NOTE: The full process and policy description is available in the Medical School Applicant Guide 2014-2015 provided to students and alumni who attend our mandatory Applicant Seminar #1: The Big Picture.
- The Committee Letter
- Eligibility for the Committee/Composite Letter
- Interview with a Member of the Health Careers Advisory Committee
- Health Careers Advising Dossier (HCAD)
- Personal Statement
- Activities List
- Supporting Letters of Recommendation
- Letters for MD/PhD Applicants
- The MCAT and Other Standardized Tests
- AMCAS and Other Application Services
- Secondary Applications
The Committee Letter
Most admissions committees ask that applicants submit either an institutional letter of recommendation from their undergraduate or post-baccalaureate school, accompanied by three or four individual letters of recommendation, or several letters of recommendation from individuals (usually professors) if an institutional letter is not available. Admissions committees prefer the institutional letter because it is more comprehensive. If you are a qualified applicant, this is the letter that will be provided by Brown's Health Careers Advisory Committee.
The Health Careers Advisory Committee consists of faculty, health practitioners and administrators who have experience with advising, the education of health professionals, biomedical sciences, public health, and health care in general. As such, committee members come from a variety of disciplines. Committee members interview eligible applicants from Brown and assist in the preparation of their interviewee’s committee letter. The completed committee letter is sent to each applicant’s designated health profession schools along with no fewer than three and no more than four supporting letters of recommendations from faculty members and others who know the applicant well. Applicants to MD/PhD programs can provide one additional letter of recommendation.
Eligibility for the Committee Letter
To be eligible for the committee letter, you will need the following:
- Academic preparation for admission. You must have completed, or nearly completed, all course work required for admission and have taken, or be ready to take, the MCAT or other appropriate test no later than May of the year in which you apply. If your academic preparation falls significantly below the average statistics for admitted applicants (for M.D. schools, MCAT 32 and Science GPA 3.6; for D.O. schools, MCAT 27 and science GPA 3.4) we urge to consult with us to assess your options and strengthen your credentials before you apply. We are committed to helping you reach your academic and career objectives and will be glad to help you develop a plan of action to achieve your goals. Discuss your situation with George Vassilev or Andrew Simmons early.
- Experience in the field. All applicants must have completed substantive and sustained work, volunteer, or internship experiences in a clinical setting of their intended profession during or after college. Experiences undertaken during high school do not count.
- A minimum of three supporting letters of recommendation, two of which must be from members of the Brown University faculty. One of these two letters must be from a professor in the biological sciences, chemistry, physics, or mathematics (teaching assistants do not count) who has taught you in a course(s) or supervised you in a relevant experience. Your third letter can come from a professor at Brown or elsewhere, a supervisor, mentor, etc. You may also have a fourth letter from such an individual; see below for more information on supporting letters of recommendations.
- Completion of most science/pre-med courses at Brown University. If you have taken your required science courses through another institution, you are not eligible for the committee letter.
- Attendance at the mandatory Applicant Seminar #1 (offered 5 times) and Applicant Seminar #6. We strongly encourage all potential applicants to also participate in the other four non-mandatory applicant seminars. Attendance at one of the Applicant Seminar #1 dates is also required before meeting with George Vassilev or Andrew Simmons to discuss your application plans. Students and alumni who have not attended will not be able to submit an HCAD or register for an interview with a member of the Health Careers Advisory Committee and should contact our office to schedule an appointment. Alumni far from campus should contact Health Careers Advising late in the fall to discuss their background and plans if they cannot attend the mandatory Applicant Seminars.
- Completion and timely submission of the Health Careers Advising Dossier (HCAD) and all required documents. Eligibility is predicated on the assumption that applicants will meet all of the deadlines required by Health Careers Advising. In addition, the Health Careers Advisory Committee reserves the right to deny its recommendation to any applicant who it believes does not possess the qualifications and/or characteristics consistent with success in a health profession training program or in the health professions in general.
Recent alumni who can meet the criteria noted above and who can return to campus for an interview with a member of the Health Careers Advisory Committee can receive the committee letter. Alumni who graduated from Brown three or more years prior to the beginning of their application are not eligible for the committee letter. If you do not meet the criteria for the committee letter but are otherwise well prepared to apply and meet all deadlines and requirements, we are happy to advise you throughout the admission process and to act as a credential service for individual letters of recommendation.
