Competitive at 45?


It was my original plan to continue flying until mid December while taking an online algebra class, however, plans have changed. My wife and I went through our budget and decided that I should quit my airline pilot career now and start full time at the community college. This will afford me the opportunity to focus solely on studies, err studies coupled with wife and kids. In approximately one year I will transfer to the four year institute and complete a BS in biology.

Couple of questions. Is it too soon to start reading MCAT prep books? I realize that I need to “hit the cover off the ball” with regard to the MCAT and want to best prepare myself. Any thoughts? The actual test is still a couple of years away. Second, do residency programs look at age when considering applicants? This forum is proof that med schools etc will take on much older students, however, I have yet to read (this is probably because I have not done much research) about older (read: 45+) med students getting into competitive residencies. I like the idea of Anesthesia and Interventional Radiology.



BTW I moved this question from the Pre-Med forum.

I’ll just add a comment on residency (this is from an outsider’s sociological view; I am not a physician). While there is certainly no data on this, anecdotally, residency programs do consider that older applicants have the advantage of work experience; they understand that this is a job. Many younger students who have gone from high school to college to medical school, may never have been employed prior to residency.

The other plus is that residency applications, interviews, and work environment is a small group dynamic. Older students would most likely have a better understanding of this, a better social sense of what this entails. This can be applied while in medical school by understanding what you will need to apply successfully to residency and how to lay the groundwork to get it. In short, networking becomes vitally important. For example, getting a great LOR from the professor you studied under say in your Neurology rotation who went to medical school with the residency director of a program you want go to, carries a lot of weight.

I will try to dig up an article I read which ranked the top 20 factors that EM residency directors used when reviewing applicants. Might give some insight as to what to look for

I think you can be competitive for most residency programs and at just about any age provided you show the residency programs your interest during medical school and as Rich says, have LORs (letters of recommendation) from mentors and advisors that you have what it takes to succeed in that residency. Work experience is a plus, however, what sort of work experience can make it more of a “plus.” I see that you have been an airline pilot; two questions that come to mind (here and in the minds of admission committee members) are: Why medicine? Why now? The latter question relates not to now but to where you are in your life. Why, at age, 39 or 45 do you want to pursue a medical degree? Why not when you were younger? That’s a question you need to be able to answer. If you have already significant medical experience (even while an airline pilot), then it is easier to justify the “why medicine” part. So besides studying for the MCAT, you should get as much medical experience as you can to show that this decision to go into medicine is not a whim.

This “why medicine, why now” also applies to residency issues IMHO. Once you decide on a residency, you need to be able to justify why that particular residency, especially given that some residencies take much longer to complete than others. I’ve read stories of older applicants being denied to residencies , supposedly due to age, but I cannot be sure. But it is a possibility that you need to consider. But you can always find a way if you work hard enough and look hard enough for one. If may require you to places you may not want to live.

As far as the MCAT, my friends who have taken it suggest you can study on your own with the right books. You can buy used books online or through eBay and do as many problems as you can. Some testing companies also offer full or partial scholarships if your background is right.

And, BTW, in my opinion, 45 is not old, given that I’m older than that now, and I won’t apply for another year or so.

Regarding studying for MCAT’s, now is not too soon to start studying IF you have had some of the “basic” prereqs. If you have already had Gen Chem I and II, you could study the section of the review book on Gen Chem and do those sorts of questions, same for Org. Chem, Physics, etc.

It probably would NOT be helpful to study sections on courses you haven’t had.

The verbal reasoning section could be practiced now too, but there is certainly no hurry there.

Really, I think starting to study closest to when you complete the content may be the most “high-yield”.

That’s just my opinion of course