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Prehealth Advising

Applying to Programs

Getting Ready to Apply?

Below is an overview of our portfolio and comprehensive review (formerly comprehensive interview) process. If you have any additional questions after reviewing this material, please schedule an appointment with a Prehealth Adviser.

Information for Applicants

Information for Applicants

Click titles below for more details.

 The Intent to Apply form indicates that you are planning on applying to professional school in the upcoming cycle (2024-2025). On this form you will identify your applicant type (first type/reapplicant); your previous experiences with Prehealth advising; and rank your preparation in seven common areas of your application.

After submitting the Intent to Apply form, you will be added to the 2025 Health Professions Portfolio Canvas Page. Alumni can reactivate their access account here.

The Intent to Apply Form will open for 2025 matriculation on August 31st.

Click Here to fill out the Intent to Apply Form

The Health Professions Portfolio is a mock application document organized in a way include the components of the real application systems (AMCAS, AACOMAS, AADSAS, CASPA, OptomCAS, AACPMAS). These components include organizing biographic information, calculating your GPA, test preparation, developing a school list, including your experiences and descriptions, and your personal statement. All students applying to profession programs should use the portfolio. It is designed to get students to work on their application materials before they apply so they can put forward an early and a competitive application. The materials are drafts and by no means are finalized.  

The Health Professions Portfolio is available to students during what we refer to as their “application year”. This typically begins in late August/early September with the Application Year Overview session and launch of the Intent to Apply form. Students who complete the form will be added to the Health Professions Portfolio canvas page. The 2025 Health Professions Portfolio will officially be released on October 3rd. 

The Comprehensive Review (formerly comprehensive interview) is an in-depth review of your application materials included in the Health Professions portfolio. These are only available for students applying to medical, dental, optometry, or podiatry programs. These 90-minute sessions include enhanced advising to help students put together a cohesive and early application to their health profession program. Students can complete follow up advising appointments to get feedback on their materials as they update them before submitting, as well as application year coaching through secondary essays and interviewing season. 

The Prehealth Advising team strongly recommends that all candidates to these programs complete a comprehensive interview. It is an expectation from many health professions programs that students utilize the services available. Much like the intent to apply form, completing a comprehensive interview does not commit you to applying. In fact, nearly 25% of students who interview opt to take additional time for various reasons.

For the last several years, candidates who complete a Comprehensive Review have significantly higher acceptance rates to medical and dental programs. The feedback can be incredibly valuable on when to apply, where to apply, and how to structure a cohesive application. For students matriculating to medical school in 2023, students who completed a comprehensive review and applied had a 77% acceptance rate, 28% higher than students who did not interview. For dental students, interviewed students had a 79% acceptance rate, 17% higher than students who did not interview.

What is a Letter Packet?

Prehealth Advising at Penn State utilizes a Letter Packet service. We do not offer committee letters. The letter packet is a collection of up to six letters of recommendation and is used for medical, dental, optometry, and podiatry programs. Each packet contains a cover letter written by our office providing context to candidates from Penn State. Physician Assistant programs do not accept letter packets. The Prehealth Advising team strongly recommends that all candidates to these programs use the letter packet. It is an expectation from many health professions programs that students utilize the services available.

What are the benefits to using the Letter Packet?

In addition to securely storing and verifying letters, students who utilize the letter packet service have significantly more successful cycles. Students who used a letter packet and applied to medical school last year had a 69% acceptance rate, 25% higher than those who did not. Our new Letter Packet service can store your letters for multiple years if you plan on not applying or end up needing to reapply.

How do I initiate a Letter Packet account?

Following the Portfolio Overview on October 3rd, students applying to medical, dental, optometry, or podiatry programs will be able to request access to this service by signing the FERPA release form and paying the corresponding account fee. The fee for this service is $50.  Students who demonstrate financial need may request an evaluation for a waiver from the Prehealth Advisers. If your fee has not been paid or waived, we will not be able to release your letter packet to the application services.  

You do not need letters of recommendation for a comprehensive interview or to submit your primary application.

Reapplicants should complete the "Reapplicants Only" section of the portfolio. For the first portion of the Comprehensive Review, we will discuss your prior application and your portfolio. We will then conduct the remainder of the interview. 

For Reapplicants needing to access the Letter Packet service:

Complete FERPA waiver (gives permission to collect, review, and release letters) and pay for the letter packet service. 

Please be sure to enter your name and the cardholder's name accurately, especially if you are using a credit card that does not match your name. This allows us to match your name to your payment and prevents delays.  Note: only VISA or Mastercard are accepted.

Timeline for Penn State Applicants* to Medical, Dental, Podiatry and Optometry Programs


Internal Timeline

• September 21, 2022 – Application Year Kickoff Event and Intent to Apply Form Submission Opens 

• October 2, 2022 – veCollect Opens - see Applicant Guide for full details

• November 1, 2022 – Physician Assistant/Associate (PA) Personal Statement Review Opens

• January 3, 2023 – Comprehensive Interview Scheduling Opens*

• June 15, 2023 – Comprehensive Interview Scheduling Closes at 5PM*

• July 14, 2023 – No Comprehensive Interviews scheduled beyond this date.

• September 1, 2023 – veCollect Closes for new requests, File migration begins**

• September 30, 2023 – veCollect Closes for 2023-2024 application year**


*Rolling Interview Cycle: The requirements for scheduling this interview are located in Canvas. 

**all letters from veCollect moved to our internal server.


Timelines for Application Systems

• April 30 – CASPA opens


• June – OPTOMCAS Opens

• July – AACPMAS Opens

 Timeline Milestones for Medical/Dental/Optometry/Podiatry Candidates


August 31, 2023              -              Application Year Overview Group Advising Session
September 7, 2023          -             Gap Year Group Advising Session
October 3, 2023               -              Health Professions Portfolio Kickoff Group Advising Session / Workshop
October 3, 2023               -              Comprehensive Interview Scheduling Opens
October 3, 2023               -              Letter Packet System (veCollect) Opens
November 15, 2023        -              Personal Statement Group Advising Session / Workshop
January 2024                    -              Comprehensive Interviews Begin
June 30, 2024                    -              Comprehensive Interviews End
September 1, 2024          -              veCollect Closes for New Requests
Mid-September 2024      -              veCollect Closes for 2025 application year

 Timeline Milestones for Physician Assistant Candidates

August 31, 2023              -              Application Year Overview Group Advising Session
September 7, 2023          -             Gap Year Group Advising Session
October 3, 2023               -             Health Professions Portfolio Kickoff Group Advising Session / Workshop
November 15, 2023        -              Personal Statement Group Advising Session / Workshop
November 2023               -             Personal Statement Reviews (Health Professions Portfolio Page)



Timelines for Application Systems

• April – CASPA opens


• June – OptomCAS Opens

• August – AACPMAS Opens

Cover Letters and Letter Packets are not accepted to PA, Pharmacy and Public Health Programs*. Applicants should request letters of recommendation from individual evaluators. We encourage students in these areas to schedule advising appointments to review their application materials with a Prehealth Adviser.

Additionally, we encourage all applicants to join our Applicant Networking Canvas page for more resources and faster responses to questions you may have. This page has resources for applicants to many health professions programs. 

*The Prehealth Advising Office does not currently have the capacity to offer Comprehensive Interviews for these applicants, but is working toward this in the future.