Student Involvement in Medical School Admissions of a New Class

Yash B. Shah


September 20, 2022

At my medical school, students play a central role in selecting the incoming class. Trained student volunteers conduct interviews and routinely participate in admissions committee meetings to provide feedback on applicants. The medical school admissions process is highly competitive, and this level of involvement may seem unconventional to those unfamiliar with the admissions process, as most generally assume that these life-changing decisions are only made by highly trained faculty. However, I believe this concept offers great benefits to both applicants and the medical school community.

Although experienced faculty are responsible for performing the initial screening of applicants and certainly take part in their own interviews, incorporating student feedback can greatly benefit the decision-making process while also improving experiences for applicants. Faculty are likely to focus on qualifications, skills, and life experiences, which may qualify a student to pursue the demanding field of medicine. While these factors are undoubtedly important, it is also vital to evaluate soft skills and personality traits, particularly in the modern era of medical training, which emphasizes collaboration and teamwork.

Faculty may evaluate important factors such as academic aptitude, skills, and previous accomplishments using MCAT scores, undergraduate transcripts, application essays, and résumés. However, it is difficult to ascertain an applicant's personality traits and emotional intelligence in this manner. Interviews offer insight into these distinct, yet equally important, traits. Certainly, even for these factors, faculty may have an excellent understanding into personality traits that make an ideal physician. Still, there are unique insights that can be gleaned from students.

Namely, student interviewers have unmatched perspective into the types of people who may best succeed through rigorous coursework. Having a firsthand familiarity with the school's expectations and academic demands, students may better evaluate applicants and their learning styles. They may also be able to provide feedback on the factors that they have seen play a role in academic success, and those which have contributed to struggle. Furthermore, students have a better sense of the types of individuals who may best contribute to the campus community, whether interpersonally, socially, or in team-based course settings.

Applicants may also feel more comfortable around student interviewers, allowing them to share their interests and goals more openly. This would permit a clearer evaluation of personality and emotional intelligence. These factors are crucial for both patient care — ensuring that patients feel comfortable and receive optimal outcomes — and in medical education itself, creating a successful community of learners who benefit from each other. Moreover, this interaction would allow both applicants and institutions to more easily evaluate fit, ensuring success for both parties.

The relationship between student and peer not only allows schools to better evaluate an applicant, but it also allows applicants to learn more about a specific school. Student interviews are often accompanied by campus tours, Q&A sessions, and presentations into student life. These types of events, in addition to the benefits of simply being put in touch with an existing student, are immensely valuable in helping applicants decide which school is right for them. Applicants may be able to ask questions regarding campus life, extracurricular activities, and ins and outs of the curriculum itself. They can learn more about the subjective experiences of students and how they feel about their relationships with faculty and the school.

Student interviews can help tackle the ongoing issue of diversity in medicine. Student involvement in admissions is likely to reduce older biases that may exist among those from previous generations. Students are often more likely to support positive change and progress on these types of issues, and as a result, the student body represents a more diverse group compared with faculty.

Finally, student interviewers who volunteer for these roles stand to gain from the experience themselves. Not only can this type of service to one's institution feel intrinsically rewarding, but it may also develop valuable skills within the student. By sitting on the other side of the table, one may better understand how to perform better in interview settings, skills that will come in handy with residency and job applications in the near future. A large portion of medical trainees may one day seek positions at academic institutions, where these types of responsibilities will be commonplace and crucial to the functioning of such institutions.

Unfortunately, the role of medical students in medical school admissions continues to be unclear, and many are unaware of the extent to which students have a say in these important decisions. This role provides numerous benefits for schools, students, and applicants alike, and it is important to recognize this trend to allow its optimal incorporation into institutional practices across the country. Ultimately, I believe that this involvement should continue to be expanded to improve the quality and diversity of our future medical professionals.

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About Yash B. Shah
Yash Shah is a second-year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned a bachelor of science in premedicine from Penn State University. Prior to attending medical school, Yash worked on clinical and translational research in hematology/oncology at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Yash has long-standing interests in advancing medical education, improving healthcare policy and economics, and working with cancer patients. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, rooting for the Eagles, reading, and traveling.


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