HOSU 14 | Academic Consulting

Dr. Shirag Shemmassian – Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting

Getting into medical school is hard work, but it’s certainly attainable. That’s why we are giving you this episode as Matthew Sullivan interviews Dr. Shirag Shemmassian, the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting, to discuss how his company has grown over the years in helping people get to the destination they want. Dr. Shemmassian is one of the world’s foremost experts on medical school admissions, college admissions, and graduate school admissions. For nearly 20 years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into medical school and top colleges using his systematic and proprietary approach. Ever since he has enjoyed helping people and seeing them get tremendously successful. In this episode, he shares how his passion grew and continues refining his skills, navigating and ensuring the quality of support to impact people’s lives. Learn about the process, and take that step closer to your goal.

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Dr. Shirag Shemmassian – Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting

Dr Shemmassian Is One Of The World’s Foremost Experts On Medical School Admissions

This is probably the best stuff. We’re talking about Louisiana crawfish because I’m wearing this T-shirt that I grabbed because it was dark when I got dressed, only because the sun hadn’t risen because I’m normally up so early. I do my 15-mile run and then I do my meditation. I drink green juice that has been harvested by wizards on a blue moon. I’ll read for a few hours. Generally, I’ll wake up because all of that was a dream and then I reach for the nearest coffee.

Coffee and bacon.

The food of the gods and the cure for vegetarianism.

It’s the opposite of 15-mile runs and green juice from wizards.

That’s my plan. I did get my bicycle out of the garage, which is an important first step.

Baby steps.

All about fitness. Don’t you, Dr. Shirag Shemmassian? Did I pronounce that correctly?

Shemmassian, that’s right. Thank you for asking. I know all about fitness.

I’m conscious of needing to push my stomach under my chest as I speak to you. People may read this rather than watching it. It’s the same thing whenever you speak to a doctor. You always think, “He can tell that I’ve eaten far too much bacon and drank too much coffee.” Even though it’s thousands of miles away through an internet connection, I can see the pity in your eyes as you look upon me.

I’m saluting your mental health. You seem satisfied with all these things. Either way, you’re okay with it.

I love the phrase, “I’m satisfied with your mental health in the sense that I’m not dissatisfied.” In other words, I’m not scared. We may continue this interview now on account of the fact that you’re not certifiable.

There you go. I’m excited to chat with you.

Let me disavow you of that immediately. Let me set low expectations and consistently fail to achieve them. Expectations is a keyword here. You are a medical doctor, which is something that I always wanted to be. I’m going to make this interview all about me now. It’s compelling because of the science, interaction, being able to discover the mechanics of the human body and, at the same time, be a human and delve into the magic of how we work. Does that still now cause cold winds to brush across your temples?

One thing I should clarify off the top, I’m not a medical doctor by training. I have a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I help people get into medical school and I do that full-time. I’m familiar with the medical field especially in Medical Education and certainly, Psychology and Psychiatry.

That’s slightly worse. I feel it’s even more open and under.

People treat the extracurricular process as a series of checkboxes.

I’m more exposed. I used to do a lot of work in neuroimaging and diagnosing various conditions. It’s fascinating stuff. It’s a treat to get to know a bunch of students who are exceptional that we assist with getting into these great programs year after year.

How did you come across this? It’s not a natural pathway to cross the chasm between professions and business. Tell me about your journey. It’s a horrible word to use but that’s the pathway of what brought you here.

It developed organically and out of necessity. I don’t know of any eight-year-olds who are saying, “I want to help people get into college one day or medical school.” Admissions isn’t a cool thing that little kids aspire to, at least none that I’ve met. My story was I attended a small high school in Los Angeles that had little in the way of college counseling but I wanted to get into great schools. I was self-taught with the process, achieved my own success, got into great programs, got a ton of financial aid and scholarships. People started asking me for help.

When I was at college, I was pre-med the whole time. I was aspiring to go to medical school and did well at Cornell. I had a 3.9 GPA. I was learning everything about that process and helping people get in, even before I had gotten in. Certainly, after I left school, I was helping people get in. I used to do it on the side because I enjoyed it and people needed help but then people were being tremendously successful. Two people became four. Four people became eight. It grew from there.

