Preparing for a career in health can (and in some cases should) start as early as your first year in college. Programs want to see that you have been thoughtful in your decision to pursue your health career of choice and that you have taken the appropriate steps to get there. In order to be a competitive applicant, these are some things that you should consider:
Volunteering, Internships, and Shadowing in Healthcare Settings
Letters of Recommendation
Course Planning – This involves knowing the appropriate coursework required for your intended health program and balancing it with major and graduation requirements. Select the right sequence in collaboration with your pre major/major advisor and the pre health advisor.
Extracurricular Involvement – A lot of professional health programs like to see well rounded individuals and compassionate citizens. This doesn’t mean signing up for every club and/or leadership opportunity on campus or in your community. Choose to be involved in things that are meaningful to you. Are you passionate about music? Or maybe you care about children and want to get involved in a community youth program? Or perhaps there is a club on campus that promotes social justice awareness that interests you? Whatever it is that you decide to be involved in, make sure there is a meaningful connection.
Research – This may or may not be a requirement for professional health programs. You’ll have to research the individual programs to know for sure. Ultimately, it is up to you and your professional interests. If research is a passion of yours, then it will only help your application if you get some research experience. Connect with your advisors and faculty members to see what research opportunities may be available to you: http://www.uwb.edu/research/undergraduate-research.
Volunteering, Internships, and Shadowing in Healthcare Settings – A certain amount of hours are required for many professional health programs. However, it is always in your best interest, no matter the requirements, to get some experience in a health care setting. Please consult with the pre-health advisor and the Career Center to discuss these options.
Entry Exams – Almost every health program requires students to complete an entry exam and the specific exam varies on the health field. For example, students interested in medical school take the MCAT while students interested in pharmacy take the PCAT. Typically, these are taken a full year prior to your intended start date in the program, however, you will have to check with the specific school for their recommendation on when to take your entry exam. Students usually need a certain amount of coursework completed in order to be successful on the exam. It is highly recommended that you study for these entry exams and take multiple practice tests. For information on prep resources, see your pre-health advisor.
Letters of Recommendation – Every school will require letters of recommendation. Make lasting connections with your faculty members, advisors, supervisors in professional settings, health care professionals that you’ve worked with, etc. Everyone has had to ask for a letter of recommendation at some point and most people are happy to provide good recommendations if approached the right way. Please see the section under Application for more information.
Professional Etiquette – The most important thing to keep in mind when approaching people for letters of recommendation, shadowing opportunities, or even the admissions staff at the school you are applying to, is to always be professional, respectful, and grateful. People are more willing to work with you and do nice things for you if you have this approach.