Spring 2020–Covid-19-related FAQs [updated 5/20/20]
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We hope you are doing well and acclimating to our new normal.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced significant changes to nearly all aspects of our lives. We’ve heard from many of you with questions and concerns about how the pandemic will impact your medical or dental school plans and preparations. Please know that you are not alone in those feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.
We invite you to send us your questions so we can address them in an FAQ we are developing for you about COVID-19 impacts to the professional school application process. We will continue to update that FAQ as your questions come in and as additional information becomes available from the official organizations (AAMC, AACOM, ADEA, etc.). If you have a question, it is likely that many of your fellow students also have that question.
Please submit your questions via this link.
Whatever you are feeling at the moment is valid. Please know that while we are not on campus, we are here for you and will help you through this process.
Caroline McGuire, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Enrichment Programs
Director, Office of Undergraduate Research
Q1: Which professional schools are accepting P/F credit for the Spring 2020 semester?
AACOM (AACOMAS) and the Texas Health Education Service (TMDSAS) have been uniform in their response that all member institutions will accept P/F credit for the Spring 2020 semester.
Other health professional associations, including the AAMC (AMCAS), ADEA (AADSAS), PAEA (CASPA), and ASCO (OPTOMCAS) continue to determine their own individual policies. We encourage you to check the links below and the MSAR (MD applicants) on a regular basis for the most comprehensive listing of individual policies we have found so far. Note that while many MD programs in particular are demonstrating increased flexibility in accepting P/F for this semester, others have indicated that they will either A) only accept P/F if your undergraduate institution made it a mandatory policy, or B) still prefer letter grades. Individual schools are also continuing to adapt their policies as circumstances evolve—some that began with stricter policies have now taken a more flexible approach.
There is unfortunately no single, clear-cut answer about whether you should place your pre-req course on P/F. There is no doubt that keeping a letter grade is the choice that preserves the greatest number of future application options, but we understand that current circumstances have resulted in study environments conducive to academic success in varying degrees. In addition to the types of institutions and individual schools to which you are considering applying, some factors to consider include whether you have done well in courses in the same academic discipline in the past, whether it is your first time taking a course or a repeated effort, and what your projected grade is for the course. If you are in danger of failing or receiving a D, it is probably a better idea to take a W for the course. We may also have an opportunity to note your individual circumstances and rationale for your decision within our composite letter, but how that will be interpreted is up to each individual school’s discretion. At the very least, even if certain schools have stringent policies requiring letter grades, many other schools have moved towards a competency-based admissions process in recent years (meaning they do not require specific coursework requirements from the start) where applicants without letter grades will always be eligible to apply. Students are welcome to email us to discuss their individual circumstances as needed.
- AACOM/AACOMAS: Statement; Covid-19 updates
- Texas Health Education Service/TMDSAS: Statement & Covid-19 updates
- AAMC/AMCAS: MSAR Admissions Policies & Information; Resource hub; Covid-19 updates
- ADEA/AADSAS: Covid-19 updates
- PAEA/CASPA: Covid-19 updates
- ASCO/OPTOMCAS: Covid-19 updates
- Centralized Application Service (CAS): Covid-19 updates
P/F policies compiled through NAAHP emailing thread (updated by schools in real time):
- AAMC/AMCAS: US Medical School Pass/No Pass Pandemic Policy
- ADEA/AADSAS: US Dental Schools – COVID-19 P_F Policies
- PAEA/CASPA: US PA Schools – COVID-19 P_F Policies
- ASCO/OPTOMCAS resources: US Optometry Schools – COVID-19 P_F Policies
Q2: How will P/F be viewed for other upper-division science courses or gen-eds that are not formal pre-reqs?
We have not heard any evidence that placing additional upper-division courses or gen-eds on P/F will be detrimental to your application. If you are doing well in the course, however, we encourage you to leave the course on a letter grade so that it will be factored into your cumulative and/or science GPA by the relevant application service(s).
Q3: I’m thinking of taking a pre-req in an online format this summer. What do you suggest?
Not all health professional schools are on board with online learning in general (apart from Spring 2020 when it is unavoidable and not a reflection on you), especially regarding your core science pre-reqs. In addition, many schools feel that the condensed time nature of a summer course does not provide you with the same long-term preparation as a semester-long course. At this time, we do not recommend taking a core pre-req online this summer when you have the option to take it later in-person during a regular semester. Individual circumstances may vary, however, and we encourage you to contact us if you have financial or other extenuating circumstances to consider.
Q4: My summer clinical/research/volunteer plans have been cancelled. How will this affect me?
Schools have largely indicated that they are aware of the circumstances and will be demonstrating added flexibility in terms of missed experiences during these months. AACOMAS, as well as many individual schools, have also indicated that they will be adding a “How has Covid-19 affected your application plans?” type question to either the primary application or secondary applications over the next few application cycles in order to provide you with a forum to discuss how the pandemic has affected you.
