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 ApplicationLet 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.
How to Choose a Med School Admissions Consulting CompanyOne great opportunity to take advantage of is the free 15-minute consultation provided by Med School Insiders. 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. 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.