There’s no shortage of admissions consulting services, but what do they actually do, and do you need their services? In this post, we’re taking a deep dive into how to choose the best medical school admissions consultant.
We’ll cover common types of services, how to know if you need admissions consulting, what to look for when choosing a medical consulting service, and red flags to watch out for when making your decision.
What is Medical School Admissions Consulting?
Medical school admissions consulting includes a range of services provided to premeds who are applying to medical school. Common services include personal statement editing, MCAT tutoring, mock interviews, and application review, all with the goal of helping students earn acceptance at their top choice schools.
Some services provide comprehensive packages aimed at improving your entire application and mindset while applying to medical school. Other services charge by the hour to help you improve specific areas of your application.
Prices for these services vary depending on the type of help you require as well as the expertise, experience, and track record of the company.
Common Medical School Admissions Services
Let’s break down some of the most common types of services and why you might need them to improve the strength of your application.
There are a number of essays to complete in your primary and secondary applications, the most important of which is your personal statement. A personal statement is much more than a narrative version of your CV—it’s an opportunity to tell your story. For a personal statement to be effective, you must select a few key moments from your life to create a narrative about how you were inspired to pursue medicine. Plus, you need to do this within 5,300 characters.
It’s not easy, and it’s not the only essay. Admissions consulting services are not only about ensuring your essays don’t contain mistakes—they will help you determine your overarching narrative and theme, which is vital to admissions committees taking notice of you.
Medical school admissions and med school itself are synonymous with tests. There’s the MCAT, USMLE, the Shelf exam, and more. In order to ace these tests, you need to study hard, but more importantly, you need to study effectively. Tutors can show you how to optimize your studying to maximize your chances of success.
We all have different strengths and weaknesses when learning and testing information, so it’s important that your tutor design a study strategy tailored to your individual needs.
Medical school interviews can make or break your entire application. They are challenging and intimidating experiences that rely on strong interview skills. Interview skills take time and lots of practice to build.
Mock interviews are the most effective way to prepare for medical school application interviews. They’re much closer to the real thing than being interviewed by a friend or your parents or practicing in front of the mirror.
The best admissions consulting services ensure you’re interviewed by people who have been on both sides of the interview process and have ample experience conducting real medical school interviews. The insights admissions consultants provide are invaluable—they can tell you exactly what your interviewers are looking for to optimize your chances of success.
Individual advising zeros in on the exact areas an applicant or future applicant needs help with. This can be a comprehensive approach to the entire medical school application or specific advice on timing, extracurriculars, course planning, choosing the best schools to apply to, reapplication, and more.
Really, anything goes. If you require guidance of any sort as a college student, premed, or medical student, individual advising provides time to discuss your needs with an experienced expert. They will offer specific guidance based on your unique needs and circumstances.
Do You Need a Consulting/Tutoring Service?
Whether or not you need admissions consulting and tutoring services depends on your individual situation and available resources. Regardless of your choice, it is absolutely essential that you have someone qualified look over your application. Applying to medical school is one of the most challenging things you can do—don’t risk your chances by going it alone.
It’s possible that you have close friends or family members who have been through the process before and are more than willing to devote their spare time to help you make your application the best it can be. That is fantastic support to have, and in that case, you may not need to hire an admissions consulting service.
But keep in mind that the application process continues to evolve every year, so someone who hasn’t recently been through the process may not be able to offer you accurate guidance. People volunteering free help generally won’t dedicate as much time or effort into the process compared to someone whose job it is to ensure each student receives a valuable service.
Think of it this way: Is the friend you asked to help you move on the weekend going to be as thorough, fast, and precise as a hired moving company? They will help you in their spare time, but they aren’t nearly as skilled or dedicated to your success.
These are the applicants who will most benefit from an admissions consulting service:
- Applicants who don’t have someone, such as a physician, professor, medical student, or experienced professional, to take a comprehensive and in-depth look at their application.
- Applicants who are worried about specific areas of weakness in their application, such as a weak MCAT score, lackluster GPA, sparse research, standard/non-noteworthy extracurriculars, etc.
- Applicants who are worried about writing the required essays, such as the personal statement.
- Applicants who are worried about their interview skills.
