Prepare to Apply

Here we’ll offer guidance on how to approach the common components of all health school applications.  For application process and timeline information specific to your profession of interest, click on the appropriate profession in the menu on the top of the page.

For guidance on how to become a strong candidate before entering the application process, refer to the Pre-Health at UCLA Checklist.

The Year Before You Plan to Attend Health School

  • Gather Letters of Recommendation.
  • Continue with your volunteer, work or research activities.  Seek out opportunities to develop your leadership skills by initiating new ideas, programs, and leading others toward a common goal.
  • Prepare for the entrance exam (varies by profession).
  • Attend relevant pre-health events including pre-health workshops, Information Sessions and the Health School Fair (April) to meet representatives from your schools of interest. Follow @PreHealthUCLA on Facebook and check Handshake for details.
  • Determine each school’s prerequisites.  If you need help with your academic planning, meet with an academic advisor.
  • Order and collect official transcripts from ALL colleges and universities that you have attended.
  • Begin writing your personal statement.

Application Process

Expand the following sections for helpful guidance regarding the common components of the application process.  Some sections are currently under construction.

How to Prepare for an Entrance Exam

View “Med Mentor Mondays: Crucial Tips to Ace the MCAT

Hear the perspectives of the Med Mentors at UCLA, medical students at David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) at UCLA, about effective MCAT study strategies.

How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation

Asking for Letters of Recommendation

Before You Ask

  • Make sure to have all the proper forms required for the school, program, or award.
  • Draft a list of your accomplishments, achievements or personal characteristics that you would like the letter writer to address.
  • Update and revise your resume, as it pertains to the current goal.
  • Draft a personal statement or brief explanation of why you are applying to this program and school.

Whom Should You Ask?

Professors who have taught you, supervisors, advisors who know you very well, person in the profession whom you have shadowed or with whom you’ve worked. Letters of recommendation should not be written by relatives, friends, roommates, or anyone who does not know you well enough to write a strong and personalized letter.

When determining whether or not to ask someone to write a letter, you should be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Can they speak to my strengths within the scope of our relationship?  (i.e., Can a professor speak to your academic, writing, research, and/or critical thinking skills?  Can a practitioner whom you’ve shadowed speak to your professionalism, curiosity, commitment to the profession, other attributes that would make you a successful practitioner?)
  • Have I performed well in the capacity in which they know me? (i.e., Did you receive good grades in a professor’s course?  Did you meet or exceed expectations as an intern or volunteer?)

How to Ask

  • Send an e-mail, follow up with a phone call
  • Go to office hours or schedule an appointment
  • Ask if there is anything the letter writer would like you to bring (resume, copy of paper, list of achievements, personal statement, etc.)

What to Bring

  • Your letter to the author, explaining what the letter is for and thanking them for their time
  • Copy of targeted resume
  • List of accomplishments, skills or personal characteristics you’d like the author to address
  • Confidentiality Waiver
  • Additional forms required (if any)

If you are not using an electronic filing service (such as Interfolio) and are requesting the author to mail the letters directly to the schools, provide stamped, addressed envelopes.

When to Ask

  • At least 2 months before the deadline, but earlier is better.
  • Let them know what the deadline is and exactly how to submit the letter.
  • Try to avoid high traffic times for requesting letters (late Fall Quarter and late Spring Quarter) or times when professors/staff may be leaving for summer or winter breaks.
  • START EARLY – Make it a point to start building relationships with professors, supervisors, mentors and professionals as early as possible.


  • If you have not heard from the letter writer, send a friendly reminder one week prior to the deadline (e-mail or phone call).
  • Send a thank you letter after they have submitted the letter (or as part of your gentle reminder)
  • Inform the writer of the outcome of your application, once complete.

For more information regarding Graduate and Professional School, download Chapter 4 of the UCLA Career Guide.