I enjoy it because there’s a lot of misinformation, first things first and it’s a high-stakes process. Being able to help people achieve their educational and career goals is tremendous. The other thing is I meet a lot of interesting people. I speak with a lot of students every single year, each of whom has their own story and path and the things they focus on. Understanding how different people arrive at the same point is fascinating in helping them craft their stories. It was organic and out of necessity. I feel fortunate honestly to be in this position.

It’s a fascinating story because of the concept of understanding that there is a process behind seeking education, presumably at an early age. It’s probably slightly beyond the age of eight. Still, most people go through the education process, assuming that they will be guided by people whose job it is to guide those people without understanding. Do you find this? Is my assumption anywhere near the mark where people don’t work backward from an objective to try and find out how to reach that objective? They tend to rumble forward as it were and find themselves in situations. Is that a true observation?

It varies. A lot of the students that we support have wanted to be physicians for quite some time. It’s not common for someone to say be an accountant and then say, “I’m 30 now and I’m going to switch gears.” There are those people but they’re not common. Most of the people I work with knew from before they want to be doctors. They don’t necessarily know how to get there. Their parents may or may not be doctors. Maybe they studied or didn’t study here in this country in the States. They have an objective in mind usually but they don’t know what to do to get there.

That is the mark of a true profession where someone knows that they want to be a doctor.

It’s a long road and there’s no real alternative. If you want to do that thing, you’re going to do that thing. It’s not like there’s another field that’s highly similar. You can argue with nurses or PAs but to be fully in charge of patient care, overseeing that stuff and being able to change people’s lives in that way is a pretty special field.

What is involved? In other words, if you were to look at the key criteria or the key cornerstones of becoming a successful applicant aside from the academic requirements, what are the most challenging things that people don’t understand until they start the process?

Academics are easy to wrap our heads around. You got to get certain grades or a certain score on the MCAT but where things get complicated is beyond stats because now you’re thinking about extracurricular activities. You’re also thinking about how to write great essays, whom to get rec letters from and having great interviews. A lot of times, people treat the extracurricular process as a series of checkboxes, “I have to do this many hours of this.” I get so many questions every day, “How many hours of this do I need to do?” If you try to distill it into a numbers game, you’re not going to do well because you’re not going to develop a clear theme across your application.

It’s like you’re a podcast host. If someone said, “What do you do?” and you said, “I talk to these kinds of people,” if you did 40 different things, you’re not going to be the go-to guy for anything. That’s a problem because we live in a highly specialized world and an increasingly specialized world. You have to have a shtick. Having a cohesive narrative where your research interests align with some of those service work and clinical work you do, the story you tell about yourself and the genesis of your desire to be in medicine, we have to craft a story. You’re essentially marketing yourself.

This is because of the competitive nature of the number of people that are looking for admissions compared to the number of available places.

For MD programs, for the primary Medical Doctor degree in the United States, we have deal programs too but there aren’t as many of those. Around 40% of people get into any one school in any given year. Meaning around 60% of people doesn’t get in anywhere. Every year, it gets harder.

It’s not just based on academics. All of the extra layers of complexity that you need to bring with you to the application, when do you need to start thinking about that?

At the start of college, if your goal is to go straight through or take a gap year or two, you have to plan out the right coursework and extracurriculars, when to take the MCAT, which is the standardized exam for school and whom to develop rec-level relationships with. You got to start early. I assume you’re not American based on your accent. The reason I bring that up is because you asked, “Is it because it’s competitive that schools want all the stuff?” That’s part of it.

HOSU 14 | Academic Consulting

Academic Consulting: If you try to distill it into a numbers game, you’re not going to do well because you will not develop a clear theme across your application.

The other thing is it’s a American thing. My parents are immigrants from Lebanon. I know I’ve spoken with people from so many countries around the world. You talk to people and a lot of them are confused about, “Why does someone want an essay? What is this like, ‘I want to get to know you the whole person?'” We take it for granted in the States but these are pretty American phenomena as far as making sure to explore different interests and write about them.

Whereas in other schools in other countries, they tend to be much more numbers-focused, “You got to get these marks.” That’s what it is. It’s an aptitude thing and it’s different here. You have to play the American game. I’m not trying to mock in any way. There’s a lot of value in the system we have here but for people who aren’t as familiar with US admissions, it’s critical to keep that in mind.

