If you’re not applying this upcoming cycle, there are many things that students can do to prepare for an application cycle, but the 5 main things that I would suggest are:
Develop a timeline.
I am a big advocate of students developing a timeline to keep them on track.
College in general is overwhelming, so it’s important to highlight areas that you need to direct your attention to or accomplish, and have goals specific to those areas. Having a timeline of goals that you have will help you look you at yourself on paper and make sure you fit those things in.
Some things you questions you might ask yourself:
When do you need to accomplish running for leadership positions?
When are you going to fit in medical, dental, veterinary, or PA experience?
When are you going to fit in studying and preparing for courses?
When are you going to finish your pre-reqs?
When are you going to study abroad if that’s a goal of yours?
When are you going to look at research opportunities?
Go ahead and come up with a general timeline. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be set in stone but you can use it to guide you to be able to meet the goals you need to be competitive for the professional school of your choice is met.
Start planning for summer (NOW).
Summer is a great time to fit things other than coursework. Some of you focus so much on your grades in the fall and spring that the summer is the perfect time to fit in medical, dental, veterinary experience, community service, and even hobbies.
But you don’t want to wait until summer starts to start contacting community service organizations to volunteer with, PAs to shadow, dentists to shadow, jobs to look for, etc. If you wait until summer you likely won’t get hired until the end of June or beginning of July, which will take your 3 solid months and whittle it down to only a month and a half. So it’s really important to start planning now.
Think of what you need to do. Look at your timeline. Look at what you have planned for the summer, and start applying for research, summer programs, employment and shadowing opportunities. I was just working with a student on this and some of those summer programs are due by the end of January. Some of these programs require resumes, letters of recommendations, etc, so you can’t wait too long in applying for these, especially shadowing/volunteering.
By spring break I highly recommend that you recontact those who you would like to shadow or volunteer with. Let them know when you’ll be back in town and/or available and start setting those up now.
(Note: It takes a lot time and paperwork to get into hospitals and clinics to volunteer so you can start that process now so that when school is done, you can jump right into it and utilize all of your summer vacation.)
Make it a good summer and start planning now!
Start paying attention to healthcare issues.
I never say it’s too early to start paying attention to what’s going on in healthcare. Read about some of the hot topics like technology in dentistry – where it is and where it’s going, or mid-level providers- their role and how they’re growing in importance. Here are some good websites my current students in medical and PA school use to find the most timely and incredible information.
Just start getting out healthcare issues and reading about them here and there.
Tip: Healthcare is a broad topic, so find one topic that you’re passionate about and follow it. That topic will become the area that, if they ask you in an interview what you’re paying attention to, you’ll have an area that you’re paying attention to the most.
It may sound silly, but a big portion of your entrance exams such as the OAT, PCAT, MCAT, and DAT, is a reading comprehension section. I know that so many of you are not English students. You “AP”ed out of English, and you were happy because you hoped you’d never have to do it again. But, honestly, that reading comprehension section is a weakness for most students when they take their entrance exams.
In order to remedy that and refresh your English brain, you need to read. I’m not talking about your science textbooks. Read anything you want- fiction, non-fiction, history.
Make it a goal for yourself to read a couple of novels over the summer. I promise it will pay off when you take your entrance exams.
Do a pre-requisite check.
A check is a good thing to start doing to see if you are meeting the pre-reqs required for your profession. Medical and dental are pretty streamlined and easy – you just have to make sure your pre-reqs are completed before your entrance exam. Other professions – your pre-reqs need to be done before you apply or you can only have certain courses you can take while you’re applying. So, it’s always a good idea to check and make sure you are completing the required pre-reqs.
Important note: What you need for your degree and what you need for applying are two different things. The most common mistake is with English Composition. Ex: In order to graduate from Texas A&M you have to complete 2 courses in either English or Speech, but to apply for medical or dental school you have to have both courses be English courses.
- Develop a timeline.
- Start preparing for summer now.
- Start paying attention to healthcare issues.
- Do a pre-req check.
If you have any questions, let me know!
Talk to you soon-