Pre-Professional Programs

Pre-Health Student in New Hanover County Regional Medical Center


When you apply for admission to a professional school, you will ultimately have to answer the question, "Why do you want to be a professional in this field?" Shadowing is an excellent means for developing a focused and highly personal response to this critical question. The ability to draw from and articulately share stories from your shadowing experiences will make you a much more uniquely qualified and competitive candidate. Admissions committees will expect that you have had these experiences and will inquire about them specifically. In general, it is a good idea to shadow in a field that you are interested in. These experiences are often good sources for powerful letters of recommendation.

When and Where to Shadow

Shadowing can take place while you are at home for the summer or semester breaks. Wilmington is also a rich source for shadowing opportunities. To arrange shadowing experiences in the greater Wilmington community, you will need to consult an online phone book, do an internet search for the speciality in which you are interested, or visit the websites of hospitals and independent practices in the area.

How to Set Up a Shadowing Experience

When setting up a shadowing experience, choose a practitioner and call/email them directly. State that you are a pre-professional student at UNCW and you are seeking the opportunity to observe their practice. Be specific about the times and dates you prefer and the type of shadowing experience you are looking for (e.g. one day, long-term, etc). Include your telephone and email contact information. Law and health professionals are extremely busy people. You are asking them to do you a favor. Make your request well ahead of time so the practitioner has ample lead time to work out the details. Depending on the healthcare setting, you may be required to attend a training session or fill out paperwork prior to starting your shadowing experience.

During the Shadowing Experience

Show up for your shadowing experience professionally dressed and groomed. Conservative business attired should be worn by both men and women. No shorts, jeans, flip-flops, or open-toed shoes. If you have any doubts about the dress code, ask. During the shadowing experience, you should stand back and observe. What you will be allowed to do is up to the discretion of the professional you are working with. Take advantage of any time you have alone with the practitioner to ask both patient-specific and general questions.

Don't forget to ask if the practitioner would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. If they agree, request that the letter be written as soon as possible. The shadowing experience will be fresh in his or her mind, and the letter will likely be stronger than if written several months or even years later. Send a thank you note immediately following your shadowing session (within 24 hours) and include a reminder about the letter of recommendation. Follow-up with another reminder note if you have not received the letter in a reasonable amount of time.

Research Opportunities

A great way to begin shadowing a practicioner is to build on your research experience. Many are looking for students who are willing to assist them in their research projects and/or labs.

Co-op/Internship Opportunities for Biomedical Research and Pre-Medical Studies Students
Co-op/Internship Opportunities for Minority and Underrepresented Students
Co-op/Internship Opportunities for Pre-Veterinary Medicine Students