At many medical schools, students have the opportunity to be part of the admissions process—from reading applications, interviewing perspective students, and even helping make acceptance decisions. We asked Luis about his experience sitting on the Texas A&M University College of Medicine’s admissions committee. He also shared his advice for aspiring physicians to consider when submitting their applications.
What made you want to be part of your school’s admissions committee?
My first medical school interview was with a student member of the admissions committee, and undoubtedly served as my main motivation behind wanting to be a member too. I remember being surprised that they knew my application just as well, if not better, than I did. Their questions were tailored to highlight my strengths, but also to address my weaknesses. At the conclusion of the interview, I felt that my experiences and aspirations mattered when they previously had not, especially as a reapplicant. In their capacity as an interviewer and representative of their institution, they did more for me in 30 minutes than the hours spent looking through websites and brochures. I realized it took the efforts of a proactive and diligent admissions team to recognize applicants like myself who may have been otherwise overlooked.
How were you selected to be on your school’s admissions committee?
The call for applications for student membership on the admissions committee occurred toward the end of my first year. I attended an informational session hosted by the Office of Admissions, which helped further define the scope of the position and expectations of the student members. Current student members were also present to reflect on their own experiences and answer any questions. My completed application consisted of long and short answer responses, two letters of recommendation, and my transcript. I was then invited to participate in a panel-style interview with faculty members of the committee. After deliberations, I was notified of the committee’s decision via email and attended orientation over the summer in preparation for the upcoming application cycle. If all that sounds like a lot, it’s because it was. I remember the whole process being long and exhausting, but also justified in its methodology and indicative of what was to come.
What is your role in the admissions process?
The admissions committee arguably performs the most important function at their respective institutions, as they select individuals whose goals and attitudes are consistent with the school’s philosophy and mission. They are essentially shaping the workforce of tomorrow. This was a concept I didn’t fully grasp until I was on the admissions committee, and something that changed my approach to reviewing applications and conducting interviews. My school treats the student members as equals. We participate in the screening of applications, interviews, and final deliberations as voting members of the committee. When we speak we are heard, and our input is valued. Each of us brings a unique and fresh perspective that informs our evaluations. Collectively, we represent the College of Medicine, instilling in prospective students that if they decide to attend, they are choosing a school that is going to invest its time, resources, and efforts to ensure that at the end of four years, that student will graduate as a clinically- and culturally-competent physician.
What kind of insight do you think you bring as a student?
The school provides the quality of the education, but your peers provide the quality of the experience. Who do I want by my side during a four hour anatomy lab dissection? Who do I want to help me decipher this histology slide? Who do I want to be standing next to on Match Day?
Do you see any common mistakes from applicants?
There are some applicants who submit their applications without giving it a second thought, only to be remembered for bad grammar and a lack of effort. In contrast, there are some applications that have had so many eyes on them, and different voices incorporated, it’s hard to gain a sense of who the applicant really is. On interview day, if you have a student interviewer, treat them as you would any other faculty interviewer. They are not your “bro.” Also remember to be professional. Make sure your application photo conveys that you are an aspiring physician of tomorrow, not that you had fun on your most recent spring break trip!
Do you have any advice for applicants?
Your application is your roadmap: to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been. Remember that. Also realize there are tangible and intangible characteristics of applicants that are often difficult to measure, such as empathy, compassion, and communication. The interview allows us to observe these in action and other traits that may not be found on a rubric. Our time with you gives us insight into your own understanding of yourself, others, and medicine. We start to see you as a medical student, not an applicant.
Contributed by Luis E. Seija, Texas A&M University College of Medicine, Class of 2019