As a prospective medical student, you might be ecstatic to learn that there are premed advisors appointed by your university to help you with your upcoming medical school applications. These individuals are meant to help you with your career aspirations, but you must be aware of their shortcomings. In fact, student medical forums are filled with horror stories related to premed advising. So, in this blog, you will learn about the 5 reasons to avoid premed advisors including their lack of personal approach to medical school applications, their inappropriate training and education, as well as some questionable professional practices.
You will learn:
Many schools pride themselves on the strength of their premed programs and premed advisors. They claim that a large percentile of their students get accepted to medical schools due to their success in advising. For most high school graduates looking to pursue a career in medicine, this kind of advertisement is very impressive. It inevitably leads one to believe that a school and its premed advising must be a) of high quality b) involved in increasing students’ success and performance and c) providing great advice on how to stand out in your medical school application.
In reality, this is not the case. Generally, these schools have great medical school acceptance rates because their premed advisors actively and strongly discourage students who they do not believe will be guaranteed medical school matriculants. Of course, it is important to convey the realities and difficulties that students will face on their path to becoming a doctor. Advisors must make sure the students understand that medical school takes up a lot of effort, time, and money. However, no advisor has the right to discourage a student who shows dedication and passion for the medical profession. Premed advisors do not give actionable advice on how to present a student’s unique story in the application, but rather choose to discourage some of their students.
Premed advisors perform some important tasks. Each university has its own course schedules and timetable nuances. Premed advisors usually know what courses can be impacted by scheduling conflicts or interdepartmental politics. They can advise which course a student should take, and when. Advisors can ensure that you graduate on time and complete all your degree requirements, as well as advise you to complete all your premed prerequisites. However, you can find this information on program websites, as well as in our medical school prerequisites blog. Most advisors are unable to give you any relevant or accurate premed advice that would make your application stand out.
Unfortunately, it is very common to hear that students are unhappy with their premed advisor experiences. These “free” campus advisors are often uninformed about the medical school application process. They usually work with a large number of students and cannot spend enough time to provide quality advice for each of them. Having such a large audience that relies on your help can often lead to disregard for students’ personal goals. The advisors end up giving generic information to each student - hardly a good approach to making an application stand out.
In general, most premed advisors do not have an understanding of how to help a student prepare a unique, successful application. It is time-consuming to analyze every student’s history and application in its entirety and tell them what is best, but just because it's time consuming, doesn't mean this shouldn’t occur. While some advisors may do this, unfortunately, it is not common.
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Although premed advisors are often advertised as free and available aid to all students, this is not exactly accurate. Most school’s premed advisors receive a comfortable salary. As you might guess, it is part of your hefty tuition fees and other student charges. More importantly, the fact that they receive part of your money does not make them accountable for your failures. They may directly influence your chances of getting into medical school with their advice, but if you are not admitted, their job security and salary will not be jeopardized. In other words, there will be no repercussions to them if you don't succeed. These advisors are often appointed as part of the school’s institutional structure. Schools simply want to uphold a good reputation and therefore hire a premed advisor.
You must also question how accessible these advisors are to students who pay their wages. Many students share experiences of being unable to make timely appointments with their premed advisor. This may not be the advisors' fault as some schools hire one or two advisors to work with hundreds, if not thousands of students. Perhaps, this is another reason why they work so hard to discourage students from applying. This weeding out process makes their job a lot easier. Most advisors have very limited resources and cannot spend an appropriate amount of time with each student. This lack of resources and accessibility certainly harms the students’ understanding of the medical school application process and therefore their chances of admission.
Firstly, the majority of premed advisors do not have any formal training. Most do not know anything about medical school admissions firsthand. There is no official degree to prepare them for the kinds of questions students are going to ask of them. They also receive almost no training when they take on the position. Most of what they know about medical school admissions they learn during the work process. To be considered for the job, you do not need to have any science background. An undergrad degree is all that’s necessary to get hired. They might have majored in art, history, or business and they will face real questions about medical school for the first time AFTER they get hired as premed advisors. So really, why would you trust the advice of someone who knows as much about medical school admissions as you? Your advisor probably would not have any experience with admissions aside from researching some of the prerequisites on Google. Even if your advisor has a PhD they still likely have zero experience preparing students for all the components of the medical school admission process. You will be better off preparing to write your personal statement by reading medical school personal statement examples in our blog, rather than seeking help from a premed advisor who knows nothing about this intricate process.