For a compilation of some crowdsourced ideas by health professional advisors across the country about what you can be doing in the meantime, see Pre-Health Opportunities during the Pandemic–Ideas Summary.
Q5: Have any schools changed their application dates or deadlines for the 2021 cycle?
As of 5/20/20, no application services have indicated any delays in their application opening dates. Across-the-board extensions we are aware of include the following:
- AADSAS will open for primary application submissions now on 6/16/20
- AMCAS will begin sending verified applications to individual schools now on 7/10/20
- TMDSAS has extended its application deadline until 10/30/20
Please check individual school websites for their deadlines as most programs determine their own dates.
Q6: My exam dates have been cancelled and I could not find another date until later in the summer. What should I do?
As of 5/20/20, all MCAT administrations through 5/21/20 have been canceled. Three new dates have been added to the calendar (6/28/20, 9/28/20, 9/29/20) and registration reopened on 5/7/20. DAT/OAT administrations resumed in a limited capacity on 5/1/20 in the U.S. and Canada.
Health professional schools are aware of the challenges that applicants are facing this cycle and the frustration of not being able to sit for their exams as planned. Consequently, for the 2021 cycle, more and more schools have been indicating that they will conduct holistic review of applications and even interview applicants without standardized testing scores on hand initially, following up on scores later in the year. This trend was largely spurred by the “Joint Statement from the Admissions Deans of California Medical Schools Regarding Academic Work and MCAT Tests that are Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak.” Many schools have also made explicit statements reassuring applicants that their applications will not be negatively impacted by testing cancellations that are out of their control and are still encouraging applicants to submit their primary applications even if MCAT scores are not yet available.
Q7: Are interviews likely to be conducted virtually this cycle?
Health professional schools have mainly stated that they are not yet looking that far ahead at this time. Many have indicated that they are focusing on things one month at a time due to ever-evolving circumstances. Some have mentioned that they will have contingency plans for virtual interviews in place but are hoping it will be safe enough to conduct in-person interviews by then.
Q8: Is there any way to connect with the professional schools in the near future?
Many of the application services, including AMCAS, AACOMAS, and CASPA, have held virtual events over recent months, but see the following for a list of upcoming virtual fairs:
- 5/19/20: ADEA GoDental Virtual Fair
- 6/2/20: Optometry Virtual Fair
- 6/10/20: Choose DO Medical School Virtual Expo
- 7/22/20: Virtual Physician Assistant Fair
In addition, see these “Dos and Don’ts!” for connecting with schools at a virtual fair.
Q9: How will the transcript request process be affected?
The UConn Office of the Registrar continues to operate remotely and is still able release official transcripts. The application services also do not anticipate any impact to the receipt and processing of official transcripts. In order to ensure your Spring 2020 grades are noted on your official transcript, please wait to send the Transcript Request Form from your relevant application service(s) to the Office of the Registrar until your final grades are posted.
Q10: Will the UConn Pre-Med/Dent Center’s composite letter process be affected?
We want to assure you that we are currently operating on schedule, albeit remotely, and have now moved into the home stretch of conducting composite interviews. We will communicate any changes to our processes, if any, via our Pre-Med/Dent Center Listserv.
The pre-professional advisors are aware of the disruptions caused by MCAT cancelations over the past couple of months. While in past years we have required an MCAT score and noted it within the composite letter before submission, this cycle some schools have indicated for the first time that they will proceed with a holistic review of applicants even if they do not have scores on hand yet. Therefore, we want to assure you that pending scores will not cause a delay in our submission of your composite letter if everything else within the letter is for ready for submission.
Q: Do I need to fill out a form or sign up to be a pre-medical or pre-dental student?
No, there is no formal sign-up procedure to join the pre-med/pre-dental programs.
We do recommend that you sign up for our LISTSERV (email email@example.com to be added), like us on Facebook, and regularly check UConn’s Pre-Med/Pre-Dental website in order to receive updates about application deadlines and ongoing events. Many important communications are shared via these media, so it is important to check these accounts on a regular basis.
Q: I am a pre-med/pre-dental student but I do not have an advisor assigned to me in Student Administration. With whom should I make my appointment?
We do not assign a specific pre-med/pre-dental advisor to students, which allows students to find appointment times with an advisor that best fits their schedule. Information on scheduling an appointment can be found under Advising.
Q: Do I have to be an undergraduate science major?
No, you do not have to major in a science to be a pre-med/pre-dental student. In fact, medical and dental schools encourage you to pursue any course of study that interests you as long as you take the necessary pre-med/pre-dental coursework and put in the required effort to do well in your classes.
