Preparation for Careers in the Health Professions
Welcome to Health Professions Advising !
Some Important Due Dates for 2015 Application Cycle
Committee Letter Request Forms Submission: May 5, 2014
Click here to download the form
Faculty or Clinical Referees' Recommendation Letters Submission: May 16, 2014
AMCAS or other “CAS” Application and Application Letter Request Form: July 4, 2014
Health Professions Overview
Many BSU students are interested in pursuing one of the health professions after graduation, including careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, nursing, or other health-related fields. The Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) serves as a resource for BSU students considering these careers and will assist students to ensure that they are on track to pursue their professional goals. Resources include providing information, advice and support to BSU students or alumni applying to health professions programs to assist them in achieving their goals. An advisor can provide guidance to students and alumni as they plan their curriculum to enter their chosen field, seek health-related internships and work through the application process for medical, dental, veterinary or other health professions graduate school. The HPAC can also assist with composite letters for students applying to professional schools that require such letters. In addition to individual advising through scheduled appointments, students are encouraged to attend talks hosted through the Biology Department's Friday Informal Seminar Hour (FISH) series that may provide insight into health-related careers for students. While students will have an assigned academic advisor in their major department who will help them with course selections each semester, students interested in health professions should also consult a health professions advisor for assistance to ensure they are on track to meet their professional goals. Students and alumni are encouraged to contact the Chairperson of the HPAC by email after reviewing this website with any further questions. Prospective students are encouraged to review this website and direct questions to Undergraduate Admissions.
Contact HPAC Chairperson
Researching Health Professions Careers
BSU Students should consider a variety of career options during their academic pursuits. Many BSU students have pursued careers in the Health Professions (medical, veterinary, nursing programs) or Graduate Studies in several disciplines (biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, environmental health). Students may find the following websites helpful as they explore the career that is most suited to their ultimate professional goals. The links below are listed to assist BSU students in researching various health professions as well as to provide insight into those programs. Many health professions programs require that students complete an online application and submit the application to a centralized agency. Health Professions links and links to the centralized service through which to apply are listed below. Please note that not all schools for a particular health profession participate in the submission of applications to the agencies. Students should be sure to check each school that they are considering applying to for admission to determine if the institution participates in this service.
Helpful Links for Students Researching Health Professions Careers:
Academic Planning and Preparation
Academic Preparation and Course Sequences:
For BSU students entering graduate school in the biomedical sciences or the health professions, any major may be selected by the student as each student is encouraged to follow his/her own intellectual and academic interests. However, the professional schools expect every serious applicant to have a strong foundation in the basic sciences and to be familiar, through practical experience, with laboratory techniques. As such, most medical, dental, nursing, physicians assistant or veterinary schools require two years of chemistry with lab, one year of biology with lab, one year of physics with lab and one year of English. Some schools have additional coursework requirements, such as biochemistry or calculus. It is the student's responsibility to check the specific requirements of the schools in which he/she is interested.
BSU Undergraduate Course Selections:
The outline below lists the science and mathematics courses constituting the core premedical courses. Again, students are reminded to attempt to complete the following courses by their junior year if they expect to enter professional school immediately after graduation. Please discuss the course sequences with your academic advisor and follow up with a Health Professions Advisor to ensure you are on track to complete courses and prepare for standardized exams in a timely manner.
One Year of Biology
BIOL 121-122 General Biology (majors-based) and labs (two semesters)
Additional Biology courses are helpful in preparation, suggested courses include BIOL 251-252 (Anatomy and Physiology I and II) as well as advanced courses
Two Years of Chemistry
CHEM 343-344 Organic Chemistry and labs (two semesters)
One year of Physics
PHYS 243-244 General Physics (calculus-based) and labs (two semesters)
Note: PHYS 181-182 may be substituted as most schools require 8 credits and do not specify the course
One Year of Math
MATH 141-142 Elements of Calculus I & II (two semesters) Or
MATH 161-162 Calculus I & II (two semesters) Check with individual schools**
One Year of English
Two semesters (any two reading/writing courses)
CHEM 461 Biochemistry (strongly recommended and required by an increasing number of medical schools and required by most veterinary schools)
Suggested Course Walkthroughs:
** Please note: Most professional and graduate programs require only one semester of calculus, while a few may require a full year of calculus. It is advised that a semester of Biometry (BIOL297) be taken by students continuing on with postgraduate studies. In addition, many medical schools are requiring Biochemistry (CHEM 461), so students should be sure to check with the schools to which they plan to apply.
