What do Admissions Committees look for in an Applicant?
- Can the student handle the academic rigors of these programs?
- These careers tend to be even more ‘people focused’ than other medical professions. Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
- Do they have a diverse set of physical and intellectual skills necessary to succeed in these professions?
How does Penn State Behrend help the student to succeed?
No particular undergraduate major is required for these programs. Most programs require a specified set of prerequisite coursework that is offered at Penn State Behrend. Due to the advanced biology requirement for many programs, a biology or biology-related major is often pursued. Prerequisite courses for most programs include:
- General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
- Molecular Biology: BIOL 230W
- Microbiology: MICRB 201/202*
- General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
- General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
- Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212 OR CHEM 202*
- Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213 OR CHEM 203*
- Anatomy: BIOL 421 (BIOL 497: Human Anatomy - offered every other year)*
- Physiology: BIOL 472/473*
- Physics: PHYS 250/251
- Calculus: MATH 140/141* (usually one semester)
- Psychology: PSYCH 100
- English (3-6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C
- Medical Terminology: KINES 203*
- Humanities and social science classes (6-9 credits is typical)
Students interested in the health professions are encouraged to take SC 201: Medical Professions.
The purpose of SC 201 is to:
- Provide students with an overview of the various health professions
- Enhance students' understanding of potential careers
- Discuss the academic preparation for specific professions
- Review the application process for admission to health profession schools
* The student needs to check the requirements of the individual programs for which they are applying. Not all PA schools require the same level of microbiology, organic chemistry, or anatomy, for example. It is ALWAYS in your best interest to take more difficult courses in preparation for a graduate-level program!
The Pre-Health Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these prerequisites. However, other biology, chemistry and physics degree programs can easily be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated, personal Pre-Health Adviser who will guide you through the process!
Benchmarks and Standards
The more rigorous the academic preparation in the sciences, the more prepared students are for advanced coursework in these programs.
The student must:
- Demonstrate a consistent and high GPA (meaning GPA >3.3)
- Perform well on the GRE (minimum GRE score above 50th percentile)
- Apply to multiple schools
- Perform and record 500+ hours of shadowing/work experience in a health professions setting with a demonstrated capacity for physical manipulation and dexterity
Shadowing and Volunteering
To answer the question of “why do you want to be in a health-care career,” it is necessary to do the following:
- Observe a health care professional at work for as many hours as you possibly can schedule. Most health professions programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and standardized test score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.
- Shadow different individuals within your chosen field that work in the various specializations. Most schools are looking for at least 500 hours of shadowing/clinical experience.
- Keep a record of the time you spend in each experience and the type of knowledge you gained.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people, and it also sets your application apart! Finding volunteer opportunities will require some research on the student’s part. Here are some local options:
- Nursing homes
- Schools for children with special needs
Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship
To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a physical therapist, admissions committees look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations, and participation in scholarly activities like research.
At Penn State Behrend:
- Students have access to the small-class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university.
- Students have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in his or her field of expertise.
- Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
- Students have access to a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Behrend "Scrubs" Club for students interested in health degrees.
- Other clubs and organizations organize and participate in many philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.
As you start your journey towards health professional school, it is highly recommended that you visit the following links where you will find guidelines for the application process, statistics on application and acceptance rates, and strategies to become a competitive applicant.
- American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
- Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)
- Central Application Services for Physician Assistants (CASPA)
- American Physical Therapy Association (APA)
- Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service (PTCAS)
- American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE)