Applying to a health profession program can be a daunting process. One of the best ways to allay your fears is to understand how the admission process works. This section will provide you with resources to help you determine whether you are ready to apply and, when you are, how to submit your application. An application cycle for many health profession schools lasts more than 18 months, so be sure to meet with your health professions adviser well in advance of your anticipated application date.
How to Get Started
- Read the recommendations in “Are You Ready to Apply?” and refer to this website for FAQs.
- For committee letter applicants, review the timeline and deadlines under Requesting Committee Letters. Applicants requesting a committee letter are required to meet with the HPA Director at least once during the year prior to the start of each application cycle.
- Applicants not requesting a committee letter should discuss their individual application preparation and timeline to apply with the HPA Director.
- Stay in touch with members of the Board of Health Professions Advisers. We are available to advise current students and alumnae.
- Resources regarding formatting resumes, mock interviews, and related information are available at the Lazarus Center for Career Development.
Forms & Resources
Factors to Consider
If applying through a central application service, carefully follow the service's instructions about transcripts. After sending your transcript(s) to the application service, check on the verification process early and often. Follow up if your transcripts are not received in a timely manner. Applicants not using a central application service should follow the instructions given by individual schools.
You should have an extra copy of your official transcript(s) sent to you so that you can check for errors and to refer to when filling out your online application.
Please note: The Board of Health Professions Advisers cannot request a transcript for you; only you can request official copies of your transcript. Follow instructions for requesting your official Smith College transcript.
Make Requests Early
It can take up to a month for a transcript request to be processed. Transcripts should be sent directly to your health profession's application service before you submit your primary application so that the service can begin verifying your courses and grades immediately after you submit.
Problems Getting a non-Smith Transcript
If an institution you attended does not provide transcripts, you may need to submit a letter from them to the application service or individual programs.
If an institution you attended is no longer operational, you may be able to procure an archived transcript through the U.S. Department of Education.
Committee Letter Applicants
You are required to submit unofficial copies of all transcripts as part of your preapplication. Transcripts from all of the tertiary-level institutions you attended should be uploaded to the preapplication in one PDF document.
Résumés & Curriculum Vitae
A résumé or a curriculum vitae (CV) is included as one of the preapplication documents supplied by applicants requesting a committee letter from the Board of Health Professions Advisors. We recommend that non-committee letter applicants also develop one. Résumés and CVs may be helpful during an interview and can be referenced when completing centralized applications.
Students may wish to build a résumé or a CV depending on their experience and their profession of interest. Primary differences between these two documents include length, content and the document's purpose.
A résumé is typically one or two pages and summarizes your education, experiences and skills. A résumé may be used for a variety of purposes including applications to jobs, graduate schools or fellowships.
A curriculum vitae (CV) is a more detailed document which may include topics such as educational background, research, publications, presentations, posters, teaching, awards and honors, professional affiliations, conferences and other details. A CV is often used for academic, research, scientific and similar pursuits.
The Lazarus Center for Career Development offers a guide for building your CV and résumé as well as a handout with sample science and technical resumes. Career advisers and peer advisers in the center are available to provide feedback on your work.
Many health professions schools require standardized test scores as part of the application requirements. These tests target academic topics that have been covered in your undergraduate studies and also measure your ability to study appropriately and do well in a test-taking scenario. The most common entrance exams required for admission to health profession schools are listed below. The Lazarus Center has partnered with The Princeton Review to offer discounted MCAT, DAT, GRE and other exam preparation classes for Smith students and alumnae.
Medical College Admission Test, required for admission to any medical or podiatry school within the United States. MCAT scores are also accepted by some physician assistant programs.
Graduate Record Examination general test, required or accepted for admission to veterinary medicine, public health, physical therapy, chiropractic, nursing, occupational therapy, and physician assistant programs.
Dental Admission Test, required for admission to dental schools.
Pharmacy College Admissions Test, required for some applicants to pharmacy programs.
Optometry Admission Test, required for admission to optometry schools.
Chiropractic College Aptitude Test, required for some applicants to chiropractic schools.
Please note: Schools for acupuncture and Oriental medicine and naturopathic medicine do not require an entrance exam.
Preparing For Your Entrance Examination
Studying for a standardized test should not be taken lightly. Re-taking your examination after a poor score requires time and resources that might otherwise be used to polish your application. In addition, it is not helpful to have multiple scores on file, as most admission committees review all available test results.
Take a Diagnostic Test
A good start is taking a diagnostic test to determine your baseline score. Then plan an appropriate study regimen that targets your weaker areas. Consider test prep to be like a challenging basic science course: the amount of time you would typically devote to that class is roughly the amount of time you should devote to studying. Be sure to track your progress and adjust your study habits as needed.
