Is Medical School Admissions Consulting Worth It?

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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 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, dependent on their situation and available resources. My goal is to provide you 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 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:
  • Personal statement– this is the most obvious answer, 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: medical students, physicians, professors, writers, or others well-versed in either med school admissions or writing in general.
  • Secondary applications– the same logic applies as with the personal statement above. It is very helpful to have an experienced individual look over your secondary essays. See our prior posts on secondaries if these are less familiar to you.
  • 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.
  • Deciding which schools to apply to– this is a crucial step of the process which is easy to overlook. It is imperative that you intelligently choose an appropriate number and variety of programs which 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– this is a step at which it is paramount to seek help. I would recommend that no applicant attend interviews without practicing several times with others. Furthermore, itwould be 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 would 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. It is a must to complete the appropriate preparation to help ensure your success on interview day.
 

Which Applicants Need Admissions Consulting?

These are the major areas that seeking external help can augment the success of your application. So how does one decide whether to seek formal professional help? Here are the individuals who I think would 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, 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. Therefore, you must be honest with yourself about your qualifications and your needs, and use these to guide your decision. No matter what, you should get help from others whether or not you do it through a professional service. Do get multiple people to look over your application, personal statements, and help you with interviews. 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. One point to also 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 whether you are getting simple personal statement edits or more comprehensive application review, the expense of consulting services can easily exceed a couple thousand dollars. This is certainly not cheap, so it is 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 to review your application. But beyond this, how would this price compare to the overall expense of becoming a doctor? The application to medical school itself 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 and $60,000 per year. The most recent quoted mean debt for graduating medical students is around $190,000. My goal is not to paint a bleak picture, but 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 point is whether application consulting is within your means. If so, I think it can be a worthy expense if you have determined that it is right for you based on the considerations discussed above.  

How to Choose a Med School Admissions Consulting Company

One great opportunity to take advantage of is the free 15-minute consultation provided by Med School InsidersNo 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. Our goal is to help you get the support you need, whether through Med School Insiders or any other resources available to you! Use these 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 them, and I would encourage you to fully take advantage of this opportunity. So what makes a high quality medical school admissions consulting service? Here are the key components:
  • Real doctors, ideally those 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. Work with physicians who have been through the process and succeeded, as well as those who have served on admissions committees and know what it takes to be accepted in current day. This will provide you with the most direct and effective advice.
  • Proven success rate– look for services which can provide you either statistical success rates or real customer testimonials as to the quality of the services provided. You want a proven entity and one that has helped others like you succeed.
  • Genuine care for the customer– this can be difficult to evaluate and determine upfront, but be mindful of the interaction and information you receive during your consultation or communication with the company. Look for a service which demonstrates dedication to the customer and seems to be interested in your success more than in your business.
  • A systematic approach which ensures top quality results– this 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.
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 physician team and the success they have already shown is undeniable. But even beyond those factors, the dedication to the customer and the systematic approach set MSI apart in my opinion. 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.  

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 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, and also did 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. I hope this overview gives you an idea of what to consider regarding med school application consulting and provides you the tools necessary to decide whether it is right for you. No matter what, thinking critically about your application and planning appropriately are the right things to do. I suspect if you have read this far through this post (thanks for bearing with me), you are doing those things. Keep it up—you are close to the finish line! I wish you the best of luck!
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