How to Make the Most of Your Premed Adviser

Beginning freshman year, students should start working with a premedical adviser.

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Many students enter college knowing that they want to pursue a career in medicine. For those students, an important part of the preparation process is the advice and guidance provided by their premed adviser. To help students understand what type of help and advice to expect and how to make the most of this relationship, below is a timeline with suggestions to consider beginning freshman year.

For students that entered (or will soon enter) college with a medical career in mind, it is wise to make the most of your premedical adviser as early as possible. During your first semester, consult the academic advising and/or preprofessional advising office at your school. You can walk in or find the contact information online to schedule a meeting.

[See the U.S. News Best Medical Schools rankings.]

During the preliminary meeting, start by asking them for the following information:

• Specific input on volunteer and service opportunities

• Contact information for the premedical society on campus

• Professors who have conducted research with other premedical students

• Help from academic advising for scheduling courses to ensure that you complete the required premedical coursework in a timely and rational manner

• Advice on collecting letters of recommendation and course evaluations from your premedical courses

[Learn 5 tips to get superb letters of evaluation.]

Your premedical adviser will create a file for you and will eventually assist you with your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application; the more organized and proactive you are the better.

During your sophomore year, you will most likely be completing organic chemistry and other premedical requirements, and you should stay connected with your adviser to ensure that you remain on track. You can meet with the adviser once toward the beginning of the fall semester and again toward the end of the year. These meetings are important, but you will spend more time with them during your junior year as the MCAT and AMCAS come into focus.

During your junior year, the majority (if not all) of your premedical requirements will be complete, and you should be planning for the MCAT. Your premedical adviser won't help you with MCAT preparation per se, but can direct you toward useful preparatory resources and help tailor your schedule, so you don't overload yourself with difficult classes while studying for the MCAT.

[See what potential MCAT changes mean for premed students.]

During the spring semester of your junior year and the beginning of your senior year, meet with your adviser at least twice per semester. During these meetings, the adviser can ensure that you are fulfilling all of your school-specific requirements, and that your institutional committee letter and letters of recommendation are in order. Additionally, the adviser can help illuminate your medical education options—M.D. or D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine) or PA (physician assistant)—and provide insight into the AMCAS application.

It is important to realize, however, that despite their experience and critically important role, advisers' primary responsibility is to facilitate your movement into and through the medical school application process. They have dozens, if not hundreds of students they are responsible for, and they are most likely not going to have the time to edit your essays and provide detailed, individual AMCAS guidance.

If you feel you need additional support, there are many medical school admissions consultants, the overwhelming majority of whom are physicians, who have served or currently serve on admissions committees and can work with you to provide personalized editing and strategic guidance to increase your chance of acceptance.

There will be inter-school differences between the services offered by premedical advisers, but the most important advice is to be proactive. Applying to medical school is like a marathon, not a sprint. By being prepared, engaging the premedical adviser early, and sustaining your efforts, you are setting the groundwork for a successful medical school application.

Mark D'Agostino, M.D., M.S., M.Sc. is a Brigade Surgeon in the United States Army. As a Marshall Scholar, he earned a master's degree in Biochemistry at the University of Nottingham Medical School, and a second master's in Health Policy, Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics (LSE) and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). After graduating from Brown Medical School, he trained at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.