Application Information

Though there are many steps in the application process, undertaking each step with planning and patience allows students to navigate their entry into graduate school.

Premed

Dental

Pharmacy

Optometry

Vet Med

 

Premed

For most medical schools located in the United States and some in Canada, a primary application is required to begin the process of applying to medical school. Commonly referred to as the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application for allopathic medical schools, AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service) for osteopathic medical schools, and TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application  Service – Texas residents only) are an online application service whose function is to gather and package information on applicants and electronically forward to medical schools chosen by an applicant.

MCAT

The MCAT (The Medical College Admissions Test) is the standardized test required for medical school admissions. The four sections of the MCAT are:

(1) Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

(2) Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

(3) Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations

(4) Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

For more information, including access to sample questions, please go to the MCAT website.

Most students study for around 3-4 months (minimum preparation should be around 300 hours) for the MCAT. Many enroll in test prep classes (Princeton Review, Kaplan, Berkeley Review) but not all. You need to assess what type of learner you are and how you will best succeed. In addition to completing the prerequisite courses, there are many resources to help you prepare- from full-length practice tests to online resources, such as Khan Academy or Examkrackers. Go to the official MCAT site for more resources.

Committee Interview

Letters of recommendation are an important factor in the medical school admissions process. This is typically the only area of your application where a medical school will learn about your personal qualities. It is very important that you choose a letter writer who knows you well and not one who simply knows you because you received an "A" in their course.

SMC conducts a premedical committee interview which includes a commitee designated by each student consisting of the premed advisor and three professors, two science and one non-science. The committee letter counts as three letters fo recommendation for your application. See the Committee Interview folder for more information. 

It is your responsibility to discuss your qualifications with your letter writer(s) so plan ahead and make an appointment to do so. Arrive prepared to convey your interests and passions for becoming a physician. Whoever writes your letter, you should first discuss with them their comfort in writing a letter of recommendation about you and ensure that they have a good idea of what to include in a letter of recommendation for medical school. AMCAS has developed Letters of Evaluation Guidelines to help you and your letter writer strategize the organization of the letter and the key competencies to convey in the letter.

In addition to the committee letter which counts as your three letters of recommendation, we recommend asking 2-3 additional recommenders as some medical schools are open to receiving more than three letters. Remember, it is not the quantity of letters that is important but rather, the quality of these letters. Aside from your committee members, letter writers can range from health professionals, supervisors for voluntary activities, principal investigators in your research lab, your supervisor at work or community members. 

AMCAS has a Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation Service for participating medical schools. Your letters are included as part of your primary application to medical schools. Once your letters are submitted to AMCAS, you can select which letters to distribute to each medical school you are applying to with your primary application. You should check the participating schools for their requirements.

Letters going to AMCAS must include your AMCAS Letter ID found on your Letter Request Form. ACCOMAS accepts evaluations electronically by evaluators using the AACOMAS recommended portal Letters by LiaisonBe sure to provide your letter writer your ACOMAS ID# to include in your letter.

Ideally, you should ask your letter writers if they will write a letter for you within 6 months to a year before you need it. Your AMCAS application will not be reviewed until your letters have arrived. It is best if letter writers have their letters submitted by July 15th or earlier of your submission year. You can submit your application without your letter submissions, and the letters can be submitted after you have submitted your application.

Personal Statement

The primary application is where you include your personal statement, conveying to a medical school why you are interested and passionate about pursuing a career as a physician. This is an important part of your application because medical schools will hopefully understand how you have been influenced, inspired, and motivated to pursue medicine as a career. You will describe your life experiences and perhaps highlight those that have really helped you to confirm that medicine is the right career choice.

An average number of drafts that you may write before arriving at your final version is between 8 – 12 drafts. When writing your statement, do your best to be introspective. Think deeply about your desire to become a physician and avoid writing superficial and obvious statements such as, "I find that helping people is the most rewarding thing to do in life." Your statement will be limited to a very strict 5,300 characters on the AMCAS application so anything beyond this number will be cut off.

Include in your statement lessons you have learned throughout your various experiences and avoid writing your statement as if you are writing a book. Present the challenges that you may have had to overcome in your life in a "matter of fact" tone and "controversial issues" should be presented with a connection to medicine in mind.

Experience

In the AMCAS application, you will have up to 15 categories to choose from when listing your various experiences. The experience categories will range from “Research” and “Paid Employment” to “Military Service” and “Paid Employment – Not Military”, etc. Common categories for applicants are research, community service, leadership, awards, and medically related volunteer or paid experiences. 

