Applying to the health professions graduate program of your choice can seem like a daunting task. There are many steps, and you must be ready to accept the responsibility of managing this process. To assist you, we have created several sections here that will explain the entire process.
Although requirements vary by school, most medical, dental, and veterinary schools require a mininium of one year each of:
In addition, one year of math is strongly recommended and is required at some schools.
The timing of completing your coursework depends largely on when you plan to apply to professional or graduate school:
Some students have completed a required course while abroad. Although this is an option, we strongly recommend you consider all of your options and speak with an advisor before undertaking this step.
We encourage you to keep summer session science courses to a minimum. However, we recognize that there are circumstances when taking a summer session course is appropriate (e.g., planning for study abroad). In these instances, research your course options carefully and consult with your department and Pre-Health advisor.
Sufficient extracurricular activities (quality, not quantity) and evidence of service work can significantly strengthen your candidacy. Given the competition for admission, experience in a hospital or health care environment (e.g., doctor's, dentist's or veterinarian's office) is critical.
With the current emphasis on primary care and preventative medicine, "shadowing" a practicing physician in a local community may be very instructive — and may provide you with an interesting contrast to how health care is delivered in some large city hospitals.
Health professions graduate schools are not only looking for outstanding students, but they also want to fill their classes with individuals who have something unique or unusual to offer their institutions. Try to think about what sets you apart from other top applicants, and continue to refine and/or develop that aspect of your portfolio. There is no one correct activity. We recommend that whatever you are involved in, just be certain to show a commitment to doing it well. Again, quality, not quantity, is important.
Over and above simply participating in an already existing program, admissions committees are looking for evidence of creativity and innovation. Additionally, taking a leadership role that involves advocacy for some cause/program can greatly help your candidacy.
The Pre-Health team will periodically send out announcements with various internship and volunteer opportunities.
Each Fall, we hold an application meeting for all students and alumni planning to apply to medical and dental health professions graduate schools during the upcoming summer. For example, if you plan to enter graduate school the Fall after you graduate, you would attend this meeting during the Fall of your junior year. At this meeting you will receive an Application Packet and Checklist Calendar outlining deadlines for submitting the BC Committee Application. You will also be assigned to a member of the Premedical/Predental Committee.
During the Spring, you will work closely with your assigned premedical/predental advisor and will be required to submit a minimum of three letters of evaluation, including at least one from a science faculty member with whom you have taken a course. At the end of the Spring semester, the Committee meets to evaluate all students who have turned in the required forms and have completed the basic Premedical/Predental courses.
Before you are evaluated by the Committee, you must have completed one year of courses from each of the following subjects:
Generally, Pre-Health students have completed all of their basic requirements by the end of their junior year and therefore may be evaluated by the Committee that May or June. When the Committee meets, your assigned Pre-Health advisor will present your case to the Committee, which then prepares a comprehensive letter reviewing the academic, extracurricular, and personal elements of your undergraduate performance.
|Time of Year||Benchmark|
|September/October||Annual applicant meeting; Distribution of Checklist Calendar|
|November 1||Deadline: Phase I - BC Committee Application (General Information)|
|January 20||Deadline: Phase II - BC Committee Application (Committee Essays)|
|January-April||Meet with assigned Premedical Advisor|
|March 10||Deadline: Letters of Evaluation|
|April 24||Deadline: Phase III - BC Committee Application (Committee Update Form)|
|April–mid-June||Take standardized tests|
|June–early July||Submit your applications|
|September–February||Professional or graduate school interviews|
Most BC applicants spread the coursework over 4 years and apply to health professions graduate schools as seniors/alumni. 76% take one or more “gap or bridge” years between graduation and health professions graduate school matriculation. The average age of matriculating medical students is 24, so taking a year or two off does not harm your chances.
To continue on to health professions graduate school directly after graduation from BC, you must complete the required courses in 3 years as well as study for and take the MCAT. Keep in mind some schools require specific coursework beyond these basic requirements. We recommend researching schools of interest to check prerequistes courses, mean GPA and mean Standardized Test scores.
The computerized Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will be given on various dates in January, as well as April through September. Registration information and test dates are posted on the website for the Association of American Medical Colleges. Registration is online.
Be sure to submit your application for the MCAT well before the registration due date, as there is a substantial fee for late registration. Registering early also increases the probability that you will get your first-choice test site. If you plan to apply for the Fee Assistance Program (FAP), we suggest you access the above website and closely examine the instructions and deadlines.
Important Note: The AAMC gives an excellent overview of the MCAT. The MCAT will cover additional topics (Biochemistry, Statistics, Sociology, Psychology) not previously covered in earlier versions of the exam. We therefore recommend that you take an elective in Biochemistry and Statistics. In addition, the BC Psychology and Sociology departments offer courses that can help you prepare for this exam.
