BECOMING A COMPETITIVE APPLICANT
To be a competitive applicant for programs in any of the health professions, completing the prerequisite courses and earning good grades in them are a given. But you not only have to have earned good grades and perform well on the appropriate standardized test, you must also demonstrate a knowledge of and experience in the field. And, as you will see, you should be able to explain why you have selected your chosen health profession as a potential career.
What is a competitive GPA or other test score varies by program, as do the requirements for experience and prerequisite courses. Generalized lists of prerequisite courses for each type of health professions program are listed in this Handbook, but as you approach your final year, be sure to check the web sites of the programs to which you plan to apply. Some schools will have additional prerequisites.
What GPA and MCAT scores have successful applicants from Wake Forest had? The data below from the entering class of 2017 shows that the majority of admitted students have above a 3.65 GPA and 509 MCAT score. While a small number students fall below these values, these are generally students who have taken one or more gap years to do a post-baccalaureate program or other relevant activity to improve their competitiveness.
Many schools will report the average GPA and test scores of their admitted applicants. You can use that data to evaluate your competitiveness in that respect.
What if your GPA and test scores suggest that you are not competitive for admission to the program of your choice? You have many options. First, if you are a third year student, consider taking your fourth year to bring up your GPA, do research, and accumulate community service hours before applying. For medical and dental stduents, retake the MCAT or DAT if necessary.
There are a number of post-baccalaureate programs designed specifically to help students pursue a career in the health professions after they have completed the bachelor’s degree. These one-year programs offer students the opportunity to take required courses they may be lacking and provide an opportunity to improve your GPA. For more information on post-baccalaureate programs, visit https://apps.aamc.org/postbac/#/index.
It is also possible to enter a masters program in a relevant field. MS programs are one or more years and generally have research and thesis components. MA degrees often do not require a thesis.
How do you decide which is the best choice for you? Generally, if your grades and test scores are competitive, but you lack experience, a relevant masters degree can be very helpful. But if your GPA is not competitive, particularly your science GPA, you might consider a post-bac program. Post-bac programs serve students striving for admission to medical, dental PA and physical therapy schools.
Another option is to work in a health care setting such as a hospital or clinic after you graduate. Face-to-face patient time is an asset in an application to any health care program. There are many opportunities, but some common choices are to train as an EMT (emergency medical technician) or CNA (clinical nurse assistant), or work as a medical scribe. The necessary short training courses are generally available at most community colleges. How do you find relevant clinical opportunities? (See the section on internships.)
Finally, service is an important component of any health care career. One to two years of service in organizations such as Americorps, Teach for America, or the Peace Corps can make an applicant more attractive.