It’s now open application season for grad school applications, specifically for those who are planning on applying to a health program from medical schools (MD/DO), Nursing, and PA School. Of course, there are many MANY types of health professions, but the reason why I focus on these three right now, is because these programs have what’s called a centralized application service.
What’s nice about this, as many people may know, is that it’s a one stop shop for all your applications. I’ve read articles where even for undergraduate programs, such is the case. It’s convenient, you send transcripts to one location, and you can see each school that participates in this centralized application service application deadlines. In addition to a one stop shop application service, one can use this on a tablet or a laptop (I’m not sure about the smaller screened tablets, perhaps someone can let me know?). Unfortunately, this doesn’t work on a smartphone. Sorry folks!
Beyond this, I do have to say there are SOME disadvantages. One of them is that the links to these services are somewhat hard to find. For instance, for CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistance), one can google CASPA, but you won’t find the link. In fact, I’ve had to save the URL on Google Keep to go back to it when I don’t have the URL saved on a tab (after an update, etc). In addition, I’ve heard that newer services such as NursingCAS may have not sent applications or transcripts to schools that you’ve applied to (Scary business!).
Given that these centralized application services are convenient, there are some things that one must take into account during this application season. Here are some of my tips and lessons learned over the years when I’ve applied to grad school in the past (a few years ago, and even as of last year).
1. Start early — I cannot say that enough. CASPA opened in Apr 27, 2016. NursingCAS is mostly year round, however, with the schools I’ve applied to this year, I started about 2 months ago, since the application is due July 1. There are many reasons why you start early. Firstly, inputting courses is the most time consuming thing out of the entire application process. Now, if you want, CASPA does offer a class inputting service at a pretty expensive price (additional to the amount you’re paying when you apply to schools). This is pretty convenient, but at the same time, it’s expensive. Now, this is for CASPA only. As I’m in the process of applying via NursingCAS, I can tell you that, I’ve done everything EXCEPT the course input (It’s something on my to do list). The second reason why you start early, is to allow for transcript ordering, processing, and mailed to the application service. Normal transcript services take about a week. Rushed services normally take a couple of days, but this can be expensive. In conclusion, a lot of these services — transcripts, course inputing, etc, it can be expensive; unless one has a good amount of funds, this can be expensive. Lastly, starting early can also lead to less stress and headache.
2. If you can, get official transcripts from all the schools you’ve attended to make course inputting easier. This is helpful for course entering. It’s accurate, it’s right in front of you, and you can utilize this for future things (including job applications/interviews). Another option to this, if it’s available to you, is printing out unofficial transcripts.
3. Letters of References — I always think it’s appropriate to ask early. In addition, ask those whom you’re close to and have developed a professional relationship with. My best advice, is to ask those whom you’re seeking letters of references out early and have them turn it in at least 2 weeks prior to you turning in your application.
4. When you turn in your application, don’t turn in the application the day it’s due. For instance, if the application is due July 1, 2016; do not turn it in July 1, 2016. While it’s ok, it’s not the wisest thing to do. Why? Many schools are on rolling admissions. Many schools may accept students they interview way before the actual application deadline. Thus, another good reason to start early and get things in early. Another thing is that for transcript and course processing, the earlier you turn it in, if there are issues, they can be addressed. For myself, I’ve set up a deadline to turn in my applications a month prior to the actual deadline. The reason for this is because the schools that I’m applying to do not have rolling admissions. However, with stories of application errors and what not, I feel safer with turning applications early as opposed to late.
5. Print a copy of your application for your records. Another option is saving a soft copy on your PC/Laptop as a pdf file. One added benefit to centralized application services is that if you re-apply, a lot of that information is saved the next year around. By saving a copy of your application, you can utilize this for interviews that you can look back at. You want to review your application prior to interviews, trust me, this is useful.
6. Be accurate and honest — If you were on AP, put it down, either way, your admissions committee will know because this is on your official transcript. If you committed a crime, be honest, because if you get in, you need to do a background check. It’ll come up. Things will come up, and as cringeworthy as these moments are, it’s better for your admissions committtee to know, for you to explain what happened and what you learned from it, and hope for the best. I know it’s hard. Trust me, I know. I remember a while back, when I applied for grad school, I was grilled by the admissions committee of what I’d expect when I did poorly on a quarter while an undergraduate. Let me just say, it was hard, and while I got waitlisted for the program I applied years ago and didn’t get in, I was honest, I explained myself and what I learned, and got lectured to about how hard grad school was. It was realistic, I mean, the school is investing time on you, even though it’s an arm and leg that you’re giving up as well.
7. Make sure you have funds to pay for transcripts, applications, and course inputting services. If you choose to do any of the two services for convenience, beyond the applications, make sure you have the funds to do so. I remember the first time I applied to grad school, and with a entry level salary, paying rent, etc, let me just say, that was an eye opener.
8. Transcripts — once you order them, make sure they actually arrive at the centralized application service. What’s nice these days is that once you order your transcript, you can get texts & emails of when the processing has been completed, what’s needed if it hasn’t for processing to be completed, and on top of that the application service will email you when transcripts arrive. I learned last year, after a scare, that a school held my transcript, and I didn’t know this till a month or so after the school deadline. Needless to say, there were many phone calls and I got an answer, thankfully, but let me just say that was not fun to go through that. Something like this can make or break you. Many times, this will break you, and your application most likely wouldn’t have moved forward. That is why, double check to ensure that the transcript was processed and sent. If you aren’t sure, just ask via email. I’m always surprised by how quickly I get responses back. What I do, each time I hearing back from NursingCAS, is that I check off what’s come in and what hasn’t. I use a simple check box from google keep, and it’s easy for me. If you’d like, there are other ways to do it too.
9. Double check, even triple check the prerequisites. You know, I wanted to literally kick myself in the behind, when I applied to a school last year, thought I had all the requirements, and found out after turning in my application, that I didn’t have one requirement fulfilled. It sucks, because you wasted time and money to apply only to get a rejection letter. So, please be careful when you apply, make sure you know what’s required and what you’ve fulfilled.
10. Once applied — keep up, follow up with the schools you’ve applied to to ensure that they’ve received your application. Obviously don’t do it once you push the button to submit the application. Give it a few weeks, and follow up if you haven’t heard anything.
These are my top 10 things to consider when applying. Again, with centralized application services that’s popping up, especially for health professions, I think that they’re beneficial and they’re convenient. But there is a need to think about logistically of how to approach the application process altogether. I haven’t even talked about the personal statement even. Needless to say, for those who are applying to grad school, I want to wish you the best of luck. Who knows, for those in the Bay Area, California, or anywhere else, we may be classmates one day. 🙂 What are the odds right?
I hope these are helpful for you. If you have any questions, I can’t guarantee that I can answer all the questions, but I can always try.
Again, good luck everyone! I know it’s a stressful process, but I’m in it with you.