Application Process

The first and most important thing you do as you begin the application process to health professions schools is to ask yourself why you are applying. Really ask yourself why. Most of you will not want to do this. You have worked too hard to get this far; you know why; you do not want to take the time to really delve into your motivation and to really understand the profession you are choosing; you do not want the possibility that it is not the right choice for you. But this question, this self-analysis, will make you a stronger candidate. It will allow you to step back and assess yourself and your goals, and therefore enable you to convey them to others. First, take the time to ask.

There are many health professions available to college graduates and the majority of them require graduate education. A wise student will investigate the various fields to be sure s/he is choosing the best course. Factors such as skills/talents required, work environment, length of training, level of responsibility, salary and labor force projections should be taken into account when deciding. While the focus of this applicant handbook is applying to medical school (MD and DO), the process is very similar for dental, veterinary, optometry, and podiatry schools. There is also some overlap in the application processes for physical and occupational therapy, physician assistant, nurse practitioner and the myriad of clinical professions that populate our health care delivery system today. For those of you who are choosing one of these professions, be sure to visit both the “Exploring the health professions” and “Academic Preparation” sections of this website and read about your field of interest.

Am I Competitive?

Once you have decided on your career path, you need to decide when to apply. Apply in strength, not in weakness. In other words, do not apply until you are a competitive applicant. There is little to be gained from applying if your candidacy is weak, and in fact, there is much to be lost. The time and energy you could be devoting to strengthening your grades, retaking MCATs or gaining valuable health-related experience is being spent on the time-consuming process of applying. There is no necessity to apply after junior year and matriculate into medical school immediately after college.  It might be helpful to consider that half of the people matriculating into US medical schools last year were over the age of 23.5. Medical school admissions committees look very favorably on older applicants, and close to 70% of Tufts applicants take time between college graduation and medical school to work, volunteer or do a service program.

Gaining admission to medical school is not simply a numbers game. You may want to read an April 2013 article in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled: "Holistic Review — Shaping the Medical Profession One Applicant at a Time," By Robert A. Witzburg, M.D., and Henry M. Sondheimer, M.D.  In the article they write "A holistic review process therefore emphasizes attributes, including learning ability, that are associated with excellence in physicians…Holistic review does not abandon the assessment of aptitude in science. Rather, it places such measures in the broader context of the applicant's life experiences, with a particular focus on adversities overcome, challenges faced, advantages and opportunities encountered, and the applicant's demonstrated resilience in the face of difficult circumstances."

You may also find it useful to visit the website of the Association of American Medical Colleges at http://www.aamc.org.  Click here to find FACTS: Applicants, Matriculants and Graduates of US Medical Schools which provides data about students who apply and are accepted to medical school.

* At Tufts, the average cumulative GPA of students accepted to medical school is over a 3.6 and the science GPA is almost as high. Students with less than a 3.4 GPA (Cumulative and science both) are rarely accepted to MD programs.

* The average MCAT for admitted students is currently 32 total. Students with less than this often have very limited options for admission.

*“Distance travelled” and obstacles overcome are taken into consideration, as are all the non-academic aspects of the application but numeric credentials are definitely important.

You can seek realistic advice from a health professions advisor on this question as you make your decision.

 Health Professions Applicant Handbook

This Applicant Handbook is intended as a guide for students ready to begin the application process to allopathic and osteopathic medical school. Much of the information applies to other doctoral level health professions as well, but you should consult with Carol Baffi-Dugan, Program Director for Health Professions Advising and her Associate, Stephanie Ripley for specifics regarding your intended career.

In addition to this resource you will need to refer to the HPRC Information Packet and forms.  Both the Applicant Handbook and the HPRC Information Packet should be kept throughout the process and referred to when you have questions. They are not substitutes for your contact with Carol Baffi-Dugan, Stephanie Ripley and the administrative assistant for the HPRC, but can answer many questions and help you negotiate this complex process.

