Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.s)
Last updated: 19 April, 2007
1. Is a Bachelors degree required to get into professional school?
2. What classes should I take?
3. What must I do to get in?
4. What kind of experiences do I need? And where can I get them?
5. How can I prepare for my entrance exam?
6. How do I apply?
7. How do applications work?
8. How can I prepare for interviews?
9. Where can I find more information about my profession of interest?
10. How can I plan ahead to get financial aid – especially since tuition rates continue to rise?
Most professional schools, such as Law, Therapy, Physician Assistant, and graduate programs, require a Bachelors Degree. Some schools, such as Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Veterinary, and Optometry, do not technically require a degree but rarely admit students without one. A Bachelors degree will make you a more competitive applicant, and a growing number of professional schools are now requiring it. Most who apply either already have a degree or intend to finish it before enrolling. PAC can help you choose a major that will accommodate your future plans.
Every professional school requires different prerequisite courses. To find information about the prerequisites, look through the Admission Requirements Books available in PAC. Prerequisites can also be found by searching through national or individual schools’ online websites, but that is much more time-consumig. To get you started, PAC offers compiled lists of prerequisites for a variety of health professions.
The pathway to professional school requires specific coursework, experience, personal development, researching of schools, entrance exams, applications, financial aid, and interviews. Peer advisors in PAC are trained to guide you through each of these steps, and can connect you to other resources.
Experience can be in the form of job shadowing, volunteering, or paid work related to your field of interest. Professional schools highly recommend, and often require students to obtain experience before applying. This ensures that students have explored a variety of fields, are familiar with current issues in their chosen field, and understand the demands of the profession. On a personal level, experience will help you evaluate your motivation and interest and will help you decide whether you want to dedicate your life to it. PAC provides contact lists of organizations and centers where students can volunteer.
The specific prerequisite courses required by professional schools are your most important preparation for whichever entrance exam they require. Test materials can be found at most bookstores and online. Preparatory courses by independent organizations are also available online as well as at physical test centers, but they tend to be expensive. PAC has updated test preparatory books for the most commonly required exams, including the LSAT, MCAT, DAT, OAT, GRE, NET, etc.
Many fields have a centralized application service (i.e. AMCAS, AADSAS, LSDAS, etc.); others require students to apply directly to individual schools. In addition to general biographical information and transcripts, applications usually require a resume, a personal statement, letters of recommendations, and essays. Guidelines and worksheets on resume building and letters of recommendations are also available in PAC, and PAC's Director is available by appointment to offer feedback on personal statements and essays.
There are two types of application processes: direct applications and centralized application services (CAS). A direct application is one that you obtain directly from a specific professional school and that you submit directly back to that school. Application services serve as a hub: they gather application materials (such as the personal statement, transcripts, and descriptions of activities and awards) and distribute them to the schools you designate. With application services, the typical process includes a primary application to the application service, a secondary application sent directly to individual schools, and an interview. Only qualified applicants will be invited to submit a secondary application and to come for an interview.
Interviewing is a learned skill, and no one should “go in cold.” There are several things you can do to prepare. First, consider taking courses that emphasize oral communication skills; PAC provides a list of recommended courses every semester. You should also stay abreast in your field by reading newspapers, magazines, and professional journals, and as you read, you should take note of current events and breakthroughs, so you have something interesting to discuss in the interviews. PAC maintains "reading binders" of current newspaper and magazine articles published in the past year to offer quick, easy access to today’s news. Most importantly, practice interviewing in all types of settings: for jobs, with professors, with peers, etc. The Career Development and Student Employment (CDSE) Center (QLCSS 212) offers generic mock interviews that include a feedback session, and PAC offers both field-specific interview workshops for groups and field-specific one-on-one mock interviews, followed by feedback.
There are national websites (i.e. AAMC, APTA, LSAC, etc.), specific school websites (i.e. William S. Richardson School of Law, John A. Burns School of Medicine, etc.), centralized application service websites (i.e. AMCAS, PharmCAS, etc.), standardized exam websites (i.e. www.gre.org , www.pcat.web.info , etc.), and career/job websites (www.doleta.gov, www.ama-assn.org, etc.). To find out which resources you should use, visit PAC: PAC not only includes a list of each field’s main informational websites in its handouts, downloadable brochures, and website, but also has a reference library, a lending library, computers with the relevant sites bookmarked, and, best of all, peer advisors to help you find what you need.
There are a number of financial aid options out there, but you will have to research to find what you need. It is the student’s responsibility to seek out information and to apply for grants, scholarships, and loans. While you are an undergraduate, try to keep you debt load as low as possible, because Federal student loans will likely be your primary means of support when you are in professional school. PAC is not a financial aid office, but does offer basic information about programs such as the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) and the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP). Finally, many of PAC’s reference books on admission requirements include a section on financial aid.