Beyond Undergraduate Studies.
Many high school students aspire to become successful doctors, lawyers, dentists or accountants – to name a few highly-regarded professions. At the same time, students and their parents often underestimate the complexity of the professional school application process, such as medical, dental and law school, assuming that good grades are sufficient to secure admission. As such, most applicants do not turn their attention to this matter until immediately prior to the application process. The process is extremely competitive and proper planning for admission is essential.
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Planning for professional school admission (such as medicine) starts as early as high school. With increasing competition, choices made in high school can have a significant impact on a student’s career path. For example, some medical schools require details about volunteer and extracurricular activities dating back to the age of sixteen. Expert advice is crucial at an early stage to channel a student’s interests into meaningful experiences that will enhance his or her chances of future admission to professional school and career success.
Gaining admission to an undergraduate program is only the first step to eventual professional success. The next step is to ensure that grades are maximized, courses are chosen strategically, and extracurricular activities are selected with an appropriate focus and rationale. Far too often, students choose courses poorly (including in their first year of university) that lead to low grades and missing prerequisites for professional programs. Moreover, students do not select extracurricular activities that will elevate their profile for employment or further academic study. Planning in high school and the early university years is essential to maximizing future options.
Here are five tips to get you started:
1. Begin the Process Early:
Do not wait until the last moment to start planning. Professional schools are looking for well-rounded individuals to attend their programs. Participation in extracurricular, work and volunteer activities in a meaningful way is an integral component of building a strong profile. These experiences must be chosen in a strategic manner throughout undergraduate studies. In fact, some schools will look at activities candidates have undertaken since the age of 16, so even experiences in high school can be relevant.
2. Think about the End Goal:
What careers are of interest to you at this time? Think about careers that fit with both your interests and skills, but be sure to also consider lifestyle choices, such as salary, location (i.e., cites where you would like to live), work-life balance, etc. Although most high school students are uncertain as to their ultimate career path, the final answer is not as relevant as the process of beginning to think about the future.
3. Gain an Understanding of the Application Process:
Download the current application form for the university programs that are of interest to you at this time. Get a sense of the types of questions that universities are asking. This will help you to gain an understanding of the information that admissions committees request to formulate a decision. Speaking to graduates and alumni of the schools that are of interest to you may also be helpful in learning more about the admissions process.
4. Create a Plan:
- Prepare a current résumé, detailing your activities and achievements to date. What are some of the strong and weak areas of your profile (according to academic achievements, work experiences, volunteer and extracurricular activities, etc.)?
- Compile a list of the types of achievements and activities that will help to elevate your profile. Think about extracurricular, volunteer and work experiences that will help to shape a stronger application to professional school. The best place to start is to consider activities that you are truly passionate about rather than focusing on activities that may “look good on paper”; you will likely progress further and have more longevity in activities that interest you. Focus on activities that have skills that are transferrable in a wide variety of areas such as leadership and communication.
- Develop a strategy for attaining the desired achievements and activities. Create a plan over a number of years to situate yourself in the proper position to attain these goals. Consider Jack Smith, a 1st year student attending Western and interested in applying to medical school. One of his goals is to become a senior executive member of the Western Pre-Medical Society. His three-year plan may look like this:
1st year: Join the Pre-Medical Society as a general member. Attend most events. Volunteer as a committee member and meet executive members. Ask how to become more involved in the club.
2nd year: Run for a junior executive position on the Pre-Medical Society (e.g., 2nd year class representative). Look for opportunities to assist other executive members. Attend events and get to know the general members.
3rd year: Run for a senior executive position on the Pre-Medical Society (e.g., vice president or president).
5. Revisit the Plan Regularly:
Evaluate your plan periodically and modify as appropriate. Not everything works according to plan, but if you strategically select enough varied options with transferrable skills, then you will create a foundation for a competitive profile when it is time to apply to professional school.
By beginning the process of planning for admission to professional school early, you can begin to develop a strong profile. Whether you aspire to attend professional school in Canada, the U.S. or overseas, you can already begin to set yourself apart from the competition.
Astroff provides coaching sessions to guide you.
You need to build a competitive profile to maximize your chance of success when you are ready to take the next step towards your ultimate career. We are here to help coach you through this process.