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Premedical File/ Composite Letter of Recommendation
Most medical and dental schools require a composite letter of
recommendation. Rather than having several recommenders send individual
letters to each medical school, the Colby Health Professions Preparation Committee will write a single, lengthy,
composite letter incorporating letters submitted by a variety of faculty
and others on and off campus. For this purpose, each applicant must set
up a premedical file.
In seeking recommenders to write to your file, all of the following
are relevant (in some cases the categories are overlapping): faculty in your major; faculty in the natural sciences, both at Colby and at any other institution(s) at which you have taken
required or elective courses; faculty in the social sciences and
humanities; medical professionals with whom you have worked,
in a paid or volunteer capacity, e.g., a Jan Plan supervisor in a hospital
or research center, the director of an ambulance service, the head of
a dental lab, or a health professional who has supervised you in a clinic; researchers with whom you have worked, in a paid or volunteer capacity; administrators, coaches, and other College staff; and
employers or work supervisors, both on and off campus. Remember, your goal is a minimum of 4 letters and a maximum of 6. You may need to be selective.
Because you will not be opening your veCollect file until you are within a year of starting the application process, it is important that you nurture the relationships you have with people you may want to ask to write a reference. The best letters are written by people who know more than one dimension of you and with whom you have established a relationship over time. If you have a professor for a class that you anticipate not having again, take the time and effort to maintain that relationship by occasionally visiting them during office hours, attending events sponsored by their department and making a point of having a conversation with them, take them to lunch either on your own or with other students, or send them an update on your experiences and whereabouts. If they never see or hear from you again, they will forget the details about you. If you stay in touch, you'll stay fresh in their memory.
Note: Be aware that all faculty take sabbaticals, and that some may leave to work at other institutions, and plan your recommendation requests accordingly.
You should begin requesting letters in January of the year in which you will be applying. You may consult with the Pre-Health Advisor about the best combination of letters to support your candidacy.
Also Important: Our goal is to be able to have the composite letter to your schools by the time you return your secondary applications to the schools. It is your responsibility to ensure that materials are submitted to the HPPC in a timely way to allow us to meet that goal. If all of the required materials are submitted and the Committee is able to write your composite letter over the summer, it will take approximately 3 weeks to get your letter completed. However, if your file is not complete until near or after Labor Day, the process may take up to 4-5 weeks (or longer) to complete. Please plan accordingly.
Admission Tests and Test Preparation
•Medical School: the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
At this time, there are no classroom-based prep courses offered on campus. Kaplan has begun offering Live-on-line classroom courses with a structured schedule of classes that students join on the internet. Feedback from Colby students who have explored this option has been very positive. You can contact Kaplan
Application Services/Individual Applications
Most (but not all) health professions schools utilize a centralized application service rather than accepting applications directly from prospective students. Application materials can be obtained directly from the application service:
AMCAS (allopathic medicine) http://www.aamc.org/students/amcas/
AACOMAS (osteopathic medicine), https://aacomas.aacom.org/
AACPMAS (podiatry), http://www.aacpm.org/apply/apply.asp
AADSAS (dentistry), https://portal.aadsasweb.org
VMCAS (veterinary medicine) http://portal.vmcas.org
TMDSAS (Texas Medical and Dental Application Service) http://www.utsystem.edu/tmdsas/
OMSAS (Ontario Medical School Application Service) http://www.ouac.on.ca/omsas/index.html
From year to year, various schools join, or drop out of, these centralized services. Up-to-date information in this regard can be found in the publications and websites on the Resource List.
The opening date varies for these application services. You must consult the appropriate service web site for details. Several open at one date, but do not allow you submit the application until a later date. Each service offers a downloadable instructions manual that is important to consult when you have questions. Read instructions carefully as you may not be able to correct mistakes once you submit your application!!! There are closing dates as well, for the centralized application services as well as for individual schools.
It is to your advantage to submit your applications as early as possible. In our experience, this increases the likelihood of being interviewed. As noted above, most schools have rolling interviewing and/or rolling admissions. If circumstances force you to apply later in the cycle, be sure to consult with the Pre-Health Advisor as early as possible.
Many professional schools have early decision (E.D.) programs. If you have a particular school that you strongly prefer and want to use this option, typically you must apply before September 1. However, if you are an E.D. applicant at one school, you cannot be an active applicant at any other school until you hear about your status--accepted or rejected--from the E.D. school. Thus, applying E.D. may put you a few months behind as an applicant at all other schools if you are not accepted in the E.D. process. Unlike college, very few applicants are accepted for early decision for professional schools and those are usually only the very strongest applicants. You can find information on specific schools and E.D. programs in the admissions guides noted in the Resource List.
The centralized application services require an official transcript
from every college or university you have attended since high school.
Please be aware that your Colby transcript does not necessarily include
grades and/or records of courses that you have taken at other institutions and, even if it does, official transcripts from other institutions are usually required in addition to the Colby transcript.
Virtually all schools ask you to write an essay on why you want to pursue your intended profession. This is often the most challenging part of the application--it can be difficult to write about yourself, and there is a risk of using the wrong tone, i.e., of either overselling or underselling yourself. Moreover, professional schools view writing as an index of thinking, thus the essay is a key part of your application. As a general guideline for getting started, it may be helpful to approach the essay as if you were writing a recommendation for someone else whom you know well, emphasizing strengths as well as areas for growth. The essay typically discusses significant events that influenced your decision to pursue your intended profession, experiences that have reinforced that decision, and specific scientific-technical and interpersonal skills that you will bring to the profession. It is routine to seek advice or feedback from a Committee member or from another faculty member who knows you well. Finally, it is a good idea to have someone familiar with the writing of pre-professional essays read and critique it for both content and style. Your initial essay may be included in your online application service (the AMCAS, for example) -- be sure you consult the service instruction manual for information about the length allowed.
Most schools will ask you to submit a secondary application. This often involves more essays. Schools will usually not look at your composite letter of recommendation until they have received your completed secondary application. Some secondary requests will come very soon after submitting your centralized application service application, others will come later. Typically, you will have to pay additional application fees to each school when you submit the secondaries. You should consider this in your application fee budget.
Most schools interview only those applicants whom they are seriously
considering. Check specific information on individual schools in the
publications noted in the Resource List. The content and style of interviews
Should you be accepted at more than one school, withdraw from the
school(s) that you clearly have no intention of attending. If you are
accepted at one school and want to hold on until you get an answer from
another school that you prefer, this is reasonable. But tying up several
places for extended periods of time is discourteous to all other pre-professional
students. When you finally decide on a school, it is polite to write to
other schools that have not yet notified you and ask them to remove your
application from consideration.