Partnering with Your Advisor

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Your pre-health advisor can be one of your best resources along your path to medical school. Here are some tips to help you find and work with your advisor.

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How do I find an advisor?

Carol Baffi-Dugan, director for health professions advising at Tufts University a longstanding member of the NAAHP, suggests finding out who the health professions advisor is at your school. They may be in the academic dean’s office, a science professor, or a counselor in the career services office. Some colleges have a separate pre-professional advising office that includes advising services for premed students and those interested in other health careers. Most advisors also maintain websites that can help you contact them or the advising office, so search your school’s website. Even if there is no specifically designated advisor for premeds, try to meet with someone in one of the departments mentioned above.

If no one at your school is available to help, you can find an advisor through the National Association of Advisors to the Health Professions (NAAHP).

When should I contact an advisor?

Contact your premed advisor as soon as you think you’re interested in a medical career. There’s a lot of planning and preparing that has to be done before you’ll be ready to apply to medical school, so the earlier, the better. See if you can make an individual appointment with your advisor, go to drop-in hours, or attend a workshop. Be sure to register to receive any email updates, or newsletters. Also check to see if there’s a Facebook page or Twitter feed you can follow.

What can they help with?

Your advisor can help you learn about the medical profession and help you ask the right questions to decide if it’s the right career for you. Exploration and self-reflection are increasingly important as you prepare a strong application. Then, you can work together to develop a plan to get you where you want to go.

What questions should I be asking?

Ask your advisor which courses are required for medical school and how to best sequence them at your school. You can ask about ways to gain health-related experiences, such as volunteering, and research opportunities. You can discuss when you’ll be best prepared to take the MCAT® exam, and learn if your school offers any prep resources. It’s also a good idea to ask detailed questions about the timeline for applying to medical school.

What is my responsibility?

You should actively seek out your advisor and follow up on the advice and suggestions she or he gives you. While your advisor may be very supportive of your goals, she or he will also challenge you to do your best work and evaluate your objectives.

Of course, your advisor cannot earn the good grades and participate in the health-related experiences you’ll need to be a competitive applicant. That's up to you!

What if I’ve been out of school for several years?

Many individuals decide later that medicine is the career path they want to pursue. Others were not as successful as they wanted to be in their early experience, but with renewed motivation and effort, they can become competitive applicants. Premed advisors know this and they work with students of all ages as they prepare for medical school. You should go back to your undergraduate institution to find out what services they offer alumni. Many premed advisors will work with their alums in planning for and applying to medical careers.   Their website may clarify that and even tell you how to schedule an appointment. If you know you need more coursework you may want to consider post-bacc programs and contact their advisors. If you cannot find advising support these ways then you can work with an advisor from the NAAHP.

What if I am in high school and I’m looking at BS-MD programs? Is there still a pre-health advisor that I can work with?

If you are in high school and are considering BS-MD programs, your best resources are the premed advisors at those programs. Typically, the admissions offices at those colleges and universities provide information on the structure of the programs, the support services, and the policies and procedures.

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