Preparing to Apply
Applying to the Health Professions
Applying to a health professions program-medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, or any of the other professional programs-- can be challenging, and it is much easier to go through the process with a guide. HPAC can help you prepare and avoid the pitfalls. We can aid you in making the tough choices about careers and schools, and can help you navigate the sometimes complicated application and admissions process.
Mapping Out Your Journey
Preparing for a career in the health professions is not just about learning facts. It is about learning and mastering skills and about abilities and values that help you throughout your life. While there are many resources to learn about the process for preparing and applying to health professions programs, it's important that you consult with HPAC professional staff who have extensive experience guiding students as they prepare for graduate/professional school. It is the student's responsibility, however, to initiate relationships with staff and faculty, staff who are important resources. Relationships with faculty in particular should be established early in your undergraduate career.
Calculating your GPA
Although pre-health students should be active inside and outside of the classroom, the reality is that health professional schools are competitive to matriculate in to. Maintaining a competitive GPA is an important step on the path to a health career, but what exactly is a "competitive" GPA? Below are some important questions you should ask yourself as you progress through your undergraduate education. Knowing the answers to these questions can provide a clearer picture of your future in the health careers.
Different Types of GPAs
Did you know you have more than one GPA? In addition to your traditional, or cumulative, GPA, students also have a major GPA, science GPA, upper division GPA, etc. For most health professions, it is important to understand what your cumulative, science, and upper division GPAs are and how they differ from each other. To better understand the types of GPA, we will describe each one individually so that it is easier to distinguish what the differences between them are.
To start with, your Cumulative GPA is the GPA that you see at the bottom of your quarterly report card on GROWL. This GPA calculates all of the classes that you take and converts your letter grades into a number. Your cumulative GPA will include science classes, humanities classes, labs, seminars, or any other course you have taken and received a letter grade in.
Within your cumulative GPA is your Science GPA (also referred to as your BCPM GPA while applying to medical school). Your science GPA only calculates classes that have been classified as a science or math course. For pre-medical students, this GPA is also called your BCPM GPA, or your biology, chemistry, physics, and math GPA. The courses that calculate into your science GPA courses are included while calculating your cumulative GPA; however, not all of the courses that are included in your cumulative GPA are included in you science GPA. Not all health professions use the "BCPM" model to distinguish the courses that are included in your science GPA. Some health professions, like Pharmacy, will further break down your science GPA into individual science subject GPAs (i.e. a biology GPA, chemistry GPA, etc.).
Health professional schools will consider your cumulative GPA in their evaluation of you as an applicant, however, they will often use your science GPA when critically examining your competitiveness in their program. So now that you know what your science GPA is, how do you calculate it?
How to Calculate my GPA
Although tedious at first, knowing your science GPA will be an important step in preparing and applying to a health professional program in the future. A good resource to have saved on your home computer is the AAMC GPA Calculator. You can download this excel calculator by clicking on the link or by clicking on the screenshot to the right. This calculator is designed to do the GPA calculations for you in order to have an accurate cumulative and BCPM GPA both by quarter and overall. Please remember that not all health professions use the BCPM classification model. Refer to the links at the bottom of this page to find out how the health profession you are interested classifies "science classes."
Do I have a Competitive GPA?
Now that you know the differences between commonly used GPAs and you have calculated your own with the assistance of a GPA calculator,are you still a competitive student for a health professional program. The answer to that questions is complicated and cannot be answered so directly. Health professional schools release the average GPAs of students who matriculate (are accepted) into their programs. Using these averages can be helpful in giving a general idea of what a competitive GPA is, however, being competitive is determined by many more factors then just a GPA. Being involved in extracurricular activities, being involved in clinical experiences, having research experience, coming from a disadvantaged background, and your standardized test scores (MCAT, PCAT, DAT, OAT, GRE, etc.) are just a few of the factors taken into consideration while assessing a student. If you would like to see if you are a competitive student for a particular health professional school,please schedule an appointment with an HPAC advisor and bring your calculated cumulative and science GPA as well as a list of any activities that you have been involved in while a student
For more questions about GPAs or their calculations, please contact the HPAC office. We are located in Rivera Library B3.
Finding Your Path to a Health Professional School
The path students take to health professional school can be as unique and dynamic as the students who are applying themselves. Although there are a few common paths that many students take, the route and rate of how students prepare and apply is completely determined by the student's personal journey and experiences. Below is a general flowchart of what many medical students go through while preparing throughout college. Please use this reference, and others like it, as a general guideline for major milestones; however, do not worry if your own experiences vary slightly. Our professional advisors and peer mentors are available to work with students on their own personal journey to health professional school whether they apply directly out of UC Riverside or they take a more individualized route.