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Application Process

The process of applying to health professions school is complex. We are here to help! 

The primary way that we communicate and share information with students during their application year is through our dedicated Committee Process Canvas course. If you are planning or considering whether to apply in the upcoming cycle, please join the Canvas course.

The Committee Process Canvas course will:

  • Help student confirm their eligibility and readiness to apply
  • Highlight deadlines and best practice timelines
  • Communicate requirements for the Committee Process
  • Share tips and resources for completing applications
  • Ensure consistent and timely information from the advising team

Students applying to medical or dental school in a given year are encouraged to utilize our Committee Process, which includes:

  • The Pre-Health Packet: a comprehensive questionnaire that helps students think reflectively about their pre-health motivation and relevant experiences.
  • Packet Review Meeting: students will have a one-on-one meeting with an advisor to review and receive feedback on their packet. 
  • Personal Statement review
  • Mock Interview: students interview with a member of our committee and receive feedback; this is important preparation for professional school interviews
  • Primary Application and School List Review: students will meet one-on-one with an advisor to discuss aspects of their primary application and a potential list of schools.
  • HPAO Letter Packet: HPAO will compile and send individual letters of recommendation (after checking to ensure that each letter complies with standards regarding date, letterhead, and signature), along with a cover memo describing the UMD HPAO Committee Process and the student's participation in each phase.


*Please note that students who have previously been accepted to health professions school are not eligible to use the Committee Process. 

In addition to regular advising, HPAO will hold in-person and virtual workshops that address such topics as:

  • How to write your personal statement
  • Building an effective school list
  • Articulating your “why” for professional school
  • How to navigate the application process


Learn more about our workshops.

There is no universal "right" time to apply to professional school; the best time to apply is when you have fully interrogated your motivation for a career in health care and are positioned to submit a well-rounded and competitive application. Students who wish to matriculate to medical or dental school immediately after graduation should have all aspects of their application completed by the June following their junior year. Students who take one gap year will apply the June following their senior year. 

Please work with HPAO to help understand your competitiveness and determine the best timeline for you. Nationally, more students than not take at least one gap year. Our advisors will encourage you to consider:

  1. Are your metrics competitive? Do you need additional coursework or standardized prep time to bolster your metrics?
  2. Have you interrogated your motivation for a career in healthcare and shown your commitment to this career path through substantive clinical experiences?
  3. Have you invested in your community, developed cultural competence and shown interest in the lived experiences of others through longitudinal service?
  4. How have you engaged with scientific inquiry and knowledge production through research?
  5. Have you created and maintained relationships with professors or former clinical/volunteer supervisors for Letters of Recommendation?
  6. Have you confirmed that you meet or exceed the competencies expected by professional schools?
  7. Will you have time to complete all aspects of your application (including studying and sitting for your standardized exam while fulfilling your academic and extracurricular obligations?
  8. Are you aware of the costs associated with applying?

Students don't always initially plan for a gap year; however, the extra time can be very beneficial. A gap year allows for such things as additional test preparation, longitudinal service, clinical and research experiences, personal enrichment and rest. Many of our students are grateful in retrospect that they took an extra year before diving into another academically intense experience! 

Applying to health professions school is an involved and lengthy process. For medical and dental school applicants, it takes approximately 15 months between submission of the primary application and matriculation (for example, students who submit their application in June 2024 will begin medical/dental school in late summer/early fall of 2025). If you choose to utilize our Committee Process, you will also be engaging consistently with HPAO in the six months leading up to your application. Below is a general application timeline; more detailed information about the timeline and application process can be found on our Committee Process Canvas Course.



Join 2025 Committee Process Canvas Course


Attend the Are You Ready? Workshop to confirm your readiness to apply in the 2025 cycle.


MCAT registration opens for Jan-June test dates. Plan to spend 4-6 months studying for all standardized tests (MCAT, DAT, OAT). Take the MCAT/DAT by June 30; take the OAT by the end of the August.



Attend the Are You Ready? Workshop to confirm your readiness to apply. 

If you plan to apply in the upcoming cycle, purchase the First-Time Applicant Pre-Health Packet, available November 1 and due by February 15, 2024 at 4:30 p.m.
(Re-Applicant Packet 
is available February 1, 2024 and is due May 10, 2024 at 4:30 p.m.).

Open an Interfolio account and begin collecting letters of recommendation. 



Attend relevant workshops sponsored by the Health Professions Advising Office.


First-Time Applicant Pre-Health Packet due at 4:30pm–no exceptions!


One-on-one meetings with the HPAO Committee:
  • Pre-Health Packet Feedback Meeting (by 5/15)
  • Mock Interview / Personal Statement Review Meeting (by 8/1)
  • Primary Application and School List Review Meeting (by 8/1)

MAY 10

Re-Applicant deadline to submit a completed Pre-Health Packet for ALL professional programs: medical (allopathic/osteopathic), dental, optometry and podiatry.