Research Study Materials
Many applicants consider purchasing supplementary study materials from companies or taking test preparation classes. The Board of Health Professions Advisers neither advocates nor discourages use of these resources. The best way to study is what will work most effectively for the individual learner. Free or less expensive resources do exist, including online preparation materials (be sure they are from a reputable source!) and secondhand prep books. The Lazarus Center has partnered with The Princeton Review to offer discounted MCAT, DAT, GRE and other exam preparation classes for Smith students and alumnae.
Your standardized test will be timed and computer-based. Many are several hours long and will test your cognitive endurance. As you prepare, practice passages or tests under the same conditions, including at the same time of day when you will take the actual exam. At a minimum, always time yourself while working through problems. Test producers offer full-length practice tests. Taking these periodically will allow you to authentically track your score while enabling you to replicate 'test day' circumstances. Limit yourself to the same break schedule that will be allowed on test day.
Be sure to prepare for the details of test day. Gather the appropriate ID and snacks, and make sure you know where the test is held. Consider developing a sleep routine that is consistent with when you need to be awake on test day.
Assess Your Financial Preparedness
Be financially prepared for your entrance exam! Registration is expensive, although fee assistance programs may be available for applicants with demonstrated financial need.
Timing of the Entrance Exam
Take it Early
We strongly recommend that you take the admission test early enough to permit you to know your test scores before you apply and, if necessary, to retake the test. The Board of Health Profession Advisors recommends that applicants know their entrance exam score prior to submitting a primary application. It is also critical that you have completed, or be completing, courses covering topics included in the exam content by the time you take the test.
For applicants to medical/dental/optometry/podiatry school who will not receive a committee letter from Smith (i.e. those who have not participated in the preapplication process), we still do not recommend taking a late test. Most health professions schools have rolling admissions, and it is in your best interest to submit an early application (no later than July 1) with your test score. This requires adhering to the same test schedule as we have outlined for applicants receiving a committee letter.
For applicants to other health profession schools, the timing of your test will vary depending on your application deadline(s) and whether the schools to which you are applying use a system of rolling admissions. If it is rolling, you would be wise to submit your application, with your test score, as early as possible in the admission cycle.
Retaking the Test
You should not retake the admission test unless it is necessary to be competitive for your schools and you are absolutely positive that you can improve. Retaking the test and not improving may cause health profession schools to question your judgment and time management skills. If you are unsure whether re-taking the test is in your best interest, please arrange an appointment with a health professions adviser.
A strong application essay is an interview on paper. Above all, an essay must effectively respond to the prompt provided. Application essays may also express who you are and how you see yourself contributing to your field; give insight into your personality, motivation and passions; discuss how you are unique; highlight your values; and/or show your capacities to make a difference.
Personal Statements and Other Primary Application Essays
Most health profession schools require that you complete a personal statement. This essay not only shows your ability to communicate effectively but also helps distinguish you from the competition. Applicants to dual-degree programs (e.g., M.D.-Ph.D.) will complete additional essays on their primary application.
Secondary Application Essays
Some health profession schools that use a central application service will require applicants to complete a secondary application. These secondary applications often include additional essay prompts, offering you the opportunity to share more about yourself and personalize your interest in an individual school. School-specific prompts vary only slightly from year to year and are sometimes found online. While waiting for your primary application to be verified, you may wish to draft secondary essays. Note that some institutions only ask certain applicants to submit a secondary.
- Understand your audience.
- Coordinate your personal statement and primary and secondary application responses to avoid redundancy.
- Use an 'active' voice.
- Answer the question that was asked.
- Support your statements with concrete, detailed examples.
- Avoid clichés and generalities.
- Ask different people (professors, family, friends, people who don't know you that well) to read your essay and provide feedback.
- If you struggle to describe yourself, ask the opinion of someone who knows you well.
- Explore how the qualities you describe translate to your future self as a healthcare provider.
- If you get stuck, put the essay aside and come back to it later.
Acuity Insights / Casper & Duet
The Acuity Insights suite of assessments includes Casper and Duet. Applicants must confirm if their selected schools require one or more of these assessments.
Casper® is a uni-directional, online, situational judgement test. It presents a series of 15 hypothetical situations to which an applicant provides typewritten responses (9 scenarios) and video responses (6 scenarions) over the course of 100 - 120 minutes. Casper assesses applicants for behavioral tendencies and characteristics such as empathy, professionalism, resilience, and self-awareness among others. The assessment offers applicants a chance to demonstrate their people skills in addition to their academic and experiential qualifications and to do so early in the application review process. Snapshot is a 10-15 minute video assessment of a candidate's communication skills. Applicants convey their reasons for choosing a career in medicine. Duet focuses on applicants' values and interests in terms of choosing medical schools.
- Learn more about the Acuity Insights assessments Casper and Duet. Sample questions are available at https://takealtus.com/test-prep/
- List of U.S. medical schools that require the Acuity Insights assessments.
The AAMC PREview Professional Readiness Exam (formerly known as the AAMC Situational Judgement Test (SJT))
The AAMC PREview is an online standardized exam that presents a series of hypothetical scenarios students may encounter in medical school and asks examinees to evaluate the effectiveness of a series of behavioral responses to each scenario.
