"To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease."  —Andrew T. Still, MD, DO

"As a family physician, my job is listening to people's stories."
—Jon S. Hallberg, MD

Preparing to Apply

Getting Experience

Professional schools are particularly interested in your health-related experience. By working or volunteering in the field, you will display a deeper understanding of the responsibilities, duties, and issues related to your field. Professional schools also want to see that you are able to deal effectively with patients and work well on a team of professionals. Clinical experience with direct patient contact is an important aspect of your application.

Some careers such as physical therapy, physician assistant, or veterinary science have specific mandatory hours of experience as requirements. Other programs will consider a variety of health-related experiences. The experiences you choose should have an interest to you in terms of your life goals and be personally satisfying. They are your opportunity to gain depth and knowledge about yourself.

Admission Tests/Entrance Exams

Types of Exams

Exams are usually taken by students in the spring of their junior year (or their senior year if they plan to take a year off after graduation) and should be taken only if the student has completed or is within a month of completing the pre-requisite curriculum.  Registration and general information can be found at the respective websites.  Check the requirements of each school carefully, however, since not all schools require the same entrance exams.

Students applying to allopathic or osteopathic medical school are required to take the MCAT exam. Students applying to dental programs are required to take the DAT, and applicants to optometry programs take the OAT. The MCAT, DAT, and OAT are lengthy, standardized, comprehensive exams similar in structure to the SAT but much more specific in content. Students applying for Physician Assistant and Physical Therapy programs are required to take the GRE, a more general exam similar to the SAT in structure and content. Pharmacy students take the PCAT. 

These exams test students' knowledge of biological and physical sciences as well as verbal reasoning and writing skills.  GPA and test scores are a way for admissions committees to screen out less competitive students.



It is crucial for you to prepare well for these exams so the results truly reflect your abilities.  Learn as much as possible about the test, both its content and format.  

  • Form a study group to prepare for the exam
  • Take practice tests
  • Take a commercially available prep course 
  • Begin early
  • Ask for advice from alumni, peer advisors, and academic advisors

There are many publications available which offer practice examinations, as well as handbooks which provide information about the examination and how it is scored. 

A specific block of study time should be set aside, preferably one or two hours daily. It is much better to study on a daily basis rather than attempt to review huge blocks of material in a short time. The emphasis ought to be on familiarizing yourself with concepts learned previously rather than on learning new material. 


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