Q: What classes should I take to be ready to apply to medical or dental school?
The minimal requirements for most medical and dental schools are listed on our website. Some schools have slightly different and more specific requirements, so please check individual school websites for further information.
Q: Do I have to take an English class as a pre-med/pre-dental student?
Yes, you must complete the necessary English general education requirements for your UConn college/school and major. In addition, most medical and dental schools require a year’s worth of English classes as a minimal requirement.
Q: Are there any information sessions that I can attend to help me better understand the application process?
If you are interested in becoming a pre-med/pre-dental student, we host group advising sessions and workshops during each semester that are posted on the website. If you are interested in applying for the current cycle please plan to attend the General Orientation Information Session, which is held every year at the beginning of February. This session helps students learn about the steps they need to take to stay on track and to complete all application steps in a timely manner. Please email us if you are unable to attend the February workshop for further information about how to proceed.
Q: Should I be involved in extracurricular activities as an undergraduate? Do medical/dental schools look at extracurricular involvement when reviewing applications?
Absolutely! You are encouraged to pursue one or more extracurricular activities in depth outside of your coursework, as opposed to a handful of only “surface-level” activities. Such activities do not need to be intrinsically related to medicine, but will show medical schools that you are a well-rounded person with a passion for something. In addition, please consider joining UConn’s Pre-Med Society, Pre-Dental Society, Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental Planning & Programming, or the Pre-PA Club as an undergraduate.
Q: Can I still participate in experiential learning (study abroad, internships, etc.) while on the pre-med/pre-dental track?
Yes, medical and dental schools encourage you to participate in experiential learning as an undergraduate. Some examples of experiential learning opportunities include study abroad, internships, conducting research, summer employment, volunteer work, alternative breaks, or shadowing professionals in the medical/dental fields.
Q: I really want to go to medical school, but my cumulative GPA is under 3.0. What steps can I take to make myself a more attractive candidate?
It may be wise to postpone your application until a future cycle in order to strengthen your prospects of being accepted. One option for you to do in the meantime is to retake classes that you did not do well in either at UConn or at another local school, particularly if they are on the list of the minimal coursework requirements for medical and dental schools. Another option for those students who have already completed or are in the process of completing an undergraduate degree is to apply for UConn’s Medical and Dental Medicine Post-Baccalaureate Program, which begins accepting applications on January 1.
Q: What is the online letter collection system?
The online letter collection system allows for the confidential collection of your letters of recommendation. Complete this form to establish your Personal Application File, which includes a tool to request letters from your recommenders. Learn more about about the online letter collection system.
Q: Where should my recommenders send their letters if they are having trouble with the online letter collection system?
For a recommender to submit their letter all fields on the website on their end must be filled in. If they are still having trouble please have them email your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. PLEASE DO NOT have them send any letters directly to Dr. Sanford, Dr. Crivello, or Dr. Abbott’s personal UConn email accounts.
Q: What file format should my recommenders use to submit their letters of recommendation?
PDFs or Word documents are the most convenient forms of letters for us. Letters must be on letterhead and signed for us to include them in your composite letter.
Q: What does a composite letter look like?
A composite letter is composed of three main parts, which are then combined into one PDF and sent to medical or dental schools. The first part is a summary co-authored by either Dr. Albert and Dr. Sanford or Dr. Abbott and Dr. Sanford. In this section, they highlight your strengths as an applicant, your background, and quotes from your letters of recommendation. The second part consists of all of your individual letters of recommendation that we have received. Finally, the third part completes the composite letter with a fact sheet about UConn to help schools understand some UConn-specific terms and to provide further information about the university.
Q: If I am applying to Osteopathic medical schools (D.O. programs) or Physician Assistant (P.A.) programs, what system will my composite letter be sent through?
Beginning with the 2017 cycle, we are now using the CAS (Centralized Application Service), which includes AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service), CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) and OPTOMCAS (Optometry Centralized Application Service), among others. You will need to submit a committee letter request through the applicable system for us to be able to upload your composite letter.
Q: All of my letters of recommendation have been submitted. What should I do now?
Please confirm that your application has been accepted by AMCAS, AADSAS, or AACOMAS and that we have received all of your identification numbers. We will begin working on your composite letter and will complete it as soon as possible based on the submission cycle timeline posted on the UConn Pre-Medical and Pre-Dental website.
Q: I have an urgent matter and need to speak with a pre-med/pre-dental advisor right away. What should I do?
We ask that you please refrain from drop-in visits to any of the pre-med/pre-dental advisors’ offices as their scheduled appointment loads do not allow for impromptu advising. Instead, please fill out the appropriate appointment request form found here.
Have a question that is not listed above? Email us at email@example.com and we will promptly get back to you with an answer.
Suggestions for additional FAQs? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.