Hi there,

I have a question that might be somewhere in the bowel of this forum but I didn’t find it… What is the difference between Traditional and Non-Traditional student? I’m trying to determine what my classification is and how that impacts me as I go along here… and whether or not it matters.

I did “some” college back in the late 80’s but had a dismal performance thanks to a lack of understanding of adult learning and that talking my way into or out of things wasn’t as easy as it was in high school. I just finished an associates of science-midwifery degree (without a nursing degree) with an accredited college not recognized in the community college/university system, so it’s as if it never happened. I’m nationally certified and state licensed so the education was proper in that way, just useless for building upon it.

So does this mean I am a traditional or non-traditional?

I decided to go on with my education and what I am doing first is applying for my poor grades to be purged based on my recent performances (4.0) and have been told I have a good shot at that. Doing that will erase a few Fs I got from not withdrawing from classes in a timely manner, leaving me with As and Bs (in things like gov’t, psyc, soc, spanish).

I am currently enrolled in some classes that are recognized for undergrad degrees (A&P w/cadaver lab, math, Eng comp). I was (am?) headed in the direction of nurse-midwifery, but the waiting lists are crazy long and one of the roundabout ways I can get in there is to do a biology degree and apply for a fast-track MSN to CNM degree, when it occurred to me there isn’t a whole lot on top of that to do pre-med.

I’m going to a cc now and just learned that the 4-yr university nearby is the same price and has a pre-med biology track. Mostly I just need to figure out a good path to set ahead on that is flexible enough to go one way or another without a lot of time wasted.

I apolgize if this seems rather disjointed. My thoughts have been swirling in my head since the second day of school this semester. When I was a kid I was at the orthopod so frequently for sports injuries I was determined to be one. Then I forgot about it when I was in my 20s and got busy making babies, then catching other babies. I’m afraid to say anything out loud because the last time I did, I ended up a midwife This is an old-new idea and I’m not sure what I’m doing with it yet.

From what I understand, the definition of a traditional pre-med student is one who goes through undergrad, gets a bachelor’s degree, and then applies to medical school; there is little to no pause inbetween. A non-trad premed is someone who already completed college and got a bachelor’s degree and then decided to apply to medical school. The main difference (if my interpretation is correct that is) is that trad pre-meds have no need for a post bacc program because they meet all of the requirements to apply to medical school whereas non-trad premeds usually have to complete a post bacc program because it has been X amount of years since they took the pre-med requirements such as 1 year chem, 1 year physics, etc.

If you do not yet have a bachelor’s degree, then I would assume you would be classified as a trad pre-med. From everything I’ve read on this site though, medical schools give no preference to either (or they’re not supposed to anyways). If you get great grades for undergrad in getting your bachelor and score good on the MCATs, I don’t see why you wouldn’t have an excellent shot at it. I would be very careful of picking a major that’s labeled pre-med though; it seems as if they want you to take a major that you like and not one that you think they’ll like.

There isn’t an “official” definition of non-traditional which seems appropriate. Certainly since you are far older than the “typical” student attending undergrad, that alone puts you in a non-trad category.

The point is that there are lots of paths to med school. The “traditional” one is to graduate from high school, go to college, finish four (or maybe five) years later, and then proceed directly to med school. In this path, the student recognizes his or her interest in medicine as a career and works hard to do the things that’ll get him or her in - good grades, good scores, extracurricular activities, volunteering, shadowing yadda yadda yadda.

Many of us on this board did go to college immediately after high school, but didn’t have any intention of becoming physicians at that time, or didn’t do well enough in school to think we had a chance. Some of us majored in partying. Some of us had other career plans. Some of us just weren’t sure. Some of us, like I said, started out pre-med but along the way something happened and we didn’t go through with it.

Your path is a little different in that your midwifery education was outside the “traditional” post-secondary educational system (I think; I am not exactly sure what sort of place you got your certificate from). So you enter the “traditional” college system - whether it’s a CC or a four-year school - with not much of a track record.

And in that respect, you ARE a traditional student in that you stand poised to do a four-year degree, first one you’ve pursued, with the intention of going straight on to medical school. It’s an important thing to remember because it means that you are going to be held to the same standards as all the 20-year-olds out there: you WILL need the grades, the scores, the volunteering, the shadowing, the yadda yadda.

Some of us have been able to get a little extra consideration despite old, bad grades because of recent, good grades and scores, for example. You will NOT have the ‘luxury’ of such a setting. You need to know that you have to come out of the gate prepared to get As… maybe a few Bs. Now that you have identified medicine as your goal, med schools are going to expect to see Excellence in your pursuit of that goal, maybe even MORE so than with a younger student who isn’t quite as clear about his or her goals.

So, to go back to your original question: I do think you are a distinctly non-traditional student because of your age and background, but it sounds like you’re about to approach getting into medical school via the traditional route. Good luck to you!


(btw two of my three kids were birthed w/ the assistance of CNMs so I think what you are doing is pretty neat!)