Health Professions Advising Program

Health Professions Advising Program

Villanova University’s Health Professions Advising Office is a full service office open to all students pursuing degrees in the health professions. We work with students through every aspect of their journey, beginning with the earliest exploratory stages, continuting through the search process to compile courses and to set up beneficial experiences, and concluding with the process of assembling and reviewing application materials. Our mission is to help every student find their “fit,” and support them with all of our resources on their journey, providing them the best possible counsel every step of the way.

To learn more, read the applicable portions of the website carefully. Current students should keep abreast of the information sent from the HPA office through Blackboard and social media. Regular meetings with advisors is also recommended.

Villanova also works closely with a number of schools for combined degree programs. These programs provide conditional acceptance to a health professions program as an entering freshman. To discover more, visit the Affiliation Programs page. 

How can I prepare for a career in health care while still in high school?

Be sure to take a full academic course load all four years you are in high school. This includes four years of math, science, humanities, and social science courses. Challenge yourself in your coursework. Take honors courses, and advanced placement courses where available and driven by your interests. But be sure that you are also balancing your life to include time for extracurricular interests. Knowing how to manage your time while achieving balance is a critical skill that you can begin developing in high school.

Look for opportunities to begin to explore your interests in health care. Speak with your health care providers about why they chose their professions, and about the rewards and challenges. Check for opportunities to volunteer in health care settings. There may be hospitals, clinics, or health service organizations in your area that take volunteers. You can look beyond health care as well. Health professionals are people who feel a need to improve the quality of other people’s lives. Experiences need not be health related to help you explore whether making other people’s lives better is a central piece of what you want to do in life. Are there service opportunities in your community that interest you? You can also look for summer enrichment programs by going to the Association of American Medical College’s website, and selecting for “high school.”

What should I major in when I get to Villanova?

Health professions schools do not have a preference in candidates’ undergraduate majors. No major will give you an “edge,” and no major will make you less “desirable.” You should choose a major that you enjoy and in which you excel. Because of the quantity of science courses required for most health professions programs, many students choose science majors. Some of the most popular majors at Villanova are Biology, Biochemistry, Comprehensive Science, and Psychology. Another popular major is Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, within the psychology department. Please note that students are admitted to Villanova as declared CBN majors, so students interested in this major should select the program on their applications.

A complete list of undergraduate majors may be found here.

How else does Villanova help prepare students for health professions careers?

Health professions graduate programs no longer focus exclusively on grades and exam scores in making admissions decisions. Candidates must present portfolios of experiences demonstrating that they have examined themselves and examined the professions to make sure they have found a good fit. They will need to show they have developed the characteristics it takes to be a skilled health professional: an understanding of ethics, an appreciation and respect for diversity, a drive to help others, resilience in the face of challenge, an ability to function as part of a team, among other skills. At Villanova, students are fortunate to have the opportunity to develop many of these skills on campus: through coursework in Ethics, Peace and Justice, intergroup relations, as well as through the service-learning classes that integrate theory with experience. The undergraduate core requirement is made up largely of courses in the humanities and social sciences, requiring a large amount of critical thinking and writing. This will be helpful as students approach the new MCAT, with its expanded critical analysis and reasoning section.

What about advising?

As a health professions student, you will have at least two advisors to guide you through your years here. You will have an academic advisor who will help you with your core requirements and your major, and you will have a health professions advisor, who will coach you as you work towards your professional goal. We will help you with course planning and provide advice in such areas as extracurricular activities, the timing of your professional exam (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.), and all aspects of your application. Our office keeps a store of information on enrichment opportunities on and off campus. You may work with a health professions advisor from the moment you arrive on campus, through the application process to your professional schools. Our services are available to all enrolled Villanova students. We do not screen or select students for services.

How do I find out about health professions events on campus?

