Hi all,

I’m so glad to have found this board and am reading lots of past posts.

My story: I’m 40. Graduated 20 years ago with a psyc undergrad (3.2 GPA). Wanted to work with kids who had been abused and neglected so went to law school (a very good law school but TERRIBLE grades). After graduation, while on the waiting list to become an asst DA, started a MA program (at Mason, Mary!) to learn more about kids. I fell in love with my research and with my ex-hubby. So, I kept going with that and got a PhD in Child Development (Mason, 3.7 GPA). Eventually, I got a academic position and have since been tenured. Along the way, I got married and divorced,had a child, and got remarried.

I have had interests in clinical psyc work for ages (since before law school) but never felt like I could afford the time or money (for various reasons). I have long thought about respecializing in clinical psyc after getting tenure. Then, last year, my son was diagnosed (at age 10) with bipolar. It took us 5 MH professionals to find a child psychiatrist. This experience made me realize 2 things: #1 there aren’t enough child psychiatrists around and #2 it would never be enough (to me at least) to be a clinical psychologist because I so strongly believe in the role of medications in treating mental illness. (My son is like a new person now!)

So I started thinking about possibly returning to school to get an MD (and then doing a residency in Child and Adol Peds). I have lots of reservations:

  • the debt (I already have $65K in debt remaining from my PhD and JD)

  • the time and scheduling (B/c I wasn’t a science major, I will have to do premed coursework. So, I would be at least 50 before I finished everything.)

  • juggling a family with med school

    For the moment, I am wondering if I even stand a chance of getting in…Will med schools look at my record and not see a consistent thread? (I think there is, in helping kids.) Will they think I’m too old for this? I have virtually NO geographic flexibility: What chance will I have of getting into the 1-2 schools that would be close enough to me to really go (e.g., U of MD and possibly Penn State)? Although the pre-med science courses interest me, I don’t really want to spend 2-3 years doing them just to find out that I can’t get in to a school that I can attend.

    Any comments/advice from anyone who has been in a similar boat would be very welcome! In the meantime, I will be reading previous posts.

    Happy New Year!


Well Marcia, you have a few things working for you. First of all, the upward trend from your 3.2 GPA undergrad (which isn’t /that/ bad) to a 3.7 GPA for your master’s, and having a PhD will certainly help I would imagine. You obviously have a great track record of helping others, so you have that base covered.

I’m sure the 65K debt will be an issue, but unless you plan to go into a very low paying specialty such as family medicine, internal medicine, or pediatrics, I don’t think having that extra debt will necessarily kill you. From what I’m gathering, you want to go into psychiatry. That isn’t exactly one of the more well-paying specialties, but it’s not as bad as peds. I think you’ll have to wait on a reasonable answer to the question of finances until some of the doctors on OPM can chime in.

I’m sure you’re aware of the fact you need to have ECs, which you’re probably covered on, but you also need clinical experience (what you’ve done may or may not count, I’m not sure) and volunteering (you didn’t mention it but I’m going to assume you’ve already been active in that given your interests).

As far as doing med school while having a family…I think Mary, Dave, and I’m sure plenty of others have all done this and I recall the general impression being that it’s challenging but doable.

On the issue of pre-reqs, couldn’t you use the couple of years to get them done as an opportunity to whittle down your debt a little more?

Lastly, as far as geography goes…you don’t live in California, so you’re not screwed as far as in-state schools go. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I wouldn’t worry about that.

Hi and Welcome Marcia!

I think that the only thing that might limit you is the geographical inflexibility…but then I also believe that if you by chance you are waitlisted at one of these two classes…you continue to stay in touch with them with letters of interest and intent.

Would you plan on doing your prereq at the U of MD? That might be a plus.

I think you have a really interesting background and I’m sure that if you ace your prereqs and do well on the MCAT, you’ll definitely have a shot.


  • Quote:
or the moment, I am wondering if I even stand a chance of getting in...Will med schools look at my record and not see a consistent thread? (I think there is, in helping kids.) Will they think I'm too old for this? I have virtually NO geographic flexibility: What chance will I have of getting into the 1-2 schools that would be close enough to me to really go (e.g., U of MD and possibly Penn State)?

Welcome, well you are in good shape

You need to do Shadowing and Volunteering you cannot side step these.

If you really want to do this then you really have to consider moving in the equation

To get into one school most if not all now apply to no less then 10 schools

Also residency will probably make you move anyway

You cannot work while in Medical school also.

Think about these things and good luck

Since you’re in the “thinking out loud” phase of your journey…

I guess the main question you have to answer (to yourself as well as to med school admissions, who will surely ask it) is why not do clinical psychology since you’re almost there already. Medicine is a 10 year endeavor whereas you could be licensed and practicing in a matter of months or a couple of years, whatever coursework and certifications you need to go through. Being able to dispense medication just doesn’t sound like a real justification for such a huge undertaking. Why not work in association with a psychiatrist who can write the prescriptions? If you want to practice pediatric medicine, that’s another thing.

Also, with already a masters, Ph.D. and J.D. under your belt and being in academics, they’re going to wonder whether you’re a career student who collects degrees.

I’m not trying to rain on your parade but just asking the kinds of questions that you will undoubtedly get asked by the gatekeepers. On the other side of the coin, you have a fantastic set of training and experience to bring to the profession and I hope you can make it work. Best of luck,

Marcia, you’ve had an interesting life! Given the consistent thread of wanting to work with children who are in “trouble,” I think you would be able to explain your path to med school with sound reasoning. It certainly makes sense to me.

