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Cornell University

20-21 COVID-19 Pre-Health FAQs

Content by Dr. Chelsea Rule, Director of Health Careers Advising Program

This FAQ page is not meant to provide universal or absolute answers, but rather to be a centralized resource to keep you all up-to-date. Please note that health careers advising is nuanced, and these FAQs are meant to supplement, not replace an advising conversation. It is still recommended that you consult with a Health Careers Advisor for your particular situation.

 Where do I go for official updates from health professional schools?

You can find all of the official health professional program updates here:

How can I explore and prepare for health careers with some experiential opportunities (e.g. clinical opportunities) suspended or postponed?

  • It is an unprecedented situation, and while many clinical opportunities may not currently available at the moment, this is out of your control and will not reflect poorly on you in particular. We know that the uncertainty of this challenging time is difficult, so keep in touch with Health Careers Advisors and subscribe to Handshake Health Careers Notifications e-mails for updates.
  • Think about why clinical experience is so important for pre-health students. Medical and health professional schools want to see that you understand the profession and care about helping vulnerable people. You can continue to do that in creative ways!
    • Explore this list of activities you can do during the pandemic (which has been crowd-sourced among the pre-health advising community) for some creative ideas of ways to spend your time.
  • Keep learning about health professionals through networking (try CUeLinks!), reading books and articles written by healthcare professionals, and keep up with the news about COVID-19 scientific and public health advances.
    • Through this challenging situation, you are more than likely to demonstrate a unique story of resilience and adaptability, which are core competencies for health professionals.
    • We highly recommend that you talk with a Health Careers Advisor about your particular situation, since generalizations can’t be applied to everyone’s circumstances.
  • Please take good care of yourself during this time. Your wellbeing comes first! Health professional schools understand that there may be, or have been, a pause in some of your activities right now, and they want you to be healthy and safe too.

Will medical schools accept online courses? 

  • Medical schools have expressed considerable flexibility with regard to online coursework during this unusual time, and shared explicit guidelines for spring and summer 2020 on MSAR and their websites. The 2020-2021 courses have less explicit guidance, but schools do understand that many universities offer some/most courses online during this academic year as well.
  • Each medical school has its own policies, so please check some target medical schools’ websites and/or MSAR for updated coursework policies.
  • Everyone’s situation is different, and medical schools consider each applicant holistically. Please contact a Health Careers Advisor for guidance on your specific situation.

If I am planning to apply to medical/dental school this year (spring 2021), can I still get help preparing my application and receive a Health Careers Evaluation Committee (HCEC) letter if I am not on campus?

  • Yes! Whether you are on- or off-campus, you have access to the Health Careers Advising Application Preparation Process (HCA-APP) Canvas course to help you prepare to apply to medical or dental school in spring 2021. HCA-APP is the first step in applying!
    • HCA-APP is replacing a process that was previously called Pre-Registration for the HCEC, which consisted of on-campus workshops. HCA-APP can be accessed remotely and asynchronously!
    •  The HCEC serves Cornell juniors, seniors, and alumni applying to medical/dental school. You do not need to be on campus to receive an HCEC committee letter.
    • Learn more about the HCEC process and timeline here.
  • Check out the many resources in the CCS Media Library, which houses previous pre-health presentations from Dr. Chelsea Rule, Director of the Health Careers Advising Program.

I am a junior, and I am worried I might not have enough clinical experience to apply this year because opportunities were canceled/postponed this spring/summer. What should I do?

  • Medical and dental schools have been very understanding about opportunities being canceled that were out of your control. However, they still do expect that you have gained clinical experience so you can convince schools that you know what the profession is like and enjoy working with patients.
  • Even in a normal year, it can be challenging to gain enough experience to be ready to apply to medical school as a junior. Note that very few Cornell juniors apply to medical school (~13.5% of applicants from Cornell are juniors). It is possible that more folks will consider taking a bridge year(s), which have been growing in popularity for many years.
  • To learn more about preparing a competitive application to medical/dental school, check out the recent workshop “Applying to Medical/Dental School: This Year or Next?”

 How do I stay current with the rapidly-changing pre-health landscape?

  • Dr. Chelsea Rule maintains e-mail lists for all Cornell pre-health students and alumni! You can sign up to receive monthly newsletters, events notices, summer opportunities, job postings, and more!

    • Students: make sure you subscribe to Handshake Health Careers Notifications e-mails:
      • Log into Handshake:
      • Click on your initials in the top right corner of the screen
      • Select “Career Interests” 
      • Scroll to the question “Which career notifications would you like receive from Cornell Career Services?” and select the “Health Careers” box
    • If you are an alum, subscribe to the alumni pre-health listserv. To join, send an email message from your Cornell email address to "" with the single word "join" in the subject line. Leave the body of the email blank.  
  • Check out the many resources in the CCS Media Library, which houses previous pre-health presentations from Dr. Chelsea Rule, Director of the Health Careers Advising Program.