O. degree refers to osteopathic physicians.
- Allopathic Medicine
- Osteopathic Medicine
- Additional Resources
- Follow the careers of seven physicians in the documentary, Doctors’ Diaries.
- Getting into Medical School
- Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students
- Preparing for Medical School
- Med School Headquarters
- How Becoming a Doctor Works
To be eligible for a medical school program you must earn a bachelors degree in any major from an accredited university/college. Even though you can major in anything you want, students must still successfully take specific prerequisites before medical school.
Major: You can major in ANYTHING as long as you incorporate the required pre-requisite classes for your intended professional school. Choose a major you will enjoy, love and be successful at. Students also consider majors that would prepare them for a satisfying career if they should change their mind about their intended profession, or need an alternate.
Pre-Reqs: Each medical school may require different pre-requisites that must be taken before application. Check out the MSAR to review all requirements. At the PPAC we recommend researching each school you are interested in to ensure you are meeting all required courses for that medical school.
The most commonly required courses for medical school:
- 1 year of General Biology w/lab
- 1 year of General Chemistry w/lab
- 1 year of Organic Chemistry w/lab
- 1 semester of Biochemistry
- 1 year of General Physics w/lab
Additional common pre-reqs:
- 1 year of General English
- 1 semester of Social Science
- 1 year of English
Recommended but not required for most schools:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Molecular Biology
Grading Policies for Pre-Requisites:
- AP and IB Credit are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs
- Transfer Students: Community college credits can be viewed differently by each medical school; do your research on if they are accepted!
- All courses, including repeated courses will count towards your GPA, regardless of how old they are.
- Be careful with withdrawals or "w" s on your transcripts; they are not counted toward GPA but you should not be withdrawing from courses as a trend. A trend will raise a red flag for medical schools.
- Some programs have expiration dates on their pre-reqs, meaning you need to take the course within a specific time frame of applying. Since every medical school is different – we highly encourage you to do your research.
Professional school programs have adopted a "holistic" admissions process, meaning you are more than just your metrics. How you demonstrate your passions, hobbies, motivation for your future profession, your personal characteristics, and the ways in which you give back to your community can make or break your application.
For more information on holistic review through the lens of the AAMC, please visit here.
It is your responsibility as a pre-med student to understand the different types of experiences that will make you a competitive applicant to medical school. The most common experiences necessary include:
- Demonstrates a passion for serving others and helping your community
- Medical schools look for candidates who have a desire to help others and can make an impact
- Should try to show involvement over a significant amount of time as compared to short periods to show commitment
Clinical experiences are experiences in which you interact with patients in a clinical environment. Professional schools like to see that you have been exposed to patient care and the clinical setting to ensure you are interested in this field. There isn’t a specific number of hours for this. Think quality of the experiences versus quantity! Medical schools look for students who can convey how their experiences have contributed to their motivation for a career in medicine.
- Medical Scribe: Scribing is a great way to immerse oneself in the medical field and see what it is like to be a physician
- Hospice Volunteering: Helps students understand how to care for a dying patient and see how providers interact with different patients and families
- Certified Nursing Assistant: A great way to become involved with patients in a hands-on manner in the clinical environment
- Volunteer EMT: Students can gain hands-on experience as an entry-level health care provider in their communities
- Caretaker: Not necessarily a traditional experience, but many students have demonstrated health care experience through caring for ill family members
The experience of observing a professional in the field you are interested in pursuing.
- Students should strive to shadow 2-5 physicians in a variety of primary care and specialty fields.
- This experience exposes students to different specialties, clinical settings, and provides an opportunity to learn more about the profession and what to expect.
- Some schools may have minimum shadowing requirements that can range from 12-24 hours to over 75 hours, therefore (AGAIN) it is important to look at individual school’s websites to determine their requirements
- Students should determine which specialties they are interested in and find potential doctors they can shadow. You will most likely need to reach out to a physician directly- either by email or phone call.
Shadowing opportunities can be hard to find (especially due to COVID 19 precautions); we advise you to:
- Network: Ask your primary care physician, family dentist, family, friends, and colleagues if they know a professional that would allow you to shadow
- Call or email local doctors in your area (Google)
- If you have volunteered or worked in a clinical setting, perhaps ask that location if they will now take you on for shadowing.
