I got this in the mail the other day, and my thoughts follow. However, I can speak only from one side (the correct, Navy side), and solicit other opinions.
I was wondering if I could trouble you for some advice. I am currently a junior at [a terrific] College and pursuing the pre-med route. I’d really like to serve, and I’m trying to decide between Navy and Army, both of which I understand offer the HSP scholarship. I was wondering how your experience was, why you chose Navy, and if you’d recommend it to someone else considering medicine.
Also, it looks like I’ll have to take a year off after graduation since I won’t have all my pre-med requirements completed in time to apply this summer. I was told by a recruitor that you need to have an admissions letter from an accredited medical school before you start. Do you know if there are any other programs I could do during that year, maybe with EMT certification or something along those lines, to help myself out before I would start.
I chose the Navy for the simple reason that they’d talk to me, while the other recruiters heard my MCAT and wouldn’t give me the time of day. So, I didn’t spend a lot of time service-shopping. My experience was that I got a 1st Class Petty Officer who was interested in doing the job, and did it well. (He did tell me, much later, that I’d probably screwed up recruiting stats that year).
Perhaps the rules have changed, but I’m not sure you have to have a "letter in hand" before they’ll start, that sounds like typical military BS for "I don’t want to waste any effort on the chance you won’t get in". My package was completely ready to go the day I got my acceptance letter, and was off the next day, but again I had a motivated PO1 in my corner.
Anything that exposes you to the realities of medicine will no doubt help, be it routinely volunteering in a hospital or completing an EMT course. The best thing you could do is take a real MCAT prep course, because there’s WAY too much stress put on that number, and as you’re in a position where that number matters, you need to maximize it.
My other HPSP entry, for further reference.