Cornell University

SP20 COVID-19 Health Careers FAQs

This page was last updated on 5/14/20 at 9:00 am

Content by Dr. Chelsea Rule, Director of the 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.

How will medical/dental schools view S/U grading during SP20?

  • We are carefully monitoring the constantly evolving health professional school policies around pass/fail and S/U grading. As of 4/13/20, all osteopathic (DO) medical schools and Texas (TMDSAS-participating) medical schools will accept S/U grading from this semester. So far, many allopathic (MD) medical schools have expressed some degree of flexibility in accepting S/U grades during the extraordinary situation. Some MD schools do still prefer to see letter grades when the option is available.
  • For those planning to apply to allopathic (MD) medical schools, if possible, we recommend you maintain letter grading. There is no one "right" answer, because each one of you is in a unique situation. Thus, we strongly encourage you to consult with a Health Careers Advisor before making a decision to opt for S/U grading, especially in a pre-health prerequisite course. If circumstances arise that preclude your ability to succeed, reach out to a Health Careers Advisor for guidance. As we receive more clarification on health professional school policies, we will share updates here.
    • NEW: Medical schools are sharing their policies on S/U in MSAR and in this frequenty updated report.
    • Official updates from all of the different health professional school umbrellas (e.g. AAMC, AACOM, TMDSAS, ADEA, AAVMC, ect.) can be found at

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How can I continue to explore and prepare for health careers with many experiential opportunities suspended or postponed?

  • We recognize that this uncertain and rapidly changing situation likely feels distressing. Remember that everyone is in a similar situation, and this disruption will not reflect poorly on you in particular. There may be creative ways you can continue to help in your community, wherever that may currently be, and perhaps remotely. 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.
  • You can explore this document (which has been crowd-sourced among the pre-health advising community) for some creative ideas.
  • Please take good care of yourself during this time. Your wellbeing comes first! Health professional schools understand that there may be a pause in some of your activities right now, and they want you to be healthy and safe too.

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What should I do if my standardized test administration date has been affected (e.g. MCAT, DAT)?

  • For updates on the MCAT, monitor the MCAT Coronavirus website regularly.
    • As of 4/10/20, MCAT exam administrations between March 27 through May 21 have been canceled globally. Flexible rescheduling has been extended, so there is no fee to reschedule.
    • On 4/24/20, AAMC announced that it is adding three new test dates (June 28, September 28, and September 29), increasing testing appointments to three per day, and expediting score release timeframes for several dates. Visit the MCAT Coronavirus website for details on these important updates.
  • Registration opened on May 7 for the new MCAT testing calendar.
  • Medical schools are also sharing their policies on MCAT timing in MSAR and in the open-access AAMC Admissions Policy report (which is updated frequently).
  • For updates on the DAT and OAT, you can monitor the Prometric Coronavirus website:
    • The DAT and OAT exams are currently being administered at 50% capacity.
  • If you need to take a later MCAT than you had planned, medical schools have generally indicated increased flexibility with regard to MCAT timing, although the specific policies currently differ school-by-school. Here are some important notes on MCAT and AMCAS timing:
    • AMCAS opens on May 4, and the earliest date you can submit an AMCAS application this year is May 28. You do not need to submit on May 28th, and although we recommend submitting early, you need to make sure your application is complete and correct before doing so.
      • We highly recommend that current students wait until their grades are released on June 15 to submit AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS applications.
      • If you submit AMCAS during the first three weeks it is open (May 28-June 18), your HCEC letter will be released along with others who completed their checklist in this earlier time frame.
    • You can submit your AMCAS application without having an MCAT score. You can add a planned exam date to your application.
    • AMCAS verification can occur without your MCAT score. This is the process by which an AMCAS representative checks your AMCAS-entered coursework against your complete transcript (including SP20 grades if applicable).
    • As of 4/20/20, AMCAS has moved the application data transmission date back two weeks. That means the earliest date AMCAS will send verified AMCAS applications to medical schools this year is July 10.
    • Some medical schools will review applications prior to receiving an MCAT score, while others will wait and review your entire application once your score is released. Overall, most schools have expressed increased flexibility with regard to MCAT timing. Check MSAR for school-specific updates.

