Hello, I'm a ski bum

Hello. I’m a ski bum. Or at least that’s what my college pre-med advisor thought of my current profession. As such, I can only imagine what admissions committees think of my applications. Yet, I’m determined to become a doctor and this seems like an excellent place to find some good advice on how to convince them I’m not such a bum.

I’m 25 years old and live in Colorado. I work 3/4 of the year as a professional ski patroller. The 1/4 is summer maintenance work at the ski area. I started this job my last year of college and have worked for four seasons now. I also volunteer as a member of the county’s search and rescue group. I’ve had the pleasure of rescuing people lost and/or in the wilderness, usually in the dark of night, for almost three years now. I love my job and where I live but the pay for someone with my amount of training is deplorable and the risk associated with both my job and volunteer work is very high.

The medical experience I’m getting is amazing and unique. The problem I’m most concerned with is explaining this fact to admissions committees that have no frame of reference for what it is I currently do. EMS is a very different thing out in the woods. That, and there aren’t that many medical schools in these western areas where committees might have a better understanding of where I’m at. I graduated with a BA in Biology with a 3.3 GPA and scored a 27 O on the MCAT.

How do I get the fact across to evaluators that while I haven’t taken a traditional route to medical school, such as working in a lab as a tech or getting a masters degree, the route I’ve chosen has given me a great amount of relevant experience? I don’t want to put them off by describing some of the very serious injuries or incidents I’ve helped patients deal with but at the same time, I don’t want them to think that I’ve just been ski bumming in the mountains for the past four years.

I have more questions but I think this is the best place for me to start for now.

Look forward to reading some good advice the likes of which I’ve seen on other topics around here.



hello I was a “masseuse”.

I am now in my PM&R residency. I spent 10 years doing massage therapy on chronic pain patients and decided that I wanted to expand my available tools and really change people’s lives. Months after I was accepted to medical school, I joined the admission committee and asked how I came across. The response was you showed enthusiasm and passion for 1. learning, 2. working with people, 3. taking on a challenge, and 4. physiology. My years as a masseuse allowed me to understand a unique and valuable approach to being a rehab and pain doctor. If you are thinking about Emergency medicine or Orthopedics you will shine ahead of the average Joe. You don’t have to stay with those careers just show how you have worked to follow your calling.



Welcome to the OPM!

I think the experiences you’ve got shouldn’t put you in a disadvantage; actually quite contrary! You have a great story and it’s up to you to tell it in such a way that your application will stand out among hundreds/ thousands of other applications!

I got into a med school with exactly the same MCAT score (although I admit, it was a long shot, and I was waitlisted forever and even considered retaking the MCAT). Your GPA is not bad; but in this case you’d either should retake MCAT or try to take a whole bunch of higher level science classes and get A’s so you can boost your GPA (and your application)!

Good luck!


Hey there, Just wanted to let you know that I ski patrolled for 15 years out west and then applied to med school successfully. I applied to one school, one time and got in. My MCAT scores were similar to yours, although I had not taken O Chem, Cell Bio, Genetics, or Physiology when I took it. Here is what you need to look at. Determine which schools like non-trad students with lots of experience besides just a good MCAT and GPA, if you are not going to retake the MCAT or take any more classes. Also determine whether you have other experience besides SAR and patrol that you could use to distinguish yourself from the pack, such as leadership, service, patient contacts or physician shadowing. And as another person advised make sure you can really articulate and demonstrate your commitment to helping people in health care to your interviewer.

Good luck!

Thanks for the advice so far. Brings up a few more questions. 1.) How would I go about finding out which schools appreciate a more non trad applicant? It’s not really something they put in the US News rankings. And 2.) Will I have to make my application stand out that much more if I want to study somewhere here in the west? The schools are few and far between and I feel like WAMI and WWICHI aren’t helping me out a whole lot.

I didn’t know about schools being favorable to “non-trads” either, but clearly students in my pre-reqs felt like they had a handle on it. I have heard of students getting education counselors that know these things. But that sounds crazy to pay someone to help you get into med school. Also, do you know about the MSAR? You can find it at most college bookstores. All the med schools are listed with their statistics. Maybe that would help. Otherwise, if you know you want to go to U of U, CU-Denver, or UW; you should just go and meet with their dean of admissions and find out what they look for in their applicants. Usually each school’s website does a good job of this as well. I can help you with U of U stuff.

You know what, remove the first two sentences from your intro and you’ve got a great story. I sense a little defensiveness in your presentation that simply does not need to be there. Undergrad pre-med advisors can be great but they can also be very out of their depth when dealing with someone whose path has not been the traditional bio-major-summer-research one.

You should not expect to have the same sort of response from med school admissions committees. I don’t know why some pre-med advisors have such a cookie-cutter outlook, because med school classes are most certainly diverse and AdComs are looking for interesting people with good experiences, good work ethic, and the academic chops to do the work. You’ve demonstrated some of that - as Kasia noted, you may need to brush up the MCAT score and take a few more science classes but you’ve got everything else from the sound of it.

Good luck!


You’re very right. I can be very self-critical and cynical sometimes. I should really work on that.

But on an interesting note concerning my cookie-cutter pre-med advisor. He’s retired from the position and I haven’t found out who has replaced him in this position. They still have my LOR’s on file in the office there but I’m a little leery of trusting a new advisor I may not be familiar with to write a composite letter.

Would this be the opportune time to jump ship from my undergrad advisor service and go with a retail letter service OR do I reintroduce myself and spend a little more time convincing the new advisor that what I’ve done up to now hasn’t been a waste of time?

There you go, being cynical again. I’d suggest you introduce yourself to your advisor, sit and talk a bit, and then decide. The new advisor may be just fine and a good ally. Or not. Only one way to find out!