Don’t Second Guess the Benefits of a Pre-Admissions Workshop
Are you thinking of attending a Pre-Admissions Workshop? You should!
Attending a Pre-Admissions Workshop (PAW) can be an important part of your educational experience. A PAW can be held by your University/College, a Health Professional Program, or even a Health Professional Organization. The goals of a PAW are multifaceted, depending on the length of the program, and who is hosting it. Some of the topics covered in a PAW include discussion of coursework, drafting a personal statement, entrance test preparation tips, and conducting mock interviews. All which, will make you a stronger applicant and more confident in your choice of career.
To find a PAW in your area, begin by asking a guidance counselor, or using the internet to search for similar experiences. Although some workshops may require you to pay an attendance fee, there are many out there that will provide a waiver for the fee, or may be FREE to attend. Take the time, and plan to attend a PAW, and begin your search early. Like any other program, deadlines are important.
A successful PAW program should leave you feeling empowered and ready to begins the journey of applying to professional programs.
Personal Statements, The Key to Getting Noticed!
The process of creating a personal statement can be daunting, and the question I hear too often is, “where do I begin”?
Start simple and ask yourself the following questions, elaborate and be specific.
- Introduce yourself and or your family.
- Describe where you come from, your community.
- What does an education mean to you? Are you a first-generation college student?
- What career are you trying to pursue?
- What interest you most about this career path?
- Have you had experiences with the given professional choice?
- How have these experiences shaped your view, or desire to pursue the profession?
- How do you feel you can contribute to the profession?
- What life experiences have you had that would make you a unique candidate?
- How do you see yourself in this profession?
Now go back and read your answers, and begin to highlight those key points you feel are the most important in describing you and your passions. It may seem disjointed at first, but take the time to tie those points together. This will help create an outline in building the framework in creating your personal statement.
The most important piece of advice is to be genuine. Do not try to do this alone, get the assistance of an English professor, a guidance counselor, or a person that you trust like a mentor. Getting a second pair of eyes will help you with substance and flow.
Start the process of writing your personal statement early. The earlier you start, and the more assistance you get the more stellar your statement will be!
Good luck and happy writing!
Tamana Begay, D.D.S.
SHPEP National Alumni Advisory Board
Letters of Recommendation Tips and Advice
If you’re like most pre-medical students then you’re likely terrified at the idea of getting all of the letters of recommendation you need for the medical school application. It seems so daunting to try and make a personal connection with professors or stand out in a large classroom setting when you are busy enough trying to learn the material. As a past SHPEP scholar and current alumni advisory board member, I wanted to provide a few tips to help make this process a little less stressful.
First, what letters will you need? Most medical schools require two sciences and one non-science letter, which means two from biology, chemistry, physics, or math courses and one from anything else (most typically the humanities or social sciences). However, I will say that because this is such a competitive process you really should try to go beyond the bare minimum. I suggest two additional recommendation letters – one from a physician who you have shadowed and another from a research mentor you’ve worked with. If you do not have research experience just yet, this is an opportunity to get a letter from whichever volunteer experience was most meaningful to you. I cannot state enough how impactful these additional letters can be. Having someone who is already a physician speak to your ability to join the field is key. The research letter is perhaps less necessary but, like it or not, research is an integral part of medicine and therefore having someone vouch for your ability to engage in it can be important (especially to medical schools who are heavily involved in research). Outside of these, someone from your SMDEP/SHPEP experience also makes for a great and unique additional letter!
Next, when should you start pursuing letters? Well, like most things in medical education, the earlier the better. There is a caveat though – in my opinion asking for letters prior to your junior year gives the writer less of an impression of your accomplishments as your resume will likely not have much on it. I recommend telling professors who you feel you connected with that you would appreciate a letter for your application in the future and will reach out again when the time comes. This way, you can get a commitment from them but not have them write the letter until you have a more complete resume and personal statement to help provide guidance (ultimately, they will likely draw from your accomplishments and your personal statement to help craft an excellent letter).
Generally, give your letter writers plenty of time – if you need the letters in early June you should be asking for them between winter and early spring. Prepare to deal with slow responses and needing to provide several gentle reminders (I know this can feel awkward but as long as you’re polite it’ll be fine). Professors are busy but ultimately, they know this is your career they’re dealing with.
Lastly, I want to come back to the fact that it may be difficult to naturally connect with professors and feel confident that they know you and would write a great letter on your behalf. I struggled significantly with this and had to scramble to find writers my junior year. Through that experience I learned that the best way to do this is to literally go out of your way to make yourself seen and heard – ask questions during class, save a few post-questions after class if the professor sticks around to talk to students, go to office hours (even if you don’t feel you need to), sign up to be a TA for the professor, and attend any optional sessions that allow for more face time. While this may seem tedious, it will ensure that you are familiar to the professor and as long as you are friendly, polite and interested in the subject it will lead to a more personal and effective recommendation. Ideally, this should be done in classes in which you are excelling (at least an A-).
I know this is a stressful process but I’m confident that you’ll get through it and I wish you the best this application season!
From your SHPEP alumni advisory board member and biggest support,
Diego DaSilva, M.D.
SHPEP National Alumni Advisory Board