      At most schools, applications are reviewed once the application is considered complete, which typically includes:

      • Primary application
      • Secondary application
      • MCAT Score
      • Letters of Evaluation (HCEC Letter)
    • We generally recommend you select your full list of schools once you have your MCAT score; this year, however, it may not be possible to know your MCAT score before applying. Therefore, it may be better to submit your AMCAS application during the first few weeks it is open (any time prior to June 18, 2020), and only apply to one school initially. AMCAS can then begin the transcript verification process. You can add additional schools later. Note that you will need to re-certify and pay fees for the additional schools you list. You may also choose to apply to a “core” set of schools early and then add a few more “reaches” once you know your score later in the summer.

    • Consult with a Health Careers Advisor about your application strategy! If you are applying to medical/dental schools this year, plan to attend AMCAS Day on May 2nd (a recording will be available later as well).

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Are there any changes to the HCEC processes?

  • The HCEC is fully functioning and operating remotely.
  • All remaining HCEC interviews for undergraduates are being conducted virtually.
  • The HCEC continues to update all HCEC registrants via the HCEC Online Checklist, particularly though the News & Bulletins and Required Readings pages. Each registrant should review these pages regularly and confirm that your checklist is up-to-date.

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Will there be any changes to applications to health professional schools?

  • Refer to the following website for a master list of health professional updates from national health professional organizations including AAMC, AACOM, ADEA, AAVMC, PAEA, etc.:
  • NEW: Some application services have extended their timelines slightly, meaning that you have more time to prepare your application. We highly encourage you to wait to submit applications and request official transcripts until you have your SP20 grades, and these application timeline changes offset the academic calendar shift.
    • AMCAS has pushed the earliest transmission date (when applicant data is sent to medical schools) back two weeks, to July 10.
    • AADSAS has pushed the earliest submission date back two weeks, to June 16.
  • Many health professional schools will add a question to their applications to ask applicants how COVID-19 has affected you. This may be asked in either primary or secondary applications to health professional schools, depending on the profession.

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If I don't feel like I can perform well in my pre-medical prerequisite course(s) this semester, should I drop my course and retake it next year?

  • Each one of you is in a unique situation, so we strongly recommend that you consult with a Health Careers Advisor and/or Academic Advisor before making decisions about whether to drop a course.
    • These are extraordinary circumstances, and increased flexibility and adaptability in planning is important.
    • If circumstances arise that preclude your ability to succeed, reach out to a Health Careers Advisor and/or an Academic Advisor in your college or major for guidance and information about how dropping courses could impact your plan, as well as ways to adapt it.
  • Your safety, success, and wellbeing are of utmost concern! If plans need to change, we recommend that you discuss your options with a Health Careers Advisor, who an help guide you though this decision.
    • For broad support and success resources during this challenging time, visit the University's student information Coronavirus page.

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How should I talk about the impact of COVID-19 on my path in my application/interviews?

  • Everyone is experiencing this public health crisis in a unique way. How has your path been impacted, and how have you adapted to this challenging situation? Specific examples are helpful.
    • Most health professional applications will add an optional question in the primary application asking about how COVID-19 has impacted your health career path.
      • AMCAS has indicated that they will not ask this question in the primary application, but most MD schools will ask this in secondary applications instead.
    • For interview tips and resources, see the Health Career Advanced Pre-Med Guide and visit the CCS interviewing pages and Optimal Interview
  • During this unprecedented time, you are likely demonstrating many of the core competencies for health professionals, such as resilience, adaptability, and responsibility. Those competencies will be helpful to highlight in you responses.

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