How to Write Your Personal Statement

Writing Your Personal Statement

Graduate programs may ask you to submit a Personal Statement, a Statement of Purpose, or both. Both documents are opportunities to set yourself apart and demonstrate what makes you unique from other applicants who may have similar grades, scores, and extracurricular experiences. There are some key differences between a Personal Statement and a Statement of Purpose.

Personal Statement

  • Storytelling of experiences related to who you are & how they shaped your interest in the field.
  • Tell a Story: For personal statements, engage the reader, use a writing style that is fresh and active. Don’t be afraid to use dialogue and descriptive language. Back up statements with examples and details.
  • Have an Angle: Even if your life has been less than dramatic, you still have a story to tell. The best approach to the “angle” is to find a theme than can unify all of your paragraphs.
  • Pay Special Attention to Your “Lead”:  In the first paragraph, you will either grab attention or you will lose it. Use the lead to set the tone and direction for the statement. Note: the lead can, but does not have to be an attention grabbing story. The goal of the lead is for the readers to know who you are and what your goal is by the end of the first paragraph.

Statement of Purpose

  • Focuses on your reasons for applying; include professional & intellectual & research interests and the expertise you have gained
  • Show That You Know Something: The main section explains what you know and who you are. Show knowledge of your field (e.g., a specific research focus) or your profession. Show how you will impact the field, or what has impacted you in the pursuit of your field.
  • Focus on Your Specific Research or Professional Interests Within a Particular Field: Detail how your academic and professional experiences have developed those research or professional interests and prepared you to pursue them at a higher academic level. Include courses, experts whose work you admire or aligns with your interests, and factors such as internship opportunities or opportunities provided by the school’s location.
  • Your Research Interests & the Program: Explain how your research interests can be pursued at this particular institution in this particular program.

Tips for the Writing Process:
* Remember that the personal statement should be personal. Use this opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Who are you? How is your story different from others?
* Avoid repeating information they already know from your application or resume.
* Start several months before the application is due so you have time to write multiple drafts.
* Have multiple people read it and offer their feedback. Since there is no objective “right” or “wrong” way to write a statement, it will beneficial to hear the perspectives of various people.

View the “Anatomy of a Personal Statement” Webinar (Winter 2020)

Hosted by the UCLA Career Center.  Presented by Dr. Shirag Shemassian of Shemassian Consulting.

The content is relevant for personal statements for any type of health professional school, though the examples are targeted toward medical school.  The recording starts abruptly a few minutes into the presentation.  Stay tuned after the presentation for a live audience Q&A regarding various aspects of the application process.

Where can I get assistance with writing my Personal Statement?

The Undergraduate Writing Center can give feedback on your writing, including grammar and syntax.  For feedback on content, schedule Pre-Health Advising appointment at the UCLA Career Center.  In addition, the UCLA Career Center has books on the subject and often offers workshops as well.

Each April-September medical students at David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) at UCLA review students’ medical school personal statements via the Application Essay Feedback Initiative (AEFI).  Details will be posted here and on the Pre-Health at UCLA Facebook page on an annual basis once the program is launched.

We recommend getting feedback from as many people as possible as there is no objective “right” way to write a personal statement.  You may consider asking for feedback from professors, TA’s, mentors, healthcare professionals, relatives, and peers.

For more information regarding Graduate and Professional School, download Chapter 4 of the UCLA Career Guide.

How to Prepare for the Interview

View “Med Mentor Mondays: Medical School Interviews” (Summer 2020)

Hear the perspectives of the Med Mentors at UCLA, medical students at David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) at UCLA, about preparing for and putting your best foot forward during medical school interviews.

How to Choose Schools & Programs

View “Med Mentor Mondays: Where Should I Apply?”

Hear the perspectives of the Med Mentors at UCLA, medical students at David Geffen School of Medicine (DGSOM) at UCLA, about how to decide which programs to apply to.

See this helpful resource: AMCAS Choose Your Medical School Tool

From The AAMC American Medical College Application Service®