Making a Health Professions School List

It is essential to select schools that are not only a good fit for you academically, but also a good fit for your values, skills, and interests, and that will help you become the professional you want to be. Take time to research programs prior to the application process.


Why the Diamond?

Grad School selection Diamond

The shape of the diamond represents both the order of institution importance and number of schools which should be reflected in your list. For example, state institutions in which you are a resident are the most essential schools on your school list; but they will likely not represent the majority of the list. Private institutions will likely constitute the majority of your list while public institutions in states outside of your residency will be in the minority.

In-State Public Institutions

Whether your state of residency has one or three public institutions make sure you apply to all! Public institutions receive state funds; therefore they are more committed to educating in-state residents! If your state does not have its own institution research reciprocity agreements with neighboring states!

Private Institutions

Private institutions are more independently funded; therefore they often have less preference on a candidate’s state of residency. An informed school list will consist of private schools that the candidate feels their candidacy aligns with the accepted applicant pool.

Out-of-State Public Institutions

Since your state institutions have a preference for educating their own residents, other states feel the same obligation. As a result, spots for out of state students are limited and very competitive! If you choose to apply to these types of schools make sure they are limited.

International Schools

International schools can be a good option for some applicants, but make sure you do your research in order to fully understand the difference between programs and what may be the best fit for you.

Why Limit the Number of Schools?

Many schools utilize centralized application services therefore; the only way an individual school can ask you specific questions is in a secondary application. When you’re in the application process you may receive a number of secondary applications within a small time frame. It is important to respond to these essays within one to two weeks of receiving them. The number and type of secondary essays vary and can potentially add up quickly. You do not want to substitute quality for quantity so a having a manageable number is key. Financial costs and interview schedules are also important factors to consider.

Additional Factors for Consideration

Entrance exam scores and GPA should not be the only factors you consider when creating a school list. Reflect on your previous experiences and your career goals to help find the best fit. Some additional considerations may include:

  • Admission requirements: coursework and clinical experiences
  • Institution's mission, values, and goals
  • Program's curriculum and grading system
  • Size of cohort/class
  • Location: Where do you want to live? Where will you have a support network in place? What is the cost of living?
  • Where will you complete your fieldwork/clinical hours/rotations? What type of patient population will you serve? Will this provide the experiences you hope to gain?
  • Does this school's mission and training focus align with your professional interests?

Recommended School List Length

Program Type Recommended List Length
Medicine: M.D. 15-18
Medicine: D.O. 12-15
Dental 12-15
Pharmacy 5-7
Physician Assistant 5-7
Optometry 5-7
Physical Therapy 5-7
Occupational Therapy 5-7
Veterinary Medicine 4-6

    Resources to Research Schools

    Medicine: M.D. AAMC Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR)
    Medicine: D.O. AACOM Choose DO Explorer
    Dental  ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools
    Pharmacy PharmCAS School Directory
    Physician Assistant  PAEA Program Directory
    Optometry OptomCAS Directory of Schools and Colleges
    Physical Therapy PTCAS Program Directory
    Occupational Therapy AOTA Find a School
    Veterinary Medicine AAVMC Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR)

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