More advise on how to find shadowing opportunities:
- Due to COVID-19, many physicians have very limited spots for shadowing which can make it difficult for students to find shadowing opportunities. However, there are many virtual shadowing opportunities for students to participate in, including (but limited to) the following:
Research is highly recommended during your undergraduate career.
- This experience demonstrates an interest in uncovering answers and making new discoveries
- Medical schools look for candidates who can change the future of medicine
- Research helps a student learn how to interpret data outcomes/lab results which is needed for medical school and beyond
- Interested in doing research? Reach out to professors involved in research on campus to inquire about any research opportunities in their respective laboratories
- Find a professor who is researching a topic you are interested in! Look through the profiles of different professors to understand what their research is about. Listed below are sites to the faculty in different departments, if you are interested in research outside of these fields feel free to look up the faculty on our SHU website:
- Physicians will almost always work in a team setting which is why it is important that students demonstrate that they have what it takes to be a part of a team and a team leader
- You should aim to have 1-3 leadership roles (lasting longer than 3 months) before you apply.
- Examples of Leadership Experiences:
- Having an executive board position in a on campus club, nonprofit, or organization
- Holding a leadership position in student government
- Working as a teaching assistant or tutor
- Leadership positions in your local community (ex. Church position)
- Leading a research project
- Leading a project in your community
- Get involved! Browse all the clubs/organizations at SHU here.
Please note the following for all your experiences:
- There isn’t a "magic number" of REQUIRED specific hours for you need to complete before applying to Medical School. There may be suggested numbers however you must do your research on each school. Also keep in mind that COVID impacted everyone’s ability to obtain clinical/shadowing hours, not just you.
- Choose experiences that genuinely fulfill your interests and passion. There aren’t any right or wrong experiences. Do not just do things to "check them off the list"
- Journal after every experience throughout your undergraduate year so that you remember these experiences, how you felt, who you met and worked with when it comes time to apply. Try this journal template!
- 5 ways to documents your pre-med experiences: https://www.prospectivedoctor.com/5-ways-to-document-your-pre-med-experiences/
- Stay organized. We welcome you to use this tracker to track all your experiences throughout your undergrad years. Click here to access the tracker.
- Experiences should be meaningful both on a personal level and to your professional journey. During the application process you will need to write thoughtful descriptions about your experiences so participating "just because" won’t help your application.
- Commitment over time is important. Medical Schools would rather see dedication over many months/years rather than "experience-hopping" or "cramming" before the application cycle.
- Always think QUALITY over quantity
- MCAT Test Prep
- The MCAT is the admissions test for Medical School. Students must prepare properly and do well on this exam.
- From AAMC: "The Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine."
About the MCAT Exam
Ideally students should schedule their MCAT exam by late April of the year they plan to apply to medical school to ensure scores are back before submitting applications in late May when the cycle opens. Scores take 30 days to come back.
There are four sections in the MCAT:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
- Total score range is from 472-528 with 500 being the median. Scores are reported in each of the four sections using a scale of 118-132 and then one total, overall score. 375 minutes testing time, 453 minutes seated time with breaks
Things to know:
MCAT exam scheduling for January & March - June test dates begin in October
- The current registration fee is $325.
- If you are in need of financial assistance; I encourage you to learn more about the AAMC Fee Assistance Program
Getting Ready for October Registration
- General Timeline
- Applications to medical school are submitted 1 year in advance. Most students apply at the end of their junior year. If you wish to take a gap year/growth year you would apply at the end of your senior year. Medical Schools operate on a rolling admissions basis, therefore, applying early in the cycle is IMPORTANT!
- For a general overview from AAMC, visit: AMCAS Timeline
- It is helpful to create a timeline for yourself when applying to medical school but your timeline should be flexible. Course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, deadline changes, etc. all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline.
- Make sure you pay attention to specific deadlines for the schools you are applying to! For specific application deadline dates, check the AMCAS, AACOMAS or TMDSAS websites depending on what schools you are applying to.
- Join the PPAC listserv and make an introductory appointment
- Work alongside your CAS & PPAC advisors to plan courses and experiences
- Begin completing prerequisite course work and do well
- Maintain a strong GPA
- Be sure to reflect on your study skills and time management
- Utilize your academic resources such as tutoring and supplemental instruction.