- Applicants applying to highly competitive schools who are looking for an edge against the steep competition.
- Applicants who want to feel confident and comfortable with the strength of their entire application.
According to AAMC, in 2021-2022, 62,443 people applied to medical school, and 22,666 applicants successfully matriculated, which means the percentage of applicants who got into medical school was 36%.
Whether or not you choose admissions consulting is completely up to you, just so long as you feel confident that you’ll make it into that 36% and that you’ll be satisfied with the quality of the schools you are accepted into. If you don’t feel a sense of confidence, you are not concerned about which schools you get into, or you relate to any of the above points, it’s important to consider which admissions consulting services are right for you.
Learn more in our guide: Should I Choose Medical School Admissions Consulting?
How to Choose the Best Medical School Admissions Consultant
1 | Advisor and Tutor Matching Based on Your Needs
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s silly to apply the same approach to every student’s tutoring and study plan. An admissions consulting service must have a rigorous behind the scenes process for matching students with the advisor or tutor and study process that’s right for them.
You need to zero in on your areas of weakness. For some people, it’s essay writing, for others, it’s test taking, time management, or getting over exam anxiety. When it comes to medical school admissions, you can’t broadly teach information like a lecture; you need to specifically advise based on each student’s needs.
Everyone has room for improvement in all areas of the application process, but there are only so many hours available before submission season arrives. The key is finding the lowest hanging fruit and the problem areas with the highest ROI. How can you maximally improve performance in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of effort? These are the areas that require your focus.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to applying to medical school. Look for an admissions service that tailors its services and processes to what will offer you the highest ROI. They should be able to help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses to ensure you are focusing on the areas of improvement that will have the most impact.
2 | A Systematic Approach From Top Performers
The people who are best equipped to guide you are those who were top performers themselves. These top performers went above and beyond to get into their ideal schools, and they will push you well beyond surface-level strategies anyone can look up online. Top performers understand what it takes to stand out, and they know how to incorporate all aspects of your lifestyle into how you approach your medical school application.
Some admissions consulting services will simply tell you how to improve your studying. But there’s a lot more to it than that. And there’s certainly a lot more you need to do to become a top performer.
Optimizing your studying isn’t simply about adopting a list of strategies and tools. Every aspect of your life contributes to your success, and the areas you need to focus on most depend on your areas of weakness and what will help you work smarter, not harder.
Sleep matters. Exercise matters. Mindset matters. What you eat matters. Where you study matters. What time of day you study matters. The best admissions consulting services know this, and they offer approaches to students that go beyond simple study hacks.
To get your body and mind working at peak performance, time management is key since there are so many elements to juggle. A targeted approach will enable you to set the curve, teaching you how to study effectively while also publishing research articles and exercising five days a week. When do you study? How do you study? How do you maximize time management?
As a medical school applicant, you need to find ways to optimize the ways in which you study to gain the maximum impact from your time. Your personal and professional life must be deeply intertwined as you pursue this goal, and really, for the rest of your life as a physician.
To be effective, an admissions consulting service must provide an all-encompassing approach that takes into account your entire lifestyle.
3 | A Team Made of Real Doctors
This is one of the most important things to look for in a service. You want to receive advice from people who have been through the process before. You need real physicians advising you and preparing course materials that are accurate and up-to-date based on what admissions committees are looking for right now.
Look for a medical school admissions consultancy that’s run by real doctors and, ideally, one that is made up of a team of doctors who are able to assist you with every aspect of your application. These doctors should be MD doctors, and not hold a doctor’s degree in another subject. For example, a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is a very real doctor, but not the type you’re looking for when it comes to medical school advice.
For the best results, doctors must be top performers who aced their tests and succeeded at getting into their top choice schools.
4 | Advisors Who Have Served on Admissions Committees
You want to be advised by people who have been on the inside of the process and have actually assessed, interviewed, and made decisions on candidates. These doctors know exactly what it takes to be accepted, so they can provide you with direct and actionable advice.
By receiving insight from people who have been a part of admissions committees, you can ensure you are tailoring your application to exactly what they are looking for. It doesn’t matter what you, your mom, and your friend think about your application—what matters is what admissions committees need to see from every aspect of your application.