There are many events throughout the year, some sponsored by the Health Professions Advising Office, some sponsored by one of the many student clubs (Pre-Medical Club, Pre-PA Club, Pre-Optometry Club, Pre-Dental Club, and more), and some sponsored by groups with overlapping interest, like the Science Friday career networking events sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. These events are advertised in a listserv for prehealth students. Many are also advertised on “The Wire,” a campus newsletter, or on monitors in buildings throughout campus. All told, there is a full calendar of prehealth related events every semester. 

What should I major in?

Health professions schools do not have a preference in candidates’ undergraduate majors. No major will give you an “edge,” and no major will make you less “desirable.” You should choose a major that you enjoy and in which you excel. Because of the quantity of science courses required for most health professions programs, many students choose science majors. Some of the most popular majors at Villanova are BiologyBiochemistryComprehensive Science, and Psychology. Another popular major is Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience, within the psychology department. Please note that students are admitted to Villanova as declared CBN majors, so students interested in this major should select the program on their applications.

However, we recommend you choose a major that you enjoy and in which you excel.  Students thinking of majors in professional schools (e.g., business, engineering) should be mindful that professional undergraduate programs are credit heavy, and do not allow for much room for electives (which you would need to fit your pre-professional courses), or for health-related portfolio-building activitiesAll pre-health students should note that at Villanova University registration priority goes to students who need the courses to graduate in their majors.  This means students may need to be flexible in their pre-health course planning.

How do I prepare for professional school in the health sciences?

Health professions graduate programs no longer focus exclusively on grades and exam scores in making admissions decisions. Candidates must present portfolios of experiences demonstrating that they have examined themselves and examined the professions to make sure they have found a good fit. They will need to show they have developed the characteristics it takes to be a skilled health professional: an understanding of ethics, an appreciation and respect for diversity, a drive to help others, resilience in the face of challenge, an ability to function as part of a team, among other skills. At Villanova, students are fortunate to have the opportunity to develop many of these skills on campus: through coursework in ethics, peace and justice, intergroup relations, as well as through the service-learning classes that integrate theory with experience. The undergraduate core requirement is made up largely of courses in the humanities and social sciences, requiring a large amount of critical thinking and writing. This will be helpful as students approach the new MCAT, with its expanded critical analysis and reasoning section.

What about advising?

As a health professions student, you will have at least two advisors to guide you through your years here. You will have an academic advisor who will help you with your core requirements and your major, and you will have a health professions advisor, who will coach you as you work towards your professional goal. We will help you with course planning and provide advice in such areas as extracurricular activities, the timing of your professional exam (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.), and all aspects of your application. Our office keeps a store of information on enrichment opportunities on and off campus. You may work with a health professions advisor from the moment you arrive on campus, through the application process to your professional schools. Our services are available to all enrolled Villanova students. We do not screen or select students for services.

How do I find out about health professions events on campus?

There are many events throughout the year, some sponsored by the Health Professions Advising Office, some sponsored by one of the many student clubs (Pre-Medical Club, Pre-PA Club, Pre-Optometry Club, Pre-Dental Club, and more), and some sponsored by groups with overlapping interest, like the Science Friday career networking events sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. These events are advertised in a listserv for prehealth students. Many are also advertised on “The Wire,” a campus newsletter, or on monitors in buildings throughout campus. All told, there is a full calendar of prehealth related events every semester. 

The Health Professions Advising Office is pleased to serve Villanova alumni who are seeking to prepare for graduate programs in the health professions.  Health professions schools welcome applications from mature candidates from diverse backgrounds who bring a seasoned perspective and internal motivation to what they do.  Your path to your health professions school will depend on your academic background, how long you have been away from school, what courses you need to take, and any health care experience you may have had, among other things.  We invite you to meet with us for an assessment of where you are and what your path will look like.

 

Where do I start with coursework?

