Application Components & Process (Applying to Health Profession Schools)

Personal Statement

Personal statements are a vital part of applications for health professions schools. This is your opportunity to distinguish yourself as an individual. Think about the factors that have shaped both who you are and your desire to become a health professional. This is the place where you can describe the real you.

First, Consider How Your Personal Statement Fits With Other Aspects of Your Application
Your personal statement is your opportunity to show schools and programs who you are. Keep in mind that your statement is only a portion of the information they will receive through your application. Your entire application package will likely include the materials listed below. You will want to consider how all pieces of the application fit together to give a full picture of your qualifications and preparedness. There will be some overlap, but be sure not to be too repetitive.

Understand all of the rules and regulations regarding your application essays.

  • How many essays will you have to write and what are the prompts? 
  • Are there formatting guidelines, such as whether your essay should be single- or double- spaced, margins, fonts, text sizes, word counts vs. character counts, etc.?
  • How will you submit your statement(s)? If uploading a document, use a PDF format to protect against accidental changes to formatting. Some programs may ask you to copy and paste into a text box.

It is important to remember that your personal statement will take time and energy to complete, so plan accordingly. 

  • Be authentic and don't exaggerate 
  • Tragedy is not a requirement, reflection and depth are. If you have overcome obstacles or hardship, you may want to discuss this in your personal statement. However, if you know a topic will make you upset if you talk about it during an interview, carefully consider whether you want to include it in your essay 
  • Research the institutions carefully
  • Proofread, proofread, proorfead

Brainstorming & Writing Your Personal Statement

Most often, the personal statement will be your explanation of why you are pursuing a career in the health professions. Reflect on your experiences and motivations as they relate to the programs to which you are applying. If you need a committee letter for your application and are using the Medical Professions Advisory Committee (MPAC), you have already done a lot of thinking by completing the Applicant Information Form which asks you about your jobs, clinical experiences, professors and courses, skills, achievements, lessons learned, service activities, research, etc. Consider finding one or two threads that have woven through your experiences and use them to describe your journey. Think about how these experiences connect, and how they’ve brought you to the place you are today. What strengths have you developed and what things are most important to you? Why is health professions school the right next step for you? Then begin to outline your essay. It may be helpful for you to review the lists of core competencies that many health professions schools seek in their applicants. Consider choosing one or two competencies and develop your story about your personal growth and future goals. 

Make your essay engaging, honest, clear, easy to read, and free of spelling and grammatical errors. When you can, demonstrate your qualities through descriptions of events and what you learned from them (show rather than tell). Keep in mind that your essay is one of many in the application pool. This is not to say you should exaggerate your history to “stand out” but that you should focus on your unique path and the experiences that have led to this point of readiness. Readers are considering you not just as a potential student but a future colleague. Be prepared to spend a good amount of time on your personal statement and to work through multiple drafts. If you are working with an MPAC advisor, he or she can give you feedback on two drafts. If you have not been assigned to an MPAC advisor, use your Career Education advisors and mentors, the Wellesley College Writing Tutors, professors, family, and friends to review what you have written, provide feedback, and to help you proofread your final documents.

  • Explain your hopes and plans for your career, and how this program will get you there
  • Tell a story of how you tested your commitment to the profession and the results of those tests
  • Show that your perceptions of the profession are realistic
  • Be authentic--show the good, imperfect, successes, mistakes, accomplishments, frustrations, etc. along your journey
  • Show a learning and growth mindset
  • Describe the qualities you've gained to be a good practitioner
  • Share what you've overcome, if applicable
  • Explain how you will be an asset to the school and to the profession
  • Provide answers with depth and specificity--show with a example when possible
  • Make sure your grammar and spelling are perfect
  • Rewrite your college entrance essay
  • Write a narrative of your resume
  • Write one draft and consider it finished
  • Send it in without others giving you feedback and proofreading it for you
  • Exaggerate
  • Spend a large part of your essay on a childhood experience or on a story about someone else
  • “Merriam-Webster defines…”
  • “Throughout history…”
  • "Dr. Seuss..."
  • "My Fisher-Price doctor's kit..."

The prompts below are from some of the centralized application services from the 2017-2018 application cycle. As you will notice, many of them are very general in nature. This is why it is important for you to do your research and clearly identify your motivations and preparation. Your resulting statement should uniquely reflect your interests, journey, and plans.

CASPA (Physician Assistant) 
500 characters

  • “In the space provided write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant.”

