THE BOTTOM LINE: Blueprint is one of the newest faces in admissions consulting, which allows students access to high-tier consultants for relatively cheaper prices than their competitors.
So you’ve decided you want to be a doctor. Congratulations! No matter where you are in your education when you make this decision, it’s a big one. But then comes the next big question:
What should I be doing now?
Whether you are still in high school, just starting college, or preparing to apply, it’s hard to answer that question without a little help.
Some students have friends and family to help guide them, but for many of us who don’t, getting some additional outside help can make a world of difference in getting in to medical school.
The process of applying to medical school can be daunting. In many cases, it’s more challenging than the college admissions process. Most undergraduate universities and colleges have dedicated faculty and staff to assist and advise students who want to pursue professional training in medicine. But at many schools, these pre-med advisors are helping advise and manage hundreds of students. Furthermore, they may not have ideal expertise for unique academic situations or career goals. Together, this can leave students wishing for more guidance on the medical school admissions process. Luckily, there are ample additional resources to assist anyone and everyone in the medical school admissions! Here, we review some of the common med school admissions counseling services offered by many companies, and highlight some of the key differences that are important to know before picking the service best for your situation and goals.
Best Admissions Counseling Services
As you explore potential counseling services, there are key components that are important to the application you’ll likely want to get assistance with.
1. Pre-application Planning – If you’re early in your college career, identifying a service with pre-application counseling is always a plus. An advisor can help you identify key courses you’ll need to complete as part of your pre-med requirements, as well as those to help boost your GPA and prepare you for the rigor of a medical school curriculum. You can get additional guidance about extracurriculars and other experiences to help bolster your application. They also can help you plan and prepare for taking the MCAT, the standardized exam for medical school admissions. Follow this link for more information about MCAT preparation.
2. Primary Application & Personal Statement Review – As with college admissions, building a complete application and having a strong personal statement is key for a holistic review that will be completed by the admissions committee. Medical schools often have qualities they look for in applicants coming from the personal statement and primary application. Admissions consultants can help you make sure to highlight those qualities in yourself through your essays. Having a trained set of eyes is also important to verify you have included all important parts of the application – volunteer experiences, research experiences, grades, test scores – to avoid any delays in verification of your application and get you the earliest possible interviews.
3. Secondary Application Review – Individual medical schools send applicants secondary applications that include school-specific essays in order to determine if you are a good fit for their program. Most admissions consultants will offer secondary application support at different tiers of their services. Because secondary applications are school-specific, it’s very important to have targeted and focused essays. In many cases, consultants will know what features of your application to highlight in secondary essay to maximize the chance of getting an interview and ultimately an acceptance.
4. Interview preparation – Unlike undergraduate admissions, medical school admissions require interviews in nearly every case. Interview performance, while not the end-all-be-all of the admissions process, can strongly swing a program’s perception of an applicant – both positively and negatively. Thus, interview preparation is offered by all med school admissions consultants (depending on the package tier) for both long-form interviews and the newer Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) style.
Below, we’ve included some top-rated admissions counseling services that include all the above features. However, each of these services is a little different in terms of specific options and features offered to student. Take a look to see which might be the best fit for you:
Blueprint Admissions Consulting
Blueprint has primarily focused on test prep for the MCAT and has begun to broaden their services to include medical school admissions counseling. Blueprint has high-tiered admissions guidance programs, but they also offer much less expensive options for students to get editing and application review from experienced counselors. Additionally, Blueprint goes beyond other services to provide guidance about managing rejections and acceptances as well as financial aid options for medical school. While this may seem unimportant from this side of the application process, having an experienced advisor assist with negotiating wait lists and financial aid packages can be extremely helpful when making final decisions about matriculation.
- The upside – with cheaper packages, Blueprint may be one of the most affordable high quality admissions consulting services available that can be enticing to students who just need a tune-up on their application here or there. Furthermore, Blueprint allows bundling of MCAT and admissions services, allowing students to save on both services if both are needed.
- The downside – While Blueprint has a long track record of success in other components of the med school admission process, they simply have not been around as long as the other big names like Kaplan and the Princeton Review, meaning a fewer number of students who’ve successfully navigated through their admissions program. However, this means current students can access their top-tier advising staff for comparable prices to mid/low-tier packages at other companies.
Blueprint provides the opportunity for brainstorming and guidance sessions in each of their packages, but the amount of time is currently limited based on the package tier, so it may make sense to sign up closer to a time when you are looking to begin the application process.
