PREPARING FOR ADMISSION

HEALTHCARE AND CLINICAL EXPERIENCE

Regardless of the health profession you are considering, the admissions committees need to know that you have pursued some quality shadowing opportunities and that you have persisted in finding those experiences. Longitudinal experiences, volunteering directly with patients in a clinical setting are encouraged and required for many programs (many physician assistant programs require between 200-2000 hours of direct patient interaction). If you are not secure in your reasons for wanting to apply to a particular health profession you will most likely not succeed in your interviews. Regardless of your academic ability, schools will not offer an acceptance without good clinical experience and evidence that you as an applicant have a clear understanding of the day-to-day commitments required for your health profession. Locally, we have two hospitals where you can seek out volunteer opportunities to gain patient interaction and to learn about the workings of a healthcare system. Middlesex Hospital is a ten minute walk from campus, and MidState Medical Center is on the outskirts of Meriden, which is about eight miles away at 435 Lewis Avenue, Meriden, CT, 06451. There are also several student organizations and clubs that serve the community and will provide you with transferable skills. Here is a list of a few of these student groups: Habitat for Humanity, WesGilead, WesAge, ASHA, WesBuddies, Food Rescue, Doula Project, Wesleyan Refugee Project, and WesInterpreters. Additionally, there is a year-long EMT course offered on campus through EMS by ESM, LLC.

SELECTING COURSES, CHOOSING A MAJOR 

Medical schools do not require a specific major. They prefer to attract students from many disciplines. They do require that applicants take specific courses (mostly in the sciences, as mentioned earlier) in order to apply. Your choice of major should be based on a variety of factors—ideally your preferred area of study, and what you do well in, rather than what you think medical schools want to see. As a physician, you may want to work in a Spanish-speaking community; if so, a Spanish major would be a great advantage. Perhaps you will want to prepare yourself for some of the tougher ethical questions that physicians face, and therefore choose Philosophy, Religion or Science in Society as your major. An economics major can help you when you confront the variety of market forces that affect health care practice and research. You should choose some of your courses with these types of considerations in mind, as well as giving yourself the opportunity to develop as a whole person. You will always need to work at balancing the "personal" and the "professional" aspects of your life. Many health professionals find pursuits in the arts especially rewarding. It is fine to take courses for no other reason than the fact that they intrinsically appeal to you. Take a look at the courses in the Health Studies Cluster.

While you are at Wesleyan, it's a good idea to schedule your courses so that you have an opportunity (1) to explore health care as a classroom topic, (2) to take courses that are required by medical schools at a comfortable pace, (3) to make the most of what Wesleyan offers by meeting Wesleyan's educational expectations, and (4) to maximize your chances for doing well academically each semester. Since there is really no set age by which you must begin medical school, there is no set time for taking the courses required to apply. First year students, in particular, need to be careful and not take on more than they can handle. Talking over your course selections with your academic advisor and the Health Professions Advisor can help you to pace yourself well and develop a flexible four-year timeline.

WHEN TO ATTEND

In order to attend a health professional program (medicine, dental, optometry, physical therapy, etc.) immediately after graduation, you must complete the admission requirements by spring semester of your junior year. You will then have the course background necessary for the required standardized exam, such as the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Dental Admission Test (DAT), or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which you should plan to take no later than the first week of June of your junior year. The national average for the MCAT is a 511 (with no individual score below 70%) and Wesleyan’s average MCAT score is approximately 512 (with a range of 510-514). While the national average for the DAT scores for the Perceptual Ability Test (PAT), the academic average (AA) and Total Science (TS) are 20 across the board. Attending a health professional program (medical, dental, veterinary medicine, physician assistant) school immediately after Wesleyan is not necessarily the best choice for everyone. (In fact, many people who now have very successful and personally rewarding careers practicing medicine began medical school in their mid-20s or early 30s). Having all four undergraduate years and then taking more time to explore and prepare—which will then lead to a year or more between college and your health professional program—offers many advantages. One advantage is that you are able to complete the required courses at a pace that will allow you to make the most of Wesleyan's liberal arts curriculum. In addition, you are likely to be a stronger candidate because of your additional clinical, volunteer, employment, or academic experience. The most important advantage is that you will be more certain of your choice for in a healthcare field.

GRADES AND COMPETITION

Competition for admission is keen at all US medical schools. The national overall average GPA for applicants accepted to medical schools for the last eight to nine years has been a 3.7 and the national average of the science GPA (BCPM) falls around 3.6 to 3.7—use these guidelines as  representative numbers for successful applicants. Academic achievement is weighed heavily by the admissions committee. Unless you have no choice, we highly recommend that you choose grades over a pass/fail designation in all of the pre-requisite courses. Pass/fail courses make it more difficult for admissions committees to evaluate your performance. Keep in mind, though, that grades by themselves do not tell the full story. Faculty recommendations are also very important in helping admissions committee members to appreciate and assess your abilities. Admissions committees also pay attention to the difficulty of courses you select and where you took them.

As the application picture stands at present, two out of three candidates to allopathic medical schools (MD) will not be admitted, even though they may be very qualified applicants. While most Wesleyan graduates are highly competitive applicants, you should apply only when you are personally ready and a strong candidate. An excellent senior year can greatly improve chances for admission and a glowing recommendation from a thesis advisor is very helpful. For individuals whose overall GPA is below a B+ at the end of senior year, your MCAT score will be very important. Furthermore, we suggest you consider taking additional upper level science courses after graduation and/or work in a laboratory or clinical research setting, while volunteering in a clinical or hospital setting; these experiences will enable you to develop greater understanding of medicine, acquire valuable new skills, and further strengthen your health professional school application.

DEVELOP YOUR CORE COMPETENCY FOR THE HEALTH PROFESSIONS

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) developed a list of Core Competencies to help the medical schools evaluate students applying for admission. These competencies have now been used by applicants to any health professional program. For dental school, applicants need to also hone their motor skills and manual dexterity. Below are the 15 competencies as described by the AAMC. Also review the AAMC Anatomy of an Applicant resource (PDF).

Interpersonal Competencies

Service Orientation: Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress; recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society; locally, nationally, and globally.

Social Skills: Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect.

Cultural Competence: Demonstrates knowledge of socio-cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.

Teamwork: Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.

Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjusts approach or clarifies information as needed.

Intrapersonal Competencies

Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.

Reliability and Dependability: Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.

Resilience and Adaptability: Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.

Capacity for Improvement: Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

Critical Thinking: Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Quantitative Reasoning: Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.

Scientific Inquiry: Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.

Written Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.

Science Competencies

Living Systems: Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to solve problems related to molecular and macro systems including biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs.

Human Behavior: Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.