As a non-American, in terms of both of us, we can both say that we were born outside the US. Do you think it helps in terms of perspective? From an analytical perspective, are you able to take a step back and see the logic behind why these additional requirements are there as opposed to being inside the jar looking out? Is that something that helped you? Funny enough, as an immigrant or a non-US person, I see that as well. You see things and you don’t take anything for granted. Did that give you a head start from the beginning?

You always got to ask yourself, “Why do they care about this other stuff?” Numbers are numbers but they don’t tell me anything about you other than your aptitude and achievement level. When I’m trying to evaluate someone to become a physician, I want to know about what drives them. How do they spend their time? What extracurriculars did they pursue? What do others say about them? What do they bring to the table? What’s their life context? What’s their path to medicine?

There’s a lot of value in that because people have different stories. Some grew up with lower incomes than others. Others are part of certain minority groups that have been historically underserved. Others have a particular interest in doing research in a certain field or serving a certain community. In all those things, if I said, “I’m going to focus on the numbers,” that’s a lot of rich information that I’m not going to be able to capture. That’s why it matters to think about that from a much higher level.

I had minor exposure to the British medical system. I was part of Virgin’s London Air Ambulance. I got an inside view of how it works that you don’t normally see. This was some time ago but it was pretty antiquated. It was almost Victorian in terms of the approach and the layers of people in the hierarchies. It’s encouraging to see that the approach that’s taken over here in the US is much more holistic. In other words, if you’re dealing with someone who has a medical condition, it’s a people job.

Being able to crunch numbers or remember gamma-aminobutyric acid at the drop of a penny may not necessarily serve you. That’s a fabulous thing. Also, having been through the process with so many people, are there certain characteristics that pop out that make you more competitive if you’re able to focus on those? Are you able to create that feedback loop where you can tell people, “Don’t do it this way. Do it this way,” because you have a much better chance?

That’s exactly what we do. In the admissions process, sometimes people think like, “I’m applying this cycle.” What you did 1, 2 or 3 years ago, that’s when it started. That’s why we work with students from the beginning of college all the way through by the time they get to medical school. We also help people in medical school get into residency programs. You see patterns of students who are super successful. Honestly, the number one thing that I observed is intense nerdiness because people who are into a certain area or two and who explored that with intensity. It’s not great when you’ve done research with geriatric populations and the community services with kids. The clinical work you’ve done abroad is just a general population in Costa Rica. It’s like, “What’s this guy about?”

The words you’re using, intensity, are often replaced by that horribly used word passion.

I don’t like that word much either because people often talk about, “I need to find my passion.” Passion is not Isaac Newton’s apple that will one day fall on your head and you realize what it is. Passion is something that you have to do stuff and learn whether or not you like it. If you like it, keep doing it. If you don’t like it, what aspects did you like and what didn’t you and you can pivot. People sometimes are so scared and nervous about choosing the wrong thing that they get frozen in their tracks and they don’t act.

You talked about startups, “How many people do we know? I need the right idea. I need that.” You need to do something and see where that takes you. There’s the other thing where people act out of anxiety where they’re worried about not doing enough or falling behind. They follow their neighbors and develop these well-rounded generic profiles where you ask them what’s going to stand out about this person and nothing comes to mind.

The real rock stars in all of this are the people who are focused on an area or two. Maybe they just care about child social welfare, they work on policies, they did research on how to develop the right social welfare policies or their clinical experiences or patient exposure experiences were in the foster system. Whatever the case might be, they have an intensity about them. Some are clear schtick where I can hang my hat and say, “This is what makes this person special.” That’s the key.

It’s interesting because a lot of people that I speak to in terms of where they are now compared to where they started, it’s normally completely different. In the business world and the entrepreneurial world, you don’t have the same linear pathway to a profession. People will start with something which leads to another thing. Many people find themselves doing something that they never expected themselves to do. It comes out of some problem that they’ve had that they’ve found a solution to that they feel. It doesn’t start out as a passion. People don’t wake up saying, “I feel passionate about this or that.”

What happens is, through adversity, effort, engagement and immersion, they find themselves in something where they become good at it. They get success. That success feeds their enjoyment. You can detect that intensity with someone because you can detect the fact that every neuron in their brain is thinking about this at the same time. Is that something that you are born with or is that something that you can develop? Can you coach people to become intense and have that real joy about what they’re doing, which can be delivered in the interview environment?