Learn more about the AAMC PREview and the list of participating medical schools.
KIRA Talent Assessment
Kira Talent is an online interviewing platform. Admissions committees use responses to evaluate qualities in applicants such as leadership, verbal and written communication, professionalism and motivation for pursuing their chosen health care profession. Participation is by invitation only. Applicants will complete either an asynchronous, unidirectional assessment of either 1). video and/or written responses, or 2). a live two-way interview.
Visit the Kira Talent website to learn more about the platform and FAQs.
We are providing general information about letters of recommendation for health profession school applicants. Keep in mind that specific requirements will vary. Carefully read all application instructions, both for individual institutions and application services.
Types of Letters
Individual letters are written by a single letter writer and are either sent individually or compiled by your health profession advisor into a letter packet or committee letter. A letter packet includes a brief cover letter, while a committee letter is a lengthy, narrative evaluation of your qualifications. Most applicants to medical, dental, optometry and podiatry schools will request a committee letter from the Board of Health Professions Advisers. Applicants to all health profession schools will request individual letters.
A Note on Confidentiality
You have the option to choose confidential or open letters of recommendation; however, health profession schools prefer confidential letters.
All applicants receiving a committee letter must create an Interfolio account where individual letters of reference will be held. Your account must be affiliated with the "Smith College Pre-Health" institutional account; this requires that you use a specially generated link to create your account. If you have already submitted your preapplication, the link is included in the post-submission email you received. If you have not yet completed the preapplication, please contact the HPA Director to request the link.
Number of Letters
Unless otherwise specified, applicants typically include four to six individual letters of reference, which will be appended to the committee letter.
Letter to Recommenders
You must provide letter writers with the Letter to Recommenders (PDF) handout.
Interfolio Document Request Form
You will need to grant your letter writers the ability to upload letters to your Interfolio account by sending them the Interfolio Document Request Form. Your recommenders must attach their letter to the form and either mail or e-mail it to Interfolio. It is not necessary to send a request form for the committee letter.
No Committee Letter
If you are not receiving a committee letter, consult the application instructions of your programs to determine the letter collection criteria. Programs that do not receive letters of recommendation through a centralized application service will have explicit instructions about requesting letters of reference, and may have instructions or questionnaires for letter writers. It is your responsibility to ensure that your programs of interest receive letters of reference.
Some applicants may find it useful to create an Interfolio account for the confidential storing of individual letters of recommendation.
Whom You Should Ask
Unless explicitly indicated otherwise, letters are written by professors, employers, supervisors and those who have a working relationship with you. Letters should not be written by family, friends or acquaintances.
A strong letter is written by those who have known you a long time, think highly of you and have supervised you in the classroom, laboratory or a clinical setting. The writer should know details about your major accomplishments. A strong letter of recommendation is dated no more than three years prior to your application to a health profession school, but ideally will be more recent to reflect your current capabilities.
Applicants receiving a committee letter will discuss the selection of their individual letters of reference with the HPA Directore during the initial preapplication review meeting. Applicants who will not receive a committee letter are also encouraged to seek advice from members of the Board of Health Professions Advisors if they are unsure of the best collection of letters.
When to Ask
Request letters of reference at least two to three months before you will need them. It is a good idea to request a letter relatively soon after you've taken a class or finished an internship, as that is the time that your writer will most clearly remember what you achieved.
Committee Letter Deadline
All individual letters of reference for a committee letter are due in Interfolio no later than May 25. See Committee Letter Timeline and Key Deadlines.
How to Ask
Don’t Be Presumptuous
Make your request for a letter in person before sending any official requests through a third party letter organizer (such as Interfolio), central application service or individual schools' online application systems.
Do Be Formal
Writing a letter of reference is hard work and time consuming, so make your request carefully and respectfully. Don't request a letter of reference while passing in the hallway or by sending a quick email. Instead, stop by during a professor's office hours or request a meeting with a current supervisor.
If you are geographically distant from a potential recommender, a professional email may be an acceptable first contact, but always offer to follow up with a phone or video call.
Provide Résumé and Goals
Once an individual has agreed to support you with a recommendation letter, provide the writer with a short explanation of your goals, a list of "talking points," a copy of your personal statement and a current résumé.
All individual letters of recommendation should be written in a formal style. They should be written on letterhead from the letter writer's place of employment and should be signed before submitting. Ensure that your recommenders understand this, and if necessary, direct them to their department's administrative assistant (if at Smith) for technical support in this area. Letters that do not follow the format described above will not be accepted.
Congratulations! Your primary and secondary applications have been received well by schools, and you have been offered an interview. This is a good sign; it means that the admission committee believes that you have the potential to succeed within that program. For most admission committees, an interview is an opportunity to get to know the individual presented in the application materials. For applicants, the interview is a chance to assess whether the institution is the right match and to demonstrate your interest.