Look for an admissions consultancy that ensures you will receive insider advice from physicians who have served on medical school admissions committees.
5 | A Narrative-Based Approach
It is incredibly important to thread a cohesive narrative throughout your entire medical school application. You can’t treat each section of your application like it exists on its own—it doesn’t. Admissions committees are viewing your application as a whole; your scores, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and activities all contribute to your story. Not a single aspect of your application exists in a vacuum.
Admissions committees don’t want to see you repeat your personal statement in your work and activities section—they are looking for new information that works in support of the rest of your application. Many premeds have a similar mentality and approach, which means many applications end up looking very similar.
A cookie-cutter approach will not get you noticed by admissions committees, and you will simply be looked at as another generic premed. You need to be interesting and compelling in order to get the attention of admissions committees, and you can’t do that if your application looks the same as everyone else’s.
What’s your unique story? A medical school admissions consultancy that’s worth your time and money will help you craft a consistent personal narrative across your application so that you don’t come off like a broken record to admissions committees. They will take a narrative-based approach that ensures every aspect of your application contributes to your unique story without being repetitive.
6 | Flexible Scheduling
Applying to medical school is a time-consuming and arduous task and you will be incredibly busy throughout the application process.
Look for an admissions consultancy service that is flexible and will work around your own unique schedule. They must be able to work around your needs, including time zone scheduling and working with you before or after the traditional workday.
7 | Near Perfect Reviews
Reviews will tell you a lot about what you can expect from the consultancy. Read plenty of reviews before making your decision, and keep an eye out for reviews that sound phony or lack details.
Don’t rely solely on the reviews the consultancy provides. Do your own research online through outside sources, including Reddit and within your personal network, to see what other people are saying.
Look for reviews that are in-depth, provide clear examples about the experience, and detail how the services lead to improvements and, ultimately, acceptance.
“Great service,” or “They helped me bring my MCAT score from X to X” doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the experience or the methods that were used. Instead, look for reviews that highlight the how and why behind the incredible service.
“Since my advisor was a voting member of the medical school admissions committee, he knows exactly what discussions go on behind the doors. Having him as my mentor throughout my application process was like having the list of questions in advance before a major exam. He knew exactly what I should be focusing on and helped me plan each year to get the most out of college. I am so thankful to have gotten accepted to my dream medical school and I know I couldn’t have gotten here without him!”
This review provides a lot of insight into the experience; the student got to work one-on-one with an advisor, and they received insider information from someone who served on an admissions committee. The review explicitly states why the service and continual guidance was so helpful and that it led to an acceptance at a top choice school.
8 | A High (and Visible) Success Rate
What is the success rate of the medical school consultancy? Do they have proof to back it up?
Reviews are great for giving you an inside look at how other students felt while working with the consultancy, but what did that lead to? What results do students see after hiring the consultancy?
Ethically speaking, no consultancy should promise acceptance or a specific score, but they should have a clear and visible success rate as well as success stories that illustrate noticeable improvements after an applicant used their services.
This is a time to consider quantity as well as quality. How long have they been working with students? And how many students have they successfully served?
Be skeptical when assessing success rates online, and ask for proof or more examples if you are unsure. Some consultancies purposely screen out less qualified candidates to ensure they keep up their success rates. Be wary of this; look for transparency across the entire process, including pricing, what services are included, expectations, and access to services.
9 | Transparency
Let’s talk more about transparency. Your medical school admissions consultancy should not be hiding behind vague promises and unclear information.
Look for a consultancy that’s upfront with you. They should be clear about their process, what you should expect, and exactly what you are paying for.
What’s included? Details are important here. How many hours are included? If you have additional questions, is there someone you can speak to? Are you allowed a specific number of edits, or are they unlimited? Is the consultancy able to work around your schedule?
There should be plenty of clear information about services on the consultancy’s website, and you shouldn’t need a doctor’s degree to understand it.
10 | Leaders in the Space
Look for a medical school admissions consultancy that is a leader in the space and a trusted resource. Do they have accurate and up-to-date information on their website? Do they regularly update their content? Are they ‘in the know’ on the latest application and medical school process updates?