I think so. That’s the thing. You have to nudge students to pursue things that we feel might become an area of great interest but also make sure to pull the reins when people are trying to nervously tack on things to their resume. You have to be deliberate and have those hard conversations about, “Why would you not do that? Why would you do that? What’s the worst-case scenario if you don’t like it?” You’re not going to break anything. You’re just going to try something different. Teaching people how to not act out of anxiety or fail to act out of anxiety is a big thing because you’re right and you said something interesting there, “The better you get at something, the more you enjoy it.”

We all like things we’re good at. People who enjoy cooking tend to be better cooks. That applies to everything but if you don’t try it, you’re never going to develop that intensity or passion to do it. That’s why it’s critical for us to have those conversations early and treat them deliberately. We know what we don’t like. We know what we’ve tried before but we oftentimes don’t know what we are going to like. We only have suspicions and we got to pursue them.

People are so scared and nervous about choosing the wrong thing that they just get frozen in their tracks and don’t act.

Your approach has to be far wider than just a medical application. You’re teaching people how to handle failure and try things. You’re trying to do that in a relatively short space of time, which is the college years while people are developing as individuals. The benefit that your program brings is not just the fact that you’ll get into medical school. It’s that you’re looking at life through a different lens if you’re willing to try new things. How challenging is that to find the raw material? Presumably, you’re going to turn a lot of people down as well because you can only work with the willing. How difficult is it to find people because you want to be successful as well? The challenge works both ways.

It’s an interesting field. I love that you brought that up, “You’re teaching people how to fail and rethink things that they thought they might like or not like.” We have a lot of students who go through big realization moments. I found too when we focus so much on academics and certain achievements, one of the concerning things I’ve observed over the years is we have a lot of students who have done well their whole lives. They were in grade school and high school and they did well. They’re usually near the top of their class. They go to these good colleges. All of a sudden, by definition, not everyone is going to be the best of the best.

You have a lot of people also who get their first dose of reality where you’re not the top of the heap. People have to work through that stuff emotionally, too, “When I was in high school, I was at the top. Now, I’m not. Should I still become a doctor? Is it all over for me? What does that mean about my identity? I always thought I would be a doctor.” People latch on to these images of themselves on what they had to be and what had had to look like. When people struggle, it completely rattles their self-image and worldview. I find that it’s critical to teach our students how to accept that in life.

You are uniquely qualified based on the work that you’ve done to be able to spot these types of pathways if someone is going down this denial pathway or if they’re likely to fail because of a self-induced belief that they’re not going to be able to succeed. At what age would you say you have that realization that everything may not be rosy? Does it happen in high school? Do you see these moments where suddenly people think, “Hang on. This is going to be harder than I thought?”

It’s different for everybody. My story is different. I grew up with immigrant parents and there were financial challenges growing up. I grew up with Tourette Syndrome, a diagnosis I still carry. There was a lot about that I had to work through whether it was social stuff or coming to terms with why I am good enough. For other people, they’ve coasted through high school and they get to college. That’s the first time they got “punched in the mouth” where they have that difficult moment. There are some people who go through medical school. They’re in residency. They’re tired. Maybe they’re even in their attending physician and they say, “Am I going to do this for the next 30 or 40 years?”

Our goal in life is not to avoid these difficult situations. It’s to accept that they’re going to happen and cope with them. It’s funny you said like, “This is where my training comes in.” Someone asked me that like, “Do you feel like you used your Psychology background?” I said, “I feel more like a psychologist now.” There are a lot of thoughts and emotions that our students deal with that we’re helping them navigate as young adults.

On top of that, we’re helping them craft stories in a way that’s going to be compelling to a different person reading it. We have to adapt their thinking and think, “What might an admissions committee member think about this?” There’s a lot of this dance going on day-to-day. It’s different than what a student has had to do. Usually, they have to study the Krebs cycle and take a test or the molecular structure of GABA.

That’s the only thing I can remember.

That’s a good one. It has a good chemical name. When you’re sitting and you’re like, “I took all these pre-med courses and now they want me to write creative non-fiction. What does this have to do with being a doctor? I’ve never written something like this before,” and people panic. Our job is to help us wage their concerns and help them deliver awesome information.

