Sarah and Suleman's Medical ConSLUTing
If you're good at something, never do it for free.
This is a sentiment that pre-med students Sarah Bhattacharjee (hereafter, Jee-Sarah) and Suleman Khan (Sullied Man) have collectively captured in their new company, Stethoscopes Consulting (I guess the first 20 names were taken, huh). Since their admission into medical school, they have decided to help out those who have yet to ascend to such heights and preemptively pay off some of their student debt all in one, a true example of the Berkeley spirit. For as little as $80/hour, a flat fee of $399, or the mega ultra deluxe package of $699 (if you're feeling like treating yourself), you can be a med student too!
On their website, they actually include photos of themselves accompanied by short blurbs and résumé bullet points, presumably the weird lovechild of their Tinder and LinkedIn profiles. Jee-Sarah likes spotting dogs and had the best poster at a conference. She's passionate about "service," which explains why she's charging students up their ass for advice. Sullied Man wants to help "actualize your dreams" and had a 3.99 GPA (that one A- must have hurt), which you can believe because he uses fancy words like "actualize". He also earned the prestigious 'award' of being in Phi Beta Kappa and has always prioritized his passions despite graduating one year early (#humblebrag). They enjoy things like boba and bikes, so they're just like you, except way smarter! They might as well be banging for the sole purpose of passing on their incredible smart-person genes, which means they'll have at least one eventual customer for their consulting service. After all, there's nothing like starting early (hold that thought for a second).
My first reaction to their entrepreneurial endeavor was "well that's pretty gross." But then, I thought about it some more, and realized, "actually, yeah, I didn't even really have to think about it more, it's really fucking gross." From the intention to the execution to the actual product, all of it demonstrates some really slutty behavior. Not in a promiscuous, sexist kind of way, but in a morally depraved kind of way. They're medical sluts. Let's walk through each one.
Starting with their execution, I highly recommend checking out their website – it features the infinite scrolling template every startup uses, complete with soft colors complemented with barely any information. They liked the name 'Stethoscopes Consulting' so much that they included it twice, on the header bar and in two-thousand point font right underneath it (I don't know why it's stethoscopes plural, that would be like having a company called Targets). There are a bunch of generic stock photos of breathtaking landscapes and less-breathtaking stethoscopes that are probably all used without proper licensing or attribution, which is pretty slutty. Their by-the-numbers section has just three numbers, one of which is the quotient of the other two (for some reason they use data from 2015 even though more recent data for 2017-2018 is available, and they don't provide a link to their reference). Their biggest tip is to simply "start early" (there it is), a tip that could apply to almost anything from a paper to pooping (gosh, I hope they're not charging me for that one). They have a revolving banner of logos of all the medical schools they got interviews for (still no sign of which ones they're actually going to), in case you forgot just how amazingly slutty they are. The colors on their 'blue bear' and 'golden bear' packages aren't even Yale Blue or California Gold, the actual colors of UC Berkeley, because branding. They're kind enough to include a 'contact' form, which naturally requires you to select which service package you're interested in, but gives you the option of leaving a message (they just want your money, not your words). And they have their e-mail address listed in the footer even though they have the aforementioned contact form, because they're all about giving you options.
Speaking of options, the actual product gives you a number of slutty ones to choose from. Their baby bear package (the $80/hr) includes 'scheduling' and a 'four-year plan', which any schmuck can do with an Excel spreadsheet. It helps you 'find opportunities' and 'send out applications and cover letters', which is a fancy way of saying Google search. It also comes with a personalized 'step-by-step study schedule', which can be simplified a ton by just writing 'STUDY' on your calendar during any free time you have. And finally, it comes with an 'action plan' to get letters of recommendation, which sounds like the 1-page tax plan that came out a year ago – vague, unhelpful, and a waste of paper. And this is the cheap tier! You're a pathetic baby bear!
The Blue Bear ($399) and Golden Bear ($699) packages are where it gets really good. Both include 'e-mail consultations' and 'creating a school list' as well as help with AMCAS (the application itself), personal statements, and secondary essays. The difference – which again, is $300 – is that you'll get '8 Drafts' on all your essays instead of '3 Drafts'. Which is weird, because if they couldn't get your essays right in three drafts, why would you want their help on the next five? (It's somewhat of a red flag that in their services overview, they use the clichéd phrase "more than anything" and improperly uses the word "distill") As a bonus, you'll also get post-interview strategy, which is probably just a post-it reminder to send a thank-you e-mail. Not to worry if you can't afford any of their packages, you can also purchase one of the useless components individually, because they're not going to turn down your poor-person money. Plus, if you can't make it in person, they actually offer Skype sessions so they can put in even less effort on your dime!
