Health Professions

Health Professions

This site is to provide resources and contact information for students interested in the health care professions. Please contact Mary Kananen at if you need assistance or have questions.

All Penn State Altoona students with an interest in health professions should register as a pre health care professions student to receive important announcements about informational programs, scholarship opportunities, speakers, educational trips, and courses. To register, send an email from your Penn State email account to Stephanie Tanner at Make sure to include your areas of interest. You may unsubscribe at any time if you decide you no longer are interested in a health care professions or transfer to another Penn State campus.

Most professional schools do not require a specific degree, but do require specific coursework. Completing these prerequisites requires careful planning. Students should carefully research admission requirements for the profession of their choice. The links on this web site can be a starting point for this research. To complete the prerequisites for the health professional schools, many Penn State Altoona students major in Biology (BIOAL), Psychology (PSCBS), Kinesiology (KINAL), Letters, Arts, and Sciences (LASAL), or Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). Additionally, students may earn minors in Chemistry (CHMBD), Psychology (PSYAL), and Criminal Justice (CJ). Students planning on completing their degree at University Park should also carefully review the information on the University Park Pre Health advising web site.

It is important to start preparing early as successful applicants may need to complete their professional schools applications 15 months before matriculation. This would be June of your Junior Year to attend professional school the fall after you graduate from Penn State.

Important Factors for Admission to Professional Schools

  1. Timely completion of prerequisite courses for the school.
    • Admission prerequisites may vary between programs and schools. Research more than ten schools of interest and carefully check each school’s requirements.
    • Prepare a four year plan and confirm with your advisor that you will be able to complete the prerequisite courses and graduate on time.
    • Consider taking additional recommended courses to strengthen your application.
  2. Overall GPA, possibly science GPA, last 60 credits GPA or grades in specific courses.
    • Research your schools of interest and their recommend target GPA.
    • Use LionPATH target GPA tool to determine the GPA required to reach your goal.
  3. Performance on appropriate standardized test (GRE, MCAT, OAT, DAT, PCAT ...)
    • Review testing Web sites, print out, and carefully read the instruction book.
    • Study school Web sites to identify policies and viable test scores. Schools may use most recent test scores, highest score, average test scores, or some combination.
    • Exams require extensive preparation (possibly 4-6+ months). It is essential that you review content, take practice tests, and develop a plan to prepare for the exam. Students may choose to take a preparation course or purchase materials to prepare on their own. If you do not have time to adequately prepare for the exam, you may consider waiting a year to apply to a professional school.
  4. Personal statement (check character limits for the professional school of your choice)
    • This essay will require many drafts. Start writing early with ample time to revise and proofread. You will need to clearly explain to the reader why you have chosen this field and demonstrate your passion, preparation, skills, and drive to succeed. Excellent resources can be found at Medical Students' Resource Guide and OWL, the Purdue online writing lab.
  5. Extracurricular activities with an emphasis on those demonstrating leadership, community service, and relevance to your chosen field.
    • Review your log of experiences including dates, times, supervisor, and activities.
    • Research each school’s requirements and complete any required forms.
    • Consider summer activities, internships, research experience, and health related experiences that will strengthen your application.
  6. Letters of recommendation from faculty, advisors, community members and health professions committee.
    • Start to contact individuals who know you well and are able to evaluate your ability.
    • Ask BEFORE you submit someone’s name as a reference. Give the reviewer at least three weeks to complete the letter of reference.
    • When requesting a letter of recommendation, provide the reviewer with detailed information about yourself including a resume or curriculum vita, personal statement, and current transcripts. Be sure to follow up with a written note of appreciation for their assistance and support.
    • Research individual school Web sites to determine if a reference letter from a professional in your field of study is required.
    • Many professional schools strongly recommend a “committee letter” from a Health Professions Committee. This requires completion of a committee application packet and an interview with the Penn State Altoona Health Professions Committee during the spring prior to your application. Meet with Mary Kananen the Coordinator of the Health Professions Committee.
  7. Timely and complete application.
    • Thoroughly research the application process and know the deadlines. Many schools have rolling admissions and the best strategy for a successful application is to apply as early as possible. Your application process is multifaceted. Plan to devote a significant period of time to carefully complete a successful application. Incomplete or late applications are generally not successful.
  8. Personal interviews, on site exercises, and secondary applications.
    • Schedule and attend a mock interview at the Penn State Altoona Career Services Office located in the Slep Student Center.
    • Plan ahead as these can be very time consuming and require travel during the fall semester.