The important thing about your business is it is outcome-focused. It is not therapy.

To be clear, I’m not practicing as a psychologist in my work. It’s just that the application is important.

Do you get people that go and view it? The challenge for you is to say, “This is an outcome-focused process. The outcome is to get you into the medical school that you want.” In other words, we’re going to go through certain steps that are going to be painful because they are not going to resonate with who we think we are. I suppose one of the challenges when you’re working with people is for those people to think that you’re going to provide all of the answers and give them this bucket list of things, “I know you’re going to provide me a presentation popped up, saying, ‘Here are the ten ways to get into medical school,'” and you’ll be fine. It’s not like that. Do people think, “I’m going to work with Dr. Shirag. Therefore, I’m going to get in because all I’m going to do is to follow his process.”

We have to be honest about our limits too. We can always prescribe what we think a student ought to do but a student has to execute those things. We help our students secure research internships but you have to do the work and build a relationship with the researcher to get a great rec letter to publish. If you’re starting service initiatives, you have to do, organize and execute them. There’s a lot of hard work involved. I feel incredibly confident in our ability to help students achieve their goals. Our students get in at pretty extraordinary rates but I’m mindful not to take all the credit because I’m not the one who was in the lab that day.

What you’re doing is you’re providing a framework to excel. What are the most unexpected things that have come out of this business from the things that you least expected?

I suppose it depends on when, in the process, you asked me different things come up. From the beginning, it’s when I decided, “I’m getting more demand. Let me start doing this work more intensely.” People would ask me for resources, “Dr. Shemmassian, do you have a great resource on the medical school personal statement?” I would say no. I would look for it and I didn’t find it. I was like, “Let me start writing this. I could write a good one.” I wrote stuff for other sections.

All of a sudden, I was getting non-referrals coming. I was like, “Who are you? How did you find me?” They were like, “Google.” I was like, “What?” They were like, “I found your blog.” I never thought before about how something ends up. We developed a much larger blogging approach and SEO framework that has paid dividends as far as reaching great students. That was unexpected about the number of students that we would support one day, unexpected that I got stopped at a hamburger store one day and said, “Are you Dr. Shemmassian?” I was like, “Okay.”

HOSU 14 | Academic Consulting

Passion is not something you discover in an instant. It is knowing yourself and continuously learning what aspects you like about something. When something isn’t fit for you, you can pivot.

It has been interesting. From a student perspective, we’ve helped people get into every single medical school, usually many times over. That has been unexpected because of the reach that I never thought we could have. There have been other difficulties, people who have certain expectations despite not having the background for it. Everyone wants to get into Harvard Medical School.

Harvard is massively overrated, which is why I didn’t go.

It’s one of those things. It’s always about navigating wherever we are thoughtful because I’m a stickler for quality of support. Even as we’ve supported more students over time, I’m obsessive about making sure that the quality of support is excellent. We have a lot of things in place to make that happen. I was the guy who was good at helping students. Now, there are things I think about that I never thought I would think about. There are issues I used to deal with that are small potatoes now. There are certain issues I deal with now that are small potatoes. That has been the fun thing where it never gets old. There’s always some new lever to press or pull. It has been a cool journey.

Do you think that what you’re doing is something that has to be focused around you ultimately to maintain that quality or people that are close to you? In other words, is this something that can overtime be delivered through courses and downloadable videos? Does it always need that element of one-to-one, look me in the eyes and tell me, “I need to find out who you are truly as a person before I can help you.”

It’s like if you read a book on a subject versus hire a coach to help you do the thing. It’s similar. If you think about a home fitness program, you can follow someone’s YouTube videos or get a 30-day calendar for yoga. Most people don’t do it or they don’t do it as well. They don’t push themselves as hard or they don’t know how to do it. They don’t know the right technique. Our site has massive amounts of content. We have a bunch of YouTube videos. We’ll develop courses over time with all these things.

Let me put it to you this way. It’s not an information problem. There’s sufficient information out there. Isn’t that true of everything? How do I lose weight and get a six-pack? Work out and eat less but then doing that, what do I eat and the willpower to do it? That’s a different story. There are similarities here. I give all the information. Every single year, there are people who come to me and they say, “Dr. Shemmassian, I’ve never met you before. You don’t know who I am but I exclusively use your materials and I got into X, Y and Z medical school.” I say, “That’s wonderful.”