- Look into medical school specific requirements for courses and experiences to shape your undergraduate career early on. Medical School Admission Requirements for applicants & DO Requirements
- Become active on campus – join a club/organization
- Build rapport with instructors (will need strong letters of recommendation)
- Consider working, shadowing, and/or volunteer
- Potential activities: Medical Scribe, EMT, CNA, Hospice Volunteering, etc.
- Consider joining a research lab on campus that interests you
- Consider gaining a leadership position (Eboard position, SGA, Tutoring, etc.)
- Attend career fairs
- Summers: Apply to enrichment programs & internships
- Continue to complete prerequisites and working on maintaining a strong GPA
- Notify PPAC whether you will be applying this cycle by completing this form: Pre- Health Application Cycle Registration Form
- Continue to gain experience through working, shadowing, volunteering, research, and leadership
- Prepare for/take the MCAT
- If you are interested in obtaining a Pre- Health Committee Letter, be sure to follow all instructions and deadlines
- Review medical school websites/catalogs for their specific requirements
- Gather more letters of recommendation
- Begin applying early
- AMCAS application opens in May- recommended to submit application by July 1st
- Take advantage of mock interview practice
- Complete FAFSA financial aid forms in October
- Send thank you notes to recommendation writers, advisors, and mentors
- Continue gaining experience through working, shadowing, volunteering, research, and leadership
There are countless resources available for students interested in applying to medical school. Below are a few websites that you can begin looking through:
The medical school application process can be challenging and stressful for students, but it is important to take a step back and learn about the process in advance so that it is not as overwhelming.
Applications to medical school are submitted 1 year in advance. Most students apply at the end of their junior year. If you wish to take a gap year/growth year you would apply at the end of your senior year. Medical Schools operate on a rolling admissions basis, therefore, applying early in the cycle is IMPORTANT!
- Primary Application
Primary Applications are processed through a centralized application service and are sent to all schools you designate on the application. There are three centralized application services that process your primary applications for US medical schools. Here are their instructions to apply:
- AMCAS: https://students-residents.aamc.org/how-apply-medical-school-amcas/how-apply-medical-school-amcas, for applying to MD Medical Schools
- AACOMAS: https://choosedo.org/application-instructions/, for applying to DO Medical Schools
- TMDSAS: http://www.tmdsas.com/PLAN/medical/index.html, for applying to schools in the University of Texas system
These services are very similar, but not identical. You can re-use a lot of the content within the services, however be mindful that some items will not be identical to apply to MD, DO, and medical schools in Texas, you have to do all three!
- Pre-Health Committee and Letters of Recommendation
The Seton Hall University Pre- Professional Advising Center (P-PAC) offers a Pre- Health Committee review of all application documents and a comprehensive letter service for SHU students and alumni who aspire to attend health professional/graduate schools. The Pre-Health committee consists of SHU Faculty, Administration, Staff, and Alumni. This committee is tasked in reviewing your application package, providing you feedback and guidance throughout the application process and producing a Committee Letter of evaluation. If eligible, the committee will write an institutional Committee Letter of evaluation to support and endorse individuals who are applying. The letter will highlight applicants in a multidimensional and holistic manner. It will tie together the applicant’s academic record and scholarly accomplishments, personal attributes, experiences working and volunteering in the community, and demonstrated commitment to healthcare. The letter will serve to introduce you – holistically – to all members of Admissions Committees.
The Committee Letter is drafted as a result of all the information collected in the Pre-Health Committee Questionnaire Packet, Committee Interview, and collected Letters of Recommendation. Students wishing to utilize the Committee Process are expected to work closely with the P-PAC and have sought out individual advising from the P-PAC at least once. If you have never met individually with the director of the P-PAC at any point, that will be noted in your Committee Letter. This Committee letter will accompany your individual letters of recommendation to the professional schools. Receiving a Committee Letter neither means that you are guaranteed admission to the professional school, nor conversely, that you will not get in if you do not utilize this service. Expect the process to take a minimum of 12 weeks from the Committee Packet deadline.
The Committee Letter reflects on the following:
- Academic information
- Family and basic biographical information
- Exposure to health care, patients and the clinical setting
- Community service
- Work experience
- Challenges and personal responsibility
- Personal passions, talents, skills
- Interpersonal skills in an interview setting
Many health professional schools recommend that students obtain an institutional Committee Letter if the service is available at his/her institution; however, some centralized application services and professional programs do not accept traditional Committee Letters. If you plan to apply to Pharmacy, Physician Assistant, Veterinary Medicine, Special Master's Programs, or postbacc programs, please email [email protected] to confirm that the Committee process is compatible with your goal before proceeding with the Committee process. Even if you do not need to use the Committee process, or ask for our letter, we are still excited to meet with you as you consider your potential career, assess your application readiness, and help you apply to your chosen health profession.