VMCAS (Veterinary Medicine)
each 1000 character limit

  • “There are many career choices within the veterinary profession. What are your future career goals and why?”
  • “In what ways do veterinarians contribute to society and what do you hope to contribute?”
  • “Consider the breadth of society which veterinarians serve. What attributes do you believe are essential to be successful within the veterinary profession? Of these attributes, which do you possess and how have your demonstrated there in the past?”

PharmCAS (Pharmacy)
4500 characters including spaces

  • “Your personal statement should address:
    • Why you selected a pharmacy career.
    • How the Doctor of Pharmacy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals.
    • Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you to achieve your goals.”

AADSAS (Dental)
4500 characters including spaces

  • “The ADEA-AADSAS application requires a personal essay on why you wish to pursue a dental career. Where do you start? Admission committees are looking for individuals who are motivated, academically prepared, articulate, socially conscious, and knowledgeable about the profession. What can you tell admissions committees about yourself that will make you stand out?”

PTCAS (Physical Therapy)
4500 characters including spaces

  • “What is professionalism in the context of being a student in a doctor of physical therapists degree program?”

OTCAS (Occupational Therapy)
No character limit

  • “Your Personal Statement should address why you selected OT as a career and how an Occupational Therapy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals. The personal essay is an important part of your application for admission and provides you with an opportunity for you to clearly and effectively express your ideas.”
     

AMCAS (Physician, MD)
5300 characters including spaces

  • ​“Use the Personal Comments essay as an opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Some questions you may want to consider while writing this essay are:
  • Why have you selected the field of medicine?
  • What motivates you to learn more about medicine?
  • What do you want medical schools to know about you that haven’t been disclosed in other sections of the application?”

AACOMAS (Physician, DO)
4500 characters including spaces

  • “In the space provided write a brief statement expressing your motivation or desire to become a DO. Keep your statement general as the same essay will be sent to all schools you will apply to. Don’t forget to include the reasons that you want to study osteopathic medicine in your personal statement.”

OptomCAS
4500 characters

  • “Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals.”

AACPMAS (Podiatry)
4500 characters

“In the text box state why you are interested in becoming a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine. Provide information about your development for a career in Podiatric Medicine. Please be aware, your response here will be sent to ALL schools you have designated on your application, so you should not tailor this essay to any one particular school.”

There are a number of resources available on how to write an effective personal statement. Here are a few:

    Completing Your Application

    Many health professions schools use a centralized application service to collect applicant information and transcripts, verify the information, and to forward these materials to designated schools. Some services also collect and transmit letters of recommendation. Often there is an instruction manual created by the application service each year that is available on-line. Read this and use it as you complete your applications.

    It is extremely important that you read carefully all instructions regarding the application process for your chosen schools. Some schools don’t participate in centralized application services. For example, some Texas health profession schools use their own application service (TMDSAS).

    Plan to take at least a week to write a polished application that truly reflects your abilities and your goals. Don’t submit your application until you’ve printed it, checked it for errors, and had a second person proofread it for you. Do not submit an application with grammatical or typographical errors.

    The earlier you submit your application, the greater the chance you will be considered for an interview. Often an application can be submitted before your letters of evaluation and/or application test results reach the application service. Don’t allow admissions test results or letters of recommendation to delay the submission and processing of your application. If your tests results won’t be reported until after the application opening date, consider submitting your application with one or two schools listed, and adding additional schools once you’ve received your scores and can refine your list of schools. However, make sure you’ve clearly indicated on your application that additional test scores are coming so that schools know to wait for the scores before they review your application.

    On your application, you will be asked if you are willing to give permission for your advisor to see your application. Please give permission for the Director of Health Professions Advising, to view your application. This will allow us to help you as you go through the application process.

    The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has created new resource materials called the Anatomy of an Applicant to give applicants a better understanding of how to demonstrate aptitude in the core competencies that many medical schools believe are important for entering medical students. These materials may be helpful to those applying to other types of health professions schools as well. They include a workbook with sections that identify each competency and demonstrate how an applicant’s responses inform admissions officers regarding proficiency in that area.

    As part of the application, you may be asked if you would like to be considered a “disadvantaged” applicant. The term “disadvantaged” may not be clearly defined. Graduate and professional schools are often interested in learning if applicants have experienced adversity along their life journey. Some refer to this as "distance traveled." Barriers that students may face include lack of financial resources, lack of exposure to health professionals, limited educational opportunities, learning disabilities, family issues, and mistreatment or isolation due to cultural, racial, or gender issues. This US News and World Report article addresses how to think about the “disadvantaged” question as you work through your applications.

