Although important, the admission process does not depend on undergraduate grades and courses alone. It also considers letters of recommendation from faculty, knowledge of the intended profession, health related community service leadership experience and a personal interview in which maturity, motivation, and character is assessed.
Grades alone will not get anyone admitted to a health professions school, but they are VERY important. Your grades reflect your ability to learn; to some extent they are a predictor of how well you are likely to do in professional courses. The transcript in general is also an indication of how serious you were about your education.
Even if you graduate with a strong GPA (grade point average), a transcript showing that you repeated courses often, withdrew from others, and frequently had incomplete grades does not reflect well on either your motivation or work habits.
The minimum GPA required for admission to a professional school varies from one profession to another and from one school to another within a profession. However, for admission to medical or veterinary school (generally the most competitive), your goal should be a GPA of 3.5 or better (an A- to a B+ average). Your grades in science and mathematics courses, often called “BCPM” for biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, may be used to calculate a separate “science GPA” that admissions committees review, as well.
The personal statement is often where the admissions committee gets a sense of your personal side and it gives you a chance to shine. Also, this tends to be the section of the application that gives students the most difficulty.
These essays are how the professional schools get a chance to view you as an individual. They are opportunities to express your voice, personality, and uniqueness. Often this is where you disclose your motivations, drive, goals, and inspiration.
Suggestions for topics include your choice of major, honors received, research, employment experience, medically related experience (mentoring, job shadowing, volunteering), extracurricular activities, and why you are interested in this profession.
Everyone can benefit from having others read their writing. Whether you are an excellent writer or one who struggles, use the campus resources that are available to you. Visit the Career Center or the Writing Center to have your statement critiqued for proper grammar and content.
Extracurricular activities are often one way the admissions committee learns how you spend your time. Do you volunteer, work, and/or participate in athletics? All of these factors help the committees form a well-rounded view of you, the applicant.
National Test Scores
Nearly all professional schools require you to submit scores on specific national exams as a part of your application. These scores are reviewed carefully and are especially important when other considerations (such as grades) suggest an applicant is “borderline” in competitiveness.
These exams should normally be taken during the spring semester of the junior year if you plan to enter a professional school for the fall semester following graduation. Exams may be taken more than once, however, it is advisable to prepare thoroughly and do well the first time. You should familiarize yourself with the format of these exams early in your career.
Each professional school will have a specific entrance exam requirement. Commercial study guides are available to help you prepare for specific tests. In addition, there are professional test preparation courses.
The UMaine Career Center Library holds a number of study guides and information related to these national exams. Additionally, there are several free or low-cost resources available online.
- Free resources at Kaplan
- Fee-based resources at Kaplan
- Khan Academy MCAT resources
- Blueprint MCAT resources (formerly “Next Step”)
- AAMC resources
Entrance exams are offered online and some may be taken when you are ready (OAT, GRE, DAT). Others (MCAT, PCAT) have specific test dates and you must choose the date on which you will take the exam. Registration information on your specific exam may be found through the groups associated with your online application service
Entrance exams are offered online and some may be taken when you are ready (OAT, GRE, DAT). Others (MCAT, PCAT) have specific test dates and you must choose the date on which you will take the exam. Registration information on your specific exam may be found through the groups associated with your online application service.
MCAT – Association of American Medical Colleges
DAT – American Dental Education Association
OAT – Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
PCAT – American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
GRE – Educational Testing Service
Letters of Recommendations
Letters of recommendation should be from people who know you well and can assess your qualifications with objectivity and insight. Ask faculty members to write letters assessing your abilities and potential for a successful career; 2-3 letters should be from science faculty.
Additionally, obtain letters from people who know you in a professional manner; for example, employers, coaches, summer internship coordinators, physicians, and/or researchers with whom you have worked. Your mentor is a particularly important resource. He/she will be able to comment on your personal qualities as well as your aptitude and potential.
Avoid letters from your personal physician, family friends, relatives, and politicians. These letters tend to be seen as highly subjective and biased. Admissions committees may not find such letters useful.
When you request a letter of recommendation, you should write a personal letter to your reference. For faculty letters, include a list of courses and/or research projects you have completed with this faculty member. Highlight clubs and activities in which you have participated that demonstrate your leadership potential. Provide an example of how they have observed what sets you apart from others. Be sure to enclose a resume.
After you have sent in your request for a letter of recommendation, it is important to follow-up with your writer. If you have not heard back from your letter writer within 5-7 days of them receiving your request, you may want to send them a follow-up email or call them.
Recommenders and health professional school admissions committees prefer that you waive your right to read these recommendation letters. This action shows that you have confidence in yourself and in the people you have chosen to write on your behalf.
Also, admissions committees tend to regard confidential letters as more candid. However, it is your choice whether or not you waive your right to view the file.
The University of Maine requires that you complete the “Letter of Recommendation Release Form” for each faculty member writing a letter for you. This allows that faculty member to release academic information about you.
Original letters remain on file in the Career Center archives even after you have graduated. Please contact the office if you desire to reactivate your file after graduation.