Planning Your Time at Purdue

What to do and when to do it. Whether you are a planner or not so much, this section will help you ensure that you are staying on top of your pre-professional situation during your time at Purdue.

Don't forget that you're not in this alone. Tell your academic advisor what your professional school interests are--it makes a difference for your advising. And make an appointment with a pre-professional advisor preferably every semester. Both your academic advisor and pre-professional advisor use BoilerConnect for appointments.

This Pre-Professional Timeline provides a general sense of what you should be doing during your time at Purdue to prepare for professional school.

Please know that there is no right and wrong way to be a pre-professional student. Not everyone needs to be a medical scribe or be in X club to be successful. Do not measure your progress against another student's who may be doing things differently. Each applicant will and should be unique.

If you decide a little bit later in your college career that you want to go to professional school, it's ok. We can help you figure things out.

Whether we call it a gap year, a growth year, a glide year, an exploration year, a career enhancement year, or something else, it can be an important step forward in your application. It isn't just a year off.

While a gap year(s) isn't for everyone, each student has to determine what is right for their situation. This list of 10 Reasons Why Gap Years Make Sense provides a few points to think about when considering a gap year.

Pre-Law Students

Things to consider

  • Two-thirds of law school applicants take time off between college and law school. This may mean that you can be a more competitive applicant by collecting additional experiences after graduation. You have a lot of options for how to fill your time.
  • You can work in a non-legal job. This allows you to build on interests you may have that dovetail with your legal interests. For example, working at an environmental non-profit if you want to go into environmental law. Working in a non-legal job may also help you decide for sure if law school is right for you.
  • You can gain additional law experience in a law-related job.
  • You can volunteer with service organizations. Whether it is local organizations or Teach for America, the Peace Corps, Americorps, or others, you have many opportunities.
  • You can look into some of the prestigious scholarships through the National and International Scholarships Office (NISO) such as Fulbright Awards to teach or do research in other countries.

All Students

Prepare for your gap year

  • To maximize your gap year, focus on your motivation for taking the time away from school. What are your goals?
  • Are you strengthening application weaknesses? If so, have you spoken to professional program admissions offices and pre-professional advising and do you have a plan for how to address the issue?
  • Are you trying to decide whether entering this field is right for you? Professional school is a significant investment in time and resources. Take as much time as necessary to make sure that you are making the right career choice for you.
  • You want time to re-charge before the intensity of professional school. There is nothing wrong with wanting a break. Make sure you understand what will happen with any student loans you might have. Typically you must start repaying them within 6 months of graduation.
  • Plan for how you will discuss your gap year at interviews and in your application.

Most professional programs will require you to read--a lot. Your success will depend on you reading thoroughly and carefully and remembering the material that you read. Many aptitude tests include a reading section that requires more than just answering factually about what you just read. Instead, these tests need for you to interpret the material. This takes practice and regular reading.

Generally the lowest score nationally on the MCAT is the CARS section--Critical Analysis and Reading Skills. This section consists of reading passages and answering questions. The questions, however, are not factual questions about what you just read, but are more thoughtful questions that require a deeper analysis of the material.

The good news is that you can read what you want! Just try to read more. If you feel like this is a weakness for you, consider an English literature course, history, or philosophy course that will require you to think carefully about the text that you are reading.

Check out the online materials at the Academic Success Center to help you improve your reading and study skills.

This quick article talks about the need for physicians to develop better critical reading skills when reading journal articles. Reading Medical Literature with a Critical Eye.

Reading also helps you to be a better writer. Consider this article for lawyers about why they need to read good prose and not just legal writing to become better legal writers. The Importance of Attentive Reading.

Study abroad is one of the most amazing opportunities you have as a Purdue student. Financial support is available for many programs. Do plan ahead for your coursework and your professional school application (please talk to us about this), but if you can make it work, go for it! Purdue Study Abroad

Pre-professional students do need to plan ahead for these opportunities because of needing to fit in required courses and to plan for the extra costs of extra travel/souvenirs when they are studying abroad and application costs to professional school. PPA Study Abroad Timing Information provides pros/cons for different timing options of study abroad to help you with your planning.

If you want to be in a helping profession and want people to come to you for help, then you need to learn to ask for help yourself. You need to know what it is to be in the role of asking for help. If nothing else, it is great learning experience. Whether you could use a little assistance with classes, adjusting to life at Purdue, finding a job for some extra cash, working through some personal issues, figuring out your financial aid, whatever it is we all need help at some point.

  • The most amazing resource you have is your academic advisor who can point you in the right direction for other services on campus.
  • Learn to use faculty office hours. They are not as scary as they sometimes seem. They set that time aside for you. Faculty often have the most amazing pathways to their own careers. Ask them about it. You don't necessarily need a question about class to start a conversation. Talk to them. They are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet and may eventually be your recommendation letter writers.
  • Supplemental Instruction is available for a number of courses.
  • Purdue Academic Success Center for tutoring and other support such as coaching on improving test taking skills.
  • Help for science classes is available: Biology Resource Center, Chemistry Resource Room, Physics Help Center, Math Resource Room
  • The Division of Financial Aid has drop-in hours if you need help with understanding your financial aid, need financial aid, or have questions about financing your education.
  • Not feeling well? Purdue University Student Health Service (PUSH)
  • Living in the residence halls? Talk with your RA--they have skills!
  • Need extra cash? Look for student employment.


Be sure that the field you are planning to enter is right for you. You owe it to yourself to really explore all of your options. You do not want to find yourself midway into law school or dental school only to realize it wasn't the right choice.

Ask yourself the hard questions about these fields and whether they fit you well. We can help with this. Professional schools will ask you these difficult questions when you go for interviews, so you will need to face them at some point. Start now. Be sure.

  • Why do you want to enter this field?
  • How can you be sure it is the right field for you?
  • What would you do if you couldn't go into this field?
  • What have you done to demonstrate to an admissions committee that you understand what this field is really like?
  • Are you prepared for the realities of the field? Both the good and the bad?
    • These fields often include: long, difficult, expensive training; high stress; long working hours; sometimes being unable to help people/animals; time away from your own family.
    • They also include many rewards! It is a great privilege to be a part of people's lives and to be able to help them--sometimes during their worst moments. Think about the healthcare providers who are with people who are dying of COVID when their families can't be with them. Those providers are offering all the comfort they can. Think about lawyers helping people pull their lives together after traumatic events. Think about physical therapists assisting people as they regain functions after a car accident or a stroke. For a time you become a significant part of someone's life.

Get involved in the community and/or in campus clubs. Always focus on your grades first, but professional schools will look to your clubs, work experiences, and volunteer efforts to learn about you, your teamwork/leadership abilities, and your communication skills.

Purdue Student Organizations (BoilerLink)

Boilers in Action (Get Engaged)

Local volunteer opportunities through United Way


We encourage you to meet with Pre-Preprofessional Advising every semester. It is also important to tell your academic advisor about your plans to enter a professional field.

Purdue's Pre-Professional Advisors learn about applying to professional school by directly interacting with representatives from professional schools who work as recruiters and those who work in admissions. We attend conferences with them, listen to webinars, read journal articles and listservs to come to understand the admissions process. We also interact with the people who create the aptitude tests, run the online applications and even test preparation companies. This variety of perspectives keeps us informed about what schools expect to see, upcoming changes to applications, and what you need to know as an applicant.

Ultimately, we know and interact with the staff at professional programs. This is how we come to understand the admissions process--by talking to the people who make these decisions.

There is a lot of really bad information online about how admissions works. Please come to us rather than relying on questionable information online.

Make your appointment on BoilerConnect.