Eligibility to Receive Committee Letter
SHU students and alumni who meet all of the following criteria are eligible to receive the services offered by the Pre-health Committee for the upcoming application cycle:
- You must be applying to an application service or school that is compatible with the committee process this academic year and
- You must have adhered to the P-PAC internal deadlines and eligibility requirements for that cycle and committee process.
- Complete submission of the Pre- Health Committee Question Packet by the deadline
- Currently enrolled degree-seeking undergraduate students (Juniors & Seniors); SHU alumni.
- Transfer students with a minimum of 24 credits of sciences at SHU by the end of the spring semester of the application year;
- Students who complete the appropriate admissions exam (MCAT/DAT/GRE/OAT) by June 1, 2022; The committee must receive your score by the end of June.
- Students who have completed the following required courses by the end of the spring
semester of the application year with a minimum of 3.65 BCPM (Bio, Chem, Phys, Math) and 3.65 cumulative GPA or higher at the time you apply for the Committee Letter:
- 2 courses in biology with a lab;
- 2 courses in general chemistry (with labs);
- 2 courses in organic chemistry (with labs);
- 2 courses in physics with lab (pre-dental students excluded as PHYS is not on the DAT, though this is still a requirement for many dental schools);
- 1 course in biochemistry (pre-dental and pre-Optometry students excluded as not tested on the DAT or OAT, though this is still a requirement for many dental and optometry schools)
- Students who have repeated a pre-requisite course will not be eligible for a committee letter
- Active participation within the Pre-Professional Advising Center
- Meets with P-PAC at least once per semester
- Attends events - We encourage you to make an appointment and attend some of our upcoming events
- Submission of at least 3-5 letters of recommendation to the P-PAC - Most schools ask for at least three recommendations- two from science professors and
one from a non-science professor or a supervisor of an extracurricular activity. Competitive
applicants often send up to 4-5 letters in addition to the committee letter.
- Two (2) from science faculty
- One (1) from non-science faculty
- One (1) from clinical supervisor (letter from MD/DO, DDS, OD, DVM or DPM preferred)
- One (1) from supervisor of an extracurricular activity (research, mentors, etc)
- Committee Letters only guaranteed if we receive competitive test scores by June 30th. Competitive test scores are:
- MCAT: 508 + (Allopathic)
- MCAT: 504 + (Osteopathic)
- DAT: 20
- OAT: 345
Our committee will only evaluate your performance in courses completed at SHU. If you complete a postbacc program or a Masters after completing your degree at SHU we strongly recommend requesting a committee letter from the institution where you most recently completed coursework, if you are eligible.
Alternative Letter Packet:
If you want to matriculate in Fall 2023 but are not eligible for a Committee Letter, please review the section below for instructions on requesting a letter packet.
Requesting a Letter Packet
SHU applicants who are ineligible for a Committee Letter may request a “Letter Packet”. A “Letter Packet” is the packaging of individual evaluations/recommendation letters under the cover of the Pre-professional Advising Center. We will facilitate the submission of a "letter packet" without an adjoining evaluative Committee Letter. Applicants must request this service through P-PAC. To request permission, write to [email protected].
Applying for a Pre-Health Committee Letter
Students and alumni seeking a Committee Letter of Evaluation work closely with the Pre-professional Advising Center Team throughout the academic year preceding their summer application to health professional schools. The steps that SHU applicants complete to receive a Committee Letter are popularly referred to as the "Committee Process":
- Completion of the brief Pre- Health Application Cycle Registration Form by 2/25/22
- Solicitation of individual Recommendation Letters; received by 5/15/22
- Submission of your Pre- Health Committee Questionnaire packet by 3/21/22
- Participation in a Committee Interview
- Submission of a primary application to schools of the health professions with our letter properly documented
- Discussion of each applicant by members of the Committee
- Pre- Health Committee uploads Committee Letter to application processing service
A review of these materials and interactions allows us to write a personalized, thorough, and reliable Committee Letter to accompany your application to health professional schools.