** Students should check for additional requirements by contacting the schools to which they plan to apply for admission. If you are applying to Medical School, check the MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) for clarification.
AP Credits received for Biology, Chemistry and Physics: Many schools require that students show University-level coursework in these subject areas on their University transcripts. Therefore, AP credits are often not accepted for Medical or Graduate Admissions, therefore, students can take additional intermediate or upper level courses in those subjects for which AP credit was granted.
Non-Academic Planning and Preparation
Admission to graduate school in the biomedical sciences requires excellent grades, strong performance on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and most importantly, practical experience in the research laboratory. Many schools regard letters of recommendation from supervisors more highly than the standardized exam scores (GRE), so students should discuss the process with their research advisor and ensure they make a favorable impression upon those from whom letters of recommendation are requested.
Admission to health professions programs requires excellent grades, strong performance on standardized exams specific to each program and relevant experience that demonstrates interest in and dedication to the chosen health profession. BSU students who have been successful in gaining entrance into top health professions programs are those who showed balance between and excellence in their academics and extracurricular activities. Successful applicants were those that were involved in several activities during their undergraduate or postgraduate careers that include, but are not limited to: undergraduate research during the academic year and/or summer, clinical experience through shadowing or service trips and leadership positions through diverse roles on campus. As many BSU students must work in order to finance their education, gaining employment in a relevant field will provide financial support while furthering experience in and knowledge of the intended field of interest. Importantly, the ability to balance time between academics and work often sets BSU students apart from others, so students should be sure to let those who provide letters of reference know about their work obligations. As students will be compared against top students from institutions nationwide, students must make themselves as attractive a candidate as possible in order to be competitive for matriculation into their program of interest.
Undergraduate Research at BSU
Undergraduate research opportunities are plentiful at BSU, so students who plan to apply to health professions or graduate programs are encouraged to seek a research experience during the academic year or summertime. Much student work at BSU is funded through the Adrian Tinsley Program (ATP) which provides research stipends for semester and summer work and requires that students work closely with a faculty mentor and present their work at several venues. Attaining monies through ATP and participating in this program is a wonderful chance for a student to strengthen his/her candidacy as it demonstrates strong writing, research and presentation skills. Research experience can also be sought off campus at many institutions; pursuit of a research opportunity at another institution is a wonderful way to network, to gain favorable references and to see a new part of the country for the summer as most positions provide a stipend and living expenses.
Office of Undergraduate Research
The Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research (ATP)
Career Services can assist students in finding internships in research-based programs
Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates
Most health professions schools require that students gain some level of experience in a health related field or a clinic. During their undergraduate work, either during the semester or in the summer months, students should seek clinically-related experience in your intended field. Working with a clinician through a shadowing opportunity is important for the student as it will enlighten the decision as to whether that particular field of medicine is the best career path to pursue. Students are responsible for researching and networking in order to find a clinical opportunity that best fits his/her needs. Some suggestions are to work or volunteer in places such as hospitals, nursing homes, research units, veterinary clinics, zoos or wildlife parks. Alternatively, students may wish to approach their family physician, dentist or veterinarian and discuss with him/her the desire to join the field. Additional ways to gain clinical experience are through completing a certificate program, such as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT or Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), or other types of medical training course, all of which provide insight into the profession and will allow networking opportunities with diverse clinical positions. Please use this shadowing form to list the hours you have worked and include it in your application package.
BSU students are fortunate to have several opportunities by which to gain clinical experience or to demonstrate to service to others through various campus groups. Bridgewater State University (BSU) sponsors the Children's Physical Developmental Clinic (CPDC), a nationally recognized academic program that fosters professional development, service learning, and leadership development. The CPDC affords students the opportunity to volunteer as clinicians and work with children and youth with disabilities, either during the week or on weekends. Several BSU students gain excellent experience demonstrating their clinical potential through work at the CPDC.
In addition, BSU's Community Service Center offers opportunities to serve the community and also to participate in service trips during winter or spring break. The Community Service Center focuses on three primary areas: addressing the Basic Needs of individuals such as food, shelter and clothing; connecting People to People with opportunities to work with children, teens, adults and the elderly; and developing hands-on projects that focus on the sustainability of our planet and demonstrate that our Earth Matters.
