General Application Tips
While it is difficult to generalize for all applications, we can provide a few tips and bits of information that will help all applicants along the way.
One of the best things you can do for your application is to apply early. This means that you submit your application within 1-1.5 months after your application service opens.
Do not base your application timing on school application deadlines. All the action for applications is happening MONTHS before then.
Remember that there is a lot of lag time in the application systems. You will face a lot of hurry up and turn this part in then a lot of wait time. Then hurry up and turn another part in and then wait. The worst part of the whole process will be waiting to hear something.
If you submit within a month of your application service opening, you will be ahead of many other students so your wait time will be shorter. You will have time to work through any mishaps (a missing letter or missing transcript) and ideally will be able to have your application reach schools and, with any luck, be chosen for an interview earlier.
The epidemic has provided a great example for why you should apply early. Processing of applications moved a lot slower. Why? People who process applications were working remotely because of the pandemic. Transcript processing was behind schedule. An early application allows you the time to handle these delays.
Another reason to apply early? Purdue only sends paper transcripts to professional programs. All of the application services use third party vendors for sending electronic transcripts. Purdue does NOT use any of these. This is why sending your transcript is free through Purdue. But it also means that they are sent as paper transcripts and this takes more time. They must travel through the mail and then at the other end someone must scan them and add them to your electronic file. You must also include the matching form from your application. So again, apply early so there is time for these things to happen.
Whether you like to think of it as finding your community, finding your mentors, finding your cheerleaders, or networking, you need to find a group of people who know what your plan is and support you in that plan. Ideally these people also have a status that makes them ideal for writing letters of recommendation--professors, supervisors from research, work, shadowing, or volunteering, etc.
Get to know these people on a personal level. They need to know more about you than your grade in a course. They need to be able to comment on more personal characteristics.
- Can you hold a conversation?
- Do you have a good sense of humor?
- Do you have a strong moral compass?
- Can you interact comfortably with others?
- Do you demonstrate intellectual curiosity?
- When you have problems, do you strive to overcome them or give up?
These are examples of the kinds of things professional schools want to see your letter writers comment on.
Do you know people who can write about you this way?
If not, this is your task. It's time to start talking to more people.
Talking with Faculty
Faculty set aside office hours FOR YOU! Use this time. It is yours.
A few tips:
- Do not try to talk to faculty at the start of class--they are trying to set up for class and are busy.
- At some point, introduce yourself to them. Tell them your name and that you are excited about the class/interested in the class because of XX reason, something like that. In a large class, this can help them learn your name.
- If you can, sit toward the front and in the middle. Respond to them. Do an interested nod now and then. This can go a long way to showing them respect and that you are paying attention. Then when you go to office hours, they already have a positive sense of you.
- Instead of just going to office hours to ask a question about something that confused you in class, think more deeply about the class material. Try to make connections with other classes so you can ask a deeper question. Or see if you can find current research in the field or some research being reported in the news from that field that you can ask about. If you just ask a question from class, then they answer it and...the conversation is kind of over. If you have research to ask about then you have a deeper conversation and you are showing curiosity.
- Make an appointment to talk to them about your career interests. Tell them how helpful it is to hear about other people's career pathways and ask if they would share theirs. (Many faculty have the most fascinating career paths!) This really brings you into a new kind of conversation with them.
- If you are in a career-oriented club, such as the Pre-OT/PT Club or Pre-Dental Club then invite them to speak with the club about their research. Be the one to set everything up so that you have more conversations with them and get to know them better.
- Also while being a member of that club, talk to students who are further along about how they have developed relationships with faculty. Learn from their tips.
- Remember that faculty were students once. They really aren't scary just very busy. They really do like working with and talking with students!
Start early on in your academic career learning everything you can about your future field, your aptitude test, and your application process. While Pre-Professional Advising is here to help, we want you to feel like you are in control of your application process. So we also want you to become your own expert in this process as well.
Applying to professional school is stressful. The more you understand the process, the less stressful it will be.
Looking at what will be on your admissions test early on will help trigger your brain as you cover those things in classes. It will remind you that you need to pay attention to those materials because you will be seeing those things again.
Learn all you can about your application process and timeline. What is included on your application? What information do you need to maintain and gather for your application? What letters will you need? Don't wait until your application year to figure these things out.
It is also important to become familiar with which online sites have reliable information and which ones are less useful. Quite a few pre-health and pre-law sites have a lot of misinformation. We encourage you to start with those sites we provide until you know enough facts that you can differentiate between useful and less useful sites.
It can feel intimidating to contact professional schools and ask them for information.
It really is ok to do this. That is part of what the admissions office is there to do.
Here are a few tips for making the process easier.
Contacting Schools Via Phone Call
- Organize your thoughts before you call. They often keep track of all contacts with students so you need to be polite, organized, and professional. The goal is to get all of your questions answered and get them off the phone as quickly as possible.
- Remember to tell them who you are, that you are a future applicant (give them the time frame), and briefly why you are calling. Ask if they are the correct person for you to speak with.
- If so, ask if they have time or if you need to set up a phone appointment.
- If they have time, ask your questions (typically it is best to write them down before you call). Make sure you checked their website first so that you know the answers aren't there.
- Once you have your answers, thank them very much for their time.
- Remember that phone skills are important to professional skills as they know that you will likely need to call patients/clients in your professional career.
- Do not call too often. If you make a pest of yourself, they will note that too.
Contacting Schools Via Email
- If you are reaching out via email, it is a similar process. Just remember to make your email more formal than your usual emails.
- Address your email to "Dear Admissions Office" if you don't know the exact person or "Dear Dean Smith," or "Dear Dr. Smith," etc. Never use "Hey Dean Smith, we met at the Health Programs Expo last week." That's too casual.
- Briefly explain who you are, that you are a future applicant (give them the time frame), and briefly explain why you are contacting them.
- Explain whether you are requesting a phone call back or including some email questions. Either way include a phone number in case they would rather not write out answers to your questions.
- Thanks them for their time.
- Include a Sincerely or other closure with your first and last name.
- Should you need to play phone tag with the admissions office, be sure that you have cleared space on your phone for people to leave messages.
- Don't answer your phone when you see that it is the dental school calling (for example) only to whisper, "Sorry, I can't talk right now I'm in class." Just don't take the call then.
- Make sure you have an appropriate voicemail message and not something fun you created for your friends.
Leaving a Voicemail
- If you are in a situation that you have to leave a voicemail at a school, speak a bit slower and very clearly.
- Tell them your first and last name
- Spell them if not an obvious name like Smith. With a name like Terstriep, spell it twice.
- Even though their phone likely captures it, provide your phone number--again, slowly.
- Tell them why you are calling and what you would like to speak with someone about.
- Thank them for the help.
Your personal statement is important. You are trying to convey to them why you want to enter this field. Why they should share this knowledge with you. How you have prepared yourself for the rigors of being in that field.
Don't plan on sitting down and writing one draft and thinking you are done. This is a formal essay. You should not be using slang or informal language. Ya know?
For more general information on writing personal statements, read over the Personal Statement Tab in the Applying to Professional School section of our Learning Center.
- Research school requirements
- Carefully read all application instructions
- Apply early
- Enter all college-level coursework
- Request transcripts for all colleges attended
- Write an original essay
- Request letters/evaluations early
- Don't leave any sections of your application blank
- Plan ahead for school-specific requirements
- Follow all ethics rules of the applications
- Check your email (including spam folders) and application status often
- Use the same form of your name on all application documents
- Save a copy of all documents that you submit