The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) evaluates potential applicants by assessing their core competencies in four categories. While these competencies were specifically designed to evaluate pre-medical students, they are valuable for all pre-health students to consider.
Interpersonal Competencies: Service Orientation, Social Skills, Cultural Competence, Teamwork, and Oral Communication.
Intrapersonal Competencies: Ethical Responsibility; Reliability and Dependability; Resilience and Adaptability; and Capacity for improvement.
Thinking and Reasoning Competencies: Critical Thinking, Quantitative Reasoning, Scientific Inquiry, and Written Communication.
Science Competencies: Living Systems and Human Behavior.
What do admissions committees look for?
Your academic transcripts will be evaluated for both the types of courses you have taken and your performance in those courses. Successful applicants to medical school tend to have both challenging and rich coursework as well as strong academic performance evident on their transcripts.
Obviously, transcripts will be used determine if an applicant has satisfactorily completed prerequisite classes (more information below) for admittance.
The types of activities and the level of involvement of a pre-health student provide evidence for a great number of the core competencies. Significant clinical experiences are particularly important because they demonstrate that a pre-health student knows the realities of practicing medicine, is committed to the field, and provide students an opportunity to demonstrate personal characteristics such as compassion, interpersonal skills, and reliability.
Research experiences, athletics, and leadership roles are also highly valued. In general, the quality of engagement is more important than the quantity of activities listed. It is most important that you engage in activities that you enjoy and are fulfilling to you. Medical schools value applicants with diverse interests and talents.
As you take part in activities, make sure to complete an activity record (Word Doc) and put it in you pre-health portfolio. An activity list will be an important part of your application to medical or health professional school.
Most health professional schools will request that students compose one or more personal statements related to their motivation and interest in pursuing an advanced degree in health care. The strongest personal statements reveal core beliefs and motivations in the form of a well-written personal narrative. Often, one’s clinical experiences or exposure to health care during youth are central themes in strong narratives. Many pre-health students are particularly moved by someone they encounter while shadowing or something they observe during a clinical or research experience.
We recommend that pre-health students take a few minutes to ‘free write’ about experiences while they are still fresh and save the resulting free writes in your pre-health portfolio as possible starting points for creating personal statements.
Letters of Recommendation
Strong letters of recommendation are an essential component of any health professions school application. Most programs require that you solicit between three and six letters from faculty, research advisors, coaches, and/or medical professionals who know you well.
During your time at Kenyon it should be your goal to get to know one faculty member well each semester. This group of faculty will give you a rich pool of potential letter writers when it comes time to apply to a health professional school. It is also important to stay in touch with summer research advisors and others who you consider as possible letter writers but with whom you do not have regular contact.
Letters of recommendation are important because they allow schools to evaluate your core competencies through the opinions of professionals who know you well and can assess your capabilities.
Most medical schools and some other health professional schools prefer that applicants submit a composite letter of recommendation that is composed by one of the faculty on Kenyon’s Health Professions Advising Committee (HPAC). A composite writer is given access to all available application materials, including letters from your ‘primary’ letter writers, and composes a summary recommendation letter that will be read by admissions committees. While admissions committees will have access to all of an applicant’s primary letters, they will rely heavily on the composite letter to assess applicants.
Most health professional schools require that students sit for an admission test and use the resulting score in evaluating applicants. Scheduling a period of time to prepare for an admission test should be part of your long-term planning process. It is recommended that students complete a test-preparation course before sitting for admissions exams. There is no substitute for careful preparation for admissions tests.
After applying but before acceptance, most health professional schools will invite promising applicants to visit the school for an interview with admissions committee members. Students preparing for interviews are invited to schedule a mock interview with the Preprofessional Advisor.