When I reflect on the most pivotal times in my life, moments when I made big decisions that directly impacted the arch of my future, one thing rings true: I always consulted others for advice.
The insight I received always helped me make more informed decisions. It is my firm belief that this is a good approach to tackling major hurdles in life. Most successful people will attest to the fact that learning from others who have succeeded before you is one of the best paths to achieving your own success.
The road to medical school is no different. It likely comes as no secret that seeking advice, guidance, and consultation when crafting your medical school application is of the utmost importance. I doubt you need any convincing of this. The real question is where will that advice come from?
Furthermore, should you seek professional advice from a medical school admissions consulting service? This is a question that will have a unique answer for each applicant, depending on their situation and available resources. My goal is to provide you with the right information to make that decision. I have no intention of convincing you one way or the other. Rather, I want to provide you with the information and tools necessary to seek out that advice and support, wherever it may come from.
Aspects of the Medical School Application
Let me start by outlining the key areas in which it will be helpful to have a second set of eyes on your med school application. These are the major areas where seeking external help can augment the success of your application.
- Personal Statement—this is the most obvious aspect, but it is also one of the most important. It is key to have a few people read over your personal statement for grammar, spelling, content, flow, and meaning. Look for people who have experience with this process, such as medical students, physicians, professors, writers, or others well-versed in either med school admissions or writing in general.
- Secondary Applications—the above logic applies here too. It is very helpful to have an experienced individual look over your secondary essays.
- Extracurricular Activities—it is important to sell a well-rounded set of experiences when creating your application. Highlighting the appropriate aspects of your prior experiences is key. A third party may be able to point out gaps or redundancies in the activities you have listed.
- Choosing Which School to Apply to—this is a crucial step of the process that is easy to overlook. It is imperative that you intelligently choose an appropriate number and variety of programs that are the right fit for the strength of your application. It is possible to do this on your own using resources such as MSAR, but someone with application experience can be helpful in this regard.
- Interviews—it is vital that you seek help with this step. No applicant should attend interviews without practicing several times with others. Furthermore, it’s ideal to complete a full mock interview with someone experienced with the admissions process. Many schools provide mock interviews through their career support services. I absolutely recommend doing mock interviews, either through that service, with physicians you know, or through a medical school admissions consulting service. Interviews are a matter of practice, and they can make or break your application. You must complete the appropriate preparation to help ensure your success on interview day.
Which Applicants Need Admissions Consulting?
So, how does one decide whether to seek formal professional help? Here are the individuals who will specifically benefit from professional consultation.
- Those who do not have professors, medical students, physicians, or experienced professionals who they trust to take an in-depth look at their application materials.
- Those who are concerned about specific weaknesses in their application, including lower than average MCAT or GPA scores, deficiencies in extracurricular experiences, lack of research experience, etc.
- Those with general concerns about their writing ability or specific concerns about their personal statement or secondary essays.
- Anyone looking for an added level of comfort and confidence in the strength of their application.
Those who do not fall into these categories may not need to hire help. There are countless applicants each year who have strong qualifications and adequate support in place who gain acceptance without hiring a service. But not everyone falls into that category.
You must be honest with yourself about your qualifications and your needs. Whether or not you do it through a professional service, you must seek help from others. Get multiple people to look over your application and personal statement, and seek out help with interview prep. Do not skip out on this. It is always best to prepare as much as you can, and it would be unwise not to use the appropriate resources to vault yourself to success.
Another point to consider is the financial aspect of this decision. This is of course important and not to be discounted (pun intended). Let me give you some overall trends that may put the decision into perspective.
Most admissions consulting services cost $250 per hour or more. Depending on if you are getting a simple personal statement edit or a more comprehensive application review, the expense of consulting services can easily exceed a couple thousand dollars. This is certainly not cheap, so is it worth it?
First of all, I think the answer to this question lies in what I discussed above; namely, whether you have access to experienced people who can review your application. But beyond this, how would this price compare to the overall expense of becoming a doctor?
Applying to medical school is not cheap. The primary application is $160 for the first school and $39 for each additional school. Secondary applications range from $0 to $200 but are usually around $100 each. Finally, airfare and lodging for interviews usually cost a few hundred dollars per interview.
