This general guide to the process should be supplemented by investigating the specific processes and requirements of the programs you intend to apply to.
1. Prior to beginning your applications
Plan for all pre-professional course requirements to be completed or in the process of being complete before you begin the application process. Required standardized exams (MCAT, DAT etc.) should be taken after you complete the pre-professional course requirements and at least a year before you wish to matriculate in your chosen program. You should have thoroughly researched your chosen profession and the schools you intend to apply to before you begin the process as well.
2. Find out what is involved in the application process
Always start the application process by carefully reviewing the list of schools you would like to apply to and find out how to apply to each school. The majority of health professions programs, although not all, use an online application. Some professions have a centralized application service that is relevant to all schools, others have a central application service used by some but not all schools. Keep looking for the most up-to-date information: the application process for programs can change significantly from year to year. For programs that do not have a centralized application service, you will need to request an application. Find out what forms you will need to request (transcripts, what number and kinds of letters of recommendation, certifications etc.).
3. Prepare and secure supporting materials
Applications require letters of recommendation, essays, and possibly other supporting materials. Select your letter writers carefully, and approach them well ahead of your deadlines. Start working on your essay(s) early, and if possible, have them in final form before you begin filling out your application.
For information on ordering transcripts, please see the Registrar's website. Please remember to request transcripts only AFTER all of your final grades have been submitted.
4. Fill out and submit your application(s)
Complete the applications. When you enter courses and grades, be sure to reference official transcripts. Any error, no matter how small, can slow the processing of your application. Generally, an initial (primary) application will become available in late spring, either in April or in May. Many applications will allow you to work-on and save your application before deciding to submit it. Be careful to determine that your application is accurate, polished, and that it represents you well before submitting it.
5. After submitting your primary application(s)
If your health professions program has a centralized application service, it may take up to five weeks for your application to be processed and sent on to your chosen schools. You will then begin to interact with individual schools. In some health professions, you will need to complete secondary applications for each individual school. Once your applications are complete (and completed applications mean different things for different types of health professions programs), the next step in the process is the interview.
Professional schools will not admit any applicant without a personal interview, which usually occurs sometime between September and April. If you are invited to an interview, this invitation means that you have met the school's basic criteria for admission. Due to space and financial constraints, however, not every qualified applicant will be offered admission and the interview is used as a selection tool. Interview customs vary from school to school. During interviews, most schools also offer a tour of the facilities, a presentation on financial aid, and may also provide an opportunity for applicants to meet with students.
7. After the interview
After the interview, you will await notification that tells you of your status. The notification will specifically detail whether you've been accepted, wait-listed or rejected. Such notifications may be mailed within days, weeks or months of the interview, depending upon the practices of the schools in question. Please adhere to the timelines given to you by the school; if a school has told you that you may expect a decision within a month of your interview, don't call the school until the month has passed.
If you receive a notification of acceptance, it will ask that you inform the school by a certain date whether you intend to decline acceptance, enroll, or hold a place (meaning that the school is one you are seriously considering). If you plan to enroll or hold a place, you may be required to send a deposit that may or may not be refundable if you change your mind later. We recommend that you not hold more than two places at a time in fairness to the schools and to your fellow applicants. Medical school application decorum dictates that as soon as you decide that you are no longer interested in a school, you shall notify the school, in writing, as promptly as possible.
If you are wait-listed, you may or may not be informed in the letter about where on the list you are. Very few schools will tell you your exact "number," but some will tell you whether you're on the priority or non-priority list, the first, second or third of three lists, etc. Schools that furnish such information will usually give you an estimate of your chances. If your letter doesn't contain this sort of information, you are free to call the school and inquire unless the letter tells you not to do so.
If you find yourself wait-listed at one of your top-choice schools, the best way to convey excitement about a particular program is to keep the school updated; send any significant new information (additional recommendations, recent honors, etc) that was not available at the time you interviewed.
In the event that you are rejected, your next move will depend upon how far you advanced in the process. If you were not invited for any interviews, you may assume that your grades and/or test scores were not competitive. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the medical schools to discuss their individual situations and solicit feedback. Admissions representatives are usually willing to give unsuccessful applicants an honest evaluation of their credentials, and, if appropriate, suggestions on how to improve any weak spots.