Each year, thousands of pre-medical students think about ways to make themselves stand out. But going the consultant route is not always for everyone, so how do you decide if it’s right for you?

Why are you hiring a consultant?

This is an important question because if you do not have a good reason for hiring an admissions consultant then you may not benefit as much from getting an admissions consultant. Make sure that you understand your reasons for wanting a consultant. Admissions consultants are very knowledgeable and know a lot of information about the field that the rest of us might now know. But if you are hiring a consultant to get into medical school you might be surprised at the end of the process because that is not the purpose of an admissions consultant. Poor grades or poor MCAT scores will not be covered up by the fact that you have an admissions consultant.

Misconception: A very common misconception that people have is that rich people can afford admissions consultants and this is how people that are not as smart get into medical school.

This is a big misconception that I have heard from many students. This is not true at all. The purpose of an admissions consultant is to provide you with support in your journey to medical school, give you advice that is specific to you, help you with your personal statement, and provide you with feedback regarding choices of medical schools to apply to after reviewing your application. An admissions consultant in my mind is the equivalent of an older sibling who already is in medical school and can provide you with the support. The difference between an older sibling and admissions consultant though is the consultant works around your time and gives you an unbiased opinion of what he/she thinks you should do. Sometimes students do not want parents involved in their journey so that their parent’s personal motives do not cloud their advice.

What do you hope to gain from a consultant?

Your aim from what you hope to gain from a consultant should be very straightforward not only in your mind but also should be clearly relayed to the admissions officer so that he/she knows what it is you are looking for. If he/she does not think they can provide that to you then that should be brought to your attention immediately.

Just like when you go to a lecture, one of the first slides of the lecture include a slide on the “goals” of the presentation and what the professor hopes you can achieve from their lecture. Before hiring an admissions consultant, make sure you have those goals well defined in your mind and let the consultant know. Finding the right consultant does not mean just picking one and hoping that he/she is the right one.

An effective way to see if a consultant would even make a good fit for you is to ask the consultant what he/she brings to the table for you and the goals they hope to achieve by the end. Then check to see if those goals match up with your goals and if they do not, thank them for their time and continue the search. No need to get stuck with the first consultant you talk to!

What are your questions that you hope to have answered?

This is like what we were just talking about in terms of goals for the consultant. Similarly, if you have big questions that you want answered make sure that you have thought about those and present them to the consultant to make sure that the consultant feels comfortably answering your questions. Consultants tend to know a lot about this field but each consultant has his/her own special niche of topics and you want to make sure your questions line up with his/her niche.

For example, if you have a lot of extracurricular activities and you feel this is not a part of your application that you need help with but a specific consultant really enjoys helping students work on ways to increase their extracurricular activities then this might not be the consultant for you.

Another good reason for writing down your questions is because it is really easy to feel overwhelmed by the process of applying and it may not actually mean that you need a consultant to help. Writing down all of the tasks/questions that you have may end up being very manageable and something you would rather not hire a consultant for. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a consultant, you could potentially apply to a couple more schools. This way, you have a good understanding of what you hope to gain from the consultant and if it is even worth it for you to get help from a consultant.

Are you able to find answers to these questions or ask someone that you know?

Once you come up with your questions that you hope a consultant will answer for you, step back and consider asking someone you know for help with these topics. You never know who may be able to help you and you should never feel shy of asking someone for help. Examples of people for resources include upperclassmen, fellow classmates (although this can be difficult sometimes when everyone becomes so competitive), doctors that you shadows, residents/medical students that you may have talked to, and family members in the field of Medicine (does not necessarily have to be Doctors).

Not all of us can have the opportunity to use an admissions consultant but that does not mean anything needs to hold you back from getting to medical school. So many people matriculate into medical school as the first in their families to pursue medicine or the first in their families to even go past college or high school.

When would be the best time to hire a consultant?

There is no right answer to this question but I think if you are a traditional student and are applying during the summer after your third year to go to Medical school then it would not be a bad idea to start talking to a consultant at least a couple of months prior to applying so that you can get the most out of the consultant.

There is no right answer for this unfortunately. Whenever that list of questions you have comes to a point where you cannot answer the questions or becomes too overwhelming, it might be time to get outside help.