If you never took any of the prerequisite courses for your intended profession, your best bet may be to enroll in a post-baccalaureate program for career changers.  These programs are intensive, and there are things you can do in advance to prepare, such as refresh your math skills and volunteer in health care settings.  You can search for post-baccalaureate programs on the AAMC website:

https://apps.aamc.org/postbac/#/index

The site will allow you to tailor your search by geography, focus (career changers, academic record enhancers, health professions other than medicine), and other metrics.

The College of Professional Studies at Villanova University offers a post-baccalaureate certificate in pre-health professions science, which covers the bulk of courses needed to take the MCAT, PCAT, or DAT, and meets most pre-professional needs. For students who do not need the full package of courses listed in the certificate program, there is the option to enroll in select courses à la carte, without pursuing the certificate.

https://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/professionalstudies/certificates.html

You may still need additional coursework beyond what is offered in this and other post-baccalaureate programs, depending on your background and professional goals.  It is important to meet with a health professions advisor early in your planning, and to bring your transcripts, so you can get a good idea of what your journey is likely to entail.

 

What if I took some of the coursework when I was an undergraduate?

Most professional schools will look askance at coursework that is more than five years old.  It will be important for you to have a solid grasp of basic sciences in order to do well in subsequent courses, and in order to do well on any entrance exams.  You may be well advised to repeat some of your coursework, especially if it is old or your GPA was weak.  If your GPA was strong, taking graduate level coursework in a field of relevance to your professional program may be a good option.

 

What if I don’t need a whole post-bac program, but just a few courses?

Some post-bac programs will allow students to select only the courses they need, adapting the program to suit their situations.  The CPS post-bac program is one such example.  Sometimes students have been successful enrolling as non-matriculated students at local universities or colleges to complete their remaining coursework.  In most cases, however, non-matriculated students register last, and regularly matriculated students fill all seats before non-matriculated students have a chance to register.  Be sure to discuss your chances of being able to enroll in your courses of interest with an advisor at the institution.

 

What about special master’s programs?

There is also a group of post-baccalaureate programs that confer master’s degrees.  Graduates of these programs have high success rates in their applications to medical school.  However, these programs are more selective in admissions, expecting a stronger science background and strong overall GPA, as the programs incorporate graduate level science courses.  You can search for these programs in the AAMC link provided above, by selecting for “graduate” programs.

 

What else do I need to do to prepare for professional school in the health sciences?

While good test scores and solid grades are critical for admission, health professions graduate programs require skills beyond academics for admission.  Candidates must convince admissions committees that they have spent enough time in health care environments to know that the career is going to be a good fit.  Committees are also looking for evidence of maturity, resilience, the ability to take criticism and advice, to work as a member of a team, to respect and appreciate diversity, to build relationships of trust, to listen, and other skills that are not reflected in transcripts or test scores.  Hence preparation is a multi-faceted endeavor.  Many alumni find that while they may be behind on the academics, time spent in the working world has provided opportunities to develop some of these other skills.

To learn more about health care experiences, be sure to read the links on the professional associations' websites.  The AAMC's website, in particular, provides a wealth of information on how to find such experiences, how to approach potential leads, how to make the most of your learning, and other useful tips.  Students of all health professions will find that information useful.  When you go to the professional sites, look for links to "student" or "applicant" pages.  These are the places to go for the most accurate and up-to-date information on the application and admissions process.  You will find interviews and/or blogs by current students and practitioners, information (and in the case of the AAMC, a full set of study tutorials) on any admissions exams.  Many sites provide extended information on financing your professional education, and links to professional schools around the country.  These will be sites you will visit often.

 

What other Villanova resources will be useful to me?

The HPA Blackboard site will be a tremendous resource.  Enrollment will put you on a listserv to alert you to all health professions-related events happening on campus, including visits by admissions representatives from professional schools, networking opportunities with alumni currently practicing in health professions, workshops on the application process, and many other important goings on.  Blackboard is also where we store customized advising booklets with course recommendations, documents to help you organize for the application process, portals for the submission of documents for your application (including committee letter), and other critical tools.  We also recommend checking our social media sites for events and other information of interest.

