COMMENTARY

Med Students and Doctors Shouldn't Sell Advice

Ramie Fathy; Travis Benson

Disclosures

July 29, 2020

Medical school admissions are seemingly more competitive every year. As current med students, we know the pressure involved as well as anyone. The number of applicants is steadily rising. Average MCAT scores and GPAs are getting higher. Premed students are understandably looking for all the help they can get.

As applicants seek an edge, services that sell med school admission advice have emerged. These groups are staffed by current medical students — and in some cases, by practicing doctors — and are in high demand. In a sense, mentorship is now for sale.

We can certainly understand why our peers and faculty may be tempted to participate. Most of us are hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. The opportunity to make money helping others start their medical career seems too good to be true. It is.

Although these advising services may help some applicants, for-profit mentorship not only contributes to an already uneven playing field, it does not represent the ideals of the medical profession that we are being taught to embody.

For-Profit Advising Furthers Inequality

For those who may be unfamiliar, these advising services often offer personal statement and secondary application essay editing, mock interviews, and general consultations to explain the application process. The cost for these packages ranges anywhere from $80 to as much as a staggering $20,000.

Whether or not these services are fairly priced, the biggest reason we think med students and faculty should choose not to participate is that these groups may only worsen existing inequalities. Any insights we could provide are inarguably more beneficial to those candidates who don't already have strong existing networks of support and extensive resources. Unfortunately, these students are the very ones who likely cannot afford a consulting service.

We are all well aware that applying to medical school is expensive. Between the two of us, we spent nearly $10,000. We may have gotten off easy. Preparing for and taking the MCAT, submitting applications, and traveling for interviews can cost tens of thousands of dollars. By charging premed students for advice, these companies are providing yet another advantage to affluent candidates who already have more opportunities.

In this way, paid mentorship services may only exacerbate the underrepresentation of students from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds that we already see. Just as the cost of applying to medical school may serve as a barrier to diversity, the steep cost of these advising services further sends a message that medicine is intentionally inaccessible to those from lower-income backgrounds. Diversity among our future peers and colleagues in medicine is crucial. We are frustrated by yet another mechanism that limits change in this area.

Even more frustrating is the fact that many of these companies frame their services as a pathway for those who may otherwise not be able to get into medical school. Yet, much of the advice they provide can actually be found for free. Applicants can find this advice on publicly available sites like Reddit or the medical student–designed Free Guide to Medical School Admission , where they can find detailed strategies, study plans, and example applications from students at top institutions.

Many medical students and doctors do offer direct, personalized mentorship and advice to med school candidates, free of charge. Student organizations like the Philadelphia Organization of Health Professions Students, Bridging Admissions, and Prescribe It Forward have teams who are volunteering their services.

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