Pre-Med Academics

5 Steps to Find and Keep a Great Mentor as a Medical School Candidate

A great mentor can be the difference between a struggling college student and a successful medical school applicant. That sounds pretty intense, but it’s true. If you consider the many different types of mentors you can have, and the knowledge and guidance you could receive from each of them, that is loads of vital information that could change the course of your path to medicine.

Having a mentor is not a necessity, but you really shouldn’t go it alone. With so many intricacies to the application process, it can only help you to have a few experts in your corner.

But where do you begin? How do you secure and maintain your mentor?

Determine What Kind of Mentor You Want (Think Hard!)

Part of the beauty of mentorship is that there are so many kinds to choose from. I’ve listed a few:

  • Co-Pilot – This is your buddy, your teammate, your friend that is on the same journey as you. They are great for bouncing new ideas off, navigating day-to-day events or challenges, and providing reciprocal support.
  • Master of Craft – This is an expert who is doing exactly what you want to do. For a pre-med student, this could be a doctor or provider in the specialty that they want to work in one day. This person has all the wisdom and experience necessary to guide you through the ins and outs of your industry. They are there to help you find and sharpen your skills.
  • Champion of Your Cause – This advocate builds you up and speaks highly about you in front of others. They can connect you with great people in your industry and they always have your back.
  • The Anchor – Ideally, this is a family member or close friend who can support you through personal struggles. More so than your other mentors, the anchor has your best and most personal interests in mind. They are there to make sure you can psychologically push through anything.
  • Reverse Mentee – It is SO rewarding to mentor others. Mentoring others yourself can help you realize how far you have come and help keep your perspectives fresh.

Choose the type of mentor that works best for you based on your position in life. Looking to learn more about the application process and get exposure to a new field of medicine? Try looking for a Master of Craft like a physician or medical student.

Interested in some of the other research that your lab is doing and want to learn more about how to get involved? Seek out a champion of your cause that can mention your name in important places to help you achieve your goals.

Deciding which type of mentor you are looking for will better allow you to look for them in the right places.

Find a Mentor Program or Venture Out on Your Own

There are lots of formal mentorship programs out there. From programs on Instagram to ones at your school to more private application-based programs, there are tons of places to look. A few example programs are below:

  • Find a physician mentor – If you know some, start by sending them an email. Or, if you need admissions coaching, a physician advisor who has served on an admissions committee from MedSchoolCoach may be able to help you.
  • Get coached by a co-Worker – Need support at your job? Chat with a co-worker who is doing well and see if they would be interested in sharing their knowledge with you.

Whether you are joining a formal program or finding your own mentors on your own time, it’s important to shoot your shot and start networking!

Set Expectations from the First Meeting

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made when looking for a mentor is not being straightforward. I’ve always been afraid that I would be inconveniencing the person or annoying them. In hindsight, I can see now why that was so silly to think.

Part of being a physician or being in any position of leadership or influence means giving back to those coming along behind you. This is especially the case in medicine.

More so than anyone else, the physicians you are reaching out to know exactly what it was like to be in your shoes, and they most certainly understand the difference that a mentor can make. If you aren’t clear about your intentions, this person may misunderstand the purpose of your meeting or the purpose of your relationship.

When you are reaching out and chatting with a potential mentor, don’t be afraid to say: “I would love to have you as a mentor” or “I would love to be your mentee.” Oftentimes, the person you are talking to will make the offer to mentor you all on their own!

Determine Your Communication Preferences Early

Whatever communication style works best for you, assure that you and your mentor are aligned early on. Should you email weekly, have a Zoom meeting monthly, or text as necessary? Identify the desired preferences in advance so you don’t overwhelm each other with messages and meetings – or worse, disappear without a trace!

Communication is a key step in maintaining a mentor. Every mentor-mentee relationship will have a different communication style depending on the individuals involved, their lifestyles, and the nature of their relationship/type of mentor. Get creative with it and find the stride that will carry you through the years to come.

Make Your Plan and Follow Through

Now that you’ve decided the communication style that’s best for you, it’s time to act on it! Don’t go MIA. Instead, make your meetings and talks productive, come with questions, keep them up to date, and take time to learn about your mentor, too.

The best mentor-mentee relationships are the ones where BOTH parties benefit and can share big wins together. If you invest the time and effort and remain consistent, you’ll have this mentor for the long run.

Need an advisor to help you plan your college path? MedSchoolCoach can pair you with an admissions advisor who can help you every step of the way, just like a mentor. It’s like having a physician on your shoulder.


Have more questions about getting into med school or becoming a doctor? MedSchoolCoach has a team of admissions advisors who’ve all served on admissions committees. They are available to help you better your med school application and boost your chances of getting into medical school. Look them up!

Olivia Brumfield

Olivia is a senior at the University of Rochester where she expects to receive a B.S. in neuroscience. She is an aspiring physician with expertise in program management, clinical care, and REDCap with intermediate fluency in American Sign Language. She a Clinical Research Associate at the University of Rochester Center for Health + Technology, as well as the host of the PreMeducation video series.

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