What if school advisors spent more time building you up then kicking you down? Imagine how many dreamers turned doers we would have?
If I took the advice and internalized all the negativity my past school advisors gave me, I wouldn’t be a medical student today.
High School Advisor
I realize looking back into my academic record that poor advising started in high school. I had an advisor who told me to take three to four AP science classes or else I wouldn’t do well in my college science classes. I was okay taking two AP courses at a time but I did not want to overburden myself during senior year amongst the stress of applying to college. I loved science and while taking more AP courses may have been a great college introduction, I also knew that overloading myself could have its consequences as well. I opted to take two AP courses and await the rigors of chemistry and biology in college.
My career goal at the time was to become a dentist. Instead of deciding to major in Biology the usual pre-med/ pre-dental track, I applied to dental hygiene programs. My logic was to complete the Dental Hygiene degree program while taking the dental school prerequisites alongside my core classes. I figured, If I didn’t get into dental school due to grades or entrance exams, I could still work in the dental field as a hygienist. While that may have seemed like a smart plan B, I now realize that I was already knocking myself down before I even started. I felt this way because my high school advisor had already planted the seed of “failure” into my head. So, in turn, I created a fool-proof back up plan instead of thinking positively and saying I will get into dental school and I’m going to do whatever It takes to get in.
Then, in college, my dental hygiene school advisor told me to take my prerequisite classes at a community college, stating it would be more affordable and easier for me to complete. I guess she was implying that I wouldn’t do well in my prerequisite classes at my home institution which was a highly esteemed four year university. I understand the financial concern but looking back I’m not sure that her advice came from a good place. I knew that this advice did not sound correct so I verified dental school requirements at a a conference I attended, with a dental school dean and specific school websites. The answer I received was that students from four year universities were expected to complete their courses at their home institution and it was actually frowned upon for students to only take prerequisites at a community college while enrolled in a four year university. This is not to say that there is no stepping stone from community college to dental school but rather admissions committees would prefer classes taken at four year universities if circumstances allow for such.
This is totally understandable because if you already attend a four year college, it is very suspicious that you would take classes at a community college. There are many reasons why people attend community college as it is financially more attainable for many. But as a matriculating four-year college student, it might raise a red flag on your application that you typically only took the most rigorous science classes at a community college but reserved the others at your home institution.
Because of this, I did not listen to her misguidance. I’m not sure if I can consider it sabotage or ignorance. Either way, I was forced to take matters into my own hands. I ended up taking prerequisites at my college and then I took more classes at four-year universities in the summer and once I graduated.
My investigative personality allowed me to unveil the truth behind poor advising. I’m also glad that I questioned my advisor’s motives and statements. I wonder where I would be now had I taken them for their every word. The sad part of it all is that there are thousands of students being discouraged and being forced away from completing their dreams.
I currently run a free newsletter providing mentorship for young professionals and I can’t even count how many students have reached out to me telling me how their advisors misguided them and made them almost give up on their career aspirations.
Advisors may be trained to know the timeline and the most competitive ways to get into medical school, but there is now a surge of non traditional medical students. Many, who like myself were told they’d never get into medical school. I had some bad grades and classes I had to retake to boost my GPA. I also switched careers from dentistry and went into medicine. My MCAT score was noncompetitive but I finally found my gateway into medical school. As cliché as it sounds, you can do anything you put your mind to. I said I wanted it and I kept at it. Now, I am here.
The naysayers will always be there. But, it is how you process that and rise above the noise. Throughout my academic journey I’ve had advisors and professors who counted me out but you bet your bottom line, I proved them all wrong.
My mama didn’t raise me to take NO as the final answer.
The Ideal Advisor
If advisors continue to spew negativity and trigger self- doubt, they will continue to create people who internalize these sentiments and consequently perform at their sub optimal levels.
Advisors should definitely be realistic but they should do so in a motivating and encouraging manner. School advisors should inspire you to be the best person you can be. It shouldn’t be too much to ask an advisor to truly want the best for you by creating a plan of attack when you encounter bumps in the road.
It is only fair to give students a fighting chance when they are in the learning process, seeing as though so many extenuating circumstances are stacked against them, especially being an underrepresented minority. The more you ascend the educational hierarchy, imposter syndrome starts to set in. You enter unfamiliar spaces that make you second guess your legitimacy. It’s so easy for you to question your worthiness and then once an advisor seals the deal for you, all hope is gone.
Just remember that you do belong in these spaces because you worked just as hard or even twice as hard to get to where you want to be. If nobody else believes in you, just know that I am always rooting for you.
When the next advisor you encounter tells you that you can’t, tell them you can.
If they tell you you’ll never do XYZ, tell them you are claiming it and it’s already yours.
To all the advisors who told me I would never amount to anything, pass my boards or get into medical school, Look at me now !