Preparing for Professional School
Professional schools are looking for 5 characteristics in their candidates:
- Entrance Exams (MCAT, DAT, OAT)
- Communication skills
- Investigation of the profession
1) GPA - Professional schools in the health sciences want students who can survive the rigors of their programs. The evidence for this is a solid GPA (3.5+), both overall and BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math). With a high undergraduate GPA in a rigorous curriculum, professional schools will feel confident that the candidate is capable of continuing to fare well academically.
Samford University offers rigorous programs in math and science designed to prepare students for a variety of professional graduate programs and provide a solid foundation to a liberal education.
2) Entrance Exams - Professional schools want to know that you will be capable of passing the requisite licensure exams post graduation. Entrance exam test scores provide admission committees with evidence that you are capable of performing well on standardized exams.
The Alpha Epsilon Delta chapter for Samford University organizes a low cost ($50 + $25/exam) MCAT prep course every spring. Our pre-dental students report that our MCAT prep course serves them well for DAT preparation. The study sessions are taught by full-time faculty who volunteer their time to support our students.
GPA and exam score will typically secure an interview for medical school. The interview will largely determine who does and does not get into medical school. In the interview, admission committees will be looking for evidence of the following:
3) Communication skills - Health professionals must communicate well with a wide variety of people: patients, nurses, staff, colleagues and administrators. Therefore, it is imperative that potential health professionals demonstrate excellent written and oral communication skills. Your personal statement in your application, your essay score from the entrance exam and all other written communication (including emails) will be used as evidence of your writing skills. Your oral communication skills will be on display during your interview.
Samford University offers excellent instruction in both written and oral communication for all students in University Core Communication Arts: UCCA 101 and 102. We offer a first semester pre-health Foundations (FOUN 101) section in which the term paper is a first draft of the personal statement. The pre-health professions advising committee conducts interviews with juniors and seniors to help prepare them for professional school interviews. The Career Development Center tapes mock interviews and advises students regarding professional dress and behavior. These services would cost thousands of dollars through private companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review; they are provided free of charge to all Samford students.
4) Investigation of the profession - It is important that prospective students seriously investigate their potential careers. There is no magic formula that a student should shadow X physicians for Y hours. Each candidate needs to make efforts to shadow and/or work in several health care settings so that they can adequately answer questions like:
- "Why do you want to be a health care professional?"
- "Where do you see yourself ten years from now?"
- "What kind of health care profession do you think you might like to be?"
- "What do you think about the current state of health care in the United States?"
Samford University offers a January-term internship through local hospitals (BIOL 361). Our students shadow physicians and medical students for three weeks. The students spend one week in three different departments. The best place to start shadowing is through your family physician.
5) Empathy - When asked, “why do you want to be a doctor?” most candidates will answer “because I want to help people.” The best way to demonstrate that you want to help people is to help people right now. The professional schools will expect you to demonstrate a dedication to a life of service through volunteer efforts. Those efforts do not necessarily need to be medically related.
Samford University offers myriad volunteer opportunities through campus organizations and ministries. Student organizations all participate in service projects: Greek organizations all have philanthropies; AED volunteers with MPower, a local clinic; our Foundations pre-health section provides dinner for residents of Hope Lodge, a cancer treatment facility; Samford University has funded and helped build a number of homes through Habitat for Humanity; service trips are organized every spring over spring break. Through student organizations and service learning in our classes, you will be hard pressed to avoid the volunteer spirit that is infused throughout our campus.