Medical students tend to be fresh out of college, or just a few years removed. According to a 2015 article in U.S. News and World Report, “The mean age of students entering medical school is 24 years”. But what if you’ve been out of college for much longer? What if you’re over 30, 40 or even 50 years of age? Is it too late for you to follow your MD dreams? Maybe not. Just because you aren’t a 22 year old Biology major doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Sometimes the experiences a nontraditional student has is just what an admissions committee is looking for. But there are several things to consider as an older medical school applicant, before you take the leap.
My oldest classmate in medical school was 50 years old. However, her sons were in their 20s and out of the house. Do you have kids that will need childcare while you are in class or on clinical rotations? Do you have a spouse or family member that is willing to help you? You will also want to take aging parents into consideration. Will they need someone in close proximity to care for them? Keep location in mind as you are applying to schools. Decide with your family if they would be willing to move out of state with you, if you will only apply to local schools or if you will live apart during medical school.
Medical school is all consuming. You will not have time to have a job. Medical school is your job. That being said, think about all the possible resources you have to cover your financial responsibilities. You may have to use your savings, apply for loans, or try getting a scholarship or grant. If you have a spouse, can their salary cover all of your household expenses? If not, you may need to create a new budget, downsize or go without extras during this time. Start with this info from the AAMC to think through it.
Medical school takes most of your time, energy and concentration. You barely have time to take care of yourself, much less anyone else. If you have a family, you will have to be a stickler for your schedule. You’ll need to schedule family time, but also schedule study time and not let anything sway you from either one. There is a huge amount of material to master during med school. I stayed up studying into the wee hours of the morning almost daily. You may be used to checking out at a certain time, but in med school there is a seemingly endless mountain of factoids to memorize. You may have to learn to function better on less sleep.
Medical schools require their applicants to take a certain amount of basic science and math courses prior to matriculating. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website, “At a minimum, students will likely complete the following types of courses: one year of biology, one year of physics, one year of English, two years of chemistry (through organic chemistry).” You will have to check the Medical School Admissions Requirements or MSAR to find out what the specific requirements are for the schools that interest you. For example, some may require Calculus or Statistics. If you did not take those courses, you may be able to enter a post-baccalaureate program. These programs will allow you to take (or retake) those basic science courses in 1-2 years. Try this post bac search engine from the AAMC to find a program that’s right for you.
My med school class was full of people who’d had prior careers. There were lawyers, engineers and people from corporate America. I taught school for a year while I was applying for a second time. Getting to and through medical school isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Don’t count yourself out. Never give up.
Jarita Hagans, MD is a Family Practice physician, speaker, freelance blogger and author of “MD Dreams: Practical Advice for Every Stage from Premed to Residency and Beyond”. Find more info on mddreams.com. Connect with her on Facebook at MD Dreams The Book, on Twitter @doctorjarita and Instagram @jaritah