Advisor Corner: Advice on Applying to the Application Cycle

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We asked five prehealth advisors what their advice would be to a premed student applying for an application cycle. Here’s what they had to say.

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Janet Hart, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology, Chair, Department of Math & Natural Sciences, School of Arts and Sciences, MCPHS University:
Avoid thinking of your application like a checklist. Be yourself and challenge your weaknesses. Pursue your passions and demonstrate excellence in them.

Julie Chanatry, PhD, Chairperson, Health Sciences Advisory Committee, Department of Chemistry, Colgate University:
Critically review your academic history and out of classroom experiences to decide whether you will be a competitive applicant. Meeting with your premed advisor early in the year to discuss the application cycle is important. (If you don’t have an advisor, you can use NAAHP’s Find an Advisor service.) The application process is not a sprint, it is a marathon, so you must be prepared before starting the process.

If you have not yet taken the MCAT® exam, you should design a study plan that will allow you to prepare adequately for testing in the late spring or early summer. Design a plan that will allow some time almost every day to focus on MCAT preparation. 

It is also a good time to start preparing your personal statement. A compelling personal statement takes time to craft. Start early in the year and spend time writing and rewriting. Have others read the essay and ask them to give honest feedback — choose people who know you well and people who are not as familiar with you. Their feedback can help you as you craft your final draft, but your final essay should reflect your thoughts and ideas.

Elizabeth Yzquierdo MPH, EdD, Director Health Professions Advising/Post Baccalaureate Program, Center for Student Success, Loyola Marymount University:
Plan. Plan. Plan. Create a monthly calendar with key dates to help you identify and plan effectively during the application cycle. Your calendar should include:

  • Registration for the MCAT exam. (Have this link bookmarked on your computer for easier access and create an account before the registration date. It saves time.)
  • Your actual MCAT test date.
  • AMCAS® program opening date (usually first week in May).
  • Deadline for committee letter at your undergraduate campus (if your school offers it).
  • Dates of when you would like to have drafts of your personal statement completed (keep in mind it takes multiple drafts for a good personal statement). Start early!
  • Letters of recommendation. Please give your letter writers at least two months advance notice. Meet with them and provide them with information about you, including a draft of your personal statement, resume, and other pertinent information. Think about how you will collect letters of recommendation if your school does not offer a letter writing service, such as using Interfolio or the AMCAS Letter Service.
  • Request transcripts in May of all postsecondary institutions you have attended to be sent to the AMCAS program directly.
  • Schedule a meeting with your pre-health advisor.
  • A target date for submitting your AMCAS application.
  • Reward yourself for milestones you have accomplished. Mark these on the calendar.

A. Francisco Castelán, MS, NAAHP 2016 National Conference Co-Chair, NAAHP Chair of Committee on Diversity and Inclusion:
As a premed advisor, I recommend that an applicant spend time reviewing the complete application timeline as it can approach very quickly.  

Work closely with your premed advisor or mentor, or if you do not have an advisor, you can request one from the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) under Find an Advisor.

It will be important to prepare early in January and February with your letters of recommendation, your personal statement drafts, along with access to your transcripts. The application typically opens the first week of May and submitting your application early is essential as there are also secondary applications by individual schools that are required prior to any school invitation for an interview. Working with your advisor, you can evaluate your application and develop your timeline in order to ensure a timely submission date.

Jo Ann Litton, MA, Senior Academic Advisor, Pre-Professional Advisor, CLAS Academic Advising, Grand Valley State University:
Meet regularly with your pre-professional advisor throughout your undergraduate program. They have a wealth of knowledge, not only about curriculum but the entire professional school application process. Save yourself some worrisome nights down the road and schedule a meeting today.

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