Final Thoughts: Prepping for Professional Health School

May 5, 2015

Mo-GerhardtAdvice for Kinesiology students and graduates

We’ve all heard it before: The story of a professor telling students on the first day of class to look to their left and right and saying, “Only one of you will pass this course at the end of the semester.” While your chances of getting into a professional health program aren’t quite as poor, they aren’t that much greater, sitting just under 50 percent. With this kind of competition, it’s important for students to realize that they need to maximize their strengths, and show a dedication to service while working with diverse populations.

Be well-rounded

As a preprofessional advisor for MSU students, one of the questions I get asked the most is, “What do I need to do to get accepted into a professional health program?” It doesn’t matter if we are talking about medical, dental, physical therapy, occupational therapy or any other specialty—the answer remains consistent. You must excel not only in the classroom, but outside of it as well.

Professional schools have gone to a holistic approach when looking for quality candidates. Beyond good grades, students must show a commitment to volunteering, community service and outreach. As a health professional, you don’t get to choose the patients who walk through your door, so it is vital to work with underrepresented populations and experience different cultures.

It is also imperative to have a job shadowing experience. “Grey’s Anatomy” or “CSI” may be your favorite TV show, but neither is a true representation of the day-to-day activities of their respective fields. It’s better to learn you don’t like a career field now than to find out after you’re in debt from years of professional school costs.

Would you like fries with that?

One of the first questions I ask students is why they want to go into the professional health field. The most common response I get is, “because I like helping people.” Well guess what, the French-fry cook at the burger joint is helping people. You better have a much more articulate response than that.

A major part of the application process is writing a personal statement. This is an opportunity to tell your story. What made you want to go into your desired field? What events have you experienced that have impacted your life? What skill sets have you obtained that will benefit you in the future? Don’t waste your time talking about your test scores and major—that information is already provided in your application.

Professional schools receive literally thousands of applications, but there is only one you. Get excited about your personal statement. Be proud of your accomplishments. Think of it as a chance to write a chapter in your memoir about a powerful moment that lights a fire inside you.

But my friends are graduating …

Today’s traditional student is yesterday’s non-traditional student. The average age of a first-year professional health student is up around 25 years old and is increasing every year.

Don’t be afraid of taking a year off after graduation or working for a few years and then applying. Professional schools love real-world experience and the added maturity that you will gain. The admissions numbers prove this trend. Of the first-year students admitted into one of Michigan’s professional health schools last year, over 70 percent were “non-traditional.” This means they did not transition into the professional health school straight out of a four-year undergraduate degree.

Come see us

My last piece of advice is to meet with a preprofessional advisor. It doesn’t matter if you are a future, current or past Spartan, our No. 1 objective is to help you succeed. Our advice is solely in your best interests and our satisfaction comes when you bring in an acceptance letter after you have put in the hard work.

Learn more

Preprofessional resources at MSU:

Learn more about Gerhardt, M.S. ’02 (Kinesiology):