The Pre-Health Application Cycle Registration Form is designed to help the Committee accurately anticipate the number and variety of pre-health students who wish to participate in our Interview process and receive an institutional evaluation of their application materials. Understanding the volume of students, we will be serving allows us to efficiently manage applicants’ needs in the months ahead. Once you have submitted this virtual form, we will confirm your eligibility and email you the internal Pre-Health Committee Questionnaire packet.
The Pre-Health Committee Questionnaire packet is an internal Questionnaire/application completed by all eligible SHU students and alumni seeking a Committee Letter. This will be emailed to you with complete instructions once you have submitted the request and we review your eligibility. The Application provides Committee members with important information about you and your candidacy. We expect you to reflect and answer honestly when responding to questions. The complete packet must be uploaded for review by the due date, please utilize the checklist provided in the email to ensure you have submitted everything. Members of our Committee may be in touch if we have questions or concerns related to your packet.
Once we receive your completed Committee Letter Questionnaire Packet, we will follow up via email with instructions on how to schedule your committee interview. The Committee Interview provides you the opportunity to discuss your application with 1-3 members of the SHU Pre-health Committee. This small group 30-60 minute interview may feel like a guided conversation where you’re able to share your personal/familial background, educational choices, professional goals, and the experiences that have informed your understanding of the health profession that you seek to enter. The Committee members will also be observing your communication style, interpersonal skills, maturity, and professionalism during this encounter. They may ask you questions related to your pre-professional preparation and how you demonstrate the competencies that professional schools value. Examples of professional school competencies can be found online:
The committee interview is required for all students requesting the letter and forms the basis of your Committee Letter. Once you receive confirmation that we’ve received your packet, please be sure to follow the instructions to schedule your committee interview in a timely manner. The interviews are arranged with candidates based on their availability, the availability of the Committee Members, and the timeliness of the submission of the Pre-Health Packet. It is important to keep in mind that the interview is not an advising session. It is a professional interview that will influence your Committee Letter. Please plan to arrive 10 minutes early to your interview site, dressed professionally, and prepared to engage in a meaningful conversation.
Incorporating your Letters of Recommendation
Individual letters of recommendation are important and essential components of your final Committee Letter evaluation. The Committee authors a comprehensive letter after thorough review of your entire Pre- Health Committee Questionnaire Packet, Interview and Letters of Recommendation. All recommendations in your pre-health file are submitted together with your SHU Committee Letter of Evaluation. For this reason, you should not separately list individual evaluation writers who submitted letter(s) to the Pre-professional Advising Center in your primary application to professional schools. Individual Letters of Recommendation are due on May 15th of your application year to the Pre-Professional Advising Center.
Learn more about Letters of Recommendation here.
Documenting your Pre- Health Committee Letter within your centralized application service
Centralized application services expect applicants to properly identify the source of their recommendation letters. If you have requested a committee letter and P-PAC will be uploading your committee letter (with the rest of your letters of recommendation), you must list the Pre- Professional Advising Center as your “Primary contact” with [email protected] as the email. Please follow the directions below to ensure the accuracy of this letter's entry:
- Select "Committee Letter" as your Letter Type
- Select "Electronic Evaluation" for any centralized application that requests this information
- Primary Author: Pre-Professional Advising Center
- Email address: [email protected]
Seton Hall University
Pre-Professional Advising Center
400 South Orange Ave.
South Orange, NJ 07079
- Phone number: (973) 275-2477
Do not include the names of the writers who submitted individual letters of evaluation to the Pre-professional Advising Center in your application. All evaluations in your pre health file are submitted with your SHU Committee Letter as one entry. Noting the names of each evaluation writer separately in your application will give admissions personnel the false impression that these letters will arrive separately.
After review of your entire Pre- Health Committee Questionnaire packet, Interview, and Letters of Recommendation, Committee letters will be drafted but none will be finalized until spring grades are in, test scores are received, all letters of recommendation are in, and the primary application has been fully processed. Please allow four (4) to six (6) weeks for the Committee Letter to be uploaded to the relevant online centralized application service (e.g., AMCAS, AACOMAS, or AADSAS) or the programs to which you applied. The four-week processing period does not include university closures and holidays. Our timeline will in no way negatively impact your application. It takes four to six weeks for your application to be verified by the online application services. You (the applicant) are responsible for meeting the deadlines of professional schools and ensuring that your file is complete at each of them. Schools do not consider your application complete until you have submitted secondary applications.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are an important part of your professional school application process. Admission committees depend heavily on recommendation letters to gain insight into the applicants’ strengths, character, and accomplishments – information not found within the academic transcript. It is extremely important and in your best interest to secure letter writers that will speak positively on your behalf and provide accurate, detailed letters.
