Application Planning (Applying to Health Profession Schools)

Learn about components of application preparation including: the Wellesley College Applicant Portfolio, personal statement writing, taking your entrance exam, financial planning, and choosing your schools. 

Wellesley College Applicant Portfolio

The Wellesey College Health Professions Applicant Portfolio is a tool for both organizing your application and sharing information with your MPAC letter writer. The portfolio mirrors the application. As you fill out your portfolio, you will be completing your first draft of your application.  Thoughtful completion of your portfolio serves the purposes of:

  1. Preparing a comprehensive and thorough application that tells your story to admissions committees.
  2. Communicating your achievements and competencies to your letter writers, so you can get the best letter possible.

Please take the time to reflect on your experiences and learning to create an accurate, concise and polished portfolio.  

You will set up your Applicant Portfolio following the directions found here

Your Applicant Portfolio is due to Health Professions Advising on January 31 and should be submitted via the Request for an MPAC Advisor form.

Costs of the Application Process

It is expensive to apply to health professions schools. Costs are incurred when taking admissions tests, submitting the application, completing secondary applications, purchasing an interview outfit, and interviewing. Following are resources to assist you with the costs of applying:

Taking Entrance Exams and Submitting Your Primary Application

Interviewing

  • The only appropriate attire for an interview is a conservative, dark blue, grey or black suit. The Wellesley Career Education and Wellesley Student Financial Services suit programs allow you to borrow a professional outfit for your interview.  Try consignment or thrift shops for inexpensive professional clothing. A good suit is an investment for a medical student! 

Travel

  • Look at various ways of getting to your destination, including bus, train, rental car, and airplane. Contact the school you are visiting and find out if there is an inexpensive way to get from the airport, bus, or train station to the school. Depending on the program, institutions may have funds available to assist applicants with travel and lodging expenses for interviews.
  • Accommodations
    Is there a friend or family member you can stay with while you are visiting a school? Contact the school and ask if there are students who are willing to host interviewees. Reach out to alumnae to see if there is anyone in the area who can host you during your visit: explore the Wellesley student and alumnae health professions organizations and The Wellesley Hive.

Costs of Attending Health Professions Schools

It can be very expensive to train to become a health professional. Research carefully the costs of health professions schools and then look into the possibility of scholarships and loans:

  • Individual school financial aid officers should be your first contact to begin learning about options regarding financial aid and scholarships. They are available to you from pre-application to post-graduation to assist with providing information on options for funding your professional education.
  • Research the cost of attendance for a variety of schools in your health profession of interest.
  • Talk with your family members about their ability to help finance your education either through gifts or loans.
  • Begin to create a budget to identify your needs and to avoid over spending and over borrowing.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in October in the year in which you are applying. Some schools may require parental information, even if you are considered independent for purposes of federal loans.

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  • There are a variety of websites that address financing an education in the health professions: most national organizations discuss this and offer resources on their websites.

  • Note that some states without public health professions schools participate in special interstate and regional agreements which provide their residents with access to professional education often at in-state rates. To find out more about this, visit the Selecting Schools section of this website.

  1. Wellesley College Fellowships, particularly the Shackford, Wood, and Workman Fellowships
  2. General Fellowships: Visit the Career Education Fellowships and Scholarships page
  3. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Loans and Scholarships
  4. AAMC Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools (FIRST)
  5. American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  6. MSU Libraries: For a terrific resource, try the enormous database of grants maintained there. Comb through every heading which might apply to you/what you're hoping fund (especially since with fellowships you need to think outside the box a bit to find appropriate fellowships/scholarships: a keyword search probably won't work, or will at least miss lots of good possibilities).
  7. US News and World Report Article on paying for medical school, includes information about scholarships, loans, etc.
  8. College Scholarships: Great information with multiple resources, including a page for nursingoccupational therapy, and physical therapy.
  9. USA Scholarships.com
  10. Consider these options to help pay for your education:
    1. Medical Scientist Training Program
    2. National Health Service Corps (NHSC)
    3. Indian Health Service Loan Repayment Program
    4. Medicine and the Military: Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)
    5. National Medical Fellowships
    6. National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs
    7. Loan Repayment/Forgiveness/Scholarship Programs
    8. Public Service Loan Repayment Program
    9. Scholarships, Loans, and Loan Repayment for Rural Health Professions