Graduate students who earned their undergraduate degree at Brown and who can meet the criteria above are eligible for the committee letter. Brown alumni who are graduate students but do not meet the criteria are welcome to seek advice through Health Careers Advising as noted in the section above on alumni. Graduate students who did not earn their baccalaureate degree at Brown are ineligible for the committee letter or advising through Health Careers Advising. Such individuals should seek advice from their undergraduate institution’s health careers advisor(s).
Transfer students who wish to receive the committee letter must spend at least three semesters of study at Brown University. The general eligibility criteria described above apply to transfer students.
Interview with a Member of the Health Careers Advisory Committee
In order to receive Brown's committee letter, you must interview with a member of the Health Careers Advisory Committee. The interview is semi-structured but informal and usually lasts between thirty to sixty minutes.
Applicants for 2015 admission must sign up for their interview between February 17 and 20, 2014 (February 17-18 for alumni only; February 19-20 for current students). All required materials, including the Health Careers Advising Dossier (HCAD), must be in our possession when an applicant signs up for an interview. Alumni must ensure their materials are received before they call in to schedule an interview. The full list of deadlines is available under FORMS & TIP SHEETS on this website.
Health Careers Advising Dossier (HCAD)
The HCAD is a consolidated form through which you will submit information about yourself to the Health Careers Advisory Committee. In many ways, the HCAD resembles the applications you will have to complete for admission to health profession schools. Thus, with some revisions, you will be able to re-use much of the information you provide in the HCAD for your actual applications.
You must submit two copies of your HCAD when you sign up for your interview with a member of the Health Careers Advisory Committee. Applicants using our office as a credential service need only submit one copy of the HCAD. Re-applicants will be asked to submit only one copy of the specially designed Re-Applicant HCAD, which focuses on the ways in which they have strengthened their candidacy. We urge those who were not successful in their first application not to apply in the subsequent application cycle but to work with our office and to be proactive in addressing the weaker aspects of their first application. Health Careers Advising will not send materials automatically if you re-apply, and we ask you to stay in touch with us so we can advise you in the best way possible.
The HCAD is divided into 11 sections, several of which ask for personal contact and biographical information. The three major sections that require significant preparation are the Personal Statement, Activities List, and Questionnaire. Below are detailed overviews of these three sections.
The personal statement gives the Health Careers Advisory Committee insight into the personal qualities that you will bring to your chosen profession. Think of it as a warm-up for the personal statement required by AMCAS and other application services. The personal statement for medical school admission should be no more than 5,300 characters (including spaces); those applying to other health professions or to osteopathic medical schools should check with the appropriate application service regarding the length of the personal statement.
Whether you are applying to medical school or some other health profession training program, the personal statement is an important piece of qualitative information about you. It is therefore important to give it your fullest attention. You should plan on devoting significant time to this letter, going through several drafts before you have your final version. Share a draft with someone who knows something about writing and/or the health professions and whom you trust to give you honest feedback. If you are having trouble getting started or refining your draft and are a current Brown student, seek help from the Writing Center. The Health Careers Advising office keeps a binder with sample essays in University Hall 213 and has several examples on Canvas.
Tips for Writing your Personal Statement
- Remember that you have limited space; think carefully about what you will write.
- Before writing your statement, think about the characteristics that an admissions committee might be looking for: academic ability, knowledge of the field, personal commitment and integrity, and interpersonal skills.
- In addition to these characteristics, they will also be concerned with presentation, including writing abilities, grammar, and spelling.
- Your essay does not need to be entirely about medicine or the reasons you want to be a doctor. It is more important that your essay gives admission committees a sense of the person they are evaluating. For this reason, you might want to focus your essay on something about yourself that is not apparent from the rest of your application.
- Do not use your essay to summarize all of the activities that you’ve been involved in. You will be able to do this elsewhere in your application. Instead, focus your essay on a particular theme, idea, or thesis that cites specific examples of your experiences, while also reflecting upon those experiences.
- Allow readers to draw their own conclusions about you. To this end, you should avoid using direct statements—such as “I like working with people,” or “I really care.” Show, don’t tell: back up your claims with concrete examples.
- Avoid clichés! (For example, “I am fascinated with the human body,” or “Doctors can change lives.”)