The Pre-Professional Advising Center serves as a repository for your letters of recommendation. These individual letters are attached to your Pre-Health Committee letter when it is sent to the professional schools of your choice. All letters of recommendation are to be submitted and stored at the Pre-Professional Advising Center.
You are strongly encouraged to secure between 3-5 letters of recommendation by the time you apply to professional schools/programs. In addition, to strong academics, schools of health professions expect you to have developed robust experiences outside of the classroom that have informed your understanding of health care, challenged your intellect, and demonstrated your commitment to others. We encourage you to submit letters of recommendation demonstrating your academic capability as well as your outside of the classroom experiences.
Recommendation Letters should be solicited from:
- Two (2) science faculty (required)
- One (1) non-science faculty
- One (1) clinical supervisor (letter from MD/DO, DDS, OD, DVM or DPM preferred)
- One (1) supervisor of an extracurricular activity (research, mentors, etc.)
This is what is requested by MOST health professional schools however every school is different, and we encourage you to do research on what is needed specifically for your schools of choice. Ultimately it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure they are aware of the requirements for their specific school of choice. For instance, students interested in medical school can utilize the MSAR.
Submission of Letters:
- Step 1: Download the Recommendation Letter Waiver Form and complete the top section.
- Step 2: Provide your letter writer with the Guideline for Letter Writers document and your signed Recommendation Letter waiver form.
- Step 3: Once your letter writer has completed the letter of recommendation, they are to
submit the Letter of Recommendation and the Recommendation Letter Waiver Form to the
Pre-Professional Advising Center preferably via email [email protected] or by mail:
Seton Hall University
Pre-Professional Advising Center
Bayley Hall 110
400 South Orange Ave
South Orange NJ 07079
Note: You must sign a waiver for each letter writer and the waiver must be included with each submission from your letter writer.
Letters of recommendation should be submitted to the Pre-professional Advising Center by your letter writer by May 15 of your application year. This will allow the Committee adequate time to review the letters and include this material in your Committee Letter. Waiting for an overdue letter of recommendation may impact the Committee's ability to complete the committee letter on your behalf in a timely manner. We recommend that you give your letter writer at least 4-6 weeks of notice (preferably 6-8 weeks) so that they have ample time to write a strong letter for you.
Requesting Letters of Recommendation
A good letter of recommendation highlights your academic or professional achievements. A great letter gives the admissions committee at your school of choice deeper insight into the person you are and the health professional you may become. It is important that you are identifying the proper letter writers for this very important piece of your application.
Here are some tips to consider while requesting your letter of recommendation:
- Start Building Relationships Early On - Even if you will not be applying to a health professional school for quite some time, it never hurts to focus on building strong relationships with your professors from your very first year. The strongest recommendation letters come from people who have gotten to know you, seen you develop, and have worked closely with you. One of the best ways to build a relationship is by taking advantage of your professor's office hours. During their office hours you can talk about the class they are teaching, ask questions on the material, research topics you may be interested in, discuss your shared interest in a particular field, or even discuss your professor's own career path and how they got to where they are today. Once you are acquainted with faculty members through coursework, research, and other ways, don't let those relationships fade. Consider stopping by office hours or emailing them once a semester to discuss your interests and keep in touch.
- Narrow down the people that know you the best - The more detailed and personalized a letter is, the more likely it is to make a strong impression on an admissions committee. You want to request letters from individuals that can discuss your personal and interpersonal characteristics; individuals that can provide detailed anecdotes about who are as a person and your potential to be successful in your professional school of choice. We suggest requesting letters from the people with the most extensive, personal knowledge of you and your work.
- Give plenty of advance notice - We recommend speaking with your prospective letter writers 6-8 weeks before the submission deadline to confirm their ability to write a supportive letter on your behalf. You want to give them plenty of time to write you an outstanding recommendation letter (at the very least 1 month). We highly recommend involving them in the early stages of your application process, while you are deciding how to present yourself in the application materials. Their insights will prove invaluable, and they will be well informed of your interests when they write their recommendation. You should also allow the person the option to say NO because you only want STRONG letters anyway. If you know their responses early on, it will give you an opportunity to find additional letter writers if needed.
