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



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The Waiting Game

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison

The Waiting Game

Many applicants think it is tough waiting for MCAT scores or to receive secondaries, but it is only after your interviews are over that waiting really begins. At this point, everything is in the hands of the admissions committees, and out of your control. If you take additional classes, make sure to send updated transcripts to any medical schools where you are still under consideration. Other than this, be prepared for a lot of waiting by the mailbox. When a decision is made, most schools will place you in one of three categories. They will offer you a position, they will reject you, or they will place you on their wait list. Do not be discouraged if you are placed on the wait list. Many schools hedge on applicants who are somewhere in the middle. Because of this, there is usually a lot of movement off the wait list. If the class becomes completely filled and you have not been accepted, they may place you on their alternate list with a given rank. This usually happens around May, after which replacements are selected in order as needed.

If Loving You Is Wrong

I know it probably sounds weird, but through all the waiting, I developed an anthropomorphic fantasy with my mailbox. I felt like my mailbox was some woman that I was in the middle of a bad relationship with. We have all been in one of these. It is the kind where I knew she was wrong for me. In fact, everyone knew that she was wrong for me. In spite of this, each day I approached her hoping that things will be different, and she would have good news for me.

Size Matters

At first, when I would get a letter from a medical school, there was some anticipation as to whether it would be good news or not. After a few months of this, I was able to tell by the thickness of the envelope what a letter contains. You see, good news tends to come in thick envelopes since it usually contains pertinent information needed to continue the application process. On the other hand, rejection letters are usually one page long and come in standard #10 envelopes. After this, when I came home to open a letter from a medical school, everyone in my family knew what was in it before I did.

Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover

I was going through my mail on a Saturday afternoon. As usual, I put all the junk mail in a pile before I threw it out. One letter was in a large envelope with no return address that went into the junk mail pile as well. As I continued reading my mail, I started thinking about that large envelope. “Wouldn’t it be great if it was from some medical school,” I thought. Nevertheless, I was sure it couldn’t be true. The envelope had no return address – a hallmark of junk mail advertisements. The envelope wasn’t even sealed correctly and was half open. So while in the midst of ripping up letters notifying me that I’ve qualified for a new line of credit or something, I decided to save the large unmarked letter for last to add some suspense to an otherwise predictable Saturday. When I opened the unmarked letter it began with, “The Medical Student Admissions Committee is please to offer you a position….”

I Can See Clearly Now

I was working at a hospital one day when I received a message that the Dean of Admissions at one of the schools I had applied left me a message to call him. I figured this had to be good news, so I called him back from by cell phone. He said, “Hello, Mr. Grasso. I just wanted you to know that the Committee met yesterday, reviewed your application, and made a decision regarding your application. And they decided … zzzzzzzzzz …” I don’t know if was sun spots or what, because all I got was about 5 seconds of static. I didn’t hear what he said and I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I ask him to repeat himself? This person was giving me the most profound information of my life and I didn’t want to give the impression I wasn’t listening. So I hoped for the best and simply said that it was great news. I figured that if they rejected me and I said it was great news, it really wouldn’t matter too much anyway. And at the time, it seemed to be less embarrassing that asking him to repeat himself. We spent a couple minutes talking, but he never repeated those all-important words. In retrospect, it all seemed a little silly. I don’t think medical schools routinely call the people they reject. However, I did feel a lot better when I got something in writing.

Location, Location, Location

I received a letter from a medical school with a New York mailing address. However, the name, which I won’t mention here to protect the innocent, was not familiar to me. Did one of the New York schools receive a large endowment and change their name to honor their new benefactor? I opened the letter and realized that it was from a medical school in the Caribbean. I thought to myself that this was a good angle. If you’re going to open up a medical school in the Caribbean, get a New York mailing address. It makes you look more official. And you know what they say about real estate, “Location, location, location.”