While some of the activities usually associated with Health Professions career exploration and preparation are on hold during the COVID-19 Pandemic (e.g., shadowing and clinical experiences), the PreMedical and PreDental Advising Office staff would like to remind students that preparing to apply to a Health Professional program is a process with many dimensions. Below are our recommendations for making the most of the current situation!
Take time to reflect on your experiences and circumstances during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Individual Professional programs, as well as centralized application services, are making plans to include ways for applicants to convey the challenges and opportunities that living through this pandemic created in their lives. To prepare for these questions in current and future application cycles, the PreMedical and PreDental Advising Office encourages students at all stages of Health Profession career preparation to take some time to reflect on the following:
- Academic impact:
- How were you affected by the shift to online-only instruction?
- Were there resources or support that you lost or had reduced access to during this time?
- Did you discover new sources of assistance and/or support?
- Did you face technology challenges?
- Were there courses or subjects that you found easier after moving to an online environment?
- Professional impact:
- How has this experience affected your perception of your intended field and your future role within that field?
- Did you have a clinical or shadowing experience cancelled or cut short by COVID closures?
- Did you serve as a health-related essential worker during COVID-19 closures (e.g., worked as an EMT or CNA, or as support staff in a medical facility)
- Did you serve as a non-health essential worker during COVID-19 closures?
- Did you serve in a leadership role? (this includes student orgs, tutoring, LA/TA, etc.) How did your role and/or responsibilities change through this time?
- Did you develop any new skills or hobbies? If so, how might that new knowledge or skill be useful in your chosen career path?
- Personal impact:
- What personal attributes helped you adjust to your circumstances?
- Did you experience severe illness yourself?
- Were you required to provide care (COVID-related or otherwise) for someone else whose care is not typically part of your responsibilities?
- Did you lose a job or have to search for a job?
- Did you suffer homelessness and/or food insecurity as a result of COVID-19 closures?
- Was your residence/housing situation during stay-at-home orders/quarantine significantly different from your norm?
- Did stay-at-home orders/quarantine affect your relationships with others, either positively or negatively?
Record your reflections in a way that’s meaningful for you – a paper or electronic journal, a vlog or other video format, whatever you are most comfortable with. You want to be able to capture these reflections in the moment, and have the ability to return to them when the time comes for you to apply to specialized internship/research opportunities, post-bacc or graduate programs, and, ultimately, Professional School.
Seek out Service Opportunities
Remember: You don’t have to choose health-related venues to demonstrate your commitment to improving your community and the lives of the people (and animals!) who live there.
- Volunteer your time through a religious community or civic organization, if you belong to one
- Collect, pack, and/or deliver food with a local food pantry
- Tutor others online for subjects in which you have expertise
The Shriver Center is a wonderful resource for UMBC students wishing to find service learning opportunities. They are working to create opportunities that benefit both students and the community, while keeping COVID-19 risks low. If there isn’t an opportunity that seems appealing to you right away, keep checking back!
The Professional School entrance exam section that is often the most challenging for UMBC students is the section of the exam that tests Verbal Reasoning. This is the term used on the GRE – on the MCAT, it’s known as Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS), and on the OAT and DAT, it appears as Reading Comprehension.
These sections often draw their sample passages from the humanities and social sciences, so they may contain vocabulary or references that STEM-focused students have not encountered on a regular basis. Unlike the science-oriented sections of your entrance exam, you will not be expected to have any prior knowledge of the material that appears in a Verbal Reasoning section. You will, however, be expected to extract information and analyze passages of the text based on what you are given. Having familiarity with a wide range of writing styles and formats can be advantageous for students preparing for this section.
What should you read? ANYTHING. If you’re not sure where to start, consider:
- biographies/autobiographies of health professionals of any kind
- newspapers or other current-event-type publications
- literary works from countries and cultures other than those which you have experienced
Don’t be afraid to keep a running list of unfamiliar words and phrases to help you expand your vocabulary. Think critically about the texts. Health professionals must be able to gather data in complex situations, analyze that data, consider the evidence, and decide on a course of action. Analyzing stories is an excellent way to build the abstract thinking skills that will be required of you in your field.
Consider when and where a book was written and the cultural context of that time and place. What themes can you find in the story? How does the author use images and word choice to convey meaning? Think not just about what is said, but how it’s said. If you need some prepared questions to help you think more critically about a text, the discussion questions that can be found in the American Library Association’s Quick Start Guide for Book Discussion Groups or the SparkNotes literature site might provide just what you need!