Howdy from Texas!

Hi, I’m Joni and I’m a non-traditional student considering Medical School. It has been my dream since I was a child, but 3 kids later, at 28, when I was in the midst of a divorce, I pretty much gave it up. Now I’m 33 and about to graduate with my BS in Human Services Management and Leadership and considering what grad school options I have, when I thought “why couldn’t I do med school now?”

Am I completely crazy to consider entering med school when I’m 35? It would take me an extra year from now before I could apply to play catch-up and review on all my sciences, but my GPA is pretty good (3.8) and I think I could score well on the MCAT since I’m good at tests and I plan to study my butt off…

But it doesn’t make alot of sense to people, I guess. I have a BS, I have an executive-level job at a large company, I have 3 kids and a house and a LIFE, all of which would suffer (or disappear - ((job))) with this decision, but the desire to become a doctor has never left me and I am afraid I would always regret it if I didn’t do it.

Is 39 too old to start residency?

Are there any advantages to being a non-traditional ((old)) student?

Am I just wishful thinking?

I really want to do this. I hate my career in corporate America and I’ve wanted to be a doctor my entire life, but, ironically, life got in the way.

Thoughts? Thanks for listening!!

Hi, Joni. I’ll be the first to chime in. Welcome aboard and NO, you are not too old! I’m working on my Bachelors after a long and wide break from school (life got in the way for me, too) and I’ll be 35 in December. With work and motherhood, I won’t have my Bachelors until 2014 so that’s the earliest I’ll be in med school. I’ll be a 42 ish resident so I have to believe it can be done at 39, too! It will take giving a lot up. I have a decent job and like what I do, but it’s not my passion by a long shot and the pay is only so-so. Though, I realize I’m facing loads of debt by seeking my dream of becoming a physician I know in my gut it is what I need to do. Come hell or high water. It’s the most certain I’ve felt about doing anything outside of having my daughter. It’s an odd path to take in a way, non-trad or not, you have to give up so much to get there so the “pay off” better be big and I’m not talking about money at all. If it’s in your heart to pursue it, go for it. Things have a way of falling into place if it is the right thing to do. It will take hard work, but it can be done. Of course, I’m an idealist. I believe anyone can do just about anything!

Advantages to being a non-trad? Oh, there are so many really. Life experience, been there done that mentality, maturity, organization, direction, etc. I’ve wanted to be a doctor forever, but my twenty something self wasn’t ready for it, but my thirty something self is a perfect fit for the education and my forty something self should make an even more well rounded physician ready to dive into my medical career. I’ve noticed that despite numerous commitments and obstacles, most non-trads, myself included, tend to kick butt in school. There is a sense of “this is it” for some of us, to the wonderment of the traditional students, that makes us more determined than some others perhaps. Years of juggling countless “what if’s” and real life situations helps, too.

I hope you have the support of family in your dreams, too, because that will be crucial to your success and your sanity. Old premeds is a great place to be. You will find support here, real life examples, a dose of humor and a helping of reality, but you’ll always be among those who get “it” and are willing to be sounding boards.

You are not too old. I started med school at 42 and am now a 47-year-old second year resident. My joints hardly hurt at all.

I think the main advantage of being a non-trad is that you do not expect life to be fair. So all the hoops you have to jump through to become a doctor and to practice medicine, well, you just don’t take them as personally. You do have to plan and discuss with your family. It’s a decision you must make together, because the work you will have to do affects all of you.

The time when you are deciding if you want to do this is exciting, and stressful, but also fun. Welcome aboard!


Welcome to the OPM forum!

I’m new here myself; consider me learning and growing with you.

I will ask you, if time and age are your primary concerns here, is it worth, in your mind, 10 years of hard work to be in your early forties making $200K a year, working in a career you love?

How many forty-somethings do you know making that kind of salary in a career they love?

Is it not worth putting in the time to be at that place before 45?

By the time you get there, you will, reasonably, have 25-30 years to practice medicine.

The question is not about age or time to matriculation; rather, it is a cost-benefit analysis of time spent vs. benefits earned.

Time spent = 10 yrs.

Benefits earned = A fulfilling career you love with a great salary to boot.

Conclusion = Well worth it.

I’m glad you’re here. I’m happy to be a small part of the journey with you. Keep us all posted!


Joni, I will be 34 by the time I (hopefully) start med school and I will leave behind a work-from-home six-figure job. If this is truly your passion then go for it.

Welcome to OPM! I started med school at 43, completed residency at 50 and am in my third year of practice. Also now involved in academics/teaching medicine, something I didn’t envision at the start, but equally fulfilling as well.

Look around at some of the forums, postings and diaries here. It’s never too late to chase down your dreams.

thanks everyone! I contacted my “pre-professional advising committee chairperson” today as my FIRST step to really doing this. Actually, as my 3rd step. The first step was dropping one of the classes I planned to take next semester and replacing it with 2 - biology and physics. After 4th year and graduate level classes with a heavy writing emphasis and a light memorization emphasis, two sciences in one semester is going to be rough (I think).

Then, I signed up for the open house at the medical school I’m interested in. Honestly, with 3 kids here, I can’t possibly up and move away for medical school, so if one of the two med schools in DFW don’t accept me, its going to throw a huge kink in my plans.

Hey! Do you guys have any thoughts about taking pre-req sciences @ Community college V. University? Because they are a LOT cheaper there…

Thanks for the support! i’m taking it one step at a time.

Since you have two specific DFW med schools in mind, find out from them what their policy is regarding CC vs. Uni courses. Some schools care and some don’t but you won’t know until you ask them specifically.

  • Joni Said:
Am I completely crazy to consider entering med school when I'm 35?

I sincerely hope not! I entered med school at 42; if you were crazy for entering med school at 35, then I (and others on this forum) would be outright certifiable.

  • Joni Said:
I think I could score well on the MCAT since I'm good at tests and I plan to study my butt off...

Be careful with assumptions; few standardized tests are as challenging & unpredictable as the MCAT. That caveat out of the way, there are many in this forum that scored very well on the MCAT so it is doable.

  • Joni Said:
Is 39 too old to start residency?

God I hope not! I'll be going through the residency match at age 46.

  • Joni Said:
Are there any advantages to being a non-traditional ((old)) student?

I don't necessarily think there are advantages or disadvantages. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. If I had to guess though I would list the following pros & cons based on my experiences.

Pro: Older non-trads have lived in the "adult" world and have done something with their lives besides being a student. I've seen some trad students give up in med school because they wanted to "do some living" first or they academically burn out.

Pro: You don't have to bear the burden of your parents' expectations and demands. This is your dream for you, not someone else's dream for you. In this regard then, non-trads as a whole tend to be more self-motivated.

Pro: Non-trads understand the value of sacrifice; they seem to make a lot more sacrifices in this process (stable career, money) and often ask their families to do the same.

Pro: Non-trads, as a result of their life experiences, often have wisdom, insight, and judgment that not all trad students have.

Con: Non-trads may use a former, lucrative career as a crutch or safety net that they can return to. With such a crutch in place, a non-trad could be tempted to give up pre-maturely.

Con: Non-trads with spouses and/or children aren't entirely in control of their own destiny; their significant other has the potential to pull the plug on their dream.

Con: Being an older non-trad can be socially isolating if you're > 35. Teamwork is highly stressed in med school so anything that could drive a wedge between you and your classmates is a potential handicap for you.

  • Joni Said:
Am I just wishful thinking?

To paraphrase others in this forum, "you are among kindred spirits here".