When you're considering which schools to apply to, remember that 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.

Research 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)

What do schools look for?

Although the requirements for entering medical or dental schools are 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


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. Your essay 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 Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Committee which meets in the late spring and early fall or when needed to write recommendation letters for students applying to medical or dental school.

To be evaluated by the the committee you must:

  1. Complete and turn in the Committee Letter Application form to Professor Rich Nyhof, DeVries Hall 111, before you leave for the summer. If you do not know your September address, turn in the application anyway and provide your address in the fall.
  2. Complete the Waiver Form, which gives you the option of waiving access to your committee letter. Although it is your right to see the letter, most medical schools will give your letter much more serious consideration if you waive your right to the letter. (Some schools will not even consider a “non-waived” letter.) This form is also due before you leave for the summer. The signed waiver form will be copied to Calvin stationary and will be the first page of your committee letter.
  3. Print four copies of the Evaluation Form and give to four Calvin faculty members (anyone who has faculty status) to be completed on your behalf. There should be at least one professor from the Science Division and at least one from another Division. Distribute these forms before you leave for the summer. Request that the recommendation be submitted to Professor Rich Nyhof, the Pre-Medical/Dental Advisor, within two weeks if possible. This way your committee letter can be prepared before you actually need it. If you think the faculty member is unfamiliar with our evaluation form and process, a letter of explanation is available.

In nearly all cases your committee letter will be sent to AMCAS or AADSAS 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 first 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.


Schools may request that you come for an interview anytime, but most are conducted in late fall or early spring semester. Prepare for your interview by reviewing a copy of your application, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and researching the school.

Be ready to ask good questions, give good responses and be confident, but not arrogant. Don't worry about being a bit nervous; it is expected. Interviewers are usually friendly and interested, but not always. You may be asked questions to which there may not be an accepted answer, but your answer may only demonstrate your ability to think. Remember, this is the first time that the admissions committee will have any information about you that is not on paper. Your interview should convince the interviewer that you have the personality and presence to make an excellent physician or dentist.

Appearance is just as important as the way you answer questions. Conservative clothing is the rule for both sexes, and should exclude excessive jewelry, piercings in atypical but obvious places, and displaying too much skin (e.g., sleeveless blouses).

If you don't think your interview went well, you may contact the admissions office, or even request another interview. Chances are, however, that you will have done better than you think. See the pre-medical/dental advisor, Rich Nyhof, if you have any questions.

Did you know...

Calvin's Career Development Office offers practice interview sessions which may be recorded. You may find this helpful to prepare you for interviews. Interviewfeedback.com  is another excellent resource for information about interview skills and questions asked by medical schools, as reported by medical applicants.

Get some tips

Read this valuable information before you go for your interview: Calvin's Pre-Medical/Dental Advisor has put this Interview Tips resource together to give you the advantage.