There are other people who say, “This is valuable. It’s massive amounts of information. Now, I want it applied in a custom way to my life.” That’s never going to go out of style. There’s a reason why people hire coaches whether it’s a personal trainer. Even if you can make a great taco, there’s a reason you still go to the Mexican restaurant. You either don’t want to make the taco or the other guy makes the better taco than you. There’s always going to be value in it.

Do you find yourself as well over time that you dispense with the fluff and that your approach to people becomes much more digital and factual? As the number of your clients grows, your delivery becomes more precise and more take it or leave it.

The take it or leave it is funny. I become more me over time if that’s what you’re asking. When you’re starting a business, I don’t know if this is personal. I’m sure other entrepreneurs go through this, too. You want to impress and you don’t want to ruffle any feathers. You take maybe a safer tact to the way you produce content but then your writing is not as strong as far as speaking to the audience. You’re trying to give information but not piss anyone. As you grow and you’re delivering great information, people are knocking on your door and saying like, “Tell me what to do.” Now, it’s like, “Do you want to know what I think? Here it is.”

Over time, our content has become less fluff for sure. People write comments on our website every day. I type a lot of responses and tell people like it is. It’s interesting because people don’t want fluff, except as an entrepreneur in the beginning when we’re nervous. We give people fluff because we want everyone to like us. Sometimes the people say they don’t want fluff but want you to give them fluff but not really. You got some people who will say, “Dr. Shemmassian, is this the thing?” You’re like, “Do you want the honest answer? It’s A, not B.” “This other detail, let me give it to you. Will you change your mind?” “No. It’s still A, not B.” “I thought it was that.” “It’s still A.”

They go away and say, “You said A but you meant B.”

That is what it is. Our job is to deliver the right information and value. Whether someone takes it is on them. Even in this conversation, I wouldn’t talk as openly as I would several years ago. I’ve also developed maybe more comfort in my skin and also know that we do good work. It’s like, “Why am I going to sugarcoat if I know we do good work?”

That’s the most important thing. It comes back to what you were saying at the beginning about that intensity. The more you believe in what you’re doing and it’s a true belief. The better you get at it, the more relaxed you become and the happier you are to say, “I can’t be all things to all people. Not everyone is going to like what I’m doing but I’m pretty happy with it. There’s some real value there so I’m going to soldier on.” That’s a real gift to be able to find something that delivers that sense.

That’s the real joy of being an entrepreneur, where you create something that you’re proud of. You know it’s yours and you know you’re in control. You have the confidence to stand up amongst everyone else, which is fabulous. That I’m sure comes across to your students. They, through a process of osmosis, pick up that confidence and clarity that can do nothing other than helping them on their journey.

You get better and faster over time. You know where to strike the hammer. You become more efficient. It’s pretty awesome because now I can read a resume in 30 seconds a minute and pretty quickly identify the good and the bad and what you ought to do. I used to take much longer. It’s a treat. Going back to developing a passion, I used to do it because I wanted to be helpful. Now, I do it because I love it and students find a ton of value from it. If we weren’t doing a good job, I wouldn’t be here.

Now would be a good time to bring in the Hooked On Startups’ quick-fire questionnaire. Dr. Shirag Shemmassian, question number one. What is your favorite word?

I’m going to say the first thing that came to my mind, onomatopoeia. I don’t know why. I just thought of a crazy word.

Academics are easy to wrap our heads around. You have to get certain grades, but things get complicated beyond stats.

Question number two, what is your least favorite word?

Moist. Not because I dislike it but because my wife dislikes it. I’m going to throw her a bone there.

There are far too many conflicting vowels and syllables there.

It sounds weird. I don’t know.

Question number three, what are you most excited about?

I’m excited about cheese. We had an amazing cheese plate and I had some for lunch. I’m excited about cheese these days. Cheese aside and as far as business goes, I’m excited about continuing to refine systems and build courses. We have some exciting stuff coming out for our students who are studying for the MCAT. Because we’ve done so much of the one-on-one work for years and I feel confident about that, I’m excited to challenge myself in some other avenues.

Question number four, what turns you off?

Waking up too early. We have a three-year-old at home. I love him to death. Sometimes I want to sleep a little bit longer.

