Why to Meet Med School Student Affairs Deans Early

WHEN YOU’RE PLANNING for 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, they have little involvement in the next steps of your career. However, while you’re on campus, you should also plan to meet the student affairs dean, as this individual will have a tremendous impact on your days as a medical student.

Here are eight ways a dean of student affairs will influence your life during medical school and why you should make a point of meeting them during your interviews:

1. 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.

2. Career guidance. The dean is often the one to provide tips about scholarships and letters of recommendation for scholarships and grants. They 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 their advice.

3. 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 are well versed in school policies; not only is it helpful to know the policies that are in place, but also the people who are most responsible for them.

4. 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 and faculty who are willing to help supervise your research. 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.

[ READ: Tips for a Successful Medical School Admissions Interview. ] 5. 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. Often, this person is the window that allows you to see the opportunities open to students.

6. Faculty committee involvement. Most medical 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

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.

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