Preparing for Medical, Dental or Veterinary School…….
As was pointed out elsewhere in our web page the professional schools are not requiring a specific major but they do have a list of courses they want to see before they will consider your application. We’re lumping these professions together because they usually are very similar pathways and for the most part these programs have very similar pre-matriculation lists of classes.
First, you begin your preparation to become an applicant the first day you arrive at Ouachita. Attend class – don’t skip! Be on time. Take good notes. Avoid all-nighters before exams. Your professors are taking mental notes to use in writing recommendation letters later on! Communicate with your academic advisor and listen to their advice.
Second, in preparing your class schedule each semester you should take an appropriate load. You are trying to meet graduation requirements as well as prepare to take the MCAT (DAT or VCAT). Professional schools also want to see that you can complete a rigorous schedule while still making good grades. Avoid taking those tougher courses in the summer. Cherry-picking those courses looks bad.
To gain entry at UAMS beginning in 2013 you must have completed:
2 semesters of Biology
3 semesters of Chemistry (to include Organic Chemistry with lab, and Biochemistry)
1 semester of Genetics
2 semesters of Physics
2 semesters of English
1 semester of Statistics
2 semesters of Social Sciences
Psychology and Sociology are strongly recommended
Most of the medical schools in this region of the country have very similar requirements and it is your responsibility to look these up and make sure you have completed everything for those programs to which you are applying. The dental and vet schools will have a list similar to this although they might deviate in one or two courses. Again, this is the minimum list to apply. Additional science courses are also helpful to your application and especially helpful in preparing you for the MCAT, DAT or VCAT.
The strategy that we’ve followed for years here at Ouachita is to take the professional exam (MCAT, DAT or VCAT) after you‘ve completed 4 semesters of Biology (including A&P I and II), 4 semesters of Chemistry (General Chemistry I and II and Organic I and II) and 2 semesters of Physics (Introductory Physics I and II). This will usually be at the end of the Junior year thought it may be sooner depending on the sequence of courses you’ve completed. If after taking the exam the first time you feel you have weak areas then sign up for additional class to help prepare you for a second try at the exam. We also have students that will complete special study courses such the KAPLAN to raise their scores.
In addition to course work there are many other extracurricular items you should consider to make yourself a better applicant. The professional schools want to see that you have been involved in campus activities and service activities. It also helps if you have held leadership positions in different organizations. Shadowing in a dental or medical office is nearly a requirement! Keep track of the number of hours you’ve shadowed as well as the type of practice. You should consider taking notes of the things that you learned from the experience. You will have many choices of extracurricular activities here at Ouachita (you cannot do everything!) and we will also advise you in the shadowing process.
During your sophomore year you should sign up for the Health Professions Seminar. In this seminar you will hear from the recruiters of all the different health professions that come to our campus to recruit YOU! This is your chance to get specific questions answered, double check requirements, ask about application deadlines, etc. Many of our students change their minds during this semester because they find out about a different health field that they were not aware of and realize it might better fit their personal goals. The Seminar also shows up on your transcript!
During your junior year, in addition to scheduling the professional exam, you should check the websites of the professional schools you plan to apply to and double check their pre-matriculation requirements to see if you‘ve missed anything or if they have changed their requirements. You should also speak with our Health Professions Committee Chair and set an appointment for your mock interview. Here at OBU our Health Professions Committee holds practice interviews for anyone that requests it. The committee consists of those faculty that will prepare written recommendations of you prior to the Chair of the Committee preparing the final Letter of Recommendation. The practice interviews are designed to help you practice and provide some idea of the kind of questions you might expect. We have a list of these questions at this link.
By the end of the junior year you should have taken or at least scheduled your professional exam and it is now time to get acquainted with the application service websites. The application services are listed below:
AACOMAS (www.aacom.org/Pages/default.aspx) for Osteopathic Medical
Texas medical schools require TMDSAS at (www.utsystem.edu/tmdsas/)
Pay attention to deadlines!
Once you’ve submitted your application service materials you will either be sent secondary application requests from the programs you have applied to or you will need to contact them and ask about secondary applications. Often this will all be online. Much of the material will be exactly the same as that provided in the application service but you must provide it again! This material will go to the schools you have applied to – be honest but realize that any information that helps make you a better candidate is helpful.
After the secondary applications you will schedule your interview. This is the interview we’ve prepared you for……..but now it’s the real thing! Dress up because this is your first impression. You will probably be given a tour of the campus with other candidates. Each program handles this differently and the Health Professions Committee will have briefed you on these differences. However the committee cannot go with you – its up to you now! In many ways its like a job interview. Be confidant but not cocky. Answer honestly, if you don‘t know indicate that you don’t know! Be prepared to think on your feet to evaluate a problem. Keep track of current events especially if they have anything to do with your health care field.
Now the waiting begins………you will still have one semester of undergraduate school left. This is no time to slack off. If you are accepted is it conditional that you pass your courses and graduate. If you are concerned about your professional exam score now is the time to take another class to better prepare to take the exam again if you are not admitted this first try. You may be selected as an alternate which extends the waiting game. If you are not selected then meet with your advisor and the Health Professions Committee to go over your weaknesses. Many of the students that are not accepted in the first application will re-apply and are accepted the next year.