Have you tried closing the door? You take turns with your wife to close the door.

It doesn’t work out. There’s the whole monitor. I want to sleep a little bit more. What I dislike right now is I live in Southern California. The Delta-variant COVID cases are on the rise here. I’m bummed about maybe having to stay in again in the fall. I love food and eating out. It would be a bummer not to be able to go to restaurants but otherwise, I feel fine.

Question number five, what sound or noise do you love?

When my son says, “Hi, baba.” I love that.

What sound or noise do you hate?

A dog barking when I’m on a phone call.

They have this particular skill.

HOSU 14 | Academic Consulting

Academic Consulting: It’s not an information problem. There’s sufficient information out there on how to do things. But then doing that right is a different story.

Their timing is impeccable.

Question number seven, what is your favorite curse word? Don’t worry. You can say whatever you like because no one is listening.

In Armenian, there is a word barab. It means empty. If something is like a stupid situation, you say barab. I say that to myself all the time.

I’m learning so much here. I’m going to adopt that one. Question number eight, what profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

When I decided after college that I was not going to pursue Medicine, I was debating between Clinical Psychology and Urban Planning. I love maps and cityscapes. I’m interested in Architecture. I love food. I feel like I would be a good travel planner but around food, like if you said, “I’m going to be in Los Angeles for four days. Where should I eat?” I will build an itinerary for you. I would be excellent at that.

Question nine, what profession would you not like to attempt?

Probably something in botany. I’ve tried to grow plants several times. It doesn’t work out for me and certainly not for the plants. I feel bad for them so that’s probably something that I should avoid.

HOSU 14 | Academic Consulting

Academic Consulting: As entrepreneurs, we are nervous to tell people what they need to hear, but we have to remember that our job is to deliver the right information and value.

I’ve always had success with mint only because it’s a weed and you can control the growth. In everything else, I am Dr. Death. Plants are generally high-maintenance. They need feeding and watering. They’re unforgiving.

It’s not my thing. I don’t have a green thumb but I’ll try to change that. I’m trying to grow a cactus here.

My final question, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“I’m proud of you.”

Dr. Shirag Shemmassian, I cannot begin to express the gratitude that I have for you for coming on my humble show and delivering such pearls of knowledge and wisdom. How do people find out about you and take advantage of the services you provide?

First of all, thank you for having me. This was a fun and thoughtful conversation for me as well. I’m grateful. As far as where people can find us, type in my name in Google and whatever subject you’re interested in like Shemmassian medical school interviews or go to the site, ShemmassianConsulting.com. If people want to get in touch, they can shoot us an email or put their questions in a contact form. It’s usually me who responds and it would be a treat to get to know people.

Thank you so much for coming on. I look forward to staying in touch.

It’s my pleasure. You take care.

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About Dr. Shirag Shemmassian

HOSU 14 | Academic ConsultingDr. Shemmassian is the Founder of Shemmassian Academic Consulting and one of the world’s foremost experts on medical school admissions, college admissions, and graduate school admissions. For nearly 20 years, he and his team have helped thousands of students get into medical school and top colleges using his systematic and proprietary approach. While in high school, Dr. Shemmassian took a keen interest in the higher education process. He navigated the admissions process with limited college counseling and became the only Ivy League graduate in his high school’s nearly 60-year history.

Specifically, Dr. Shemmassian received his B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University. Despite graduating with a 3.9 GPA as a pre med student, Dr. Shemmassian’s interests in mental health led him to complete his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at UCLA. Throughout his education and beyond, Dr. Shemmassian successfully guided students into top colleges, medical schools, and graduate programs, and has found his professional calling in helping others achieve their educational and career goals. Dr. Shemmassian’s admissions expertise has been featured in various media outlets, including The Washington Post and Business Insider. Moreover, he has been invited to speak at YaleStanfordUC Berkeley, and other prestigious institutions about various aspects of the admissions process Dr. Shemmassian was born in Los Angeles to Armenian parents who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon.

He now resides in San Diego with his wonderful wife, mischievous toddler son, and 9-pound dog. Dr. Shemmassian is an avid cook and, while he dislikes the term, a “foodie” who routinely travels long distances for a great meal—his friends call him “Human Yelp” for his recommendations. He is also a huge basketball fan (Go Lakers!) and lover of geography.