Nontraditional Medical Student
Getting into Medical School: A Guide for Older Nontraditional Students



Other Topics

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much. - Mother Theresa


Aside from grade point average and MCAT scores, being accepted into medical school can be a highly subjective process. Because of this, irregularities such as being older may raise questions with admissions committees. Officially, no medical school can discriminate against you because of your age. It's against the law. Unofficially, schools do it all the time. I don't bring this up to accuse anyone, but to give you ample time to prepare for this inevitability and show that you are making a logical transition.

I liken this to the policy many medical schools have adopted regarding physical abilities. No medical school can deny a person admission because of a physical handicap. However, all candidates must demonstrate the ability to perform skills such as observation, communication, and motor function with a reasonable degree of independence. In other words, being disabled is not the issue, but the limitations of certain disabilities may be. The same is true regarding age, where some of the limitations of age may disqualify you as well. As an older applicant, you should therefore takes steps to demonstrate that the attributes of being older will not hinder your progress in medical school. 

  • Demonstrate that you still have the necessary academic skill, drive, and energy.
  • Be ready to explain how this major career change is well thought out and completely rational.
  • If you are married, devise a plan showing how you will maintain some semblance of family life.
  • Create a financial plan showing how you will deal with tuition, living expenses, mortgages, loans, day care, and relocation costs. 
  • Older applicants are often asked "why now" by the people interviewing them. You don't need a profound answer to this question, just an honest one.
  • Update your resume to maintain a good understanding of your accomplishments and possible deficiencies.
In addition, be ready to answer questions like those listed here.
  • What are your motivations for being a doctor, how did you arrive at the decision, and what have you done to test this decision?
  • Does your family support you and how will this decision affect your personal life and the lives of your spouse and children? 
  • Why do you want to go to this particular medical school?
  • What kind of doctor do you want to be or where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  • In what ways are you unique, how does this distinguish you, and what have you done to maximize your talents?
  • Are there any irregularities in your past that might affect your acceptance into medical school? Be very brief, do not make excuses, show how you've made restitution (if applicable), and explain how your recent actions demonstrates that this problem is well behind you.
  • What do you think are some of the positive and negative aspects of being a physician?
  • If you are a re-applicant, explain the progress and changes you made since your last application. Clearly convey why you are a better applicant.