Greetings Oldpremeds!

First off let me begin to say that joining and being apart of this wonderful community is an honor. I came across this website last night and have been perusing through the forums & journals, and to my astonishment, find this to be one of the most enlightening premed communities. The sheer amount of support given unto its members by its members is remarkable and the reference it provides is unparalleled. Clearly this website is the intersection of wisdom and compassion towards the journey of becoming a doctor. I am deeply inspired by all the stories that I come across here and even feel a sense of camaraderie just knowing we traverse on the same path, facing the same obstacles.

I myself have decided to endeavor upon this course just recently. Before this, I had been an entrepreneur invested in the social media industry. You could say I came to a realization, a mid-life crisis at the age of 28 that led me to reevaluate my goals and even my purpose for existence. Truly, God has allotted a reason for being for each person and the pursuit of selfish realizations fall short; hence the delusional race for wealth and prestige as an entrepreneur always left a gaping hole with a greater need that never seems to be satisfied.

I am now committed to becoming a psychiatrist and must start at the elementary level as I’ve never had a formal college education. The goal may seem daunting but its purpose instills enough intrinsic motivation and satisfaction for it to be worth it. I’m currently enrolled at the local community college and hastily organizing and planning my entry to med school. I would very much like to share this experience with you all and draw upon your courage to face the challenges ahead. Although admission to med school may seem like an average achievement, really in the context of non-traditional students its much more than that. Each non-traditional individual that is able to overcome social, academic, and economic obstacles while shattering the stigma that “you may be too old to have what it takes” is essentially breaking down barriers for later generations of non-traditional students. Your achievements are very much appreciated!

Perhaps I can start the discussion by posing a question. During the course of my planning, I have gained a rudimentary understanding of what is required to gain admission to med school but perhaps some of you gents and gals could endow me with some more knowledge on the particular aims of ECs. I understand the ECs are a reflection of who you are and your interests, whose purpose is to give a clear holistic 3 dimensional view of the candidate. It is probably best to not undergo a cookie-cutter model and I’ve been asking myself the question which ECs should I commit myself to. What were some of the ECs you have taken and how has that impacted yourself and your admission process? Based on your experience did the ECs play a pivotal role towards admission and in itself deserves a commitment equal to that of academic studies?

Thanks again for all the encouragement and support shown by each member of this community!


I think a more salient question to ask yourself is, “What am I interested in?” And then go from there.

While clinical experience and volunteering are (obviously) a must, the other things you do should really depend on WHO YOU ARE. Undertake ECs that are genuinely of interest to you. Dedicate time to them. Invest in them. Take leadership and initiative. Network and make connections. All this will show when you apply.

Also realize that as a non-trad, your ECs may look different than a traditional student’s. You may (or may not) be involved in a formal club / organization, you will most likely have more job experiences to list, etc. Remember also that you can list things from the past, as long as they are post-high school. You don’t have to be currently involved in them. That said, it’s a bad idea to “pad” your application with a bunch of meaningless activities - list only ones that are/were truly meaningful. If I remember, the max you can list is 15. I didn’t list that many.

And yes, my ECs mattered in my being admitted to medical school. I keep a diary here on OPM as well as a separate blog (Doc with Pen). I had several admissions committee people ask me about my writing. They had actually READ some of it, to my surprise! (I put the Web links my application.) My volunteer work as a Spanish medical translator came up at every interview, as did my former career as a journalist.

As you are looking to get involved, and start to do so, I would recommend keeping notes or a journal about your activities. Keep a log of estimated hours spent (yes, AMCAS requires you to list hours!), what you did, your thoughts/reactions, names of supervisors (also required on your application) etc. so that when you go to write your ECs down, it’s all there and you don’t have to reach into the recesses of your mind.

Hope that helps!

Ah terra, much appreciation for the explanation.

I’m currently an avid follower of mindfulness meditation, plan on taking my certification course in the upcoming year to teach mindfulness and incorporate it into the practices of Group therapy for various segments: seniors, children, adolescents, convicted population, etc.

I was also heavily involved in the entrepreneur industry and have founded one company that was later acquired by a group of private investors.

I’m also a strong advocate for change in the practices of mental health treatment, and am planning on participating on some advocacy campaigns to raise awareness towards the issues present in the current standard of treatment for the mentally ill.

But other than that I can’t think of too many things that would be particularly noteworthy. I understand the usual hospital volunteer & shadowing would be an important component but I’d really like to be involved in something significant that brings value rather than just a ordinary role (i.e. standing at the front door of a hospital and directing visitors to the appropriate rooms). Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it brings some expediency to the visitors, as opposed to asking the front desk, but spending 100 hours on a task that brings relatively little personal growth just seems like a formality that is better used on studying or something impactful.

I guess I’m just really trying to find inspiration from other peoples selection of ECs.

BTW terra, congratulations on the admission as an MD/Phd. What field of research are you interested in? I’m personally fascinated by neuroscience and the intraworkings between the physical brain chemistry and the dynamics of emotional psychology. One question I look forward to people solving one day is the physiological origin interrelated to the direction of conscientiousness.

Another thought, from my personal experience, is to look for a local free clinic and see what kinds of opportunities they have for volunteering. They are frequently looking for help, and may have more “meaningful” opportunities, or at least more patient exposure/interaction, than the kind of thing you mentioned. For example, the clinic where I have worked in Chicago has positions as Spanish medical interpreters (which is what I do), EMR super users (who help practitioners with charting), front desk, triage (taking bp, temp, etc. when patients check in), and lab (drawing blood, vaccinations, and so on). They train you for everything - including the lab work, which is pretty cool. That’s a possibility.

And thanks! I actually didn’t get in MD/PhD (although I applied that way); those are super competitive programs and my research experience didn’t measure up compared to the other applicants in terms of depth/breadth. So I’m headed the MD route, with an eye towards research in the future. Many schools offer a research concentration/emphasis, which is what I’m hoping to do to prepare myself for that physician-scientist career. To answer your question, I’m interested in the epigenetics of diabetes. I’ve worked with so many diabetic patients at that clinic (Latino people are predisposed) and want to make some contribution there, both clinically and experimentally.

Best wishes to you, and keep us posted on your progress!

  • Lorien

Greetings! Just joined as well. Good luck with your studies.