Taking Admissions Tests

Health professions schools vary on the type of test they require, how they receive the results of the admission tests, the weight they give to the results of the admission tests in the admissions process, how they will consider multiple test scores, and the oldest admission test they will accept. It is imperative that you learn about the admission test for EACH school to which you plan to apply. This includes test content, how/when/where the test is given, how early you will need to register for the test, how/when the scores will be reported to your selected schools, and whether your test results will be acceptable for application. Here are links to some of the admissions tests required by health professions schools:

Please note that for some test sites seats are limited, so be aware of when registration opens and reserve your testing date early!

When choosing the appropriate time to study for the required admission test, factor in all variables such as your academic workload, commitments outside of class (including jobs, research, clubs, sports, family, other relationships), and the amount of preparation time you will need. It is extremely important that you study for your admission test well in advance of the actual test date, and take as many timed practice tests as possible. You goal should be to take the admission test ONCE and to do your best. Some students find preparation courses helpful, others prepare well through self-study using test preparation materials. The national organization that sponsors the test may provide study materials. For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) sponsors a MCAT test preparation platform called the Official Prep Hub, a portal for free and low-cost test preparation resources and products. The AAMC has also collaborated with Khan Academy to create a collection of free tutorials for concepts that will be tested by the MCAT.

Ideally, you should have the results of your admission test before you select your schools and complete your application. This means you should have taken the test and received the results by the beginning of June for most applicants. If you plan on taking your admission test later, consider submitting your application without the test scores and with just one or two schools listed, in order to move your application ahead in the verification process (which can take weeks). Once you have your scores, you can add additional schools to your list based on the results. However, we strongly suggest that most applicants take their admission test and have the results no later than June of the application year.

When you take your admission test, please check “yes” when asked if you want to release your score to your advisor. It will be released to the Director of Health Professions Advising. This will allow us to assist you in your planning.

If you have a disability that requires test accommodations, you must apply for the necessary accommodations. Examples of accommodations include testing materials in large print, extra testing time, a separate testing environment, ability to bring medication, and presence of medical equipment. Give yourself plenty of lead time to apply for and be awarded accommodations.

A note about retaking an admission test: Again, we encourage you to plan on taking your admission test once, and doing your best. If you have taken the test and are unhappy with your scores, here are some questions to think about before you decide to register for a retake. Speak with your pre-health advisor if you are unsure about your next steps.

  1. Did you put in a great deal of time and effort preparing for the exam? If you didn’t, consider retaking the test with additional effort planned. If you did, be aware that your scores on the retake can go down as well as up. Do you want to risk that?
  2. Do you have the time, energy, motivation, and money to reregister and begin studying all over again?
  3. Was there a circumstance beyond your control that impacted this exam? (For example, illness, a death in the family, power outage, etc.) If yes, consider taking the exam again. If not, again, do you want to do this all again and possibly risk a lower score?
  4. If you take the test again, will waiting for the transmission of the new scores delay the review of your application by admissions committees? If it will, that's not optimal in terms of your application strategy, so consider waiting to apply in the next application cycle instead.

A note about CASPer: CASPer (Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics) is an online screening tool that helps admissions committees evaluate key personal and professional characteristics. Schools to which you are applying may ask you to complete this assessment.

There are specific dates during which this test is offered, and applicants must pay a fee. Information about registration, technical requirements for taking the test, preparation, format, security, and accommodations can be found at: http://takecasper.com/aboutcasper/. Test fees, dates, sample content, frequently asked questions, and contact information are also available on the CASPer website.

