Pre-Health at the UW

Identify the strengths and possible areas of improvement in your application to health professional schools.

Stand Out as an Applicant

Stand Out as an Applicant

Application reviewers are looking for various qualities in the review process. Your ability to address the following elements are key to standing out and finding the best fit as an applicant.

1. You understand the profession (ex: medicine, dentistry) you're applying for.
2. You are going to be good in this profession.
3. You are a good fit for their school.
4. Their school is a good fit for you.

Applying to Health Professional School Seminar

Need help with your application? Attend an application seminar offered every winter or spring quarter. Seminars cover the following topics:

  • Writing about yourself & what you've done
  • Getting great recommendation letters
  • Identifying good target schools
  • Financing your graduate education
  • Acing your interviews

This 1 credit seminar is graded as credit/no credit. Register and learn more at the Career & Internship Center website.

Application Resources

Application Resources

Most applications to professional schools are managed by centralized application service companies. You can learn more about the application, timeline, process and more by reviewing their websites.

Personal Statement

Most applications will require a personal statement. Your personal statement should consider and address the following topics.

  1. Why have you selected this health profession?
  2. What motivates you to learn more about this health profession?
  3. What do you want schools to know about you that has not been disclosed in other areas of your application?
  4. What hardships, challenges, or obstacles have influenced your educational pursuits?
  5. Did you have to work to pay for your education? How has that made you a stronger applicant?
  6. Provide context for any significant fluctuations in your academic record that are not explained elsewhere.
  7. Describe any special talents that could be transferable to this health profession.
  8. Express your commitment to helping others and mention any efforts made that enforce that commitment.
  9. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals.

Writing & Personal Statement Resources

OUGL Writing Center – The OWRC offers specialized assistance through all stages of the writing process; make an appointment online or simply drop in

CLUE Writing Center – Staffed by undergraduate and graduate student tutors; no appointment needed

UW School of Medicine webinar – covers how to convey your motivation, life experiences, and preparation for a medical career in your application

EXPD Undergraduate Research Program – provides assistance in writing about your research experience to highlight the skills you gained and how they will fit with professional programs

Husky Leadership Initiative – helping students develop a personal leadership philosophy and grow into socially-responsible change agents and effective community leaders

Getting Great Letters of Recommendation

AAMC Brochure for Letter Writers – guidelines about how to write a letter and key areas of interest to medical schools

Acing the Interview

Acing the Interview

Interviews are a key part of the application process. There are many kinds of interviews including video interviews, in-person interview and multiple mini interviews. Think of the interview process as an opportunity to make sure the program/school is the right fit for you.

Four Key Tips

Source: Tips from an admissions office on interviewing for medical school, Assocation of American Medical Colleges

Be the expert on you. Know what experiences you included in your application and your supplemental answers, because everything you chose to include in your application is fair game for the interviewer. Not being able to robustly answer a question about your own application is a major flaw. If you included research, know the hypothesis. If you worked for a nonprofit, know the mission. If you volunteered to help people enroll for health care under the Affordable Care Act, know the basics of the Affordable Care Act. If the interviewer asks about a specific experience, do not repeat what you already wrote in your application. Add depth to your written application and reflect on the experience during the interview with greater detail and insight

Convey your motivation for medicine and your interest in the school. At the end of an interview, I evaluate a candidate across several domains. One of those is motivation and passion for medicine. If I cannot recall why the applicant is interested in a medical career, I usually score them lower. I also give lower scores for very bland answers like, “I like people and I like science.” Please personalize that answer! You are there to testify as to why medicine is right for you and why you are right for medicine.Your motivation and passion must leave an impression. Convey your interest in the school by stating why you feel it is a good fit for you and what programs it has that you are interested in, and ask questions to further explore fit. Research the school’s programs and opportunities in advance so you can have a productive conversation.

Prepare, don’t rehearse. I see several interview reports a year where a committee member writes that an applicant was “too rehearsed” or “too scripted.” The compulsion to memorize and practice answers sometimes leads to too much pivoting in the interview where an applicant doesn’t answer the question asked but gives the answer they prepared instead. This is not only frustrating, but shows a lack of communication skills, which is something I am assessing in the interview. The best interviews are conversational and allow me to explore your experiences, motivations, and reflections, but also your personality. I have had great interviews where the conversation evolved to all sorts of topics not listed in the application that enabled me to see an applicant’s critical thinking skills, analytical skills, and personality.

Be a storyteller. Stories are powerful and memorable ways to convey your ideas. Consider your areas of growth, your accomplishments, your past failures, and your motivation for medicine. Think about instances of teamwork, failure, disappointment, goal setting, or resilience. Catalog stories in your mind that relate to these areas so you can easily recall an example with a story if asked a related question. Reflect on growth and meaning as much as possible. How did you change? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?

More Resources

Sign up for a Mock Interview!

Career & Internship Center offers mock interviews for health professional schools. Sign up today at the C&IC website.

Financing Your Education

Financing Your Education

Attending professional school is expensive but there are many options available for financing your education. Student loans are often the reality for most students, however you can also explore loan forgivness or loan repayment options for providing medical service for a particular organization, employer or program.

Medical School Statistics

Source: Paying for Medical School, Association of American Medical Colleges

  • 40% of graduating medical students participate in a program that would provide debt forgiveness in exchange for service (2015)
  • Median amount of debt: $200,000 (2018 class)
  • Median 4-year cost of attendance: $250,222 for public school and $330,180 for private school (2019 class)

Sample Loan/Debt Forgiveness Programs

  • Department of Education's Public Service Loan Forgivness (PSLF)
  • National Health Service Corps
  • Indian Health Service Corps
  • Armed Services (Navy, Army, Air Force)
  • Uniformed Services (Centers for Disease Control, Department of Helath and Human Services)
  • State and private loan forgiveness programs
  • Hospital programs

More Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Read all Frequently Asked Questions