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Getting into Professional School - Application Process

Application components

When considering to which schools to apply, remember more is not necessarily better. Applying to twenty schools will not give you a much better chance of acceptance than if you applied to ten. It will, however, cost you twice as much money and take twice as much of your time.

Student studyingResearch medical and dental schools not only for their admission requirements, but also for the attributes you desire in a school. If you need help getting started, please contact Professor Nyhof, Calvin's Pre-Medical/Dental Advisor.

Central Application Services

Central application services simplify the process of applying to professional schools by using on-line application systems that reduce paperwork, mailing, and allow users to work on different segments at different times.

Central application services allow users to submit one application and fee for distributing application information to multiple, participating professional schools, selected by the applicant. If you wish to apply to a school that does not subscribe to a central application process, you will have to obtain application materials directly from that school.

It is to your advantage to complete and submit your application during the summer between your junior and senior year, as early as possible. Below are web links to central application services web sites:

American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS)

American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)

Veterinary Medicine Application Service (VMCAS)

American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Application Service (AACPMAS)

Write the Essay

There is no single right way to write an essay. Two totally different essays may both be considered favorably (or unfavorably). However, there are some things that you should consider.

1. Your essay should convince the reviewer that you are an excellent candidate for medicine. It may include those factors which motivated you to consider medicine as a profession as well as those special talents that you have that qualify you for a career in medicine. Please do not simply say that you want to go into medicine “to help people.” (You could be a mechanic for the same reason!)

2. There is much information about you that is already included in the application. It is not necessary to repeat that unless you wish to call attention to something significant. You can elaborate on those areas that you believe were incompletely presented.

3. Don't try to be cute or funny. It generally does not work. Remember, your essay may be the 30th that the reviewer has read that day.

4. Be honest about your accomplishments and your gifts. You are not bragging; you are just stating the facts that you want an admissions committee to consider.

5. Don't point out your deficiencies. Chances are you will only reinforce what they may already suspect.

6. Be honest. Don't state how interested you are in helping people when there is nothing in your record to support this. Don't state how much you love medicine and the medical profession when you have never entered a hospital, etc. Inconsistencies are easy to spot.

7. It should at least be well-written and grammatically correct. Have it gone over in the Rhetoric Center here at Calvin.

8. Be careful should you choose to make statements about your Christian faith. If you think this is important for you to include in your essay, remember that the reviewer may not be a Christian, Worse than that, he or she may be anti-Christian. Your statements should not be threatening to a non-Christian. Nor should they contain jargon. Excellent essays have been written that contained "faith" statements. 

Committee Letters

Calvin has a Recommendation Committee which meets in the late spring and early fall or when needed. The “Committee Letter” is a packet that includes three parts: 1) a waver form, 2) a cover sheet which summarizes the objective evaluations of the four professors you have chosen and also states an overall recommendation based on cumulative grade point average and completeness of the pre-med/dent program, and 3) copies of the evaluation letters written by the professors that you have chosen to evaluate you.

In nearly all cases your committee letter will be sent to AMCAS or AASSAS directly. When completing your application print the “committee letter” cover sheet and give it to the pre-medical/dental advisor. He will include it with your committee letter and send it to AMCAS or AADSAS. For the schools who do not subscribe to this service, contact the pre-medical/dental advisor via e-mail with the name and address of each school in a block format, so it can be cut and pasted to an envelope. (Calvin will pay the postage.) You should receive an e-mail response when the letters have been sent. Anytime you have any doubts that letters are being sent appropriately, check with the pre-medical/dental advisor. Detailed records are kept as to where letters are sent, for whom, and when sent.

It is important that this letter be completed by early June if possible as both AADSAS and AMCAS prefer the letter to be submitted with your completed application.

Secondary Applications

After the medical or dental school receives your primary application from one of the application services, the admissions committee will review it, and if they remain interested in you, send you their unique secondary application.  Secondary applications are usually sent about 2-6 weeks after your primary application is received.  If a question appears similar to one asked in a primary application, do not “cut and paste” your response.  It is a definite negative.  For pre-dents, some schools request that secondary fees, etc., be sent to them when AADSAS forms are sent in, or your completed AADSAS form will not be processed by the dental school.  See the AADSAS instructions for details.

Early Decision

You may consider applying for early decision consideration if the school to which you intend to apply has an early decision program. To be considered for early decision you must apply to only one school through AMCAS or AADSAS. You are expected to have your application completed by August. If that school accepts you, you are obligated to attend that school. If you are not accepted, you are free to apply to as many schools as you wish, including the school that rejected you for early decision. 

Early Decision Advantages

  • It is one way to convince an admissions committee that its school actually is number 1 on your list.
  • If you want to attend a specific school, it may save you a lot of time and money.
  • If you are accepted (usually by October) you, in contrast to other pre-meds and pre-dents, will have a nice, relaxed fall.

Early Decision Disadvantage

  • Although if rejected you can still be considered by that school and other schools in their regular application process, other schools will receive your application later than you would like.


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What do schools look for?

Although the criterion to enter medical or dental schools is similar, each school has its own way of evaluating students. Basically, each school considers the following application components:

  • Grade Point Average (GPA)
  • MCAT / DAT Scores
  • Letters of Evaluation
  • Health-Related Work Experiences
  • Interview Ratings
  • Personal Comments on Primary or Supplemental Applications
  • Extracurricular Activities or Life Experiences
  • Quality of undergraduate degree-granting institution