The CASPer test is composed of 12 sections. Each section contains either a video-based or word-based scenario followed by three questions. Grammar and spelling errors are not factored into the evaluation of the responses. Plan on spending approximately 90 minutes taking the CASPer test.

Selecting Health Profession Schools

Narrowing down the list of health professions schools to which you want to apply can be a daunting task. It will take time and effort. Remember that this is a big step in your life, so be thorough and thoughtful as you research schools and programs. If you have questions, meet with your Wellesley Health Professions Advisor to discuss your list of schools.

  • Look carefully at your state schools first. You may have a better chance of admission there, and perhaps to the private schools in your state of residence as well.
  • If you are thinking of applying to public schools outside of your state, take a look at their admissions statistics first. You can usually find these statistics on individual school websites, but national organizations may publish them as well (for example, the AAMC publishes admissions statistics by school for allopathic medical schools yearly). What percentage of the class is made up of out-of-state residents? If it is low, reconsider.
  • Make sure most of the schools to which you apply are compatible with your GPA and admission test scores. A few “reach” schools are fine, but ensure you have some schools on the list to which you have a realistic chance of admission.
  • Read the mission statement of each school. Does it fit with your goals?
  • Consider factors such as geography, cost, curriculum, style of teaching, special programs, size of class, diversity, research opportunities, and other aspects that are important to you.
  • Keep in mind costs, time, and effort as you think about the number of schools to which you’ll apply. In addition to primary applications, you’ll have the cost and labor of secondary applications. Anticipate your potential interview schedule and costs as well.
  • International and undocumented and DACA applicants must pay careful attention to school websites regarding their eligibility for admission.
  • Contact Wellesley student and alumnae organizations to get information and feedback about schools that Wellesley graduates have attended.
  • If you’re considering applying to medical school, remember that there are two types of medical schools in the US: osteopathic medical schools and allopathic medical schools. Learn about both options and consider whether applying to one or both types of medical schools makes sense for you (see links below for more information).
  • If you’re considering applying to medical schools outside of the US but wish to someday practice medicine in the US, visit the Educational Commission For Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) website. You will be considered an international medical school graduate and will have to go through a different process in order to practice in the US.

Note that some states without state-run health professions schools participate in special interstate and regional agreements which provide their residents with access to professional school education. You can learn about these regional opportunities by visiting their websites.

There are some schools that cater to the care of specific populations. For example, medical schools with rural health programs include University of Massachusetts, Ohio University, Tufts University, Thomas Jefferson University, University of Wisconsin, SUNY Upstate, University of Washington, University of Alabama, Columbia University, University of Kansas, and University of Colorado.

Joint / Combined / Dual / Double Degree Programs

Do your academic and career interests span more than one type of graduate or professional school? Many universities and health professions schools now offer the opportunity to earn more than one degree in joint/combined/dual/double degree programs. Individual institutions use these terms in different ways, so read the descriptions and outcomes on individual websites carefully as you compare programs. Work closely with your advisors, mentors, and faculty to decide if a dual degree program is necessary to meet your career goals.

Make sure you fully understand the admissions requirements that are necessary to apply for each degree program, as they can vary greatly and lead to confusion or missed deadlines. Some schools will require admission into both programs prior to matriculation, while others may require/allow application to the second program after matriculation into the first program.