Personal development through extracurricular activities is almost as important as academic excellence in making oneself most competitive for entry into health professions programs. Institutions are interested in individuals who will be and who demonstrate leadership. . Extracurricular involvement demonstrates that a student possesses commitment, leadership, and the ability to work as a member of a team and maturity, all of which can speak to the potential of a student to be a good caregiver. In choosing activities, students should choose activities that are important to them personally and that speak to who they are and about which they are passionate. BSU students can
The Application Process for Health Professions
The major steps to the application process to health professions or graduate school are as follows.
Many schools in the health professions use a centralized application service (LINK) while graduate schools will prefer application through their individual websites. Some schools do not subscribe to the centralized service, so students should begin to research institutions and programs early on in their academic careers.
- Standardized Entrance Exam (DAT, GRE, MCAT, OAT)
- Grade Point Average (overall and science GPAs may be considered separately)
- Letters of Recommendations
Details on the Process:
Each institution to which a student applies (or the centralized application service) will require a personal statement and other essays to complete the application. Where applicable (this is not possible for centralized services), students should individualize their application for each school. Use the research conducted when gathering information about the school to incorporate specific examples of why that school's program is desirable. For example, if a professor is doing research/ publishing/ an expert in a particular area of interest, or if a school is known for a particular manner of instruction, the student may wish to mention why that work or method of learning appeals to them. Be sure to answer the question(s) accurately and completely. Some schools may ask much more specific questions than others. The student should be sure to include reasons why attendance at that particular school or to enter that particular profession is desired rather than merely reasons why he/she wants the degree. If the school's program has a particular focus that a student finds especially interesting or there is some other feature that stands out (special lab facilities, outstanding equipment or resources) inclusion of these attributes will improve the application.
- Standardized Entrance Exam
Most graduate or professional programs will require that you take a standardized exam prior to entrance. For some programs (medical school, dental school), this exam is a gatekeeper in that a student must perform at a high level in order for their application to be considered and reviewed. For other programs, the exam is more of a formality and grades and letters of recommendation will be more heavily considered.
For specifics on each exam, please see the following links:
Dental Admission Test (DAT)
Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
The more A's a student achieves (especially in upper level courses), the better. If a student performs poorly in a specific course, the course may be retaken as competence in some specific courses is required to do well on entrance exams. For example, high level competence in Biology, Organic Chemistry and Physics is requisite to do well on the MCAT and the DAT so if a student's grades in those courses are below a B level, retaking a course may allow him/her to better master the material prior to taking the standardized exam.
- Letters of Recommendations
All health professions and graduate schools will request letters of recommendation. These letters are an extremely important part (in some cases, they are the most important part) of the student's application, so the request of letters should be handled appropriately. A student should request letters from professors who know them well and on whom they have made a favorable impression. A student should also ask any professor with whom they have done a research project or a clinician with whom they have shadowed as these individuals can best comment on the student?s abilities and potential to excel in the profession.
How to ask for a reference letter:
Students should ask a referee whether they are able to provide a positive or favorable letter of recommendation. While many professors or supervisors can provide a recommendation, the question of whether the individual knows or remembers the student well enough to provide a good letter of recommendation is most important.
- Students should provide the reference writer with the following:
- A current copy of the InfoBear print out or transcripts from BSU or any other institutions attended
- A resume or curriculum vitae (CV) of experiences to date, including research experience, presentations, grant funding, pertinent coursework
- A brief description of the program/department to which the student is applying and why that department/program fits the student's personal career plans
- An electronic document with the name and address of each program and institution to which the student is applying (While many will require electronic submission, if the referee must send letters via the US Postal service, the student should provide printed labels or envelopes.)
- A personal statement which includes a student's personal motivations (educational and career goals) for applying to graduate or professional school
Personal Statement Detail:
Essays for graduate or professional schools will likely require a personal statement in the application. Be sure to provide as polished a statement as possible to those whom will be providing a reference rather than merely an email with a brief statement within. A personal statement should comment on or answer the following general questions:
- Why the student wishes to attend graduate school?
- What influenced the student's decision to pursue this particular path?
- What experience does the student have that will help him/her as he/she pursues this educational and career path?
- What does the student hope to do with the degree?
- What career does the student hope to pursue once finished with his/her training?
- How will this particular degree help the student to attain their ultimate goals?
