Help! 34 yr old mom, any realistic advice greatly appreciated

Hi there, I am new to this group and thankful that an organization like this exists. Thank you to everyone who so generously shares their knowledge and experience.

I am a 34 year old mom to a 12 year old son, stepmom to 14 year old stepson, and happily married. Undergrad GPA at a well regarded private college (marketing) 3.9, minor in Nutrition (4.0) + many related awards. I worked in corporate marketing for a med device design software company for 7 years before starting my own successful marketing and multimedia company (professional photographer and filmmaker.)

I do not have extensive math and science coursework beyond the pre-reqs for my marketing major.

Now that my boys are older and I am able to focus on myself again, I feel like it’s my “last chance” to get back into the clinical health world. My original dream as an undergrad was Nutrition/clinical health but in a panic I switched to marketing for the money as I was a single mom at the time raising my son. It was the right decision because I was able to get a very lucrative job right out of college that allowed me to raise my son and build a solid career (I couldn’t have done that with a $32k+ starting nutrition salary), but now I very much miss the clinical health environment. If I’m ever going to get back there, I feel like it’s “now or never.”

I have volunteered in health clinics and as a woman who was once a single mom without insurance myself, I feel extremely compelled to work as a physician in women’s health, particularly for disadvantaged populations. If I had my first choice and was 10 years younger again, I would choose medical school. I would go to the best post-bac pre-med program I can get into locally (likely Harvard Extension even though it’s 2 hours away) and then apply to medical school. The problem is that there is only one medical school nearby- Brown- and obviously it is one of the hardest medical schools to get into. I cannot move out of Rhode Island in the next 5 years because my son and stepson’s other parents live here in Rhode Island and moving the kids out of our town would be near impossible and very disruptive to the kids. I don’t want to live away from them even during the week during these formative years. There is a commuter train to Boston from my town but it is a 2 hour trip to Boston one way- perhaps this would be perfect for studying, I just don’t know. Does anyone commute 2 hours to their med school?

A second option is the PA route. There are two PA programs in my state (Bryant and Johnson & Wales.) I am attracted to the hands-on clinical aspect of this option, the strong opportunities in the field, and physician-like responsibilities, etc. but I am a high achiever with extensive management and leadership experience- I suspect that if I go this route, I will always feel that I am not living up to my personal potential and will resent not going to med school. I will be frustrated if I fall into more of an “administrative” role. I think that PA programs have a strong debt/income potential, in many cases better than MDs, and it is a fantastic career path, just not sure it’s a good personality fit for me. Is that wrong?

A third option satisfy my continued urge to help people in a clinical environment in healthcare is with Clinical Psychology - Health Psychology track. There are decent programs in my area. I have explored the PsyD option but I think the Clinical Psychologist route is a better option for me, after much research that I won’t continue to bore you with!

Is there anything else I should be considering in this “soul searching” process? Any feedback on my conclusions so far? Any insight/advice? Thoughts on if it’s even possible to become an attractive MD/DO applicant? I have the support of my husband to make this work financially, and I am ready to put in the hard work. I am just trying to understand my options based on my age, geographical limitations, and program availability.

Thank you SO much!



  1. Not too old

  2. No med school pre-reqs. You are strategizing the end game without thinking about the real steps required.

  3. Brown is NOT one of the top medical schools. It is 32 or 34 depending on ranking site you use and type of medicine (I used research and primary care using US N&WR).

    Where to start…

    Gen chem. Not gen chem for boneheads but gen chem for premeds, bio majors, science majors, engineering students.

    Get an “A”…

    then take biology. Do not take biology before chemistry because much of bio is based on gen chem knowledge (or at least it was a my uni).

    If you wanted to do the Harvard post-bacc premed thing, that’s up to you. I believe most of us on here did the DIY route and are fine doing so…

    Welcome and good luck!

To put it bluntly, if you know you want to be a physician, then everything else is a consolation prize. Could you be happy doing something else? Maybe. However, when you’re 70, and you look back on your life as a not-a-doctor, will you feel let down? Feel like you settled? I’m not a mom, but those were the thoughts that finally made me give up teaching, a career I’ve been doing for the past three years, and bite the bullet to attend medical school at 32. If your heart is anything like mine, that’s what you need to do too.

Now, a little concrete advice about getting in. Your gpa is wonderful. If you can maintain it through a postbac, then do well on the MCAT, that’s going to give you the best shot at the medical schools that are in your limited geographical area. Since you wouldn’t be going for a few years, you could even have a meeting with adcoms and ask for ways to make your app specifically competitive for their programs. Understand, the more you limit your medical school options, the more you limit your admissions chances in any specific cycle. Still, this is not impossible - far from it. I was once told not to tell myself “No” before others have. You do the same - make this happen.