- Don’t idealize doctors or other health care providers (“It is a miracle what doctors can do…”). Demonstrate a realistic view of health care that is neither overly zealous nor unreasonably cynical.
- Remember that you are writing from your own perspective and about yourself. Writing about your mentors or family members tells admission committees very little about you.
- Share your essay with one or two readers who can provide you with honest, focused feedback. Too many opinions about your writing will leave you confused and unsure about what to do. Remember that current students can get help from the Writing Center. Be sure to take the time to proofread your final draft.
This section gives you an opportunity to tell us about postsecondary experiences such as internships, volunteer or paid work, community service, travel, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, athletic endeavors, and/or significant hobbies. Do not include activities from your high school years.
The activities section is formatted like the work/activities section in AMCAS (which is similar to the activities sections in other applications services). Each entry asks for the following:
- Activity Type
- Total Hours
- Activity Name
- Contact Name and Title
- Organization Name
- City, State, Country
- Experience description
There is room for 15 entries. List activities in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent activities. Similar and related activities may be grouped together. For 12 of the activities, you will be given 700 characters (including spaces). Describe your activities concisely and accurately; if you have room after doing this, feel free to discuss how this activity was significant to you. The remaining 3 entries enable you to describe activities that were most meaningful to you. You will be given 1325 additional characters for these entries (including spaces). The "most meaningful activity" entries specifically invite you to demonstrate not only what you did but also to share the importance of the experience and the role it plays in your learning, personal growth and preparation to become a practitioner of your chosen profession. Be thoughtful in describing these activities. Articulating your passions, learning and potential impact are important ways to communicate your readiness for professional study and future health and medicine practice.
A typical short entry might look something like this:
- Emergency Room Volunteer
September 20012-April 2013
General Hospital, Anywhere, RI
Approximately 7 months
Supervisor: Jane Doe, M.D.
As a volunteer my initial responsibilities included patient transport, bringing samples to the laboratory, assisting nurses in preparing patients' rooms, and making patients feel welcomed. As time progressed, the doctors and staff saw may desire to learn, and I was allowed to spend most of the time observing. I observed everything from stitches to treating suicide attempts. This experience awakened my desire to become a physician, which has stayed with me since. It also prompted me to seek experience as a clinical research assistant and inspired me to take courses with a public health focus.
This section offers you an opportunity to tell us more about yourself, your academic interests, and the reasons you aspire to a career in the health professions.
Supporting Letters of Recommendation
Your committee letter from Brown will be supported by a minimum of three and a maximum of four individual letters of recommendation. These letters, along with your committee letter, make up the contents of the packet sent from the Health Careers Office to your designated schools. You will need to obtain letters from the following individuals:
- Two from Brown faculty members, one of whom should be a professor in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics and should have taught you in class(es) and/or supervised you on a relevant reserach project. The second letter can come from a faculty member in any academic area. Check Brown's Electronic Address system to find out if the individuals who might write your letters are in fact Brown faculty.
- One or two from any other individual who knows you well in an educational or supervisory capacity. This could also be a Brown faculty member.
For the 2015 application cycle, your letters must be submitted by June 6, 2014. Failure to meet this deadline could result in delay in the completion of your committee letter.
Guidelines for Letters of Recommendation
- To the greatest extent possible, ask for letters from qualified individuals who can write substantively about the qualities you will bring to the medical profession.
- Use the List of Letter Writers and Waiver Form (Form 2) to notify us who will write on your behalf. This form also asks you whether or not you’ve waived your right of access to your letters. Please discuss this issue with each of your recommenders and bear in mind that admission committees favor letters to which students have waived right of access.
- Form 2 should be submitted to our office as soon as you know who will write for you and no later than May 2, 2014.
- Do not include letters from family, friends, or peers, even if you have done relevant work with them. Also, all letters should reflect post-high school experiences.
- It is your responsibility to request letters of recommendation and make sure that they are submitted in a timely fashion. In addition, it is your responsibility to remind your references of the deadline for letter submission! Faculty are extremely busy and often may not remember exactly when your letter is due. A polite e-mail reminder a couple of weeks before the letter is due is always a good idea.
- Give each of your letter writers the Instructions for Recommenders form (Form 1). This form is for your recommenders' information and does not need to be submitted together with the letter written on your behalf.
