Application Planning (Applying to Health Profession Schools)

Learn about components of application preparation including: the Wellesley College Applicant Portfolio, your personal statement, choosing your schools and dual degrees. 

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.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is your opportunity to speak directly to the admissions committees, crafting your story. A successful personal statement shares:

  • Who you are
  • Why you want to go to medical/dental/etc school
  • How you are prepared for future training

A personal statement should be PERSONAL, allowing the reader to get to know you as an individual. For some applicants, there will be an obvious story of a pivotal moment to share; others have made their decision to pursue their profession based on a series of smaller decisions.  Writing a good personal statement requires self-reflection, numerous drafts, feedback from others, and time. Start your personal statement early so that you are able to take time away from working on it, returning with fresh eyes.

Your personal statement should:

  • Be organized around a central theme, telling a story that only you can tell. While many other applicants will have a similar theme, no one else will tell your specific story. 
  • Share your hopes and plans for your career in a way that shows you understand what you are getting into. 
  • Be easy to follow and understand.
  • Be written in clear, direct, active language.
  • Be completely free of errors.
  • Leave the reader wanting to meet you in person!

It should not:

  • Be generic - when you finish your personal statement it should be something that only you could have written.
  • Include quotes.
  • Focus on the negative.
  • Try to cover everything. Remember, you will have your activities and experiences section to talk about what you have done as well!
  • Be opened to misinterpretation or leave the reader confused or with big questions.
  • Sound boastful or brag (leave statements about your awesomeness to your letter writers.)

Sensitive information - how do you decide if you should include information about something that's personal?  Many times it is appropriate to include information about medical challenges you've faced, overcoming a challenging background or lack of access to resources, details about your sexual orientation, or difficult life events. Consider the following questions when deciding about adding sensitive information to your personal statement:

  • Is it an important part of your journey? 
  • Has it impacted your academics in a way that will raise a question on your application? 
  • Have you grown because of this?
  • Has it impacted the kind of doctor you will be?
  • How might it be received by a variety of readers?

For more resources on personal statements: 

Maximum character counts:

    • Dental = 4500
    • MD = 5300
    • DO = 5300

Your MPAC advisor will review your first draft of your personal statement with you during your initial meeting or Committee Letter interview. A first draft is meant to be just a draft, don't feel like you must have a perfect statement complete.

Choosing Your Schools

Gathering information about programs and choosing appropriate schools is essential for success in the admissions process. There are a wide range of factors to consider when choosing your schools. Here are few resources to help you with your planning:

  1. Medical School Admissions Requirements (MD). It's well worth the cost to pay for full access to this resource!
  2. Choose DO Explorer
  3. Official Guide to Dental Schools
  4. Veterinary School Admission Requirements (AAVMC)
  5. Optometry Schools (ASCO)
  6. Podiatry Schools (AACPM)
  7. All Access: Medical Admissions Podcast by Case Western Admissions Dean Christian Essman
  8. Wellesley Health Professions Choosing Your Schools Video
  9. Alumnae Blog on Choosing Medical Schools
  10. Individual School Websites

As you learn about each school, write notes to yourself so that you don't have to keep going back and exploring the same schools. Try to decide what's important to you in a program, and gather this consistent information about all schools. You can keep this information in your applicant portfolio.

  • Look carefully at your state schools first. You may have a better chance of admission there, and they tend to be less expensive when you are in-state.
  • 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, consider what attracts you to the program.
  • 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, hospitals where you will train 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 the AAVMC 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 “Your Guide to Graduate Nursing Programs” published by the American Association of Colleges in Nursing.