What types of resources do they have available on their website? Are their blog articles and guides thorough? Do you find them helpful? Are you able to sign up for a newsletter that provides the latest industry news? Do they have a YouTube channel with engaging videos that explain various aspects of the application process? Are they an active participant on social media?
Your medical school admissions consultancy should be a clear leader in the space with well-established resources and tools that are continually modified and updated as the medical school admissions process evolves.
Admissions Consulting Red Flags to Watch Out For
We’ve shared a lot of specific things to look for in a medical school admissions consultancy, but let’s look at this from the other perspective too. What are some red flags to watch out for that are clear signs you should take your business elsewhere?
1 | Free Services or Free Trials
It’s a popular saying, but in the case of medical school admissions consulting, you definitely get what you pay for. Consultancies that offer free services are doing so by cutting corners. As we discussed earlier, it is critical that your consultancy be made up of a team of real doctors.
If you’re being offered a bunch of free services or free trials, it’s important to wonder how the company is able to do this while paying top performing doctors. The answer is they’re not. Your free services are likely being performed by other premeds, those who didn’t graduate, or people outside of the medical industry entirely.
When it comes to medical consultancies, free services are a clear red flag that you will not receive quality help.
2 | Gimmicky Ads and Discount Offers
Buy one get one free and other similar offers are gimmicky sales tactics you should watch out for.
Be intentional about your medical school admissions services. What help do you need? What areas of your application need improvement? You’re not at a dollar store; you’re choosing critical services that could mean the difference between whether you are accepted to medical school or whether you’re not.
Watch out for gimmicky sales tactics and look for transparent services that are clear about exactly what you are paying for and how the service will help you succeed.
3 | Lack of Quality Reviews
Reviews say it all. While one or two bad reviews may be sour grapes, multiple bad or questionable reviews are a clear red flag.
It’s also important to watch out for a lack of reviews. You may only be seeing good reviews because the company is using a select few and ignoring the bad reviews. Ensure the consultancy you choose has clear and transparent reviews available online. If you don’t see reviews readily available, ask for them, and proceed with caution.
4 | Limited or No Real Medical Doctors on Staff
Look for medical doctors on staff when choosing a medical admissions consultancy. Be aware that there are multiple types of doctor’s degrees—what you’re looking for are MDs.
If you don’t see medical doctors front and center of the team that will be helping you, run the other way. Not having real doctors or people who have served on medical school admissions committees is a clear red flag.
5 | A Sparse Website
A sparse website that lacks service details, background on the company’s process, and information about the team is a red flag. You should be able to see the people you will be working with and understand what services are available from the company website.
Look for a wealth of in-depth resources as well. An established and reliable medical school consultancy won’t be modest about demonstrating their knowledge, experience, and qualifications.
Spend some time digging around their website. What do you find? Are the resources useful? Are the resources comprehensive? Are the resources up-to-date?
6 | A Cookie-Cutter Approach
Every student is different. The struggles and worries you have about your medical school application won’t be the same as your fellow applicants, and you don’t necessarily study in the same way either.
Taking all of that into consideration, for an admissions consulting service to offer the same approach for every applicant is nonsensical. If the consulting you receive isn’t tailored to your specific strengths, weaknesses, and study habits, it won’t be effective.
Watch out for services that are not dynamic in what they offer. Not asking you clear questions about yourself, such as your desires and goals, strengths and weaknesses, where you currently stand, what you’re looking for, when you’re available, etc., before the process begins is a clear sign that they will not be tailoring their services to your needs.
If you’ve already started with a service that isn’t assessing your unique situation and needs, it’s not too late to make a switch. Don’t continue down a path that isn’t working just because you started in that direction. The medical school application process is a long and difficult journey, and you need all the help you can get.
Admissions Services That Check All the Boxes
Med School Insiders is committed to a transparent process that offers you the absolute best services possible. We pride ourselves on your systematic and tailored approach that takes every student’s unique circumstances and starting point into account.
You’ll never receive a cookie-cutter approach, and you can rest assured we are made up of a vast team of top performing medical doctors. Our team of industry-leading physicians has years of experience serving on admissions committees, so you’ll receive key insights from people who have been intimately involved with the selection process.
If you have any questions about any of our services, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.