- We will send all letters that we have on file for you as part of your packet. Please do not ask us to pick and choose which letters to send for you. You should be confident that the people you are asking to write on your behalf will submit strong letters.
Submission Process and Deadlines
For your convenience and the convenience of your recommenders, Health Careers Advising has adopted a new web-based system, veCollect, to receive and track your letters of recommendation. Our office will no longer accept recommendation letters directly, in paper or Email form. Only students and alumni who have attended the mandatory APPLICANT SEMINAR#1 and have submitted their HCAD to our office can register with this system. This can be done after your HCAD submission and no later than May 2 2014. The List of Recommenders and Waiver Form (Form 2) is due to our office by the same date. Once you have created an account and our office has approved it (within 2 business days), you can add your recommenders' information in your veCollect account. Send an email through your veCollect account to your recommenders This will include submission instructions. Recommenders will email their letters back to veCollect through the email they received on your behalf. All letters should be submitted by June 6 2014.
- Brown-affiliated recommenders can write on their own letterhead or use our electronic Letter of Recommendation Form (Form 6). Please forward the website link to your Brown recommenders.
- Letter-writers not affiliated with Brown should write their letter on institutional letterhead only.
Letters for MD/PhD Applicants
MD/PhD applicants are allowed to exceed the normal limit of four supporting letters of recommendation. If you are applying to MD/PhD programs, your additional letters must come from references who can comment on your potential as a researcher. Individual programs differ in the number of research recommendations they require. Be sure you know the guidelines for each program to which you apply. Health Careers Advising expects two of your letters to be from research mentors.
Applicants to MD/PhD programs should complete the List of Recommenders and Waiver Form –MD/PhD (Form 3). Please identify your research mentors by checking the box on the form. This will allow us to highlight these recommendations in your committee letter. We will send all letters listed in Form 3 to your MD/PhD schools. Applicants to MD/PhD and MD programs should also complete the List of Recommenders and Waiver Form (Form 2) in addition to Form 3. If you are applying to some schools as an MD and to other schools as an MD/PhD candidate, we will send your letters according to the information you provide on Form 2 and Form 3.
The MCAT and Other Standardized Tests
Individuals applying to medical school and some other health profession training programs must take the MCAT. Other health professions have separate admission exams. Applicants to dental school will have to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT); those applying to optometry school will have to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). Veterinary schools often require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), though some will accept the MCAT. Veterinary applicants are strongly encouraged to check with the individual schools they plan to apply to for specific standardized test requirements. The DAT, GRE, MCAT, and OAT are all computerized exams. MCAT is offering 33 exam administrationson 31 testing days in 2014. Due to the high demand for MCAT test dates, many facilities will be fully booked months in advance. We recommend you look into booking a test date as early as you can, given that you are well-prepared to take the exam successfully.
Latest Date to Take the MCAT for 2015 Admission:
We recommend that you take the MCAT early enough to have your scores in hand when deciding where to apply. This generally means that you want to have your MCAT scores by early June (Health Careers Advising recommends that you submit your AMCAS or other common application no later than mid-July). Given that it takes approximately 30 days for your scores to be reported, plan to take the MCAT no later than May and earlier if feasible. However, any testing dates through August will still allow for a timely review of your application (as long as you have also completed all other parts of your application in the recommended time frame). Information and scheduling for the MCAT are available on-line.
Repeating the MCAT
Repeating the MCAT is not recommended unless you were ill on the day of the test, you did not get enough sleep the night before the exam and were stressed during the test, you recorded the answers to the test incorrectly, there was a disturbance during the test at the testing center, you did not adequately review for the test, you did not complete all the coursework necessary before taking the test, or you scored significantly lower than your grades or practice tests would otherwise predict. Most students who repeat the test just to see if they can do better end up with similar scores—going up or down a point here and there. These changes are not considered significant and will not help your candidacy. Some score lower on a repeated test, which has a negative impact on medical school applications. All sets of scores are reported to medical schools, and they are interpreted differently by different schools. We strongly encourage you not to repeat the MCAT without thoroughly analyzing your performance, taking sufficient time to identify areas for improvement, and preparing accordingly. You are allowed to register for only one exam date at a time. If you are not sure whether or not to re-take the MCAT, consult with George Vassilev or Andrew Simmons.
