Beyond preparing for the application, it is important to remember you are preparing for a career in the health professions. When thinking about your activities and experiences, you must go beyond what "looks good" on an application. A truly prepared applicant is one who has demonstrated the qualities and characteristics of a successful healthcare professional through participation in meaningful experiences.
Health professional schools expect applicants to demonstrate growth in four areas of Holistic Development:
- Academic Accomplishment
- Community Service and Leadership Experience
- Clinical Experience
- Research (Research is not required, though it provides helpful experience)
These four key areas of preparation are critical to a successful application process. There is no checklist of activities required in each of these categories. Your experiences in the areas of holistic development will depend on your own personal interests and passions.This graphic gives additional information about Holistic Review in the medical school admission process. While this document was created by the AAMC, it is helpful to applicants in all health professions.
It is important for future healthcare providers to be:
- Lifelong learners
- Intellectually curious
- Comfortable and competent in the sciences
One way for applicants to demonstrate these qualities is through their academic experiences and accomplishments. While demonstrating a mastery of the prerequisite coursework is important, it is also important that your academic experiences demonstrate your love of learning, problem-solving skills, curiosity, and ability to effectively manage your time.
Review the information below for additional tips on academic preparation.
Choosing a Major
There is no pre-health major. You can major in ANYTHING as an undergraduate (BA or BS) and apply to health professional school. You have to be strategic and work in the prerequisites for the professional program you are interested in, but it is very manageable with any major.
There is no one major that "looks good" to health professional schools. Students are strongly encouraged to choose the major they are most interested in. Majoring in a subject your are excited about will allow you to become deeply engaged in your studies and develop the academic competencies needed to be a succeessful healthcare professional.
No matter what major you choose, it is important to take a variety of classes that allow you to explore different subjects. In addition to building a strong science foundation through prerequisite coursework, Humanities and Social Science courses can help you to develop other valuable skills for a career in healthcare such as critical thinking, reading, writing, and communication skills.
Emory's liberal arts education provides numerous opportunities to explore the humanistic and ethical side of healthcare. Your pre-health advisor will work with you to map out a balanced schedule that works in both your major requirements, exploratory electives, and prerequisite coursework.
Grades, Trends, and Entrance Exam
When applying to health professional programs, they will be evaluating both your cumulative GPA from all college coursework and your BCPM GPA. The BCPM GPA includes all Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math courses taken as an undergraduate. Courses that are cross-listed with a BCPM designation MAY be counted towards your BCPM. Use this GPA Calculator to determine your current GPA or as a planning tool.
Upward trend in grades
Additionally, your score on the designated entrance exam will play a large factor in your application review. For more information on the entrance exam for your health professional program, see the "Explore" page of the PHMO website.
More Ways to Prepare Academically
As a pre-health student, studying abroad is an excellent opportunity. Besides enhancing your academic qualifications, studying abroad promotes an increased understanding of the world and your place in it, develops your knowledge of foreign languages and different cultures, and provides you with valuable skills to help you be a competitive applicant to professional schools.
Emory offers unique opportunities to study abroad while making progress towards:
- Major requirements
- General Education Requirements (GERs)
- Gaining clinical or research experience
We DO NOT recommend students to take pre-health prerequisites abroad. Some medical/healthcare professional schools will allow a semester of physics or organic chemistry abroad and other schools will not consider them equivalent to U.S. courses. Read more at Emory’s Guide to Study Abroad for Science and Pre-Health Students.
Academic Extracurricular Experiences
- Teaching Assistant
- Honor Societies
The Office of Undergraduate Education offers programs to support student learning. The PHMO encourages students to use academic support BEFORE you experience challenges. By using EPASS tutoring and Academic Coaching before you start struggling, you can set yourself up for success and avoid falling behind in your courses.
When applying to professional graduate programs within healthcare, you will be required to disclose any honor code or conduct code violations from any institution you attended prior to applying.
The Emory Honor Code and Emory University Undergraduate Code of Conduct is also in effect during your tenure as a student. Violations to either will be on your permanent Emory record. Criminal background checks are also performed for acceptance in most health professional programs. If you plan to apply to professional graduate programs, you need to be very careful of the choices you make as an undergraduate student.
Community Service & Leadership Experience
It is important for future healthcare providers to:
- Want to help others
- Be team players
- Enjoy working with people
The health profession is a helping industry. Participating in meaningful volunteer and service experiences shows your initiative and commitment to your community. These experiences can help you develop empathy and compassion while polishing up your interpersonal skills.
Involvement in Emory student organizations and/or other extracurricular activities are a way to show your passions and interests. Leadership in extracurricular positions provides evidence of competency in team building, problem solving, communication, and much more.
You can learn more about the benefits of participating in community service and leadership experiences on the AAMC's website.
Finding the Right Experiences
It is critical to choose activities that are meaningful to you. Use these questions to help guide the type of volunteer experiences and leadership opportunities you choose:
- What causes are meaningful to me (i.e. cancer research, fighting hunger, environmental health, building homes)?
- What populations are meaningful to me (i.e. children, adults, animals, cancer survivors, low-income, etc.)
- What regions are meaningful to me (i.e. my hometown, Atlanta, United States, global, etc.)?
- How much time am I willing to commit (i.e. one weekend, a few hours a week, a whole week, etc.)?
Clinical experience can help you learn more about careers in the health professions, determine whether you enjoy working in the health or medical field, and demonstrate your committment to pursing a particular profession. There are several ways to gain exposure to the clinical setting, which are described below.
Clinical volunteer experiences involve volunteering in a healthcare setting, such as a clinic or hospital. It's important to remember that your volunteer work should be meaningful to you! Don’t just do volunteer work to “check the box.” Working with organizations and populations that are important to you will allow you to have more meaningful experiences and a desire to continue to give back.
Make the most of the experience and the time you spend in this effort by reflecting on it. Keep a journal. Make a note of your observations, your insights, the impact, etc. Asking yourself a few key questions following your experiences will also help you craft your application and interview answers. Be sure to keep track of your experiences using the volunteer journal and log.
Shadowing provides the opportunity to experience the day to day life of a health care professional. A variety of shadowing experiences is encouraged for exposure to different types of healthcare providers and settings. Most allopathic medical schools do not require a certain amount of shadowing hours, but other health professions, such as dentistry, physical therapy, and osteopathic medicine, do require that applicants have a certain amount of observation hours. ALL applicants should check with the schools you are interested in to verify if shadowing is a prerequisite.
Informational interviewing is another great way to learn more about health care professions. Some hospitals, clinics, private practices, and offices have strict requirements and do not permit shadowing, but the professional may be willing to sit down with you and talk with you about his/her career. You can find more information about informational interviewing on the Career Center website. With shadowing and/or informational interviewing, be sure to be professional in your dress and demeanor. It is always nice to follow up with a thank you note as well.
Working in a Clinical Setting
All pre-health students should consider exploring research opportunities. Research requirements vary depending on the health profession and professional school you are interested in. Experiences in research can vary in setting and topic. Emory has many opportunities to be involved in meaningful research on campus.
You do not have to do research in the natural or physicial sciences. Research in any field will allow you the opportunity to develop critical thinking, problem solving, written and oral communication skills and more. Approach professors whose class especially interested you. Talk with your advisor about research opportunities in within your major. They may have a project for you or recommend someone who does.