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



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To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also
dream; not only plan, but also believe.
– Anatole France

Determining your Motivation

When you’re 19 years old and tell your parents that you want to be a doctor,
its great news. You have your whole life ahead of you, your family is proud, and
everyone is happy. The situation can be completely different if you say the same
thing at age 35. The decision to enter medical school later in life can raise
difficult questions about finances, family, and commitment. Some people will be
happy for you. Others will wonder if this is just a phase you are going through.

The truth is that attending medical school later in life may not come across
as being very logical. What drives a person to change direction so drastically
at an age when most others want to begin reaping the benefits of many years of
hard work? Where does the motivation come to make a decision that will test the
limits of your endurance, intelligence, finances, and courage, not to mention
your pride? Every nontraditional student will be asked these questions countless
times. Questions that each person has to answer for him or herself.

Positive reasons to consider.

  • Above all else, this is what you really want.
  • You have the ability, energy, and courage to go for it.
  • You are willing to sacrifice what it will take to achieve it.
  • You have a plan to make sure your children or other essential obligations
    will be attended to while you are in school.

Negative reasons to avoid.

  • You are worried about what your family or friends will think of your desire
    to go back to school.

    • This is a decision that only you will have to live with (and your spouse, if
      you’re married), so don’t let others make it for you.
  • You feel you are too old or have been out of school too long.
    • Don’t ever let age be the determining factor for anything you want to do in
  • You feel you are smarter than most doctors or have unique insights that
    would make you a better physician.

    • Become a doctor for the right reasons, remembering that medicine is a
      calling, not a crusade.

It’s not unusual to be in your thirties and want to do something
challenging. Many people out there have ambitious dreams. The difference is that
many are unwilling to determine their priorities and, without apology, say no to
other things. This is why if you have faith in something, if you truly believe
in something, you can’t always listen to the outside world. This is because the
outside world, in spite of its desires, is content with what it has.