Unfortunately, you hear many disappointing stories when it comes to premed advisors and their lack of expertise. Some advisors will steer their students away from taking certain courses because, in their opinion, courses in biology or chemistry are too common and they want their students to stand out. This attitude is negligent, as it oversimplifies the process of medical school admissions, not to mention the fact that both of these courses are almost always required for medical school admission. Every student is different and their journeys to medical school must be personally considered before giving advice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the majority of premed advisors are unaware of the long, challenging journey you will face after your medical school acceptance letter arrives. Most premed advisors have little to no knowledge of how to guide students through various options available to them, including MD, DO, US and Caribbean programs. Premed advisors often base your application decisions on the specialty you may think you want to pursue as a premed. Some will simply advise you to pursue a DO rather than an MD because when they looked up specialties on FindaDO.com, they found that there are DO graduates who matched to your desired residency. This may lead them to tell you that you should pursue your dream specialty by obtaining a DO. This advice is misguiding. First of all, it is premature to base your med school applications on your desired specialty. You are likely too inexperienced to know exactly what specialty you will want to pursue after graduating from medical school in a few years. The majority of med students change their interest in medical school. You must also remember statistics and proportions of admitted students. Just because there are DO graduates who matched into your desired specialty, does not mean that pursuing a DO program is right for you. They may also have no idea how to help you prepare for your interviews – they may have never had a panel interview or MMI, and won't be able to help you prepare strong, in-depth answers to common medical school interview questions. Visit our blogs to prepare for panel interview questions and MMI questions.
Something else to consider is that where you go to medical school may influence what options you’ll have when you graduate. For example, if your advisor tells you that it does not matter which school you attend when it comes to matching to residency programs, so you apply to Caribbean medical schools, you’re going to be upset when you find out that graduates from Caribbean schools have a lower chance of matching to residency programs compared with graduates from US schools.
Check out our video to learn more reason to be cautious about premed advising:
The structure of many premed advising programs discourages students from getting involved. In some schools, students who identify themselves as premed must become part of a premed student group where premed advisors are often acting as primary organizers. These groups have high GPA requirements and demand a high level of involvement in workshops and meetings. If a student’s GPA falls below the minimum, the student gets disqualified from the premed student group and has no chance of re-entry even if their GPA improves. These kinds of rules cause students to find other ways to stay in favor with the premed group and the advisor. Some students have even shared that they would often have to “suck up” to premed advisors by bringing them lunch.
Another reason students feel obliged to please their premed advisors is the looming prospect of a committee letter. Committee letters are authored by premed advisors as evaluation and advocacy on behalf of the student. The letter usually highlights the student’s background and accomplishments, notes challenges, and gives a general outline of the student's readiness for pursuing a career in medicine. A committee letter is not going to be nearly as valuable as a medical school recommendation letter, but some schools encourage their applicants to obtain this kind of letter. It is not a necessary part of your application, but keep in mind that if your school has a history of providing committee letters, medical school admissions might question why you do not have a letter. There are stories of premed advisors taking more time writing some students’ committee letters and submitting them earlier than other applicants’ because they believe that some students have better chances of getting accepted. This kind of favoritism is unethical as it defeats the purpose of student advising in general, but unfortunately, these kinds of stories are not uncommon among students.
Medical schools are aware that premed advisors can influence students’ choice of where to attend school. They also know that the majority of premed advisors are not familiar with medical schools’ quality and reputation. Advisors often learn about medical school programs from short visits that universities organize for them. These visits are carefully structured to create the best possible impression on the visitor. For example, to attract more students, Caribbean schools invite premed advisors to visit their campuses. They fly them out, put them up in beautiful resorts, provide all-inclusive meal and drink options, and impress them with their campus grounds in the hopes that advisors will promote and recommend their schools to students. In this case, the advisor’s information about a program comes from the limited glimpse they took during their visit. They will be more likely to recommend a school they visited and enjoyed, rather than a school that might have better credentials, but is unfamiliar to them.