    As an applicant, be thoughtful about how you appear to others. Make your voicemail message, Facebook page, and other media sites look and sound professional. Be friendly and polite to everyone you encounter throughout the admissions process.

    Check your spam file frequently for possible communications from schools.

    Dates and links for the 2019-2020 application cycle will be updated in Spring 2019

      • Allopathic Medicine (MD): AMCAS
        *OPENS 5/2/18*, *APPLICATION SUBMISSIONS BEGIN 5/31/18*, *PROCESSED APPLICATIONS TO MEDICAL SCHOOLS SENT BEGINNING 6/29/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Communication Disorders/Speech Pathology: CSDCAS
        *OPENS 8/2/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Dental Hygiene: ADEA DHCAS
        *OPENS 11/1/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Dentistry: ADEA AADSAS
        *OPENS 5/15/2018*, *APPLICATION SUBMISSION BEGINS 6/5/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Nursing: NursingCAS
        *OPENS 8/15/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Occupational Therapy: OTCAS,
        *OPENS 7/18/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Optometry: OptomCAS
        *OPENS 6/28/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Orthotics & Prosthetics: OPCAS,
        *OPENS 7/19/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Osteopathic Medicine (DO): AACOMAS
        *OPENS 5/3/2018*, *PROCESSED APPLICATIONS TO MEDICAL SCHOOLS SENT BEGINNING 6/15/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
      • Pharmacy: PharmCAS
        *OPENS 7/18/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Physical Therapy: PTCAS
        *OPENS 7/5/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Podiatry: AACPMAS
        *OPEN 8/1/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Physician Assistant: CASPA
        *OPENS 4/26/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Public Health: SOPHAS
        *OPENS 8/17/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service: TMDSAS
        *OPENS 5/1/18*, GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS here, MEDICAL INSTRUCTION MANUAL here, DENTAL INSTRUCTION MANUAL here, VETERINARY INSTRUCTION MANUAL here
         
      • Veterinary Medicine: VMCAS
        *OPENS 5/11/18*, INSTRUCTION MANUAL here

      When you apply to health professions schools, they will require you to disclose if you have been the recipient of any institutional action for unacceptable academic performance or conduct, even if such action did not interrupt your enrollment or require you to leave the institution, or if the action has been deleted or expunged from your record. They will also ask if you have been found guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony. Many schools now conduct background checks as a final portion of the admissions process. If there was an issue in your past about which you are concerned, talk with your health professions advisor. It is extremely important that you represent yourself honestly and completely on your application. If there is an issue to report, good steps to describe the situation include:

      1. Briefly explain the circumstances of the transgression
      2. Take responsibility for your actions 
      3. Explain any disciplinary action that was taken and how you completed what was required
      4. Explain what you learned from the experience and how it's helped you to mature into a better person as a result
      5. Affirm that this hasn't happened again and won’t happen again

      Don’t hesitate to request a confidential conversation about this with a health professions advisor.

      Transcripts

      Every health professions school will require official copies of your transcripts as a part of the application process. Pay close attention to information regarding how, when, and to whom you should send your transcripts. Watch application deadlines and delivery dates. Be sure to request transcripts from all undergraduate institutions attended. Note that problems with transcripts are the number one cause of processing delays and missed application deadlines.

      Transcripts CAN NOT be sent by you or by your advisor to central application services or to health professions schools, they MUST be sent directly by the Registrars’ Offices.

      A large number of health professions schools are using centralized application services (CAS) to streamline the application process for everyone involved. Pay close attention to delivery addresses and codes for programs using a CAS.

      When it comes time to apply, make early transcript requests so that the processing of your application is not delayed by a lack of transcripts. 
      Wellesley College uses an online service to send transcripts called Parchment. If you are taking spring courses, we strongly recommend that you plan on having your spring grades appear on your application. Make sure your transcript is not sent until after the spring course grades have been recorded.

      Order transcript copies for yourself as well, as you will need them as you complete your applications. Look over your transcripts carefully and make sure the grades, courses, AP credit, etc. all look correct. You are entitled to have up to four eligible AP courses listed on your Wellesley transcript. Make sure you have the AP courses you want posted on your transcript if you’ve received more than four credits. For example, if you have to choose between a math AP credit and a history AP credit, choose the math credit as you may want it to count towards an application requirement.

      Once you order your transcripts, check to make sure all of your transcripts have been received by the application service.