As a Villanova alum, you have access to the services offered by the Career Center, which include help with your resume, personal statement, and interviewing skills.  This office will be a tremendous asset in your journey.  Connect with them early!

 

What about the application process?

As a Villanova alum, you have the support of the Health Professions Advising Office in your application preparation.  Make sure you are on our listserv to receive notification about information sessions central to the application process.  You should plan to attend sessions on  Assessing Readiness, How to Use Radius, Letters of Evaluation and the Committee Letter Process, as well as sessions on interviewing and on writing the personal statement.  Admissions representatives from a host of professional schools visit campus specifically to speak with our students.  You should take the opportunity to hear them and to ask your questions.  Be mindful of the fact that application to most schools is done at least a year in advance of anticipated matriculation.  This means that you should be attending preparatory sessions two years before your anticipated enrollment.  Meet with a Health Professions Advisor early to discuss your timeline.

 

Helpful links:

Immerse yourself in health care situations:  (sort by geography)

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/public-health-pathways/

How to find health care opportunities:

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/preparing-med-school/getting-experience/

 

Health Professions websites:

http://www.aacom.org (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine – DO)

https://www.aamc.org  (Association of American Medical Colleges -- MD)

https://www.aapa.org  (American Academy of Physician Assistants)

http://www.aavmc.org  (American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges)

http://www.adea.org  (American Dental Education Association)

http://www.aota.org  (American Occupational Therapy Association)

https://www.apta.org (American Physical Therapy Association)

http://www.opted.org   (Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry)

http://www.pharmcas.org   (Pharmacy College Application Service)

How does Villanova help prepare students for health professions careers?

Health professions graduate programs no longer focus exclusively on grades and exam scores in making admissions decisions.  Candidates must present portfolios of experiences demonstrating that they have engaged in thoughtful reflection and examination of themselves and their intended professions to make sure they have found a good fit.  They will need to show they have developed the characteristics it takes to be a skilled health professional:  an understanding of ethics, an appreciation and respect for diversity, a drive to help others, resilience in the face of challenge, an ability to function as part of a team, among other skills.  At Villanova, students are fortunate to have the opportunity to develop many of these skills on campus: through coursework in ethics, peace and justice, intergroup relations (COM 5300), as well as through the service-learning classes that integrate theory with experience.  The undergraduate core requirement is made up largely of courses in the humanities and social sciences, requiring a large amount of critical thinking and writing.  This will be helpful as students approach the new MCAT, with its expanded critical analysis and reasoning section.

Villanova also boasts a rich and varied campus life, providing avenues for students to explore new interests and develop continuing ones.  Clubs and co-curricular organizations run the gamut from Peace & Justice Organizations to Honor Societies to Service Organizations, and include sports and academic clubs, cultural associations, and much more [https://vugroups.collegiatelink.net/organizations ]. 

Our multiple, specialized pre-health professions clubs provide networking, leadership, and peer support opportunities throughout the year, in addition to profession-specific programming.  Currently we have the following pre-health clubs on campus:  Pre-Medical Club, Pre-Dental Student Association, Pre-PA Club, SPOTS (Speech, Physical, and Occupational Therapy Society), Pre-Optometry Club, Pre-Veterinary Club, Scientista Foundation (Women in Science and Engineering), and MAPS (Minority Association of Pre-Health Students).  We are also home to one of the oldest chapters of Alpha Epsilon Delta (the national premed honor society).

 

What about advising?

Villanova health professions students have at least two advisors.  They have an academic advisor who helps with core requirements and major, and a health professions advisor, who helps them work towards their professional goal.  We will help with course planning and provide advice in such areas as professional development, extracurricular activities, the timing of professional exams (MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc.), and all aspects of the application.  Our office keeps a store of information on enrichment opportunities on and off campus, including alumni contacts for shadowing opportunities, information on summer opportunities, brochures from particular professional schools, and much more.  Students may work with a health professions advisor from the moment they arrive on campus, through the application process to professional schools.  Our services are available to all enrolled Villanova students.  We do not screen or select students for services.