HANDBOOK CONTENTS

  1. Making the Decision: Is medicine for me? Am I competitive? When to Apply? Am I competitive? When to apply
  2. The Application: AMCAS/AACOMAS, Personal Statement, Transcripts, Acknowledgements, Non-AMCAS, Where to Apply, Early Decision
  3. The Standardized Test: MCAT, other tests
  4. Letters of Recommendation: The HPRC, Individual Letters, the Composite Letter, Sending Letters
  5. Financing the Application Process
  6. Interviews and Beyond
  7. Common Questions and Answers
  8. The Timeline
  9. Appendices: Application Services, Test Services, Internet Sites, and Resources

Archived Applicant Emails for 2014-2015 Cycle

Applicant Emails

 Resources For All Applicants

Essay prompts for the most common central applications

Personal Statement Tips

Application Services Factsheet 2013-2014

Medical School Applicants Only

AMCAS Application Process Presentation For Applicants

How to Enter Letters of Recommendation on AMCAS

This AMCAS site offers a wide array of tips, checklists and other helpful resources: 
https://www.aamc.org/students/services/376190/amcasoverview.html

Click the links below for questions about:  

How to Enter Study Abroad Courses for Tufts

How to Enter Study Abroad Courses 

How to Enter General Coursework

Articles about the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

Validating a multiple mini-interview question bank

Factors affecting the utility of the multiple mini-interview

An admissions OSCE: the multiple mini-interview

NY Times Article:  New for Aspiring Doctors, the People Skills Test

University of Arizona College of Medicine
http://medicine.arizona.edu/admissions/application-process/interviews

Michigan State College of Human Medicine
http://mdadmissions.msu.edu/applicants/mmi_faq.php

Oregon Health and Science University
http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/education/schools/school-of-medicine/about/school-of-medicine-news/education-news/multiple-mini-interviews-4111.cfm

Stanford University School of Medicine:
http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2011/january/interview-0110.html

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine—YouTube Video
http://www.vtc.vt.edu/education/news/multimedia/vtc-mmi-explanation.html

Osteopathic (DO) Applicant Information

2015 Osteopathic Medical College Information Book

How to Enter Letters of Recommendation on AACOMAS

Dental School Applicants Only

Predental Applicant Handbook Supplement

This ADEA AADSAS site offers a wide array of tips, checklists and other helpful resources:  http://www.adea.org/dental_education_pathways/aadsas/Applicants/Pages/default.aspx

How to Enter Letters of Recommendation on  ADEA AADSAS

Vet School Applicants Only

Prevet Applicant Handbook Supplement

How to Enter Letters of Recommendation on VMCAS

FAQs

Nuts & Bolts of Applying:

What about standardized tests?
In order to prepare for any of these tests, you will need to study the information from your introductory science courses and take practice tests beginning at least a couple of months before the test date. Various study aids exist, including guide books and preparatory courses. Many Tufts students enroll in commercial review courses. Their primary value is to set up a schedule of review and outwardly imposed discipline. They provide good review materials and practice tests (for a high fee). If you are sufficiently motivated to do so, you can achieve the same thing on your own. The tests themselves and the associations that sponsor them have excellent material on their own websites, for example; the AAMC offers The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam review book. Your end result will depend on the amount of preparation you do, regardless of whether or not you take a review course.  Your test is an important part of your candidacy, so take it seriously, plan for it and study for it.

The MCAT, DAT and OCAT test the sciences that you will learn in your pre-heatlh requirements so students typically do not take the test until they are completing their last requirements.

The MCAT is changing in March of 2015. Click here to get information about the new exam and click here to access our handout. 

Do I have to apply to medical school at the end of my junior year?
Absolutely not; you can apply earlier or later. The early acceptance program is described above.

