At my medical school, students play a central role in selecting the incoming class. Trained student volunteers conduct interviews and regularly attend 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-altering decisions are only taken only by highly qualified teachers. However, I believe this concept offers great benefits to both applicants and the medical school community.
While experienced faculty are responsible for making the initial screening of candidates and certainly participate in their own interviews, incorporating student feedback can greatly benefit the decision-making process while improving the candidate experience. Professors are likely to focus on qualifications, skills, and life experiences, which can qualify a student to pursue the demanding field of medicine. While these factors are undoubtedly important, it is also essential to assess soft skills and personality traits, especially in the modern age of medical training, which emphasizes collaboration and hard work. of team.
Faculty can assess important factors such as academic aptitude, skills, and past accomplishments using MCAT scores, undergraduate transcripts, application essays, and resumes. However, it is difficult to determine a candidate’s personality traits and emotional intelligence in this way. The interviews offer insight into these distinct but equally important traits. Certainly, even for these factors, faculty may have an excellent understanding of the personality traits that make an ideal physician. Still, there are unique insights that can be gleaned from students.
Namely, student investigators have an unparalleled perspective on the types of people who can be most successful through rigorous coursework. Having first-hand knowledge of the school’s academic expectations and requirements, students can better assess applicants and their learning styles. They may also be able to provide feedback on factors they have seen play a role in academic success and those that have contributed to difficulty. In addition, students have a better idea of the types of individuals who can best contribute to the campus community, whether interpersonally, socially, or in team lessons.
Applicants may also feel more comfortable with student interviewers, allowing them to more openly share their interests and goals. This would allow for a clearer assessment of personality and emotional intelligence. These factors are crucial both to patient care – ensuring that patients feel comfortable and receive optimal outcomes – and in medical education itself, creating a successful community of learners who benefit one another. Additionally, this interaction would make it easier for applicants and institutions to assess the fit, ensuring success for both parties.
The relationship between the student and their peers not only allows schools to better evaluate an applicant, but it also allows applicants to learn more about a specific school. Student talks are often accompanied by campus tours, question-and-answer sessions, and presentations on student life. These types of events, in addition to the benefits of simply being matched with an existing student, are extremely valuable in helping applicants choose the right school for them. Applicants may be able to ask questions about campus life, extracurricular activities, and the ins and outs of the program itself. They can learn more about students’ subjective experiences and how they feel about their relationships with faculty and school.
Student interviews can help solve the lingering problem of diversity in medicine. Student participation in admissions is likely to reduce older biases that may exist among those of older generations. Students are often more likely to support positive change and progress on these types of issues, and therefore the student body represents a more diverse group than faculty.
Finally, student investigators who volunteer for these roles have to gain experience themselves. Not only can this kind of service to one’s institution be intrinsically rewarding, but it can also develop valuable skills in the student. By sitting across the table, one can better understand how to perform better in interview situations, skills that will come in handy with residency and employment applications in the near future. A large portion of medical trainees may one day seek positions in academic institutions, where these types of responsibilities will be common and crucial to the operation of those institutions.
Unfortunately, the role of medical students in medical school admissions continues to be unclear, and many do not know the extent to which students have a say in these important decisions. This role offers many benefits to schools, students, and candidates, and it is important to recognize this trend to enable its optimal integration into institutional practices across the country. Ultimately, I believe this involvement should continue to be broadened to enhance the quality and diversity of our future healthcare 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 in clinical and translational research in hematology/oncology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Yash has a longstanding interest in advancing medical education, improving health care policy and economics, and working with cancer patients. In his spare time he enjoys playing tennis, cheering on the Eagles, reading and travelling.