A group of medical students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have created an organization that provides free, comprehensive medical school application assistance to aspiring medical students who cannot afford a professional counseling service, which can often cost thousands of dollars in fees .
The volunteer-led organization, called Giving A Boost (GAB), was founded by Pitt med student Daniel Pan in 2019. Its mission is to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those who are underrepresented in medicine, the first generation in college and low-income and students with disabilities by providing them with a package of free, individualized peer support as they move through the medical school application process.
GAB offers several forms of assistance to the applicants it serves. Provides guidance and feedback on standard medical school application components such as personal statements, work and activities, and secondary essays. He conducts mock interviews – usually virtually – to prepare his mentees to do his will during in-person interviews. It also hosts information sessions to provide guidance on topics such as meeting application schedules, updating letters and letters of intent, and navigating reapplying.
GAB does not charge fees or receive ongoing funding. Students learn about the service primarily through word of mouth, social media, notices from other student organizations, or by accessing the GAB website. There is no formal screening of GAB mentees as to whether they represent an underserved group or come from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. As Pan explained to me, “we work on the honor system.”
Each GAB mentor is connected with an average of one to three mentees from colleges in the region who are going through the application process. According to a recent survey of GAB mentees, over 90% received a medical school offer in the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, and more than 80% received offers in both years, 2020-2022.
Since the 2020-2021 application cycle, the GAB department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has mentored more than 350 students in the greater Pittsburgh area, helping them gain admission to leading medical schools such as Harvard, Columbia, Drexel, Emory, the University of Chicago, Vanderbilt and the University of Pittsburgh.
GAB is now spreading across the country, expanding from the University of Pittsburgh to more than 20 medical schools across the country, including such highly ranked schools as Yale, St. Louis University, Columbia, Harvard, Georgetown, Cornell, Tulane, the University of Iowa, Rutgers, the University of Pennsylvania, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Pan, now a third-year medical student at Pitt, told me he believes that with continued growth, GAB can revolutionize the application process for aspiring medical students by eliminating financial barriers and offering personalized assistance that many students otherwise simply we couldn’t afford it. His short-term goal is to double the number of GAB chapters in the next few months.
The medical school application process is competitive and expensive, and applicants often spend thousands of dollars on application fees, counseling services, and interview costs. Although many applicants can afford to pay for third-party application consulting services, applicants from underserved and lower SES backgrounds typically cannot afford such assistance and often lack the personal contacts to assist with applications, which puts them at a potential disadvantage in the competition for medical school slots.
The GAB aims to level the playing field for these students and points to a peer counseling model that could help medical schools diversify their student enrollments in the future.
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