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Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? (What Your Application Photo Says About You!)


Whether you’ve been planning for a career in healthcare since you were a child, or it’s a decision you recently made, you’ve probably known for some time that certain criteria must be met in order to apply to professional school.

In fact, in addition to completing the prescribed coursework, the required supporting documents to your TMDSAS application include standardized test scores, transcripts, and letters of evaluation - all things you’d expect from an application to professional school, and the same that would be required of you if applying through AMCAS, AADSAS, or VMCAS.

But did you also know that a required component of your application is a photo of yourself? Let’s talk about why that is, and how you can make sure that your photo is the best representation of you. 

Applicants have often asked about the purpose of the photo in the application, and representatives from the professional schools were able to weigh in. The feedback from the schools helps in understanding not only how the application photo is used, but also sheds light on what insights the photo provides about you, the applicant. To top it off, they even offered up some tips to help applicants use this feature of the application to their greatest advantage! 


Keeping Things Secure
 

So, what’s the number one reason the schools require a photo? You might be surprised to learn that the number one reason is simply for security. Over and over, representatives from the schools responded that the photo helps to identify applicants, especially during the interview process. You probably would agree that it makes sense to use pictures to help identify applicants given that, collectively, the TMDSAS participating schools received more than 9,000 applications during the Entry Year 2021 cycle!  


What About Bias?
 

It is paramount to know that the photo is decidedly NOT for screening purposes. In fact, some schools report that the photo is not even seen until the interview phase, while others indicate that members of the admissions committees never see photos during application review in order to prevent bias. Some applicants may have been hesitant to provide a photo, fearing that their picture might unduly impact their ability to progress through the admissions process. Thankfully, the schools have systems in place to prevent any prejudice, ensuring that all applicants are afforded the same, fair consideration. 

 

The Story a Picture Tells 

That said, is it reasonable to assume that although the photo is not used in the screening process, it may provide the schools with some insight about you? Absolutely! In fact, the choice of photo does indicate the way an applicant chooses to represent themselves. More specifically, Theresa Silva, Director of Admissions at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, informed us that the photo provides “insight into [the applicant’s] professionalism.” What’s the takeaway here? Although the photos are not used during the screening process, the schools do expect to see a certain degree of professionalism in the photo that is submitted.  

 

Pro Tips for Your Application Photo 

So, what should you not do? Don’t appear too casual. Beach attire, activewear, and clothing that is too revealing is highly discouraged. What to wear instead? Think professional! Choose an outfit you’d be proud to wear to a job interview or to an event that requires just a little bit of dressing up, like a graduation. A nice button-up or a blouse should do the trick! Remember, you are applying to professional school, and in the professional world there are expectations when it comes to dress code. 

What else should you not do? Don’t get lost in the crowd! Sometimes, applicants submit photos that are poorly cropped (floating arms, anyone?), or that include other people, making it difficult to identify who is the applicant. In addition to this, avoid submitting a photo that is too small, too far away, or otherwise makes you too difficult to recognize. Keep in mind: this process is all about you! So, make sure your photo reflects that. 

Right about now, you might be thinking that you need to book a session with a studio photographer. You don’t! If your friends or fellow classmates are also applying, one school suggests scheduling a time where you can take each other’s picture – no fancy equipment required; the camera on any smartphone will do just fine. Just remember to be the only person in the photo and avoid selfies, if possible. What else? While a studio backdrop is not required, do pay attention to the background of your photo. Stick to the basics and avoid anything distracting.  

While these suggestions are meant to assist you in the photo selection process, there are some technical considerations to keep in mind to ensure that your photo is compatible with the TMDSAS application. This information is also available in the TMDSAS Application Handbook and the photo submission page of the application. 


Make Sure it’s Compatible! 

TMDSAS photo requirements: 

  • Type: a digital photo – you will not be able to mail in a print photo. 
  • Size: the photo must be smaller than 100KB. 
  • File formats: only jpg, gif, png, or bmp file formats are compatible. 

If these technical aspects aren’t met, you might be prevented from submitting your application at the moment you’d like. Or once submitted, TMDSAS staff may have to reach out to you for a different photo, possibly delaying the processing of your application. It is important to note that once your application is submitted, your photo can only be changed by TMDSAS staff, and only if it does not meet the technical requirements. Therefore, it is important to put in the proper time and consideration when choosing which photo to upload to your application. 

The goal here is that you feel more informed and comfortable with the photo requirement for the application, and we’re certain that by following these suggestions, you’ll be putting your best foot face forward!


 

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About the author: The Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS) is the centralized application processing service for applicants to the first-year entering classes at all of the public medical, dental, and veterinary schools in the State of Texas.

nichole-castillo

About the author: Nichole A. Castillo is the service delivery coordinator for TMDSAS. She works with the TMDSAS team to educate and prepare applicants prior to the start of the application cycle and coordinates application processing throughout the cycle. Nichole also contributes to the development of resources for applicants and serves as the chief editor of the Application Handbook. Additionally, she participates in various outreach efforts, including on-campus or virtual workshops, applicant webinars, and cohosts TMDSAS ‘Office Hours’ via Facebook Live. She is also responsible for coordinating TMDSAS assessments such as the Spring Applicant Survey. Nichole holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy studies from UT Arlington and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

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