Improving an Application for Health Professions
The most important factor for a student to make himself/herself competitive for entrance into any health professional or graduate program is a strong overall record (GPA, Standardized Exam, and Letters of Recommendation). If a student's application is not competitive after he/she finishes undergraduate training, the student may consider improving upon his/her candidacy in the following ways.
Improve upon GPA:
One avenue by which to attain an improved GPA is through additional coursework either in upper level college science courses or in a Post Baccalaureate Medical Program, some of which grant Masters degrees. Assistance may be found through meeting with a health professions advisor, or through various websites, including one through the AAMC (LINK) http://services.aamc.org/postbac/getprogs.cfm. While excellent academic performance is essential for success, students should consider additional ways to strengthen their application should their grades need improvement. Involvement in appropriate extracurricular activities and clinical or service work can strengthen the candidacy of an applicant.
Improve upon Standardized Entrance Exam Scores:
If a student scores poorly on the MCAT, DAT, OAT or GRE, this is often difficult to overcome. The most important advice is to ensure strong preparation prior to taking the exam prior on the chosen exam date since scores are never replaced, rather will remain on a student's record and be averaged with prior exam scores. In order to improve upon a poor score, preparation is key in order to gain the highest score possible. Some students may choose to seek help through external preparation companies (Kaplan, Princeton Review), however, these preparatory courses can be very expensive (~$2000). As such, students can prepare themselves through purchase of review books (Exam Krackers is a highly recommended review series) and disciplined review of course material; while this method of review may require more diligence on the part of the student, it is a perfectly acceptable manner in which to prepare. Most standardized exam sites (LINK) allow purchase of previous exams so that students can prepare and get a feel for the types of questions that will be asked.
Improve upon Letters of Recommendation:
Letters of recommendation are paramount regardless of the type of health professions or graduate program to which a student is applying. Given the competition for admission, experience in a hospital or health care environment is essential if a student is applying in a clinical field. Health professions schools regard research experience favorably, so talk with your BSU professors about working with them on an undergraduate research project during the academic year or the summertime. Undergraduate research experience allows not only helps students attain letters of reference from a faculty member who knows them very well, it also allows students to become deeply involved in a specific scientific question of interest which often sets their application apart from others. In order to gain letters of recommendation from clinicians who can comment on the potential to be good caregivers with strong interpersonal skills, students should check with local hospitals, pharmacies, veterinary clinics or other site specific to student interest for volunteer opportunities. Finally, once students have secured letters to support their clinical abilities, problem-solving skills and capacity to work as a team player, students should reflect upon what makes them unique. Health professions schools seek outstanding students, but also favor individuals who have something unique or unusual to offer their institutions. Whether a personality trait, skill or hobby, students should define unique qualities that make them desirable candidates and develop those attributes.
Centralized Application Services
Deadlines for submission of applications and the mechanism for submission of letters of recommendation vary among programs. While some programs require applications and letters of recommendation to be submitted directly to the school, other programs request submission through a centralized agency. Below is a list of the centralized services for most health professions programs where applicants can begin to complete their applications online several months prior to the deadline. Transcripts and standardized test scores are commonly submitted to the centralized agency. It is the student?s responsibility to ensure transcripts are sent to and arrive at the intended destination. In addition, some programs in the health professions require a specific number of clinical hours prior to applying to programs. For example, most Physician?s Assistant Programs typically require over 500 clinical hours. Students should be sure to check with the programs to which they plan to apply early in their academic career to ensure proper planning of coursework and clinical work as well as an appropriate plan for application submission.
Information for Applying to Schools within the Health Professions
Allopathic and Osteopathic Medicine are two types of programs students may consider
Allopathic Medicine (MD)
American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)
American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
Osteopathic Medicine (DO)
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Services (AACOMAS)
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS)
Graduate Schools in the Biomedical Sciences
Each school should be researched for its attributes individually, but a place to begin a search of institutions and programs is: www.petersons.com
Committee Letters and Timeline for Application for Health Professional Programs
All of the medical, dental, optometry and podiatry schools to which a student will apply will likely request a committee letter. Veterinary schools and other health professions schools do not typically utilize a committee letter, rather prefer individual letters that are uploaded through a centralized application site.