Many students prepare for the MCAT and other exams by enrolling in test-preparation courses such as those offered by Kaplan or Princeton Review. The makers of the MCAT exam, AAMC, have broadened the range of their exam preparation services. Consult e-mcat.com for details. Other students prepare by studying on their own. Study guides are available in bookstores everywhere and can also be purchased through on-line booksellers. In general, you should plan on spending the equivalent of a semester reviewing and preparing for the MCAT, DAT, et al.
MCAT Registration and Length of Time Scores will be Accepted
You may register for the MCAT on-line. Medical school policies on accepting old MCAT scores vary. In general, schools will accept scores that are two to four years old. You should, however, check with the schools to which you plan to apply if you have an MCAT score that is more than a year old. When you register, you will be asked if you would like to release your scores to your premedical advisor. Since these scores provide Health Careers Advising with useful data and assist us in advising you, we ask that you release your scores.
AMCAS and Other Application Services
Most M.D. programs in the United States require that students complete an application from the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The AMCAS application is electronic and can be initiated and completed online. The system becomes available in early May, but applications cannot be submitted until early June. Check www.aamc.org for specific dates.
D.O. programs have a similar system, the Association of American Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS), which is available at www.aacom.org
AMCAS, AACOMAS and other systems asks you for a broad range of basic information, including:
- Biographical data such as your name, address, date of birth, citizenship, etc.
- Information about where you attended college
- Grades from all of your undergraduate courses
- Activities you’ve engaged in since high school
In addition, you will be asked to submit “personal comments”; this is where you should insert your personal statement (see above). Other application services will have similar sections for your personal statement.
Applicants may begin working on their AMCAS applications in May; the application can be certified and submitted in June (check www.aamc.org and www.aacom.org for specific dates). Note that each medical school has its own deadline for AMCAS applications. Some have deadlines as early as October. Medical schools that are not part os AMCAS may use different forms. These include the state medical schools in Texas, which use the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS).
Applicants to other health professions schools will also need to use an application service. Again, deadlines for completing such applications vary from school to school. Be sure to check the deadline for each school that you apply to.
Information about the various health professions' application services is listed below:
- Allopathic Medicine: American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS).
- Dentistry: Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).
- Osteopathic Medicine: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS).
- Veterinary Medicine: Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS).
- Podiatry: American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine Application Service (AACPMAS).
- Pharmacy: Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS).
- Physician Assistant: Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).
- Public Health: Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS).
- Nursing: Nursing Centralized Application System (NursingCAS)
In addition to your AMCAS or other common application, most medical schools will require you to complete their own application materials. These applications are generically referred to as secondary applications. When you receive a secondary application, you should complete it as quickly as possible. Each school will charge an application fee upon submission of your secondary application. This will be in addition to the application service fees (e.g., AMCAS, AADSASS, etc.). Check the application system's Guide for information about each school's secondary application policies.
For MD schools, this is the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) produced by the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC). The MSAR is an online system that contains key information about the 143 Allopathic medical schools (M.D.) in the US and 17 such schools in Canada. This is accompanied by the guide book "MSAR: Getting Started," which presents broader statistics and information about the application process not available as part of the MSAR online. We strongly recommend that you get both the guide book and access to the MSAR online. A copy of "MSAR: Getting Started" is also available in University Hall 213.
Many secondary applications will ask you to list the course work you completed to fulfill admission requirements. Fill in these courses on your secondaries exactly as they appear on your AMCAS, AADSAS ,or other application. Remember that Brown courses appear on your primary applications with four (4) semester hours. Hence, four (4) semester hours is what you should enter on your secondary applications’ course work sections as well.
Note that some medical schools may want to see your SAT scores or high school transcripts. These items cannot be forwarded from Brown and must come from their original source (e.g., your high school or the College Board).
Important Note About Letters of Recommendation and Secondary Applications
In many cases schools will ask if you will be sending individual letters of recommendation or a letter and packet from the health professions committee at your undergraduate institution (or wherever you completed your premed course work). If you are receiving Brown’s committee letter, be sure to note this in the appropriate place on your secondary application. Do not write in the names of individuals who have submitted letters on your behalf to Health Careers Advising. This will engender confusion in the admissions offices and lead to problems with your application. Conversely, if you are not eligible for the committee letter but instead plan to use Health Careers Advising as a mailing service, note that you will be sending individual letters only and not the committee letter, and do write in the names of your recommenders.