 

How can I best help my student?

The adjustment to college life can be stressful for students.  In addition, many students find the science courses required for health professions to be particularly challenging.  Even students who excelled at science in high school sometimes find the adjustment to be more than they expected.  This is not unusual.  Expectations in college courses are higher, the workload is different, and it can take students a while to adjust.  Students also need to make the adjustment from being a top student at their high school to being one of a class full of top students.  You can help by encouraging your students to see faculty when they have questions, and to make good use of the many tutoring and homework help services available at different sites on campus.  Falvey Library houses the university’s Learning Support Services, which provides learning and study skills resources to students in the form of workshops, study groups, and help sessions.  For students who may find personal issues interfering with their studying, there is the Counseling Center, which is housed in the Health Services Building.  And, of course, you can encourage them to keep in contact with their advisors and their residence life staff.

 

My student said something about taking a glide year or two before starting medical school.  I thought that was something only weaker students did.  Don't medical schools wonder about that?  Won't my student be at a disadvantage?

Students apply to professional school in the summer for admission August of the following year.  That means that if they want to go directly after college graduation, they need to apply at the end of junior year.  Over the past generation there has been a shift.  More and more students are choosing to wait to apply until the end of senior year, or even later.  At this point in time, the median age of first-year medical students is 24.  The average age is slightly higher.  This trend holds at the other health professions schools as well.  There are many reasons for this shift.  Medical school admissions has become much more holistic.  The expectation that students will have accomplished significant self-exploration through meaningful health-care and service experience, along with additional course requirements, have made fitting everything into three years much more challenging.  Many students come to the conclusion that doing so diminishes their college experience.  Another advantage to waiting is the ability to present a full four-year transcript, with capstone projects, special honors and accolades usually reserved for seniors, and an extra years' worth of upper-level coursework and grades.  Furthermore, the longer plan allows freshmen time to adapt to college without overloading their schedule, thereby building a stronger foundation for upper level coursework.  Finally, the prehealth experience is intense.  Health professional school is even more intense.  Many students relish the prospect of having a year or two to dive into something different -- service, a research opportunity, a chance to work and save some money, any number of projects -- before settling in to the long commitment that is medical school (or dental school, or veterinary school, etc).  From the medical schools' perspective, they place a high value on maturity, and are less impressed with speed of students’ arrival than quality of their preparation.   However students who feel a certainty about their direction, and enter with strong science and math backgrounds, should feel reassured that Villanova students who have applied to professional schools at the end of their junior year with robust portfolios have had an excellent acceptance rate.  The timeline decision should reflect the student’s interests while also producing the best portfolio to share with the professional schools.

 

I have heard that there are multiple clubs and series of health professions-themed events on campus.  Is there a way for me to keep informed as well?

Absolutely!  There are many events throughout the year, some sponsored by the Health Professions Advising Office, some sponsored by one of the many student clubs, and some sponsored by groups with overlapping interest, like the Bridge Society career networking events, or the Science Friday talks, both sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Our Alumni Forum draws on our network of accomplished alumni who are pleased to return to campus and share their wisdom with current students.  The regular HPA Information Sessions include visits by admissions officers from professional schools, representatives from the armed forces (including information on fully funded scholarships), as well as sessions on such pertinent topics as interviewing, writing the personal statement, assessing readiness to apply, and gathering letters of recommendation.  An updated calendar is kept on the webpage.  You can also friend us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.  Students should self-enroll in the HPA Blackboard site, for access to event and other important student-specific health professions information.

Contact Information

Health Professions Advising

Mendel Hall, Room 143
Phone: (610) 519-4833
Fax: (610) 519-8042
Email: hpa@villanova.edu

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