During the Fall semester of the year preceding the year a student plans to apply to medical school (Fall of the Junior year for those students wishing to enter medical school following completion of their senior year), the student should meet with the chair of the HPAC in order to declare intent to apply if a committee letter is desired. Committee letters are highly recommended for medical, dental and podiatry schools. Should a student request a committee letter, letters from professors or clinical references must be submitted to the HPAC at the end of the Spring semester if a student wishes to apply during the summer months. A minimum of three letters of recommendation (maximum of five) are required, including at least one letter from a member of the science faculty at Bridgewater State University. The Committee suggests that students get to know some of their professors more personally while taking their science courses. As the course comes to a close, the student should inform the professor that he/she may be seeking a recommendation in the future so the professor can begin to record something notable while the student is still a member of his/her current course. On occasion, if a student has gotten to know a professor particularly well, and vice versa, it may be appropriate to solicit a recommendation at the close of that semester. Faculty members should submit recommendations directly to Dr. Kenneth Adams via email. Letters will be kept on file for later use.
During the spring of the year preceding the application year (Spring semester of the Junior year), the committee will meet to evaluate all Bridgewater State University students applying to professional schools that require a Committee Letter. The Committee Letter is composed to attempt to present the student's candidacy in the best light. This letter reviews the academic, extra-curricular, and personal elements of each applicant's undergraduate performance. Recommendations from faculty and other appropriate individuals are incorporated into this letter. Therefore, the importance of getting to know individual faculty members in order for them to be able to write thoughtful, supportive recommendations on a student's behalf is essential.
Students will be required to meet with the chair of the Health Professions Advisory Committee in order to attain application materials. Students must complete the Committee Letter Request Registration Forms in order for the student to be guaranteed a Committee Letter for that application cycle (most centralized services begin accepting applications in June, and interview in September-October for the following year). Additional student information such as a personal statement, activities and all individual letters of recommendation are due to the Health Professions Advisory Committee by May 1st.
It is highly recommended that you consult the "How to Apply" section on the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) web site which offers guidelines on applying a medical school. Pay particular attention on the Essays section on how to write your personal statement. Should you decide to use AMCAS service, you will need to create a personal account which allows you to upload the required documents. Please follow this link to find more details.
The Health Professions Advisory Committee
All of the medical, dental, optometry and podiatry schools to which a student may apply will likely request a committee letter. The Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) at Bridgewater State University will meet to discuss a student's candidacy based on academic and clinical experience and the letters of recommendation submitted on the student's behalf.
The HPAC is comprised of four core members:
Dr. Kenneth Adams, (Chairperson of Health Professions Advisory Committee) Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Dr. Steven Haefner, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemical Sciences
Dr. Samer Lone, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemical Sciences
Dr. Joseph Seggio, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
The members of the Health Professions Advisory Committee (Drs. Haefner, Krevosky, or Lone) are available for advising. Please schedule visits with them during their office hours. A student may select an additional faculty member to be a member of their committee as the student may wish to choose a professor with whom they have developed a strong relationship. Additional members of the advisory committee for an applicant may include members of the BSU administration, Careers Services or faculty outside of those individuals listed here.
Registering with the Health Professions Advisory Office
Students interested in the Health Professions, especially those who will be requesting a committee letter, should register with the Office of Health Professions Advising early in their college career (no later than the end of their sophomore year, or as soon as possible upon transfer to BSU). Consultation with the departmental advisor and health professions advisor are recommended to ensure appropriate course selection and extracurricular involvement in order to best prepare students for future success in the health professions. Students should make an appointment with Dr. Kenneth Adams, Chairperson of the Health Professions Advisory Committee in the fall of their junior year in order to discuss the application procedure and the process of gathering letters of recommendation.
Encouraging Voice from an Alumna
Medical School: From BSU to Dreams Come True, PowerPoint Presentation by Ms. Bethany Collins, November, 2012.
Health Professions Advising
Meet the Chair of HPAC
Kenneth Adams, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Chairperson, Health Professions Advisory Committee
Bridgewater State University
Conant Science and Mathematics Building Room 380
Dr. Adams is available for advising whenever he is in his office and is not busy with coursework. For questions or concerns regarding the application process, please make an appointment to meet with him.
Follow the links listed in the left column to find the information you need !
Dr. Steve Haefner, 2010-present
Dr. Samer Lone, 2010-present
Dr. Joseph Seggio, 2010-present
Dr. Joseph Seggio, 2012-2013
Dr. Merideth Krevosky, 2002-2012
For questions related to this guide, please contact Sheau-Hwang Chang, Biological Sciences Librarian