      For AMCAS: Parchment is authorized by AMCAS to provide secure electronic transcripts to AMCAS. Choose “Academic Transcripts under the “Especially for Students” tab. Enter AMCAS in the field when asked where the document should be sent and hit “Search.” Select AMCAS. After the confirmation page, a box will appear that will ask for date of birth, AAMC ID, and AAMC Transcript ID number. Once those fields are completed, proceed to completion of the order. 

      For Other Centralized Application Services: If you are asked by an application service or school to attach a Transcript Request Form to your transcript, you may be unable to do this through Parchment. Instead, type the name of the application service along with your personal ID number into the address field to where you want the transcript to be mailed (for example, ”AACOMAS ID # 305624”). Your ID number will then be part of the address label, and the application service or school will be able to match your transcript to your application.

      International Transcripts: Many health professions schools and centralized application services will not accept transcripts from international schools. If a school to which you are applying does accept international courses, they may require that you provide an international school transcript. This may necessitate that you send the official international school transcript to a service such as World Education Services or Educational Credential Evaluators to evaluate your international courses for US equivalency. Be sure to check with the health professions programs directly for guidance.

      Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Courses: AMCAS requests that applicants list every post-secondary institution where they were enrolled for at least one course, even if credits have been transferred, no credits were earned, or the applicant withdrew. If you've taken an undergraduate course at MIT, then MIT should be listed on your “Schools Attended” list. When listing MIT courses, place “MIT” under “School Name” and list the courses that you took at MIT. Do not list the courses twice as MIT courses and then as Wellesley courses. Taking cross-registered courses at MIT generates no MIT transcript; the courses are listed on your Wellesley transcript. You must request a transcript exception for MIT using the “Consortium/cross-registration program” from the drop-down menu.

      Shadow Grades: As you know, Wellesley College now has mandatory Pass/No Pass grades for courses in the first semester and for some first-year Writing courses. Our Registrar’s Office and the Health Professions Advisors will not reveal your “shadow grades” to programs or schools.

      Completing Secondary Applications

      After receiving your primary application, health professions schools may ask you to complete a secondary application and pay a supplemental application fee. (If you are accepted into a Fee Assistance Program, many schools will give you a reduced secondary application fee.) It is important that you have internet access during the application process, and that you monitor your email (and your spam folder) closely.

      Work as carefully on your secondary applications as you did on your primary application. Print a copy of your secondary application, proofread it, and have a second person proofread it. Do not turn in an application with spelling and grammatical errors. Use the additional essays to highlight what in particular you like about the individual school. Keep in mind that schools are interested in both why you applied to their school, and how/why you would be a good addition to their community. Read the website of each school carefully, in particular noting the mission statement and the curriculum, and tailor your essays to show your interest and your fit. You may also choose to share things about yourself that you didn’t have a chance to describe in your primary application.

      Spend the time to complete these carefully and submit them before the deadlines. We strongly urge you to send in your secondary applications within two weeks of receiving the requests. If you delay in submitting your secondary applications, schools will interpret that as a lack of interest on your part.

      Sending Application Updates

      The application process spans a long period of time. During that time, you may have new accomplishments you want to share with the schools to which you are applying. Some items that may be of interest to admissions committees include:

      1. Additional undergraduate or graduate courses with grades 
      2. Awards or honors
      3. Presentations, posters, abstracts, and/or journal articles on which you were a major contributor
      4. Other significant experiences or achievements that were formative and that you believe made a difference in your understanding of the world

      Keep in mind that some schools will not accept updates from applicants, so it is important to find out if updates are welcomed by checking admissions websites, paying attention to communications from the schools, or by contacting the Admissions Office. Find out in what format and when updates would be most helpful. For example, some schools will want a copy of an official transcript that shows recent grades, while others may want you to incorporate your new grade information into your written update. Note that some centralized application services have specific periods of time during which you may update your application.

      If you send an update to a school, keep it brief and to the point. Begin your note by expressing your ongoing enthusiasm for the school, and if you can, mention specifically what it is about each particular school that makes you want to attend. Then include your new information. Be careful when sending these that you don't cut and paste information about one school and send it to another by mistake.

      Schools will also want to know about any significant negative developments since you submitted your application. For example, if any kind of disciplinary action has been taken or if you have been arrested for any reason, schools may require that you report this to them. Check with your central application service or with the individual schools to which you’ve applied.

      Sending frequent or inappropriate updates may cause your application to be viewed in a negative manner. For more about the pros and cons of sending updates, see Judge When to Update a Medical School Application from U.S. News and World Report. If you are not sure about sending an update, check with your Health Professions Advisor.