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What are schools looking for?

Graduate and Professional schools look at numbers: your GPA in science classes, your overall GPA, and your scores on entrance exams. Beyond the numbers, these schools are looking for clinical experience, communication skills, service orientation, leadership experience, passion for health care, resiliency, and perseverance in the face of obstacles. There is no one set of boxes to check; instead, each student should identify their unique interests and strengths, and try to make a difference. 

A good resource for what schools are looking for beyond grades and tests is the "Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students".  While this site is geared towards MD programs, these characteristic competencies apply to applicants for all health care fields.

Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is an absolute must. One way to get this exposure is to shadow a health care provider. In our experience, the best shadowing experiences are set up by the individual student.

  • Are there any health care providers in your immediate family? Neighbors? Family friends? Perhaps your family physician would let your shadow them.
    • When in doubt, start visiting doctor’s offices and clinics. If you establish a personal connection with the doctor, they are much more likely to provide you with a rewarding experience.
  • The Health Professions Advisory Committee also has a network of IC alumni in the medical fields who are willing to mentor students. To be eligible for this, you need to be a sophomore, have completed at least one semester of Organic Chemistry, and you must meet with the Health Professions Advisor.

Research Experience

If you are considering a career in academic medicine (i.e. becoming a physician at a teaching hospital, doing clinical research, etc.), research experience is very important. Ithaca College is an ideal environment to gain this experience, as research opportunities are built into many of our majors in the Natural Sciences and Health Sciences.

It is important to know, though, that research just one of many possible activities students can pursue. If you are more interested in community service and outreach (e.g. working in a soup kitchen, volunteering at the hospital), these are perfectly fine too. In addition, many of our pre-health students have strong interests and experience in music and the arts. Research is not “required”, it is simply one of many activities you can become involved in that have clinical relevance in the long term. In whatever activities you choose, it is important to demonstrate leadership, dedication, commitment, and teamwork.