Most medical schools fill their classes on an ongoing basis ("rolling admissions"). Therefore we strongly recommend that students apply as early as possible. If you are applying to medical school during the upcoming admissions cycle (this summer), we strongly recommend you take the MCATs in the late April–July period. If you are an undergraduate, please plan your Spring term accordingly, as studying for the MCAT should take more time than an individual course. Given the importance of this exam, we do not recommend you take the MCAT unless you have had time to prepare.
Those individuals who plan to delay applying to medical school until the end of their senior year (or later) often choose to take the MCAT in August, just before they return for their final year at BC. This strategy allows them to focus on their grades during second semester of their junior year, without having to study for the MCAT. If they do poorly on the August test, they still can retake the MCAT in January of senior year, or the spring or summer just after senior year, and the scores from this exam will not delay the evaluation of their applications by medical-school admissions committees.
The MCAT includes the following four test sections:
The MCAT is a test for which you should study. The best method for you depends on your learning style and work habits. If you generally are well organized, you can plan a study schedule on your own or with one or two friends. Stick to it; you may have no need for a commercial course. Your texts and notes from introductory science courses provide a good basis for review.
Historically, the BC Continuing Education Office has offered a discounted MCAT and/or DAT course. Announcements about the test prep course are made at the annual Application Meeting each September/October and are posted under BC Student/Alumni/ae under the Applicant link. Though not required, students have found that electives in Biochemistry, Statistics, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Genetics, Physiology, Psychology and Sociology have helped them prepare for the MCATs—as well as for the first year of medical school.
In addition, you may find the following resources very helpful in guiding your study and providing practice exams:
The AAMC has a study guide: The Official Guide to MCAT Exam. It has also created a separate website, EMCAT.com, featuring official MCAT practice tests that mirror the actual MCAT exam. The Association of American Medical Colleges has teamed up with free online education service Khan Academy and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide free online resources for students taking the revised MCAT, which debuts in 2015.
Comprehensive study guides can be found in many bookstores (e.g. Barnes and Noble, Borders) as well as through the web (Amazon). Various publishers put out MCAT preparation books. Kaplan, Princeton Review, Scholarware, Arco, and Barrons are some of the more popular guides and they can be found in many good bookstores and on the web (e.g. amazon.com). Many students use “ExamKrackers”, and they provide preparation for standardized exams through books, audio CD’s, DVD’s, internet forums, and live classes. New resources are constantly being put out, so a “Google Search” titled “MCAT Preparation” may result in some additional options.
Register for the DAT through the American Dental Association. The DAT is administered by Thomson Prometric.
Timing of the DAT is largely up to you; however, some dental schools state that they must have the scores one year (e.g., September/October) prior to the year of matriculation. Given this, as well as the 90-day waiting period for a retake, we recommend you plan accordingly. (In the past, students have generally scheduled the exam for June/July prior to the year of matriculation). To learn more about the DAT, we strongly encourage you to review the book Official Guide to Dental Schools. It is also on reserve in O’Neill Library (BIOL 1000.01).
The DAT is a computerized exam that tests students on the natural sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry), perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. Each section is scored on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 30 (highest) with a score of 17 indicating average performance. The exam usually takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete. You will receive your scores immediately upon completing the exam; however, it usually takes about two to three weeks for the dental schools you’ve selected to receive the scores. If you are unhappy with your performance, you must wait 90 days before you can retake the exam.
The Continuing Education Office at B.C. has, in the past, offered a discounted DAT Prep course. If offered, announcements concerning any DAT Test Prep courses are made at the annual October Application Meeting and are posted at BC Students/Alumni.
Veterinary schools vary in terms of their standardized test requirements, but most require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). In the past, some schools required (or accepted) the MCAT. Information regarding the standardized test requirements for the various schools is available on the website Association of American Veterinary Medicine College.
The best strategy is to take the GRE the year that you intend to apply. Some students prefer to take it during the fall or spring semester prior to applying so that they will have time to retake if necessary. Other students take the exam during the summer to have more time to prepare. It is strongly advised that you take the GRE before you fill out the VMCAS application so that you already have your scores. This will aid in your choice of schools to which you want to apply and help determine if you are a strong candidate.
Veterinary colleges typically require only the general GRE. This test is broken down into three sections; verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. The verbal reasoning focuses on the ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information as well as recognizing relationships between words and concepts. The quantitative reasoning section tests the ability to understand basic concepts of algebra, geometry, and data analysis. It also requires quantitative problem solving and reasoning. The analytical writing section requires the test-taker to clearly articulate complex ideas, examine claims and evidence, support ideas with examples and sustained a focused, coherent discussion.
The Boston College Office of Continuing Education offers GRE Test Prep Courses.
The OAT (Optometry Admission Test) Program is designed to measure general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability. You must apply for your test with the OAT Program and receive your electronic notification prior to scheduling your testing appointment with Prometric. Tests are administered year-round at Prometric Test Centers in the United States. For further information visit the OAT website.
You have the option to apply to medical/dental school through the Boston College Pre-Health Committee Letter Process. Since most health professions graduate schools are aware that Boston College evaluates candidates by a committee process, we recommend utilizing the Committee Letter Process. You also have the option to apply on your own with individual letters of recommendation.
