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Sara Sheeley serves as the pre-professional advisor for students interested in the health sciences at UIU. Her job is to help students prepare for admission to professional schools as they earn a bachelor’s degree at UIU. This includes, but is not limited to, training in medical, chiropractic, physician assistant, pharmacy, dental, optometry, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. General information for students interested in these fields is available via the links in the menu on this page.

How do you become a competitive candidate?

  • A very solid academic performance, while you should aim for high grades in all courses, science pre-requisite courses play a large role. Many schools look for students with at least a 3.5 GPA.
  • Scoring highly on health professions admissions tests (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, GRE, etc.). This not only demonstrates command of the subject material, but also indicates ability to succeed on tests “down the road,” including professional licensing examinations.
  • Volunteer experience, including a substantial amount of exposure to the profession of interest. Professional schools expect or require this! In general, experiences should show that you work well with a wide variety of people (leadership is good), you like to help people (philanthropies), and you have learned about the profession through clinical experience with patient contact, informational interviews with practitioners, etc.
  • Excellent letters of reference. It is important early on to make genuine connections with your professors, and advisors.
  • Well-prepared applications, including essays.
  • Apply Early and be mindful of deadlines! Make sure to look into specifics because they vary between programs and schools.
  • Being well-prepared during interviews.

Freshman Year

  • Gather information on all health-care professions that interest you
  • Select major program
  • Begin pre-professional core science courses
  • Begin professional observations and job-shadowing experiences
  • Consider health-related volunteer opportunities.
  • Establish good study skills. Academics come first!
  • Become familiar with the university and all of the resources available to you.
  • Get involved with a club or organization that interests you!
  • Get to know faculty – they are a great resource for major/career information and for future references and letters of recommendation.

Sophomore Year

  • Take the time to develop relationships with faculty members – they are a great resource for major/career information and for future references and letters of recommendation.
  • Research health professional schools you want to apply to and learn about specific requirements.
  • Work on study habits and time-management skills that will allow you to improve your grades, or keep your grades at a high level in increasingly rigorous courses.
  • Start preparing for standardized exams by reviewing material covered in your introductory science courses.
  • Continue involvement in extra-curricular activities that develop desirable personality traits and provide relevant experience.
  • Begin to explore research opportunities.

Junior Year

  • Register for pre-professional exams (i.e. MCAT, DAT, OAT, GRE, PCAT, etc.)
  • Complete pre-professional exam.
  • Early summer: Complete primary application (provided through standardized service where application information is dispersed to schools of choice.
  • Following the initial application, as soon as possible: Complete “secondary” applications, send letters of reference.
  • Continue and/or expand your involvement with student clubs/organizations and community activities/volunteer programs.
  • Begin to write your personal statement and refine interviewing skills.

Senior Year

  • Refine your interviewing skills and set up a mock interview(s).
  • Early fall term/winter term: Go to interviews.
  • Graduate!

Professional School Preparation Coursework Comparison

Many students know that they are interested in the health sciences, but aren’t sure which career they will ultimately pursue. The link below is a table comparing the recommended coursework for the professional schools above. This is a tool that can allow students to keep multiple health profession career paths open, should they choose.

Helpful Resources for Pre-Professional Students





Physicians Assistant

Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy

Test Preparation Resources