Why You Should Meet Medical School Student Affairs Deans

When you’re planning your medical school interviews, you are likely focused on impressing the admissions dean. But the truth is that while the person holding the keys to admission plays a crucial role in your being accepted, he or she has little involvement with you after the admissions decision.

When you are on campus or doing a virtual interview, you should plan to meet the student affairs dean, as this individual will have a tremendous impact on your days and success as a medical student.

[READ: What to Know About the AAMC Virtual Interview Tool.]

Here are 10 ways a dean of student affairs will influence your life during med school and why you should make a point of meeting this person during your interviews.

Academic help. The dean of student affairs can refer you to tutors or other professionals who can help if you fall behind in your studies or are challenged with time management.

Career guidance. The dean is often the one to provide tips about scholarships and grants. He or she also can reach out to other faculty on your behalf when you need help with residency applications and interviews. When you are ready to post your rank list for residency, you may seek the dean’s advice.

Even if you have another individual adviser, there are often situations when you want a second opinion from the dean. Students often ask student affairs deans about how faculty have mentored other students or guided them in research.

Special permissions. The dean is likely the one to give you permission for a personal absence or days away for a scientific conference. Student affairs deans at medical schools are well versed in school policies. Not only is it helpful to know the policies in place, but also the people who are most responsible for them.

Faculty connections. Because student affairs deans are often well connected with faculty members in many specialties, they can help you find mentors you can shadow earlier in the first and second years of med school. They also will know faculty who are willing to help supervise research and perhaps how the two of you might work together.

[Read: 3 Interview Questions to Ask Medical Schools to Determine Fit.]

Further, the student affairs dean may be the one you reach out to when you haven’t heard back from a professor. A busy faculty member may lose track of your email or phone call, but that person is less likely to miss a message from a dean.

Student opportunities. If you’re interested in starting a student interest group or being nominated for a student award, your student affairs dean is the go-to person. The dean is often aware of funding sources for groups and can offer suggestions on finding a speaker for an event. Often, the dean is the window that allows you to see the opportunities open to students.

Faculty committee involvement. Most med schools have student members on nearly every faculty committee. However, there may be a minority of schools where students can contribute a voice but not sit on the committee as a voting member. If that’s the case, you’ll want to know if the student affairs dean runs interference for students to help them contribute their ideas to these committees.

For example, the committee charged with selecting faculty members may not always have student members but may be willing to take testimony from students as to which characteristics they would like to see in their faculty

Student voice. If a student or group of students is upset about something important to them, the student affairs dean plays a key role. Ideally, the dean can provide counsel and help create a safe forum for the topic to be discussed, ensuring that student voices are heard. Asking older students how this worked in the past could be enlightening.

Although the dean may not be able to fix a problem, he or she tends to be respectful of student opinions and sees to it that higher powers in the school hear the message.

Personal guidance. Medical students have real lives, and crises occur. Ideally, you should feel comfortable talking with the student affairs dean if a tragedy in your family arises or if you become depressed or struggle with a mental health issue. Referrals for student family members with all kinds of health concerns are suggested upon student request, even for relatives living in other cities.

[Read: How to Use Interviews to Select a Medical School]

Letter of recommendation. Scholarships, summer internships, international opportunities and research often require multiple recommendation letters. How easy is it to get one from the dean of student affairs? Do the older students feel they could ask, and are letters truly personal and completed in a timely fashion?

Student government. How effective is it in the opinion of the student affairs dean? Are there areas for growth and improvement? Asking the same questions of the students may bring some interesting insights.

Whether or not you have the chance to meet the dean of student affairs during interviews, be sure to ask about the dean in your conversations with students.

For example, ask if the students like and trust the dean of student affairs. Can they get an appointment easily? Do they seek the dean’s advice and believe it is truly helpful? Does the dean function as an advocate for students or only as a voice for administration? If a student needs help with something at the last minute, does the dean show compassion and flexibility, or is that person a stickler for rules, even in a real emergency?

While most of these questions must be answered by students, you may be able to glean some insights for yourself after meeting the dean.

Creating student interest groups, looking for funding options for projects or events, locating speakers and countless other reasons can bring you to the door of the dean of student affairs. Do your best to meet this person on interview day or, at the very least, during a second visit and before you select your school.

Working with a dean who is highly committed to student success is a strong foundation for a superior medical school experience.

More from U.S. News

How to Address Ethics Questions in Medical School Interviews

9 Residency Tips for Medical School Applicants

How to Choose Which Medical School to Attend

Why You Should Meet Medical School Student Affairs Deans originally appeared on usnews.com

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