PS: There are plenty of people older than us who will enter medical school, and plenty of people with kids. The only thing limiting your success is your willingness to make the sacrifices - you have to decide if you are. Good luck!

Hi Ella!

First of all, welcome to both the forum and the crazy journey!

Secondly, you might not know this, but because Brown is the only medical school in Rhode Island, it’s kind of like the defacto “state” school – it actually does give some preference to RI residents (and I think it even has some separate scholarships for in-state applicants), so you may actually have a better chance at getting into Brown than one of the Boston schools. Just to put that out there.

In terms of fulfilling the prereqs, what you could do is maybe start with a class or two this summer at a local school like URI or RIC and see how it goes. If it goes well, maybe try enrolling in one course at Harvard Extension in the fall – that will give you a chance to see how bad (or not bad?) the commute would actually be; as well as how the quality of the education compares to a RI school. And then you can decide from there whether it would be worth the extra effort to take more classes at Harvard Extension.

And finally, if you haven’t guessed, I’m a student at Brown! There are definitely students here who are older than you. And despite being known for it’s BS/MD program, it’s actually a really great school for non-traditional students as well. Feel free to shoot me a message sometime if you’d like more details! And good luck!

Hi and welcome!

Lots of great comments. Please feel free to reach out to me and PM me if you want to have a phone conversation. I’m a mom of two, and struggled with a lot of your same concerns…except that I’m already working as a “mid-level provider…” I can tell you quickly that if you want to be a physician, and are a natural leader and like to be in charge, the PA role might be a real trick…been there, done that and I am here to tell! Good luck, and hope to connect!

Hey there! This post is a placeholder to remind me to reply next week when I have time.

Hello! Here’s my two cents.

I am 37 and an M1 at a well-regarded mid-tier public MD program in the middle of the country. I have a humanities BA from a name-brand East Coast school. My science prerequisites are from an East Coast public research institution. I did prereqs 2 per semester while working. No children, none planned, but I have a somewhat traditional long-term boyfriend (I’m a woman), a dinner-on-the-table kind of guy. By which I mean that I have a certain amount of domestic responsibility–the modern couple thing is not really where he’s at.

My first move into health broadly construed was from 2006-2008, when I went into a mid-level provider program. Big mistake. Not for my personality, not for my academic interests.

In January 2009, I started premed prerequisites while working odd jobs. It was very, very hard to match a class schedule at a large, crowded public institution, where you don’t get to choose your time slot, with any kind of normal work schedule. I finished prereqs, I believe, by the spring of 2012, so about 6 semesters at 2 classes each. Our organic chemistry labs are separate classes, so that’s bio-chem-organic-physics, 2 organic labs, and calculus 1.

Now my story gets a little different from yours, I hope. I was rejected for fall 2012 and fall 2013 because of particular circumstances that probably don’t apply to you. Now I’ve just started as of fall 2014! Hooray!

TL; DR: 3 years of part-time prerequisites + work. 2 years of working in a lab and taking additional upper-level science while reapplying. 1 year working in a lab with a letter in hand!

Let’s ignore the 2 years in a mid-level program and the 2 years reapplying. You shouldn’t do this. :wink:

Looking back, if there had been a way to take prerequisites full-time and not work, thereby cutting down the 3 years of PT coursework, I should most definitely have done that. For me, there wasn’t really a good option, short of moving back in with my parents in yet another remote location. (We are all but estranged, but yes, they would have put me up.) Yes, I’m going a little against the conventional wisdom on this board that says haste makes waste. 37 is pretty darn old to be an M1. I am feeling that 15-year age gap. To you I say: if there’s an earthly way to go full-time on prereqs, consider it really seriously. At school, the academics are fun and interesting. The social stuff is quite an effort, and I don’t mean partying. I mean hallway conversation that is just part of the job of medicine. Yes, there are people in their late 30s and 40s in many, many programs, but outliers are outliers.

For you, though, the advantage to going slowly is that in another 3-4 years, your current 12-year-old may actually be fine with your spending the work week in Boston or Maine. Giving you alternatives if you don’t get into Brown.

Edit: I don’t mean to discount that you do not want to be away even Monday-Friday. I saw that and I understand. I just mean that it is POSSIBLE that things will be more flexible once prereqs are done and you’re actually in the year 2018, weighing your options. To actually do the prereqs I would suggest your closest 4-year institution. I don’t think Harvard Extension is necessary. Yes, I already have the imprimatur of my undergrad school, but my prereq institution is just a regular place, though reasonably well-regarded. It’s not Michigan or Berkeley or UT Austin. Think UMass Boston, that kind of place. And Harvard Extension isn’t Harvard; Columbia general studies isn’t Columbia College; not worth a 2-hour train trip IMHO, not at all.

Feel free to PM me. It’s definitely doable! Good luck!