Common Application Services open:

AMCAS will open early May and be live for submissions at the end of May.

AACOMAS will open early May; students may submit at any time.

TMDSAS will open in May (application specific for medical and dental schools in Texas, except for Baylor College of Medicine).

AADSAS will open in early May and go live for submissions at the end of May. 

OPTOMCAS will open and be live for submissions in July.

AACPMAS will open and be live for submissions in August.


All individual letters of recommendation due in Interfolio.


Submit primary application(s). For best consideration, HPAO recommends submitting primary applications within the first two weeks of June. 

Take any required Situational Judgement Tests (Casper, PREview)



Complete and submit secondary applications to schools within two weeks of receiving them.


Last day to schedule Committee Process meetings / submit primary application, if using Committee Process.


Interview season; update HPAO on acceptances.


Matriculate to health professions school!

Assistance with Standardized Testing and Application Fees: Support exists for students who need financial assistance paying for their standardized tests and applications to professional school. Please consult each of the common application services for information about fee assistance and application costs:

Dental School: ADEA Fee Assistance Program and Application Costs

Medical School (Allopathic): AAMC Fee Assistance Program and Application Costs

Medical School (Osteopathic): AACOM Application Fee Waiver and Application Costs

Nursing School: Nursing Application Fee Assistance and Application Costs

Occupational Therapy: OTCAS Fee Assistance and Application Costs

Optometry School: Application Costs (no fee assistance available)

Pharmacy School: PharmCAS Fee Assistance and Application Costs

Physical Therapy School: PTCAS Fee Assistance and Application Costs

Physician Assistant School: CASPA Fee Assistance and Application Costs

Podiatry School: AACPMAS Fee Assistance and Application Costs

You will not get into professional school on your own! The vast majority of programs require letters of recommendation, so it is important to make the effort to get to know your professors and clinical/research mentors.  Recommendation letters are an important part of your application, as they provide insight into your strengths and help schools in their holistic reviews. Most professional schools request that you submit three to five letters of recommendation (e.g., most medical schools require a minimum of two science letters, one non-science academic letter, and one clinical letter). You are responsible for researching individual school letter requirements; use individual school websites, along with the MSAR, Choose DO Explorer or Dental School Explorer, to confirm. Make sure to utilize the Applicant Workbook to keep track of individual letter requirements.

Letters of recommendation can be collected at any time during or after your undergraduate career. We recommend that you create an account in Interfolio to request and gather letters, which can be stored until you are ready to apply (this is a free service). 

Please see our Guide for Letter Writers and the AAMC Guidelines for Writing a Letter of Evaluation for information on what programs are looking to learn about you through your letters of recommendation. Although the latter resource refers to medical school, it is broadly applicable. 

Any coursework that you complete after earning your undergraduate degree is considered "post-bac" coursework. There are many different reasons students either choose to, or are required to, engage with additional coursework after graduating with a bachelors degree. Some reasons include:

  • To complete pre-requisite courses before applying to professional school 
  • To demonstrate academic preparedness by raising their GPAs through post-bac courses
  • Discovering their goals later in their undergraduate career and needing to take additional sciences 


Use the chart below to identify if you need post-bac work, and if so, which type of program best fits your needs. 

Post-bac graphic

The following links below are good places to begin your search for the best post-bac program for you. 

HPAO's Post-Bac Spreadsheet.

American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) Post-Bac List

American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) Post-Bac List

American Dental Education Association Post-Bac Information

Johns Hopkins Article on Different Post-Bac Options

UMD Science in the Evening Program (consider this option for completing or re-taking pre-requisite courses)


International students face several obstacles to pursuing health professions degrees in the United States, including restrictions on eligibility, a limited number of available slots, and scarcity of funding. Many programs do not accept any international applicants (i.e., appliants must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident); other schools may accept only a few. There are often residency or citizenship requirements for scholarships and financial aid.

International students interested in medicine should consult the individual school's websites or entries in the Medical School Admission Requirements (for allopathic schools) and the Choose DO Explorer (for osteopathic schools) to determine whether applications are accepted from international applicants. More information for international applicants is available on the AAMC website.

ADEA offers guidance for international students wishing to pursue dentistry.


Students who do not get admitted to professional school or who wish to take a year off before entering professional school must do one of two things to remain in status:

  1. Continue to be enrolled in school by prolonging their graduation or enrolling in a special program, such as Science in the Evening.
  2. Do Optional Practical Training. Students can apply for OPT through the International Education Services (IES) Office on campus.

DACA recipients and undocumented students can also utilize resources available through the organization PhDreamers for additional assistance.