Princeton Review Medical School Admissions Consulting
The Princeton Review is one of the best known test prep companies across all levels of higher education, and as such, their offerings for med school admissions are among the best. Princeton review med school admissions counseling offers some of the more flexible services, both in terms of time and cost compared to competitors. The most unique aspect of their offering is the self-paced medical admissions counseling, which provides access to an experienced admissions counselor, primary application support, and management tool to keep track and map out your pre-med experiences for completing the primary application. In addition, this service includes the option of adding additional review services and interview prep as needed, so you aren’t paying for services you may not want or need. You only pay for those that you want.
- The upside – it may be significantly more cost effective to avoid services you don’t feel are important to you (IE. perhaps you don’t need interview prep services).
- The downside – you will need to make decisions about what services you would like to add on to your package, and if you ultimately need additional help with interviews and secondary essays, this could potentially reach the cost of a more inclusive full service package.
In addition to the self-paced package, the Princeton Review has a collection of full service admissions consulting packages that come with secondary application assistance, interview guidance, and pre-med planning as well for each year leading up to your application cycle.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Princeton Review is a well-established test and admissions prep resource that offers arguably the most flexible suite of services for students across all years of undergraduate preparation. These services are ideal as supplements for students who have excellent pre-med advisor options provided by their university, but are looking for an additional leg up on specific areas of their application (IE secondary essays or interview preparation).
Med School Insiders Medical Admissions Consulting
Last, but certainly not least, we have Med School Insiders, another company focused specifically on helping premed and med students achieve their maximal potential on their applications. Like Med School Coach, Med School Insiders is focused specifically on the medical career trajectory, giving them the ability to keep advisors and counselors on staff that are specifically geared only towards success in medicine. Med School Insiders provides a few unique services not offered by others, namely research advising, where students can be paired with physician scientist to provide advisement on research activities.
- The upside – Research advising and an acceptance guarantee really put med school insiders apart from the rest, especially for students who are looking for acceptances to top-tier institutions where research becomes an important part of the application process.
- The downside – The main downside, as with other full service packages, is the lack of flexibility if you are looking for something less comprehensive. Furthermore, for lower-end packages, med school insiders is generous with the number of edits and hours they provide, but they do have a limit, which is something to consider when making a decision.
Because they also include pre-med advising and school selection guidance, starting earlier in your application process will likely give you more bang for your buck.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Med School Insiders offers a similar suite of services, but includes research advising which can be extra helpful in pushing for acceptances to top-tier institutions. If you are looking for a complete leg up to the highest level, Med School Insiders is the service for you.
Kaplan Medical School Admissions Counseling
Another top name in test prep and admissions, Kaplan’s premium admissions consulting packages are truly a one-stop shop for everything related to medical school admissions. Kaplan also offers a flexible suite of services that include primary and secondary applications, interview prep, and essay review. As a leader in MCAT prep, Kaplan admissions consulting packages also include MCAT prep resources included at higher package levels. If you are looking to maximize MCAT score and get feedback on med school applications, Kaplan prep may be the perfect service for you. Kaplan also offers a-la-carte services including essay review and interview prep if you are looking for guidance only on one or two specific parts of your application.
- The upside – As a one stop shop for all parts of the medical school application process (including MCAT prep), Kaplan covers all your basis, so you should have no worries about any missing pieces of your application. You also are given reserved 1-on-1 time with an expert consultant to plan and review your own application.
- The downside – Kaplan does strictly cap the 1-on-1 time with consultants in their packages. However, coaches and consultants are always available for questions by messaging and email. Additionally, Kaplan does not include secondary support specifically in their packages. It can be added as an additional service, but can add extra cost.
Kaplan provides self-paced guides for preparing and planning undergraduate courses and timeline as well, so it can be a great place to start as a freshman or sophomore before fully committing to a high-priced counseling service.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Kaplan is a solid one-stop shop for admissions advice and MCAT prep that will get you through the primary applications successfully. To continue to get guidance for secondary applications, it can cost a bit more. Kaplan is ideal if you are looking to pair your MCAT preparation with application guidance in one solid service backed by a premier test prep company.
Med School Coach Admissions Consulting Online
While Kaplan and Princeton review provide services for all career paths in higher education, Med School Coach has only one focus: Medical School. As such, they are tailored specifically to provide guidance and counseling to maximize success of pre-med applicants and medical students. Because they are med school focused, all packages include primary application support and strategic planning as a pre-med and putting together a school list. Where the flexibility comes in is post-primary application support – do you want/need secondary application help? Are you applying DO or to Texas schools (TMDSAS)? Do you need interview prep support? Depending on the level of package, you can get all the help you could possibly need.
