Gain Meaningful Experience in Health Care
If you are considering a health career, we strongly recommend that you build a record of sustained involvement as a volunteer or paid employee within the health field. This time is necessary to gain a good understanding of the various roles within a health care team and the daily tasks that are involved in patient care. Some schools require a particular number of patient hours or types of experiences or documentation of shadowing hours, so make sure you are familiar with the expectations for your field.
Students have gained healthcare experience by:
- Medical Scribing
- Working as a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
- Volunteering at hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes
A record of such sustained experience is now expected for application to most advanced degree programs in the health field. Keep a journal to reflect on your experiences. To find such volunteer and work experiences, please see the “Opportunities” tab to the left.
Using a planning guide will help you to map out prerequisite courses as well as track co-curricular activities such as research, volunteer work, and community service to develop a competitive applicant profile.
It is helpful to know your overall GPA and prerequisite GPA or science GPA. If you need to raise your GPA, this calculator may be helpful to set semester GPA goals and/or determine how many credit hours you may need.
Make a Timeline
Each student’s path to professional school in the health sciences is unique, so your timeline might look slightly different than another student’s. You may want to take a year or two off before applying, while others might wish to start immediately after graduation. No matter when you plan to apply, it is important that you are as fully-prepared as possible when that time comes. Below is a guideline to help you create your own personal timeline. As you will notice, most of the application components are completed 1-2 years before you would like to start professional school.
Early College (and beyond):
- Meet with URGO for pre-health advising
- Meet with Academic Advisor to ensure you will complete all major requirements for graduation
- Maintain a competitive GPA and get to know professors
- Get involved in extracurricular, volunteer, and leadership activities both on and off-campus (long-term involvement in these activities is important)
- Volunteer/work in the health field
- Shadow a variety of health professionals to help you understand the various roles within a given healthcare setting
- Seek out work/volunteer experience in a variety of healthcare settings
- Consider participating in on-campus research or off-campus research
- Consider medical scribing (link) as a part-time job (requires a 2-year commitment)
Two Years Before Starting Professional School:
- Summer/Fall: Start studying for any necessary standardized tests (MCAT, GRE, DAT, etc.). Preparing for these exams requires considerable time and focus, so be sure to reserve a few months for this task. You can take these exams as early as you’d like, but you may wish to take a prep course or particular college courses beforehand to help you reach the best score possible. URGO also offers a GRE prep course (link) every summer at a discount rate. We strongly recommend that all Medical and Dental applicants complete their exams by June (one year prior to admission).
- Winter: Meet with URGO to start working on your Personal Statement.
- Spring: Create an account to familiarize yourself with the online application (most fields now have centralized application systems) but DO NOT SUBMIT.
- Spring: Ask for letters of recommendation. Check with schools on who should write the letters (professors, supervisors, health professionals, etc.).
One Year Before Starting Professional School:
- Spring: Attend Application Boot Camp to work on your centralized application.
- Summer: SUBMIT your online application as close to the opening date as possible. Many schools begin looking at applications as soon as they start coming in, so most of their spots will be filled by the “closing date” of the application system.
- Summer: Complete any school-specific secondary applications.
- Fall: Admissions interviews.
- Fall-Spring: Accept offers!