In Homer’s Odyssey, Athena, the goddess of wisdom, disguises herself as a Mentor – an old friend of Odysseus – and accompanies Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, in his own journey beyond the kingdom of Ithaca.
Similarly, drawing on the wisdom of mentors will help you to streamline your path to medical school. Here are four different types of mentors and how they can help you on your journey.
Premed advisors. Premed advisors are professionals who can help navigate the process of figuring out your fit for a medical career, scheduling your courses, checking off medical school pre-requisites, and applying to medical schools. They know what works and what doesn’t.
Meeting with your with your premed advisorearly and often will allow you to plan out your academic trajectory and gain feedback on your college progress. Moreover, premed advisors are equipped with a treasure trove institution-specific information, such as the success rate of their applicants and the admissions profile of graduates who secure a spot in medical school. They can tell you whether you are making steady progress or veering off-course. For struggling students, premed advisors can provide suggestions for improvement or a vital reality check to encourage students to consider a Plan B.
Academic mentors. Some of your academic mentors may be assigned by your university, others you may encounter organically in your courses. Regardless of how you meet them, academic mentors are teachers who are invested in your academic growth.
Interaction with your academic mentor as a premed student may be different from that of students interested in Ph.D. programs, because you likely won’t be following in your mentor’s footsteps. Although academic mentors may not be able to direct you personally in your premed path, they can help you to take charge of your learning in college by offering advice on major planning and improving your academic performance in their courses.
Furthermore, cultivating a professional relationship with instructors who can vouch for your academic strength, talk about you on a personal level and write about your desire to go into medicine will ensure a memorable and robust recommendation letter for the medical school admissions committee, regardless of your mentor’s academic field.
You can get to know your professors by going to office hours, asking thoughtful questions during class, and actively engaging with the material. In an email, Richard Trimble, a third-year medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, describes mentorship as a two-way street. “Ask your instructors and mentors about their lives, careers and research,” he says. “You will find that instructors take a more personal role in guiding your career if they know you as a person.”