- The upside – As a medical school-focused service, they are 100% geared towards medical school admissions and the available packages, while less flexible, are certainly geared to maximize success of the students they work with. They are also one of a few services that offers an “acceptance guarantee”.
- The downside – Because there is the goal to maximize success of every student they work with, there is much less flexibility in building a package (IE. no package includes ONLY secondary applications or ONLY interview preparation). While it seems they would offer those if needed, the best way to be the most successful is to utilize a full suite of services from Med School Coach.
Med School Coach prides themselves on having no limits on primary application guidance and planning. So starting earlier will help maximize how much help they can provide in getting you where you need to be in order to successfully apply to medical school.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Med School Coach is a medical school-focused application counseling service that provide a guarantee of acceptance for some of their advising packages and unlimited guidance on primary application review. Med School Coach is best suited for students who know they feel best prepared with multiple rounds of brainstorming and editing for application essays and during the application prep process.
Bemo Med School Admissions Service
BeMo Academic Consutling is a relatively newer company on the admissions scene helping students applying to all types of professional schools. They provide a similar suite of services as the above companies include primary and secondary applications, interviews, and essays with one major difference – BeMo provides a truly unlimited review policy in each of their application packages. That includes primary essays, primary application, secondary essays, secondary applications, and interview preparation. BeMo also provides a money back guarantee for all their packages, also a unique feature.
- The upside – Unlimited review is extremely valuable to have during application preparation, especially if you are looking for a lot of guidance. Having a guarantee for a refund at any point is also a plus.
- The downside – paying for unlimited reviews is costly (though comparable to the higher tier packages from Kaplan and the Princeton Review), and there is little opportunity to mix-and-match as needed. But because it is as close to all inclusive as you can get, the need to add additional services is unlikely.
BeMo does offer strategic planning for applications and school selection, so starting earlier in your prep process will definitely give a great return-on-investment for the price.
SUGGESTIONS, TIPS & TRICKS
Research potential advisors in advance
Most services have a variety of advisors from a variety of different backgrounds available to work with students, and many will give you the opportunity request a specific advisor. If given the opportunity, do a little background research on potential advisors. Ideally, the person you’d like to be advising you is someone who has been a member of an admissions committee of a medical school with a successful track record of advising other students like you. Other advisors worth considering are physicians and residents who themselves had significant success in the medical school or residency application processes. If getting an ideal advisor requires increasing the cost of your package (say from silver to gold), consider whether the increased cost will be worth it – in many cases, it probably will be.
Beware of guarantees
While a guarantee of acceptance sounds nice, be sure to ask as many questions as possible about what that means. Does that mean a refund or just more help on the second/third/fourth application cycle until you are accepted? Does it mean MD or DO programs? Do they require (or strongly suggest) you include specific schools on your application list? While it’s always great to have someone guarantee their work, if another service provides a similar suite of options with a stronger advisor, it’s worth taking a step back to ask if you’ll be better off without the guarantee and an advisor you feel better about.
Don’t ignore your own premed advisors
One thing admissions counseling cannot provide is letters of recommendation or committee letters from your university. As such, you will still need to remain in contact with your premed advisors and keep them up to date on your activities and plan. Furthermore, premed advisors will be the best resource in determining what classes meet the premed requirements for medical school admission. You can get advice from your extramural advisor on courses, but always check with your premed counselor on campus to make sure you will meet the necessary requirements to matriculate.
Consider long-term costs/benefits of advising services
The price tags of many of these services can seem pretty staggering for many students. But ultimately, they are relatively small compared to the overall cost of getting an MD degree. Furthermore, the energy and effort required to be successful as a premed in combination with the stress of applying to medical school shouldn’t be overlooked. Having someone to help guide you and alleviate even a small amount of stress can make the difference in maximizing your success and maintaining your mental health through the whole process.
Deciding to pursue a degree in medicine is a big decision to make. And each step, from high school through college, towards that ultimate goal is important. Having confidence in the steps you take and the path you are on can do wonders for ultimately reaching your goal. While many students can find guidance through parents, friends, and their university, for many of us those resources aren’t there or aren’t enough to give us maximal confidence. Having a medical school advisor can give that extra confidence and help push you to your maximum potential on your journey to medical school and beyond.