No one else can answer your questions in a definitive way, because everyone’s approach is different. So instead I’ll throw my story out there and see if it helps you. Obviously this is all anecdotal by definition, because it’s what I was able to do. But one of the great things about this board is that you share stories with a lot of different people and in the process you might hear something that fits your situation.

Money - I can’t say what level of indebtedness is “worth it,” because everyone’s risk tolerance is different. I ended med school at age 48, approximately $150,000 in debt. I consolidated my loans a year into residency and am now paying about $650 per month against my loan - on a thirty-year term! It makes me chuckle to myself that at the current rate, I’ll still be making student loan payments at age 78. On the other hand, the interest rate is around 3% and so there is very little incentive to me to actually work to pay off the loan. For right now I will just keep paying it at the current rate; at some point I may try to pay off more of it.

Children - when I started my post-bacc coursework at GMU, I packed my eldest child off to college, my middle child was in high school, and my youngest was in 6th grade. During my med school years, I only had one kid at home but there were certainly stresses in the long-distance situations with my college kids. There were lots of, um, interesting situations. My oldest child struggled with college and depression and required a lot of long-distance coaching before he graduated; his brother did fine in school academically, but did things like go to the ER and almost get kicked out of ROTC right before graduating (!); my youngest, a girl, was on a competitive skating team, travelled a lot, had the drama in her life that high school girls often encounter, and memorably got busted for underage drinking one night when I was on call on my OB rotation.

They’re all now high-functioning adults so something went right!

I had the unswerving support of my husband through everything, and I can’t stress enough how invaluable that was. He had his own issues - during my second year of med school he got laid off from his VERY high-paying job - all of a sudden our “cushion” disappeared. Then during my residency he was treated successfully for prostate cancer. But regardless of the challenges faced by either of us, we stuck together and made time for each other - and this was really key.

Geography - well, I know that most folks do admit to themselves that they’ll have to move, but I was the exception, and proud of it. Given the ages of my children, and my husband’s well-established career, I was, like you, unwilling to move. I knew this meant that I’d need a strong application and so I worked hard to produce excellent grades and above-average MCAT scores. I only applied to GWU and Georgetown, interviewed at both, was waitlisted at both, and eventually got in to GWU. The way I looked at it was, I had invested over 20 years in my family and my marriage at that point and I wasn’t willing to do anything that messed that up - so medicine was only going to be an option on my terms. I knew it was a high-risk strategy but I would still do it that way.

I also chose a residency “on my terms” because I still didn’t want to move out of my hometown. Once I knew that I wanted to specialize in family medicine, I did “audition rotations” at the two local residency programs with the intention of working hard, doing well, and making a good impression. I got my first choice program as a result. (If I’d been trying to get into a more competitive specialty, I would have had to be more willing to move, I suspect. I don’t exactly know how that would’ve worked, I’m glad I didn’t have to consider it.)

Finally, on the subject of shadowing and volunteering - I disagree that these are necessary. What IS necessary is that your application demonstrate: 1, you have an understanding of what the practice of medicine demands of you; and 2, an altruistic sense of service to your community. I suspect that you’ll be able to demonstrate these things in your application without doing the conventional “shadowing and volunteering in health care” gigs…

(At the time I applied to med school, I hadn’t worked in health care directly in almost 15 years. My volunteer experience was all community-related NOT health-care-related.)

Marcia, I was fortunate to have a “coach” during my pre-med and application period who kept reminding me that every step along the way was just that - ONE STEP. You can take an initial step, resolve to do very well, and continue to try and figure out what will be involved in the next step. His most memorable statement to me was, “You’re not joining the French Foreign Legion, for God’s sake.”

So go ahead and try on these ideas you’re toying with - keep exploring - take one step, or two, or three - and just like driving on a really dark road at night, each bit forward illuminates a little more of the path ahead. Good luck!


I think we need to make a poster of Mary’s posts, frame it, and send it to her . Well-said, Mary!

OMG I am so verbose, it would stretch around the equator three times or something. Gak. But thanks for the compliment!

I thought I replied but then didn’t see it here. So please excuse me if this is a re-post…

Thanks to everyone for feedback! And I would still like to hear more if anyone has additional thoughts.

In answer to some questions: I would plan on doing my pre-reqs at the college I teach at. (They would be FREE that way!) And, I doubt that clinical psyc would really be the best fit for me. I’m great at talking with kids, but don’t want to do very much therapy with them. A little would be fine, but I’m mostly interested in the diagnosis, testing, and treatment of troubled kids.

I know that the geographic inflexibility would be a problem. (But it won’t change…We would be dependent on my husband’s income and he has to work here.) And, I ran some figures tonight and realized that it would cost my family $750K (in lost income, paying for med school, and losing the free college tuition that my kids get if I stay put). It is so tough to justify spending so much of my family’s resources on this dream.

But, I like Mary’s advice to take it one step at a time. Additional bio courses couldn’t hurt me, especially given my interests. So maybe I’ll just start there and see what happens.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience!


SUSAN i think you should take it one step at a time, you have a great start and do have a good chance to get accepted, I just have doubts if it will be the one school. Some people go to schools else where and stay in Dorms and then Go back home frequently, its possible and has worked in other cases, I did this from the Caribbean myself. It has worked out for us.