  1. It may take a shorter amount of time to complete both degrees 
  2. The cost may be less to complete both degrees
  3. Some joint degree programs are funded (e.g., MD/PhD through the National Institutes of Health Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP))
  4. Joint programs may integrate learning across domains
  5. There may be unique access to faculty, resources, and experiences
  6. There may be enhanced employment opportunities after graduation
  1. Entry may require gaining admission to both degree programs and  may be more competitive
  2. It may take longer time to graduate and begin earning an income
  3. It may be more expensive than the cost of a single degree program
  4. Education in one degree area may be disrupted by responsibilities in the other  
  5. There may be less time for elective courses, rotations, and other opportunities for exploration
  6. Participants may be separated from peers when moving between degree programs
  7. Stress and time management skills are important factors in accelerated programs
  1. MD/PhD: Applicants who desire a career in investigative medicine that is informed by their clinical experience can consider obtaining a joint MD/PhD degree. (Please note that obtaining a PhD is not necessary to pursue a career in medical research.) Typically, MD/PhD programs take 7-8 years to complete, with the first 1-2 years spent completing course work, the next 3-5 years completing a doctoral thesis project, and a final 1-2 years in core clinical training. Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP) are among the most recognized and competitive MD/PhD programs. MSTP positions are funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and individual participating medical schools.  Applicants admitted to these highly competitive programs receive full tuition coverage as well as a stipend throughout the entire training period. Note that some institutions offer non-MSTP MD/PhD programs, and financial coverage for these programs may be variable, so it is important to ask about this if you intend to apply. The PhD degree is typically completed in a biomedical discipline, but some institutions offer opportunities for graduate study outside of laboratory disciplines. Note that not every research specialty is offered at every medical school and that curricula can vary. The majority of MD/PhD graduates enter residencies after graduation, but a small percentage go straight into research postdoctoral fellowship positions. Nearly all MD/PhD programs participate in AMCAS for their application process. In addition to the personal statement, applicants are asked to complete two additional essays: one on their interest in entering a MD/PhD program, and the other about their research experience. Letters of recommendation are expected from each research mentor. Some institutions may require GRE scores in addition to MCAT scores. Note that these programs are highly competitive, and require high GPAs, high admissions scores, and significant independent research experience. Specifically, admissions officers will want to know that you have played an active role in asking questions, designing and carrying out experiments, troubleshooting, gathering and analyzing data, and communicating your findings in written and oral form. They are looking to see if you have gained competency in scientific inquiry, quantitative reasoning, adaptability, resilience, teamwork, reliability, dependability, capacity for improvement, and critical thinking. They will look at for how long you worked on a project, and what your mentor(s) thought of your participation. For more information, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website.  
  2. MD/MPH: Graduates of joint MD/MPH programs can combine their clinical expertise with knowledge of public health issues. They may be interested in pursuing careers in clinical medicine, research, policy, advocacy, and consulting.  Over 80 medical schools sponsor activities to help their students to pursue a master’s degree in public health. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) has a MD/MPH-DO/MPH Guide that has detailed information about obtaining joint medical and public health degrees. The AAMC publishes a Directory of MD/MPH Educational Opportunities as well as Public Health Pathways for Pre-Medical Students.
  3. MD/JD: Graduates of MD/JD programs may pursue careers in medical practice, policy, government, as part of an executive team for a healthcare institution, forensic medicine, and law with a medical focus. Note that most applicants will be required to take both the MCAT and the LSAT.  Eduers.com has a list of MD/JD programs on its website.
  4. MD/MBA: Graduates of MD/MBA programs may use their knowledge in areas such as running the business side of a clinical practice, working at the executive level for a healthcare institution, pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry, or providing consulting services. Note that most applicants will need to take both the MCAT and the GMAT as part of the application process. In addition, certain business schools may have experiential requirements that differ from medical schools. TheAssociation of MD/MBA Programs has a website that includes a list of MD/MBA programs. The Atlantic published an article on “The Rise of the MD/MBA Degree” in 2014.

Many dental schools offer programs in which students can obtain a variety of degrees in addition to their DDS or DMD degrees. These include master’s degrees and doctoral degrees (PhD, MD, DO). A list of dental schools with joint degree programs is available in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.  For more information, visit the ADEA website.

Veterinary schools also host a number of master’s and doctorate programs that can be combined with the DVM degree. For a list of resources, visit theAAVMC website

The nursing profession is rapidly expanding, and there are now more than 120 types of joint degree nursing programs in the US today as per the Nurse Journal website. For detailed information, see “