All healthcare professional or graduate schools require students to take one of the standardized examinations. The specific examination, which may be seen in Appendix A, varies from field to field. For example, students applying to medical schools will take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), students applying to pharmacy schools will take the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test), and students applying to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental health graduate programs will take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). Extensive preparation is essential for each of these examinations in order to increase your chances of being accepted to the program of your choice. There are many resources available, both online and in-person, for test preparation, and students should avail themselves of these resources (please see one of the pre-health advisors for specific options). Most preparatory guides suggest that studying begin six months ahead of the scheduled examination. Students interested in entering professional schools immediately after graduation will take one of these standardized examinations toward the end of their junior year and during the summer between their junior and senior years. All of the examinations allow multiple administrations, but it is important that students prepare to do well on their first attempts.
All healthcare programs will require that letters of recommendation be submitted attesting to the quality of your preparation and potential for success in your desired field. Make sure that you talk with each of your potential recommenders well in advance (several months if possible) about writing a letter of recommendation. Do not assume that all of the individuals that you approach will write a letter for you. Ask each potential reference about any reservations he/she may have in writing a letter of recommendation for you. Many of the professional schools (e.g., Doctor of Osteopathy; Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine) require that one of your letters is written by a person practicing in that field. Once you have secured the appropriate number of letter writers, be sure that you provide them with information about when their letter is due and where their letter should be sent (e.g., Pre-Health Committee; Centralized application service such as PTCAS). Also, give all of your letter writers a current copy of your resume and any other information that will assist them in writing their letters for you (e.g., abstracts of research you have completed; information about your practicums).
There are a number of programs that students can enter to receive additional preparation for entrance into their desired healthcare field. A list of post-baccalaureate programs for medical schools may be found here. These programs are designed to assist students who want to become healthcare professionals, such as physicians or dentists, but had deficits in their undergraduate preparation, such as a lack of prerequisite courses or poor grades in prerequisite courses.