Podiatry schools seek students who they believe will make a good medical student and more importantly, a competent, caring DPM. There is a huge investment made by the medical school in the training of a physician and consequently decisions are made very carefully, using information from a variety of sources including: undergraduate GPA, science GPA, MCAT score, letter(s) of evaluation, personal statement, health related experience, research experience, and the interview. These factors are assessed by the admissions committee, usually appointed by the Dean of the Podiatry School, that typically include faculty from both basic and clinical science departments, full-time admissions staff and 3rd/4rth year podiatry students.
The Evaluation Process-
Admission committees strive for objectivity in their decision making. Podiatry schools are looking for students who present evidence of strong intellectual ability, a record of accomplishments, and personal traits indicative of the ability to communicate and relate to patients in a realistic and compassionate manner. The five most important factors used in making the decision are:
1) undergraduate academic record- Studies indicate that the best single predictor of success in the basic science classes in podiatry school is the quality of work in subjects leading to the baccalaureate degree. It is evidence of your motivation and ability. The academic record includes the overall GPA, science GPA, performance in some individual courses, and the overall trend. For instance, a poor freshmen year followed by improvements over the next 2 years may be somewhat overlooked, whereas a declining record may not be. The difficulty of your chosen curriculum is also noted. If you consistently take the path of least resistence and avoid the tough classes, this will negatively impact your record.
2) MCAT score - The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is also a very important indicator used by admissions committees. National standardized tests, like them or not, are a fact of life in medical school and beyond (eg. "the boards"). There is a high correlation between MCAT scores and board exam scores. MCAT scores have also been shown to be good predictors of academic success in basic science courses. Some schools may accept the GRE or DAT in lieu of the MCAT. Check with the individual schools that you are applying to.
3) letter of evaluation - At WKU a single committee letter is sent to the admission committee, composed by your pre-med advisor (committee chairperson) with input from two other individuals (eg. faculty from which you have taken a class or done research with). The letter is written following a meeting (interview) with each member of the committee. Many students find this helpful, serving as a practice interview for your podiatry school interviews.
4) personal statement (essay) - The application form includes a one page essay on a topic of your choosing. This can be a very difficult and introspective part of the process. This is the student's opportunity to really let the admission committee know who you are, to focus on your special strengths that you feel you can offer the profession. After all, you want to somehow distinguish yourself from all the other applicants with good grades and high test scores. What interesting experiences or skills do you possess? What interesting personal anecdotes can you relate that illustrate these experiences, skills, or traits ? Be yourself and write about your best points. Be prepared to discuss these points at your interview.
5) impression made in the interview- interviewers will evaluate the student candidate according to: a.) maturity and sense of responsibilty; b.) interpersonal skills; and c.) motivation for seeking admission . Once an interview is scheduled, students may take advantage of a mock interview conducted by the staff of the South Central KY AHEC on Western's campus. The AHEC office can be reached by calling 745-3325.
Extracurricular activities are important in that they are indications that you can juggle a rigorous curriculum and still participate in outside activities be they work, volunteer experience, or research experience. The level of your participation is more important than the number and diversity of your activities. It is better to be immersed in one or two activities, and achieve increased levels of responsibility and leadership than to gain a shallow experience in a half a dozen arenas. It is important to realize that time spent outside of your academic pursuits is not a substitution for a modest academic record. It may instead be an indication of poor judgement, poor time management or skewed priorities. If your time spent in extracurricular activities is negatively impacting your coursework, you would be best advised to scale it back a bit.
Health Related Experience- It is crucial that you gain some experience in a health related activity. Whether you volunteer in a hospital, clinic, physician's office, podiatrist's office, hospice or nursing home, this activity will serve three important purposes. First, it will help you clarify your decision to pursue a career in medicine. You may find out that being around sick and dying people makes you uncomfortable, that it is too stressful, or that you faint at the sight of blood or would never be able to perform routine procedures. Better to find this out now than after you get to podiatry school. Second, admissions committees view this as a sign of your dedication and motivation to a career in medicine and service to your community. It will show that you have tested your career choice and have reinforced your commitment. Third, it will give you experiences to draw on for your personal statement and interview. While arranging volunteer/shadowing experiences is completely the responsibility of the student, information on willing physicians/agencies/hospital contacts can be obtained from the South Central AHEC on Western's campus (745-3325). The AACPM also has a mentorship program. To find a mentor go to their web-site.
Research Experience- While performing biological research has its own intrinsic rewards (a deeper understanding of concepts, personal satisfaction, development of problem solving skills, exploration of the unknown, etc.), it also is an important extracurricular activity to admissions committees, particularly those schools where academic medicine and biomedical research are stressed.