The average age of an entering medical class is not 22 but closer to 24-25. Many applicants do not apply at the end of their junior year but after graduation, sometimes a number of years later. At Tufts this is true for approximately two-thirds of our applicants. A pause of a year or more between graduation and matriculation at medical school can be a very good idea for a number of reasons. Many students feel that after four years of college they need a break before starting four more years of studies. It also gives you a chance to do something you may not have the chance to do after you become a physician and/or to earn some money for your future education. Applying later may also significantly help your chances of admission. When you apply, medical schools will see four years of grades instead of three and students generally do better their last two years. In addition, both your recommenders and admissions committees frequently see you as a more interesting and mature candidate. Every Tufts student should give serious consideration to this timeline.

The trend towards older or "nontraditional" applicants is true for virtually all the health professions, where admissions committees are frequently seeing applicants with significant work experience, and maturity applying to their programs.

Can I decide to become "premed" if I did not start out that way?
Of course. As described above, there is no one timeline for admissions to health professions school and the "non-traditional" applicant is becoming more and more common. Post-baccalaureate Programs that allow college graduates to complete premed requirements exist throughout the country - one of the oldest is at Tufts. You can discuss this course of action with the health professions advisor.


How do I go about getting recommendations for medical school?
Recommendations are an important part of the application process, and all health professions schools require them. Medical and dental schools generally require a committee evaluation, provided by the student's undergraduate college. Some other health professions schools, such as podiatry, optometry and veterinary medicine may accept but not require it. Tufts offers an organized committee, the Tufts Health Professions Recommendations Committee, which provides this critical service.

If you are planning to enter medical school just after graduating Tufts, then you should register with the HPRC in Dowling Hall in spring of your junior year. The health professions advisor will hold numerous workshops on the medical, dental and veterinary school application process during that spring as well.
 
The HPRC requires you to submit four to five letters of recommendation prior to application and work with the Committee. The letters of recommendation should be sent directly to the office on the form(s) provided (they can be obtained at Dowling Hall or on the Student Services website). Recommenders and admissions committees may prefer that you waive your right to read these recommendation letters. This action shows that you have confidence in yourself and in the people you have chosen to write on your behalf; also, admissions committees tend to regard confidential letters as more candid.

Since you are eventually going to need letters of recommendation, think about getting to know at least some of your professors, including your advisor. If they only know you as a face in a large lecture course they will not be able to write much of a letter. Letters of recommendation should be from people who know you well, and can assess your qualifications with objectivity and insight. When considering who will write letters on your behalf, choose people who can discuss you from various viewpoints. Be certain to include at least one recommendation from a professor; they need not be from the sciences but if you can approach a science professor for a letter, do so. Ideally, you can ask a variety of faculty members from different departments. It is also wise to have a letter from your major department.

You should also obtain letters from people who know you in a professional manner, including, for example, employers, summer internship coordinators, and physicians or researchers with whom you have worked. Coaches also often write very good letters. You should avoid letters of recommendation from your personal physicians, family friends, relatives, clergy and politicians; these letters tend to be seen as highly subjective and biased. Admissions committees do not find such letters useful.

The current chair of the Health Professions Recommendation Committee is Professor Harry Bernheim from the Biology Department. Other committee members represent the departments of Biology, Psychology, Classics, Economics and Physics, as well as the School of Engineering. You will work with the committee once you begin the application process to medical school. However you can submit letters of recommendation prior to that time - forms are available in the Dowling Hall lobby.

Who gets into school?
It is extremely difficult to get into all health professions schools with medical school being the most competitive. Without a doubt, students who have been successful have been good students, who have worked hard, developed good study skills and performed well in their courses. But it is not the 4.0 student who is most likely to gain admission. Students who complement their studies with involvement in their campus community, significant exposure to their chosen profession, and contribution to the larger community are the most attractive applicants. They may have a 3.5 GPA rather than a 4.0. These students can usually clearly and sincerely articulate their motivation for this career and provide a strong, well-balanced application.

  Health Professions Advising, Dowling Hall, Medford, MA, 02155  |  Tel: (617) 627-2000