With some quick math, a student applying to 20 schools, receiving 15 secondaries, and attending 8 interviews (these are conservative numbers, as many students will do more) will spend about $4800 on the application process. Moving beyond this, medical school tuition is generally between $40,000 to $60,000 per year. The most recently quoted mean debt for graduating medical students is around $190,000.
I do not mean to paint a bleak picture; I only want to point out that although medical school application consulting is not cheap, it is still a small fraction of the cumulative expense it requires to become a doctor. The most important thing to consider is whether or not application consulting is within your means. If it is within your means and you have determined, based on the considerations discussed above, that it will benefit you, application consulting is a worthy expense.
How to Choose a Med School Admissions Consulting Company
Here are the key components of high-quality medical school admissions consulting services.
1 | Real Doctors
Ideally, doctors with admissions committee experience. You want advice from people who have been there and done that. This is why I believe a medicine-specific service (as opposed to more general services, such as Kaplan) is the strongest option. It’s best to work with physicians who have been through the process and succeeded. It’s also beneficial to work with those who have served on admissions committees and know what it takes to be accepted in the current day. This will provide you with the most direct and effective advice.
2 | Proven Success Rate
Look for services that can provide you either statistical success rates or real customer testimonials as to the quality of the services provided. You want a proven entity—one that has helped others like you succeed.
3 | Genuine Care for the Customer
Authenticity can be difficult to evaluate upfront, but be mindful of the interaction and information you receive during your consultation or communication with the company. Look for a service that demonstrates dedication to the customer and seems to be more interested in your success than acquiring your business.
4 | Systematic Approach
A systematic approach that ensures top-quality results is key, and can be hard to come by. Not all companies will be able to explain a systematic and methodical manner in which their advisors provide guidance. Well-designed systems produce results. Does that company have a system in place with internal checks for assessing and ensuring the quality of services provided? Is there a system in place not only for customer feedback but for implementing said feedback? An organized and systematic structure helps to ensure results, so it may behoove you to inquire about this.
Take Advantage of Consultations
Use free consultation sessions to learn more about the service(s) you are considering and to determine whether they are providing the quality and expertise you are looking for. Many companies offer these free sessions—take full advantage of them.
Med School Insiders offers a free 15-minute consultation. No catch here—this resource is completely free of charge. Use this service to discuss your application and whether you might benefit from further consulting services. The goal is to help you get the support you need, whether through Med School Insiders or any other resource available to you.
With these components in mind, you will be able to effectively select the appropriate consulting service. I will say that it is my firm belief that Med School Insiders excels in all these areas. The talented team of physicians and the success they have already shown is undeniable.
But even beyond those factors, in my opinion, the dedication to the customer and their systematic approach set MSI apart. With that said, there are a number of great choices out there; if you choose to pursue application consulting, I encourage you to explore as many companies as you need to find the one that is right for you.
Insights from My Experience
Finally, I will briefly offer you my personal experience to show you a real-world example of how this decision may play out.
When I was in undergrad applying for medical school, I did not use any application consulting service. First of all, I felt confident in my GPA and test scores such that I was in a good position if I put together a solid application. But more importantly, I had the benefit of multiple resources from day one of college, which were extremely helpful throughout the application process.
My father is a physician and had recommendations on the right extracurricular and research activities to get involved with early on. During application season, I knew a student one year ahead of me who had just been accepted to a top medical school. He was willing to meet with me and discuss aspects of my application, which essentially functioned as free consultation. I was able to seek the help of my research mentors, who were physicians, to review my personal statement.
Finally, I used the university’s career center to arrange a mock interview. I also completed practice interview questions with multiple other individuals, including real doctors with admissions experience. I was fortunate enough to have the resources in place to hone my application appropriately without a formal service.
I would encourage those who have similar resources at their fingertips to seek them out as much as possible. For those who don’t, or those who feel that they need to strengthen weaker aspects of their application, it is reasonable to consider a formal application consulting service.
No matter what, thinking critically about your application and planning appropriately are the right things to do. I suspect that if you have read this far through this post, you are doing those things. Keep it up—you are on the right track.