Frequently Asked Questions

Most health professions graduate programs utilize a Centralized Application Service, a de facto “common app” that processes your application and forwards it to the individual schools to which you apply. Admission requirements also typically include pre-requisite coursework, a standardized exam, transcripts, personal statement and other essays, letters of recommendation, and an interview.
First-hand experience in healthcare settings can help you clarify or confirm your career path. Opportunities include shadowing or observation, internships, clinical research, volunteering in hospitals or clinics, employment in a hands-on patient care role, volunteering at a social service agency such as a suicide prevention hotline or Alzheimer’s Association, and working or volunteer at a hospice center or crisis shelter. Search for these opportunities in your school and/or home communities. Consider connecting with your school’s community outreach office (such as Gonzaga’s Center for Community Engagement), leveraging your school’s alumni network, visiting volunteer match websites to explore community needs, and meeting with an advisor to discuss opportunities based on your interests.
Health professions programs determine their own admissions prerequisite coursework, but most require a strong foundation in the basic sciences. In addition, each individual school can set specific academic requirements as part of its admission practices. Check out Gonzaga’s coursework recommendations here. As you begin to generate the list of schools to which you plan to apply, be sure to check their pre-requisite requirements. Work with advisors and reach out to admission representatives at prospective schools with questions.
Standardized exams are often required as part of the admission process to health professions schools. Examples include the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Dental Admission Test (DAT), and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Many programs also utilize what are known as situational judgment tests that assess qualities such as ethical reasoning, professionalism, and communication. Research current exam requirements for your chosen field and give yourself adequate time to study, register, and prepare for the test-day experience.
Admission to medical, dental, physician assistant, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other health professions graduate programs is competitive. Schools look for candidates that have distinguished themselves inside and outside of the classroom and gained the skills necessary to be effective members of their professions. Programs look to GPA and standardized admission tests for evidence that a candidate can handle the academic rigor of a health professions graduate program. Many programs utilize what is known as holistic review, a mission-based approach that takes into consideration not only academic metrics but also experiences, attributes, and the value an applicant would contribute to the class and the profession. While there is not one specific way to stand out, candidates tend to do well in the admissions process if they perform well academically, can clearly articulate their understanding of and motivation for their chosen profession, and engage in meaningful experiences that they can speak to genuinely.
Most health professions graduate programs do not require specific undergraduate majors. Students are encouraged to choose a major they are genuinely interested in studying as it increases the likelihood of academic success, a factor that is weighed heavily in graduate school admissions. Some majors may not include pre-requisite classes as part of their required coursework, necessitating additional academic planning to ensure the student can enroll in these courses prior to graduation.
The application process for health professions graduate programs starts at least one year prior to when you plan to start school. If you hope to start school immediately after graduation, you need to apply the summer between junior and senior year. For many students, gap year(s) can prove advantageous, and this is becoming increasingly common. It’s a good idea to meet with an advisor to discuss your timeline, assess the strength of your candidacy, and if necessary, create a plan to address any areas of concern in your application.
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