Medical student forums are filled with stories of premed advisors giving unsatisfactory and disappointing advice. Some students sink into a deep depression after meeting their premed advisors. One of the most common complaints is the lack of moral support students receive from the advisor, who should be the one supporting the students’ career goals. It is very common for a premed advisor to base their advice not on the particular circumstances and strengths of the student, but on the general information about medical school standards they find on the internet. However, as you prepare your medical school applications, you learn that there’s really no one way of getting accepted into medical school. Each student’s journey to medical school is unique. To generalize recommendations for a student’s application without examining their particular situation will only harm the student’s chances. Unfortunately, this attitude leads premed advisors to further dissuade students from pursuing their academic goals and dreams without considering their particular strengths and circumstances. In one student’s example, instead of encouraging the student to improve their GPA, the premed advisor insisted that the student should find another professional goal. There are also stories of premed advisors telling their sophomore students that they need to focus on a back-up career goal, disregarding that they have plenty of time to improve their academic standing. This lack of a personalized approach is common among premed advising programs and many students report similar feelings towards their advisors.
Often, the premed advisor's guidance is based on your ability to ask the right questions. When you are a student looking to apply to medical school, you might be aware of some admission nuances and know which questions you must ask, but most are not so knowledgeable. It may also be intimidating to approach an advisor and not have questions prepared. Unless you plan to ask specific questions about the application process, your advisor may be unable to help you. As previously mentioned, most advisors have hundreds of other applications to work on, so they are not invested in confirming the specific requirements of different medical schools. They will give very generic advice and will not spend time researching the admissions process thoroughly.
1. Should I totally avoid my school’s premed advising program?
It is always wise to reach out to any available resources that can help your chances of getting accepted into medical school and not all premed advisors are indeed ineffective, but unfortunately, many of them are. The situation is generally better at small schools with a smaller number of students. In these types of institutions, the resources are often less stretched. While we don't recommend that you rely on an advisor’s advice, they can still provide you with the materials and forms you need for your applications. They can also contact medical schools on your behalf to get more detailed information about a program's requirements and admissions process.
So, paying a visit and getting information is a good idea, but don’t assume this is the only information you need, and it should only be a starting point.
2. Can I get into medical school without the help of a premed advisor? Where can I find helpful information?
Yes, you can! Many students who matriculate into medical schools do not receive any help from premed advisors. Some students have shared that they actually went against the advice given to them by their premed advisor and still got into their desired school. There are many resources for students looking to enter the medical profession, including program websites and admissions professionals. You can find a list of helpful resources for your medical school application here. Premed forums, however, should be avoided due to their lack of reliable, factual information and hostility from moderators. Some program websites only provide general information so if you have specific questions about the program you’re applying to, it would be wise to reach out to the admissions office directly to find out details. Utilizing the services of a professional medical school advisor, with years of experience in the admissions process can increase your chances of getting accepted into medical school. Medical school admissions consultants have often been in your exact shoes, they’ve applied to medical school themselves or have extensive training and knowledge in the medical school admissions process. Some of them have even been on admissions committees or served as evaluators during interviews. All of this means that these individuals have a strong educational background, extensive knowledge, utilize a personalized approach, and therefore are in the best position to help you get accepted.
3. I don’t like my school’s premed advisor. Can I reach out to another school’s advising program for help?
There are times when a premed advisor gives some limited advice to a student from a different school but it is uncommon. Many schools require students to have an appropriate student ID to qualify for any kind of advising. However, no one can stop you from emailing or phoning another school’s advising program and asking if they can help you. Remember, most likely their premed advisors have the same problems as yours. They probably have limited knowledge of the admissions process and only understand the basic template of what a student should do to stand out. Besides, since you are not one of "their own", the advisors will pay you less attention to you compared with students who are paying tuition at this school.
4. What if a premed advisor told me I had no chance of getting in?
First of all, don’t get discouraged. As mentioned above, students find a variety of ways to gain admission and there isn’t only one path that works. First, educate yourself. Education=empowerment. Explore program websites so you know what requirements are needed and what incoming class profiles look like. You can also look at centralized application sites like AAMC’s Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) and OMSAS to find out about timelines and requirements. Explore if you are on track or whether you need assistance and what things you need to improve on and go from there. Check out our blog if you need help studying for your MCAT or some ideas on how to select extracurriculars for medical school.
Our medical school chance predictor can give students an idea of their chances.
5. How can I find out if my premed advisor is qualified to give me advice?
Simple! You can always feel free to ask an advisor what their qualifications and experiences are. As noted above, true experts have experience and/or extensive training in evidence-based methods that have worked countless times to help students receive acceptances.
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To your success,
Your friends at BeMo,