While your return on investment with Stethoscopes Consulting may not be exceptional, at least you're getting some return, right? Wrong! The important things to a med school are your grades, MCAT score, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, interview, and personal statements, in some order (but probably that order). The first three are entirely on the applicant, the fourth is on an external third party, so it's really only the last two they can even help you with. And based on how they come off from their website, I wouldn't particularly trust their communication skills. Remember those "stats" they had from earlier? They just tell you that 39.3% of applicants get into med school, but don't provide any qualifications or assurances of what they'll do for you. If more than a third of applicants get in, what makes them so exceptionally qualified to advise me? Why can't I go to any of the other less-blackhearted 21000+ matriculants and get their opinions on my shitty essays? Besides, they don't guarantee something like a med school acceptance or half your money back (which is still insanely profitable). They don't even guarantee an interview! No free trial? No discount codes? Come on! You had a 3.99 GPA!
The intention is probably the worst part. I wonder how much (free) help they got on their path to medical school. Whether it was from friends, mentors, or counselors, I doubt they got an invoice on an hourly basis. Plenty of people – including the internet – are willing to give advice for free. And these are fellow students they're charging, their peers. You know, the people who work part-time jobs just to get through undergrad. The ones who work together on homework, even if one person knows more than the other. The ones who, even if they have a few hundred dollars to burn, probably should be spending it on Coachella tickets or something. Yet, the fear of not getting into med school is a powerful motivator, just powerful enough to get you to spend money on something that's truly stupid. It's a field that already has a reputation of gunner-ism and backstabbing, and looking to capitalize from the chaos is like a weapons manufacturer in a time of war. And it just might work too. Parents are plenty dazzled by a high GPA and a Harvard interview to shell out $700, an amount for which I can get Lonzo Ball's overpriced $190 slides (they're seriously just slides), Lonzo Ball's overpriced $495 shoes, and still have $15 to spend on Donald Trump's entire dinner (two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate shake).
Besides, isn't there something in the Hippocratic Oath – the one they'll be reciting in just a few months – about avoiding this exact thing? From the original text: "teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture." I'd imagine that among all their personal statements and interviews, they've probably made some allusion to the idea of 'helping people', probably muttering "for a price" under their breath.
Perhaps the most concerning is the lack of self-awareness. These two sat in a (bed)room (I'm still not done shipping them), had this idea to charge students for advice, and thought, "what are the most useless services we can provide?" They probably started at a base rate of $20/hour, and started dreaming bigger. $50/hour? No! After all, they got an interview at Harvard, damn it! They paid money to buy a domain name and web hosting services, carefully picked out which headshots to use, wrote up all the information on the website, publicized it on social media, and at no point thought 'maybe this might not be the best idea.' Or even worse, the thought crossed their mind, followed by a second thought of 'but $80/hour is probably worth it.'
Now, this is the free market, so they certainly can charge whatever they want for any service they provide. Hell, I've sold PDFs of graph paper on eBay for $2 a pop to pay for dinner (which is 100% slutty), so I'm hardly one to criticize someone's hustle. But it's somewhat evocative of Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand 'Goop', where she sells things like steaming douche seats (I'm not calling them douchey, they're actually used for douching) to balance female hormone levels and vaginal jade eggs to aid feminine energy (the accompanying how-to diagram is hilarious) – sure, if people are willing to buy that shit, then more power to Paltrow, right? But it does leave a bit of a sour taste in your mouth – and your vagina – that these are things that don't actually work. But some people, from experimentalists to Paltrow loyalists to medical sluts, would still try it in the hopes of neutralizing the electrical charge in their body or whatever. But at least Goop gives you something tangible for your money. If you don't want to use the products for their intended utility, you can use them as regular chairs to sit on or fabergé eggs or decoration. By the way, each these cost right around $50-60, which is cheaper than one hour of consulting services from Jee-Sarah and Sullied Man!
This entire project tells me something very crucial about these two: they must sincerely believe that they themselves are solely responsible for the entirety of their success and achievement, and on that journey they have developed and honed all of the answers. They're willing to divulge these answers, but they of course require something in return, because they hold something that's truly of great value. Either that, or they're just sluts. Yeah, probably the latter.
Here's a piece of free advice for them both: if you have to pay for advice, it's not good advice. People with advice aren't just keeping it all in, hiding with all of their knowledge, waiting for people to pay them before they speak.