Selecting Graduate Programs in Health Professions

It is critical that you select the right program and the right institution for your graduate studies. Even though health professions schools in any particular discipline all meet a common, rigorous standard of preparing qualified graduates to become licensed practitioners, individual programs can be very different -- in their philosophies, faculties, curricula, and the type of students they attract. Consequently, selecting the "best" health professions school for you can be very challenging. Finding the program that is right for you requires careful study and attention to a wide variety of determining factors. While you may have some particular preferences that will limit the institutions you wish to consider (e.g., geographic location), there are many other criteria that you need to factor into your decision.

A list of some of the factors to consider while choosing a school in the health professions includes:

Selection factors. What are the mean GPA and test scores of a school’s matriculants? What emphasis is placed on research and clinical experience of applicants? What are the demographics of the applicant pool?

Reputation. How well do graduates fare on licensing exams? Where do they get residencies, fellowships, and jobs?

Curriculum. Does the curriculum focus on primary care or specialty areas? Does the school use a discipline-based or system-based approach? Lecture-based or problem-based? Do students take single intensive classes for short periods, or multiple classes spread over longer periods? What is the grading system?

Citizenship. What are in-state vs. out-of-state ratios? Does the school accept international students and if so, does it provide them access to financial aid?

Student Profile. What is total enrollment? Diversity? Male-female ratio? What is the learning atmosphere like? Where do students go upon graduation?

Research & Clinical Opportunities. When in your training will clinical exposure begin? Is the school affiliated with (and co-located with) a research university, teaching hospital, or other facility? What opportunities are afforded students? Does the school offer combined degrees?

Location. Is the school urban or rural in location? What is cost of living? Does the location support your cultural/social/lifestyle needs? What is the school’s proximity to your support network?

Finances. What does the program cost? Can you afford it? What kind of financial aid is available to you? Financial aid is largely school-specific so you need to check with each school to determine what help, if any, they will offer.

Talk to People. Consult with practitioners you know, your internship sponsors, members of the Committee on the Health Professions, other students who have been through the process, and the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Association.