I recently had the privilege of spending several days with a group of premed advisors. What I learned from the experience surprised me.
Most medical school admissions experts would tell you that premed advisors rarely give good advice. But what surprised me was not just how bad the advice was, but also how confident they were in said bad advice. Truly the Dunning-Kruger effect at play. I was inspired to make this post after spending time with them because, to be frank, I found myself quite uncomfortable by the fact premeds were being given such misleading information. I’m committed to providing premeds with the most accurate, unbiased, and honest guidance. It’s simply the right thing to do.
What Are Premed Advisors Good For?
I’ll be the first to admit that they do have utility. Every university has nuances with schedule and courses, including which courses are impacted and therefore how to navigate the class enrollment process most effectively. For this reason, premed advisors are an important resource in making sure you graduate on time, complete your degree requirements, and premed prerequisite courses.
But beyond that, they are unqualified to provide particularly accurate or meaningful premed advice. You’d be far more knowledgeable just by reading the free posts on this website or watching the free YouTube videos on our channel. That’s not an exaggeration. Premed advisors may say don’t major in biology because it’s too common. I say it’s more complicated than that, and there are pros and cons, ultimately making for a highly personal decision. I have a post on that with data supporting my conclusions. They say the Caribbean isn’t a bad option, but that’s again because they don’t understand the nuanced pros and cons. They’re easily swayed by a few presentations and an all-expenses-paid trip to a tropical island.
It seems like a relatively simple job for premed advisors — help their premed students get into medical school.
So where does it all go wrong?
1 | Their Credentials (or Lack Thereof)
To be a premed advisor, you don’t receive any formal training. Turns out it’s on-the-job training. No formal degree. No comprehensive training. No need for a science or statistics or education background. Majored in art history? Fantastic, you can be a premed advisor. A bachelor’s degree is all that’s necessary. Something like a master’s in education is optional, but from my experience, this doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of advice.
For example, one advisor informed me that every student she met with, she tried to steer them away from biology. After all, she said, it’s far too common and she wants her students to stand out from the rest. This overly simplistic interpretation is ultimately harmful. There are some students who should pursue biology or similar life science majors, and others who should not.
Premed advisors don’t have experience with premed coursework. They usually weren’t premed themselves. They didn’t apply to medical school. If you read just a fraction of the posts on this website, you’d know more than a premed advisor.
2 | Lacking Understanding of Statistics
I asked one of the premed advisors about how he advises his students when going to osteopathic medical schools. He focuses on two aspects: first, what specialty does the premed want to pursue? And second, are there DOs in that specialty? This advisor pulls up FindaDO.com to look up specialties and see if there are DO’s in that field. Look, we found a DO plastic surgeon! If you want to be a plastic surgeon, you can do it through a DO program!
Again, this is concerning for a few reasons. First, over 50% of first-year medical students will change their intended specialty by the time they graduate. I was one of them, initially planning on pediatric gastroenterology and changing gears completely to reconstructive plastic surgery. Basing application decisions off of what specialty you think you want to pursue as a premed is premature. Second, just because there are a couple of osteopathic plastic surgeons doesn’t mean that an aspiring future plastic surgeon should choose an osteopathic medical school. This is the survivorship bias at play. It’s not impossible, but it’s much more difficult to go into plastics and several other competitive fields going the DO route over the MD route.
To most effectively guide premeds on their various options and what would be the best fit for them, it’s important to provide evidence-based guidance, and doing so requires at least understanding certain statistics principles. Unfortunately, there’s no statistics education requirement to be a premed advisor.
3 | Minimal Medical School & Residency Understanding
The decision of where to go to medical school, whether U.S. MD, DO, or the Caribbean, in large part is a function of what options you’ll have when you graduate medical school. Your goal isn’t just to get into medical school. It’s to become a practicing doctor in a specialty you chose, rather than a specialty you were forced into. That relies on you being able to match into a residency program for the specialty you’re interested in.
Some premed advisors believe that getting into a competitive specialty such as neurosurgery or plastic surgery is competitive for everyone, regardless of whether they are at a U.S. or Caribbean program. Therefore, it shouldn’t matter whether you go to the Caribbean or a U.S. program if you’re focusing on something highly competitive, right? Obviously, that’s shaky logic. It’s significantly more difficult to match into those specialties if one attends a Caribbean school. Just look at the data and match lists, or speak to someone with residency admissions committee experience, like our team at Med School Insiders. To further prove the point, the average Step scores to match into any of these specialties from a Caribbean school are higher than the average Step scores from students graduating from US schools by a substantial margin.
A premed advisor informed me that perhaps the tiny percentage of students matching into competitive specialties is due to varying interests — maybe the thousands of graduating students over the last several years were simply not interested in such specialties.
Denying the fact that it is significantly more challenging to match into certain specialties from DO or Caribbean schools would be very dangerous advice to give a premed student, as this is often a major contributor in limiting them from successfully matching into more competitive specialties.
4 | Easily Manipulated Due to Lacking Expertise
Caribbean medical schools often invite premed advisors to their campus. They fly them out, wine and dine them, put them up in a nice beachfront hotel, give them tours, and try to impress them with their program with the hope that these premed advisors will promote their program to their students.
At one Caribbean medical school, they do these visits 4 times per year, and despite it costing several thousands of dollars per advisor, it’s highly profitable. Why? Because premed advisors are easily convinced. Because of their minimal understanding of the medical training process and lack of education in statistics, premed advisors are easy to trick when the data doesn’t quite add up.
When I asked a premed advisor how she decides between suggesting Caribbean versus DO programs to her students, she said she’s not sure because all her doctor colleagues say DO is better, but she has visited several Caribbean programs and she’s really impressed. Some of her own personal doctors are Caribbean trained and she likes them, so there’s more reason, in her mind, to promote these programs. These are not valid considerations when choosing various medical school paths.
In medical school, it’s drilled into our heads that you should not take free gifts from pharmaceutical companies. As Cialdini talks about in his widely acclaimed book, Influence, the reciprocity rule acts subconsciously and can influence treatment decisions. For example, doctors are more likely to prescribe the medication from the drug company that’s providing them with gifts.
In a previous video on my Dr. Kevin Jubbal YouTube channel, I outlined the specific instances from my recent trip to a Caribbean medical school where the presented numbers didn’t add up, and how the program was able to fool premed advisors.
I seek to provide as much free value and guidance as possible to premeds on this blog and on our YouTube channel. If you want to dive in deeper, we have courses and services on our website that will actually help you become the doctor you’ve always wanted to be. No ignorance and foolish thinking to cloud our judgment. We’re a company run by real physicians like me who have gone through the process, served on medical school admissions committees, and understand all the nuances and the ins and outs of the process. Check out our Premed Roadmap to Medical School Acceptance Course for a highly comprehensive A to Z guide for premeds, or work 1-on-1 with a top physician for more personalized help. We also provide free 15-minute consultations!
I hope you all liked this post; it’s an issue I really care about. If you are a premed advisor and weren’t a fan, go ahead and leave a comment, so I know how many of you are reading and what your perspective is!