Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising at WWU
The Application Process
The application process to medical schools begins approximately one year before the desired date of admission. Generally, students begin the summer after their junior year and continue as applicants well into their senior year. This timeline will depend upon how far along a student is with the science foundation courses.
There are four key components to the application process: the application form (AMCAS), MCAT scores, letters of recommendation, and an interview.
APPLICATION FORMS/AMCAS —
The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) offers application service to more than 100 medical schools. Application may begin as early as June 1 of the year preceding anticipated medical school enrollment. Depending upon schools to which you are applying, closing deadlines vary between October and December. AMCAS applications are available each May online at www.aamc.org. There are also library resources in the Pre-Healthcare Advising office to assist you with your selection of schools. Note: AMCAS is not inclusive of all medical schools. Applicants must apply directly to schools not participating with the AMCAS service.
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is offered at Thomson Prometric computer-based testing sites. For more details on testing dates, times, locations, and questions about the computerized MCAT and the new, shorter format, see Computerized MCAT Exam Information. Applicants must take the exam no later than September of the year preceding anticipated admission. There are various ways to prepare for the MCAT, and each student takes an individualized approach toward this. MCAT applications are available in the Testing Center (OM 120) each February. The application packet includes test preparation materials which can be ordered. There are also preparatory classes available, generally in the Seattle area. There may also be preparatory classes that can be found on the World Wide Web. Occasionally, Western's and the University of Washington's Pre-Med Clubs occasionally offer MCAT practice in advance of the national test dates.
Beginning spring quarter of your junior year, you may establish a pre-med reference letter file with the Career Services Center and submit your letters of reference to that file. The Career Center can then assist you with the dissemination of your letters of reference to medical schools. The forms needed to start your are available to download from the Career Services Center website at www.careers.wwu.edu.
LETTERS OF REFERENCE —
Following receipt of AMCAS data, medical schools send correspondence directly to applicants they target as competitive. Correspondence usually includes notification of application fees, supplemental applications, and requests for letters of reference. Although the number and source of references may vary, on average, schools request letters of reference from three faculty who have instructed you from a combination of science and non-science disciplines; one should be a "mentor." The most common package requested include a letter from one biology faculty, one chemistry faculty, and one additional faculty from science or humanities.
Essential to your success in soliciting for letters of reference will be how interactive you have been with faculty both in and out of the classroom. Faculty will be less willing to write letters if they have had minimal contact with you and therefore do not know you well.
Compiling letters of reference takes time. Begin sooner rather than later; no later than midway through your Junior year is recommended. Offer faculty a reasonable length of time to respond to your request and expect to do some direct follow-up with them to assure your letters are in progress or completed. It is also helpful if you limit the number of requests for letters from any person. Writing letters takes time; try to be considerate of your professors!
If you've made it this far you are at the final hurdle of consideration. Your interview skills are very important and greatly influence an admission board's decision to admit you. Good grades and MCAT scores are not enough to offset a bad interview. The best way to prepare is to know what to expect and use resources available to you to prepare. The Pre-Healthcare Advising office (OM 280M) has information specific to medical schools and medical school interviews. The Career Services Center offers workshops on general interviewing skills as well as mock interview sessions.
Some recommendations about the interview based on a UW workshop include: be able to discuss in detail what you mention in your personal statement; show respect for the process with proper attire and speech etc.; be prepared to discuss why you are better than candidates with equal or better credentials; be prepared to discuss the latest issues in health care; reduce the number of I's and my's; do not be too intimidated or shy but engage your interviewer in a conversation.
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