From your 15 experiences, you will have the opportunity to indicate up to 3 of your experiences as your “Most Meaningful Experience”. Here you will be given 700 characters to describe the activity and an additional 1325 characters to share why this was a meaningful experience and what you gained from that experience. 

When typing in this information, it is important for you to ensure that you have indicated the start and end date of each activity as well as the number of hours per week that you participated in the experience. For the 12 experiences remaining experiences after completing your 3 most meaningful experiences, you will have an opportunity to describe the experiences and in doing so, you may want to approach the description similar to that of a resume. In general, when describing your experiences, it is an opportunity for you to list the tasks and responsibilities that you had.

Interview

At many medical schools, more than one person has reviewed your application and helped in deciding whether or not to invite you to interview. Some schools might assign an initial review of your application to a faculty or admissions staff member, medical student, or designated review committee. Once the initial review is complete, your application is then usually forwarded to the Dean of Admissions for a final interview decision (for some schools, a decision might be forwarded to a committee for a final interview decision).

Interviewing at a medical school contains elements similar to that of interviewing for a job; however, there can be significant differences. In general, always be prepared for your interview which can be accomplished by attending med school info sessions, talking to people who have interviewed at that medical school previously, reading the school’s website or information in the MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) database online or participating in a mock interview. To view the MSAR online you need to purchase access to it from AAMC. See the AAMC Website for details. You have worked hard and have invested a lot of time and energy in this process so be as ready as possible for the interview.

Dental

Most dental schools use the Associated American Dental Schools Application  centralized application service; however each school has specific application/deadline submission dates which are noted on individual websites. A current list of AADSAS participating dental schools is on the ADEA website. Dental School Explorer is a good tool, but may require a paid subscription. Texas residents applying to Texas schools must utilize their own application service, Texas Medical and Dental Application Service (TMDSAS).

It is important for you to know the deadline dates for the schools/programs that you plan to apply as well as any requirements needed. The ADEA provides a quick checklist to help with your application when you’re ready to apply.  Note, it is also important to review the complete AADSAS instructions online when applying.

Processing fees for the initial application varies.  For 2019, the application fee is $251 for the first school.  For every additional school that you plan to apply to, it will cost an extra $108 per school on top of the $251.  Also, most dental programs will have a supplemental application that you must complete and for every dental school, the fees for their supplemental application will vary. As a reminder, Cal students apply to about 4–10 dental programs. When all is taken into consideration, the process of applying to dental school can be very expensive.  For students who qualify, the ADEA AADSAS offers a Fee Assistance Program (FAP) for applicants who demonstrate extreme financial need.

DAT

All US dental schools require applicants to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The test is administered on computers, takes 5 hours to complete and is multiple choice.

Advanced level knowledge of biology and physics are not required for this test; however, preparation for the DAT requires the completion of pre-requisite courses in biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry.  Most applicants complete two years or more of their college education before taking the test.

The DAT is composed of 4 sections: Survey of Natural Sciences (90 minutes), Perceptual Ability (60 minutes), Reading Comprehension (60 minutes), and Quantitative Reasoning (45 minutes), with optional tutorial, breaks and a post test survey in between the sections.

Cost for taking the 2019 DAT is $415 and upon completion of the application and payment process, the ADA will inform you how to make arrangements for taking the test. 

Each school will have different average acceptance DAT scores with most admitted applicants scoring between 19.5 and 22 out of 30. Many applicants struggle with the perception section of the test in particular. It is strongly recommended that applicants prepare for the DAT by reviewing the basic principles of biology and chemistry, taking practice tests and viewing the content of the examination. You can do this by reading the DAT Candidate’s Guide, the online tutorial and the application and preparation materials that are available in the DAT section of the ADA website (American Dental Association).

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are critical. Letter requirements vary from school to school but generally, two to three letters of recommendation are required. Students must check individual school websites for specific letter guidelines as there is currently no one source with cumulative information for all programs.  Some schools specifically require a letter from a science and/or a non-science professor. Some schools state no preference who the letter writers are.  In general it is also wise to obtain a letter from a dentist who can speak to your interests and knowledge of dentistry. Remember, it is your responsibility to make sure you are submitting the correct letters for each school you apply.