- Help them help you - It is preferable to ask for letters of recommendation in person. We encourage you
to share or present letter writers with information to provide them context to write
your letter, as well as documents to remind them about what you've achieved. During
the meeting be prepared to review all the documents your submitting to them but as
well as your future goals and past achievements. The following items will help them
write accurate and purposeful letters:
- Key Information of the professional school application or graduate program your interested in
- A copy (or a draft) of your personal statement
- Resume or CV
- Summary of your career and educational goals
- A description of pertinent work or research experiences
- A copy of your transcript
- A list of your activities (sports, organizations, leadership and volunteer positions)
- Don’t forget to provide them with your signed Recommendation Letter waiver form and Guideline for Letter Writers.
Professionalism and follow up with your letter writers
Be sure to always communicate professionally with your letter writers. Your letter writers are extremely busy people, and they are playing a huge part in your application process, you want to always demonstrate your gratitude and respect. Be sure to provide them with sufficient time to write your letter, accurate instructions for submission and deadlines. After submitting your application, send your letter writers a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for their guidance and support. Update them on your progress throughout the stages of the application process and inform them whether you are admitted or not. Should you need a recommendation in the future, this kind of follow-up communication will continue to foster a close, positive relationship.
- Personal Statement
The personal statement is a crucial part of the application process because it is what will allow YOU to stand out amongst your peers. This is the place where students should showcase who they are outside of their statistics (MCAT, GPA, etc.) and show how they are unique.
- Discuss how you would contribute to the profession and patient care, all of which will help you stand out from other applicants.
- The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that the admissions committee would not know when reading your application.
- Get it proofread and edited. We suggest utilizing the writing center and the online writing lab https://www.shu.edu/writing-center/
- Secondary Applications
Once medical schools receive your verified primary application, they may send out "Secondary Applications." Some secondary applications are automatically sent from some schools and others will screen applicants for metrics, experiences, Letters of recommendations, etc. before sending. Deadlines for completing secondary applications range from 5 business days to a month, so pay close attention to these deadlines. Each school is different and have their own secondary questions, deadlines, and instructions. Most secondary applications require more writing and consist of essay style questions – so be prepared. Be sure to read all instructions and be aware that there will be an additional cost to submit your secondary applications on top of your primary application fees.
If you receive a secondary application from a school, you no longer are interested in attending, that's ok! You are not required to send back the secondary at that point.
Before submitting your secondaries, get it edited or proofread by the SHU committee or the writing center. Submit your secondary as soon as you are comfortable with your responses (ensuring you are still before deadline) so you can be considered and, hopefully, extended an interview invitation.
Getting an invitation to interview is a great news! This means the admissions office has decided you are qualified and they want to get to know you better! This is your face-to-face opportunity to impress the admissions committee. Your job is to turn that invitation to interview into an invitation to attend. The best way to do that is to be prepared and to practice your interviewing skills.
There are several types of interview formats used by professional schools. The most common are the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), Traditional format, and Group Interview.
- Multiple Mini Interview: The MMI is an interview format where you are given a scenario/question and a predetermined amount of time to answer. These questions are typically ethical scenarios.
- Traditional: These are the most common, where you are interviewed by 1-3 people at a time. You will be asked questions about your application, why you chose to apply to their school and why you decided to pursue medicine.
- Group Interviews: These activities include more than one applicant. They can either be to determine your ability to work with others by giving you group activities to solve a problem or asking one question where everyone has to answer.
PPAC provides mock interview sessions for students applying during the current cycle. Be sure that you are on the PPAC listserv!
AAMC Video Interview Tool for Admissions (AAMC VITA): This is a video-recorded interview designed to help medical schools assess an applicant’s pre-professional competencies.
- About the AAMC VITA Interview
- AAMC VITA Applicant Preparation Guide
- Additional Tips and Resources to Prepare for AAMC VITA (may require AAMC account to view)
- AAMC VITA Practice Interview
This is a video based, situational judgement test done on a computer. For information on the test, programs that utilize the test, dates, and registration, please visit: https://takecasper.com/