In order for a committee letter to be written for an applicant, the following criteria must be met:
One year each of the following basic Pre-Health courses must be taken:
If you have not completed the above four (4) courses by the end of the Spring semester in the year you wish to apply, you will not qualify for a Spring Evaluation.
The Committee will prepare a comprehensive letter for each eligible Boston College applicant to medical and dental school. This 5–7 page letter reviews the student's academic, extracurricular, and personal characteristics. The general form of the Committee Letter is as follows:
For each of the health professions graduate programs you may choose to apply for, a substantial process must be followed. For each, though, there is at least one centralized non-profit organization to help you manage your application. We have specific information and advice for each of the various application processes in hopes to aid in your steps toward graduate school education.
The centralized, non-profit application service for allopathic schools is called the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), which is a program of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The centralized, non-profit application service for osteopathic schools is called American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS). The organization that processes applications for osteopathic medical schools is called the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).
All students applying to AMCAS and/or AACOMAS-participating schools must submit their application materials to those schools through the respective centralized application service(s). You will, therefore, submit only one set of application materials and official transcripts for each type of medical school, regardless of the number of participating AMCAS or AACOMAS schools to which you apply. The major goal of the centralized application services is to simplify and standardize the application process and to provide the participating medical schools with uniform, readable information on their candidates.
Medical schools fill their classes on a rolling admissions basis, so the sooner you submit your application, the better your chances are at getting accepted. Medical schools receive the majority of their applications in August, just before school begins.
The AMCAS application will ask you whether or not you plan to retake the MCAT in August. You should receive results for the spring exam by mid-June. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you submit your application as soon as you receive your MCAT scores, and no later than June 30th.
Write to these schools in the late spring and request an application and a catalogue. Addresses are located on each school's web page and may also be found in the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR).
Each non-AMCAS school requires you to submit transcripts from any college and summer school you have attended. Have the Registrar's Office send your transcript to each school individually. Simultaneously, order a transcript for yourself to make sure that the correct transcript was sent to AMCAS and/or AACOMAS. If you have been granted a fee waiver from AMCAS, inform the non-AMCAS schools, and they will probably waive the fee as well.
If you are considering dentistry as a career option, you should consult the book Admissions Requirements of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools, which is on reserve in O'Neill Library (and may be purchased through the American Dental Education Association). See the tables in the front of the book for a good comparative overview of dental schools, which includes GPAs, science GPAs, and DAT scores for all schools.
As with medical schools, dental schools have a centralized, non-profit organization called American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which most U.S. dental schools use for the processing of preliminary applications. The AADSAS application has very thorough instructions. For DAT preparation, as well as information about the field of dentistry and links to individual dental schools, please visit American Dental Education Association.
The Preveterinary Planning Guide and the Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements, both on reserve at O'Neill Library, have excellent information about veterinary medicine. Applications to veterinary schools have increased significantly over the past few years. Recently, the national average exam score for accepted students has been approximately 3.5.
There is a national application service, the Veterinary Medical College Application Service, to which some, but not all, of the veterinary schools subscribe. For further information and a link to the individual schools, visit the website of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).
Interviews at health professions graduate schools are an opportunity for the admissions committee to get to know you and to understand your commitments and goals. There are several formats that admission committees employ: Group, Traditional, Multi Mini. Before the day of your interview, review both your primary and secondary applications for that school. Additionally, you should look closely at the school's website, review any material the school may have sent you and be prepared to discuss why you are specifically interested in their program. You should also know what interview format the school utilizes and practice, practice, practice
The Pre-Health Program offers the following resources:
The process of applying for financial aid to health professions graduate schools vary by school. It is always best to check with the specific health professions schools' financial aid office for specific instructions. Below are steps to help you begin the process:
For additional resources, please contact the Pre-Health Program.
You could delay your application so that you have time to take science courses that will hopefully bring your cumulative averages into the range of accepted candidates. Increasing numbers of students have waited until the spring of their senior year (or later) to be evaluated by our Premedical Committee. (Our Committee advises and writes letters for a significant number of alumni every year.) The schools then have senior-year and/or post-baccalaureate grades to evaluate. This would mean that the student would potentially begin graduate school one year after graduating from Boston College.
Many students/alumni are opting to apply to health professions graduate schools in their senior year or beyond. It is important that you assess your candidacy for health professions graduate school so that you can use the gap year(s) to strengthen your candidacy by either strenghtening your clinical/volunteer experience or your academic credentials.
We recommend that students whose academic credentials are not competitive consider waiting at least until the summer after their senior year to apply. You can avoid wasting significant time and money (application fees), which hopefully will free you up to concentrate on improving your academic performance in the classroom. An excellent senior year and/or strong post-baccalaureate coursework can greatly improve chances for admission.
It can be very advantageous for a student with a modest science GPA to consider enrolling either full or part-time in a post-graduate program. There are several options:
The Pre-Health team can provide additional options or resources if you are considering post-graduate work.