You can influence the quality of your letter by providing your letter writer with useful information that will aid them in preparing your letter: a copy of your transcripts, your resume, a copy of your personal statement discussing why you want to be a dentist. You should plan on meeting with your letter writers to discuss the letter they will write you.

Electronic letters are strongly preferred. Follow the instructions on ADEA AADSAS on what you need to do as well as how your writers can upload your letters. AADSAS does not accept more than four letters of recommendation. Additional letters can be sent directly to the individual school if the school accepts additional letters. 

Statement

A written statement of purpose is required in the admission process. In your statement, plan on addressing why you selected dentistry as your career. The statement is an important aspect of the application and should receive careful attention. This is your opportunity to discuss how your relevant personal background and interests, education, and experiences have led you to select an education in the dental field.  Take time to review and rewrite your statement as many times as needed. Select individuals who know you well either personally or professionally to read your statement and provide feedback. You are allotted 1 page or 4500 characters including spaces. Refer to the AADSAS instructions for complete details.

Interview

Interviews are offered to applicants dental schools deem competitive. Most schools require you to interview as the next step in the admission process. Interviews will vary from school to school. You may be interviewed by a faculty member and an advanced dental student. Your interview may be just you or you may be part of a group. When you are offered an interview, it is important that you research the type of interview each school conducts so that you can best prepare yourself.

The interview helps the school get to know you better. Like a job interview, schools are looking at you from a professional point of view. You may be asked questions regarding your accomplishments, why you selected dentistry, your educational and experiential background, your communication skills, how you cope with change, stress or conflict, and your decision making and problem-solving skills. Prior to your interview, take time to review your application, research the school, and practice your interviewing.

Pharmacy

While many pharmacy schools use the PharmCAS application, each school has different deadline submission dates. It is important for you to know the deadlines for the schools/programs that you plan to apply to as well as any requirements. PharmCAS has the most up-to-date list of participating schools.

Supplemental Applications

Some schools have supplemental application material or a school specific application they will want you to complete in addition to your PharmCAS application. How you complete the supplemental application and when you turn it in varies by school. Some schools will want you to turn it in with your Pharmcas Application while others will forward you instructions for completing the supplemental application once they have received your Pharmcas application. The supplemental application is not a secondary – it is reviewed with your PharmCAS application in determining if you will receive an invitation to interview. To determine if you need to complete a supplemental application, review the PSAR specific admissions requirements of each school.

Standardized Tests

The PCAT Pharmacy College Admission Test is a multiple choice general aptitude test that measures five content areas: Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Ability, Biology and Chemistry. A little more than half of all pharmacy schools require the PCAT for admission. Most California pharmacy programs do not require the PCAT for admission. Check with each school in which you are interested.  PharmCAS lists PCAT test dates and registration deadlines. PharmCAS also provides information regarding other standardized tests that might be needed based on specific situations.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are critical. Letter requirements vary from school to school but generally, three letters of recommendation are required. It is also wise to obtain a letter from a pharmacist who can speak to your interests and knowledge of pharmacy. PharmCAS provides information on school reference requirements. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you are submitting the correct letters for each school.

Electronic letters are strongly preferred. Follow the instructions on PharmCAS to confirm what you need to submit as well as how your writers can upload your letters. PharmCAS does not accept more than four letters of recommendation. Additional letters can be sent directly to the individual school if the school accepts additional letters. Review PharmCAS for school reference requirements.

Statement

A written statement of purpose is required in the admission process. In your statement, plan on addressing why you selected pharmacy as your career. The statement is an important aspect of the application and should receive careful attention. This is your opportunity to discuss how
your relevant personal background and interests, education, and experiences have led you to pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy education.  Take time to review and edit your statement as many times as needed. Select individuals who know you to either personally or professionally to read your statement and provide feedback. You are allotted 1 page or 4500 characters including spaces. Refer to the PharmCAS instructions for complete details.

Interview

Interviews are offered to applicants whom pharmacy schools deem competitive.  Interviews will vary from school to school. When you are offered an interview, research the type of interview each school conducts so that you can best prepare yourself.

Prior to your interview, take time to review your application, research the school and practice your interviewing.  "Is Pharmacy School for me" offers some tips and suggestions to help you prepare.

Optometry

While many optometry schools use the OptomCAS application, each school has different deadline submission dates. It is important for you to know the deadline dates for the schools/programs that you plan to apply as well as any requirements needed. OptomCAS has the most up-to-date list of participating schools. OptomCAS also provides a quick checklist to help with your application. It is important you still review the complete instructions.

