Last Friday, hundreds of students around the Homewood campus scrambled to put their finishing touches on a document called the HPCA, which was due exactly at midnight. The HPCA, which stands for Health Professions Committee Application, is a pretty extensive application that anyone pre health (whether that’s premed, preMD-PhD, prehealthcare, or predental) needs to fill out at Hopkins if they intend to apply that cycle to med school, dental school, nursing school, or the likes. I’d never heard about it a few months ago, and I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until recently.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 1.02.25 AM

Long story, anyone that wants to apply in this cycle first fills out this complete application that goes to our pre-professional office (it’s really just an internal document so that they can see how you look as a candidate all in one place). The HPCA’s structured a lot like the actual grad school apps will look like this summer; you have to list your activities and why they are important to you, attach your transcript, and talk about test scores. But, importantly, it also asks for three essay questions that I was struck trying to articulate for weeks. One asks you to literally introduce yourself, one asks you to weave together a narrative of your academic interests, and one asks you to tie your experiences to your competencies. It sounds easy enough at first, but I quickly realized that these are things I’ve never really been asked to articulate. Especially not in 3000 characters.

I grumbled about the process as I was doing it, but in retrospect I’m pretty grateful. The application got me to genuinely introspect, ask myself where my fascination with medicine came from, and where I wanted to take it. It’s easy to get caught in the ebbs and flows of school, thinking from test to test or meeting to meeting. But the app really forced me to stop and think about what I was doing and why I was doing it. Looking back, I’m really glad that the Office of Pre-Professional Services makes this a necessary rite of passage for every kid applying for grad school, because, at least for me, I think it helped a lot.

This is weird, though. The whole med school application process felt like it was decades away. But last Friday I just sent off my first step. So sure, everything’s happening quickly, but I really appreciate the intentional speed bumps along the way that get me to catch my breath and think a little.