Mentoring greatly improves graduates’ admissions

Kay Brothers and students
Kay Brothers works with students in 2012.

PULLMAN, Wash. – WSU had a 100 percent dental school acceptance rate among applicants who had been mentored in the WSU Pre-Health and STEM Education (PHASE) office. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We’ve never had 100 percent for dental before,” said Kay Brothers, director of pre-medical and pre-dental advising.
Among pre-pharmacy students mentored through PHASE, 27 students (87 percent) were accepted into pharmacy graduate schools; 23 pre-medical students mentored (79 percent) received offers from medical schools; and eight WSU pre-dental student (100 percent) were accepted into dental schools.
Improved competencies, competitiveness
All of these numbers are above national averages from 2012 and are improvements for PHASE. Only 40 percent of dental students nationwide were accepted in 2012, making this a particularly exciting achievement, Brothers said.
“We’ve been steadily improving our acceptance rates over the years,” she said. “It shows our students are displaying the types of things professional schools are looking for: they are well-rounded, super bright and demonstrate competencies in things such as community service and critical thinking.”
Brothers attributes the success of PHASE to its programs like PASSPORT, which engages new students with diverse opportunities at the university and in advising. Also, PHASE workshops teach students how to select a professional school that is right for them, how to be competitive applicants and what to include in the application process.
Assistance with planning, interviewing
Students meet one-to-one with PHASE advisors as early as new student orientation. Brothers said the key is giving students something to aim for, right from the start. For example, she employs to-do lists to help students move forward with their educational plans.
An additional resource for applicants is the Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Applicant Advisory Committee, made up of faculty from across the university. Two members meet with a student to review his or her qualifications before writing letters of recommendation.

“It’s very much an additional interview opportunity,” said Brothers. “These faculty members ask hard questions to prepare students for admissions interviews.”

Knowing students – and how to help them
Through PHASE, a number of pre-health student clubs bring together future health professionals with similar interests. Brothers advises five clubs and works closely with student officers.
“You get to see a new side of the students,” she said. “They are working together and helping each other – even if it’s the simple act of bringing food to the meetings.
“Seeing another side of a person can help me to make a letter of recommendation tailored to them,” she said. “That’s really powerful.”
Networking strengthens expertise
Brothers and the other professional advisors at PHASE stay aware of the ever-changing standards of professional schools. They regularly attend regional and national meetings with pre-healthcare advisors, as well as general advising training through the WSU ACADA advising organization.
Moreover, networking offers a wealth of knowledge, she said. PHASE advisors keep in touch with peers at colleges in the region, such as the University of Idaho, Lewis and Clark State College and Whitman. WSU hosts the annual Health Careers Expo for students from these schools and others close by.
The knowledge and benefits gained by these connections work back into the advising system, Brothers said, giving the PHASE staff more tools to help students. And with such high acceptance rates to professional schools this year, there is a positive glow about the program and what it has to offer.
“Over the course of all this advising we really grow to know the students well, and seeing them get in professional schools is a fantastic part of our jobs,” she said.


Kay Brothers, director, WSU pre-medical and pre-dental advising, 509-335-4549,
Jared Brickman, communications assistant, WSU undergraduate programs, 509-335-8070,