Standardized Tests

The OAT (Optometry Admission Test) is a multiple-choice general aptitude test that measures four content areas: Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, Physics, and Quantitative Reasoning. OptomCAS provides institutional deadlines. The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry provides information about the OAT including a guide to help you prepare.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are critical. Letter requirements vary from school to school. OptomCAS accepts up to four letters of recommendation. It is also wise to obtain a letter from an optometrist who can speak to your interests and knowledge of optometry. OptomCAS provides a reference table that lists requirements by the school. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you are submitting the correct letters for each school you apply to.

You can influence the quality of your letter by providing your letter writer with useful information that will aid them in preparing your letter: a copy of your transcripts, your resume, and a copy of your personal statement discussing why you want to be an optometrist. You should plan on meeting with your letter writers to discuss the content of the letter they will write for you.

Electronic letters are strongly preferred. Follow the instructions on OptomCAS of what you need to do as well as how your writers can upload your letters. OptomCAS does not accept more than four letters of recommendation. Additional letters can be sent directly to the individual school if the school accepts additional letters.

Statement

A written statement of purpose is required in the admission process. In your statement, plan on addressing why you selected optometry as your career. The statement is an important aspect of the application and should receive careful attention. This is your opportunity to discuss how your relevant personal background and interests, education, and experiences have led you to select a Doctor of Optometry education. Take time to review and rewrite your statement as many times as needed. Select individuals who know you either personally or professionally to read your statement and provide feedback. You are allotted 4500 characters including spaces. You are able to tailor your statement for each school you plan to apply to. Once you have saved your statement(s), you can upload them to the designated school's section. Refer to the OptomCAS instructions for complete details.

Interview

Interviews are offered to applicants that optometry schools deem competitive and are by invitation only. Most schools require you to interview as the next step in the admission process. Interviews will vary from school to school. You may be interviewed by an admissions officer, faculty member, and/or an advanced optometry student. Your interview may be just you or you may be part of a group. When you are offered an interview, it is important that you research the type of interview each school conducts so that you can best prepare yourself.

The interview helps the school get to know you better. Like a job interview, schools are looking at you from a professional point of view. You may be asked questions regarding your accomplishments, why you selected optometry, your educational and experiential background, your communication skills, how you cope with change, stress, or conflict, and your decision-making and problem-solving skills. Prior to your interview, take time to review your application, research the school, and practice interviewing.

Vet Med

While many veterinary schools use the VMCAS application, each school has different deadline submission dates. There are 34 schools that utilize VMCAS. It is important for you to research each to which you plan on applying.   

Standardized Tests

Most veterinary schools require the GRE. Test scores need to be sent directly to the schools, by their deadline. AAVMC suggests that tests be taken before Fall of your application year, to ensure you do not miss a VMCAS school’s deadline. Most schools will not accept test scores older than 2-3 years.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a critical component of the application process. Electronic letters are required. Letter requirements vary from school to school but generally, three letters of recommendation are required. It is also wise to obtain a letter from a veterinarian.

VMCAS provides guidance of what you need to do as well as how your writers can upload your letters. Make sure to confirm each school’s preference for what type letters they require. VMCAS does not accept more than three letters of recommendation. Additional letters can be sent directly to the individual school if the school accepts additional letters. Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure you are submitting the correct letters for each school you apply.

You can influence the quality of your letter by providing your letter writer with useful information that will aid them in preparing your letter: a copy of your transcripts, your resume, and a copy of your personal statement discussing why you want to be a veterinarian. 

Statement

A written statement of purpose is required in the admission process. In your statement, plan on addressing why you selected veterinary medicine as your career. This is your opportunity to discuss how your relevant personal background and interests, education, and experiences have led you to select a veterinary medicine education. Take time to review and rewrite your statement as many times as needed. A Career Center Advisor can review your SOP, if you sign up for an appointment through Handshake. . You are allotted 5000 characters including spaces. 

Interview

Some schools have an interview requirement. Interviews are by invitation only and usually start in January and can run through the end of March.Prior to your interview, take time to review your application, research the school and practice interviewing.  Feel free to sign up for an appointment with one of the pre-health advisors for a mock interivew, through Handshake. 

The interview may vary from school to school. You may be interviewed by a panel of Admissions representatives, faculty, an advanced veterinary student or a veterinarian. Some schools are conducting the Multiple Mini Interview format . When you are offered an interview, you should check each school for their interview policy so you best prepare yourself.