Non-trad about to finish the process... ask me anything!

Howdy folks,

I’m a non-trad who has gone through the process here and am entering my last year of residency (feel free to look through my post history, it’s hard to believe it’s been like 8 years since I started lurking here). This board was helpful to me as I went through the process of preparing and applying to medical school so I figured I would give back a little if I can.

For a brief background, former engineer, currently forty-something years old, starting 3rd year of internal medicine residency with plans to be a hospitalist. I’ve had a number of setbacks along the way including not matching into my preferred specialty, but I’m still plugging away! Let me know if I can share anything about my process or talk about med school or residency or whatever.

I’ll reply when able, but it may take a bit depending on what I have going on, but I will do my best to get back to you.

Best of luck to all of you as you move along this path.


bennard, MD



Fellow non-trad here. I am curious, how difficult was it to stop working and only focus on medical school, especially during the first two years when the amount of information was so great?

What was it like not matching into your preferred specialty? What specialty did you want? What do you believe happened that you didn’t match into your preferred specialty?

Thanks in advance!


Hi!! Just starting my premed journey as a career changer. To piggy back off of @AFest ’s questions, what did you do when you didn’t match the first time?

I actually worked a fair bit during the first 2 years of medical school. I kept some contacts from my former employers a did a few sub-contracting gigs that I was able to work on remotely. I probably averaged ~10 hours a week or so. I 've kept some sort of side gig running during med school and residency from engineering work to tutoring to driving for Uber. So, it’s definitely possible to bring in some sort of income during the process.

The first 2 years of med school do throw a lot of information at you, and the biggest challenge is to figure out how to study effectively. It took me about a semester to get a good system down. I tried my best to do school from about 8a-5p on weekdays and to limit studying outside of that timeframe and I was able to more or less stick to that unless I had exams the next week or something. But if you stay on top of your studying and are efficient with your time, then you’ll be able to find time for other endeavors.

Not matching was exceedingly difficult. I was interested in going into Emergency Medicine. I did not match through the traditional process. That was pretty heartbreaking, because I had come into medical school with the idea of doing EM. In 3rd and 4th year of medical school I liked most everything. There were aspects of IM I didn’t care for, but I liked the hospital work. When I didn’t match, I knew I had to find some kind of job for the next year, so I went through the scramble/SOAP process to secure a position.

For those that don’t match, there is the SOAP process where unfilled spots in the regular match are open. The SOAP is a very stressful process as it all happens over the course of about 3 days where you find out you don’t match on Monday morning, have applications submitted to open positions by later that afternoon, then have a series of phone interviews over the next few days before they allocate SOAP positions. I applied to open Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine (categorical and preliminary) and Family Medicine positions. My thought with selecting those specialties were that if I came out of it still interested in doing Emergency Medicine that I could pivot to EM through those routes (there are some informal IM->EM fellowships and the like, for example).

As to why I didn’t match, I never got a great answer. My grades and board scores were good. I got good clinical evaluations as far as I knew. I think being a little older, and some aspects of my personality (I’m fairly introverted by nature) caused me to not mesh as well with the EM residents. EM is tough as a medical student as the faculty and residents change everyday when you’re on a rotation, so you don’t get as much opportunity to build more longitudinal relationships that you would versus say being on an internal medicine wards team where you’re working with the same residents and attending for 2 weeks in a row.

I got into a preliminary internal medicine (intern year) position through the SOAP and came into it with the initial intention of applying through the Match again for EM. I came into my intern year and really threw myself into the work and apparently impressed the right people. As it came time for me to apply for the match again, I went to talk to my IM program director and he asked me if I would consider completing residency with them. They also told me that I could probably get into their combined IM/EM program as well. It was a really tough decision, but the possibility of going through the process and not matching again was still out there and not matching twice in a row would have likely made working as a doctor very difficult. Plus, what I was being offered would cut a year off my training as they were going to credit my preliminary year. So, I was looking at 3 options: 1) completing an additional 2 years in IM; 2) completing an additional 4-4.5 years in EM/IM; or 3) applying through the match again for another 3-4 years of EM (or some other) residency with the possibility of not matching again.

I ended up taking the IM option and am glad that I did. I like my program and my colleagues, I enjoy hospital medicine work and am looking forward to making a career of that. I’m completing residency earlier than the other options that I had (which means I start making real money sooner). Plus, while I liked EM as a med student, I wasn’t crazy about the month I spent in the ED as an intern (ED is part of our required IM rotations), and the job market for EM is pretty terrible right now. So, I think it’s all working out in the end.


Hi Bennard,
I’m Daniel, a 58 year old chiropractor and college professor. I will be applying to med school next year ( allopathic). Any guidance/ advice would be appreciated. Continue to do well in your residency. Hope to hear from you soon!

Howdy. The best advice I can give you is to not compare to others. You have to run your own race. You may never be able to compete with someone who is 30 years younger than you and is fresh out of a master’s degree in anatomy. You may not end up making when straight A’s in all of your classes. You have to learn to be OK with that. What is important is whether you are giving me your best effort to this and the that you complete the race. You have a lot to offer with all of your life experiences and that can help make you stand out. Good luck with your application process


Hi Bennard,
Thanks again for your expertise advice. I hope that we can keep in touch throughout your residency if time permits.

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Agreed!! In the end all that matters is that you are a doctor.

I would absolutely love your advice. I am a 29 year old non-trad and am working full time, going through a divorce, I need to find a new place to live as a result of the divorce, and am trying to take 2 classes at a time in my post bacc. I am finding it absolutely impossible to juggle it all, and am not able to squeeze out more than B’s or B+'s in my classes. I feel like I can ensure success if I take 1 class at a time, but I worry this will take too long to complete my post bac (I’m a career changer, so I have a lot of classes I need to take) and I also worry med schools will think I am not competent enough if I only take 1 class at a time.

What’s your best advice? Do I drop one of my classes now and focus on the second one only, find a new place to live, get my life in order, then next quarter try for 2 classes again? I’m just finding it excruciatingly difficult to be a full time worker and a 2/3 full time student, and somewhere in there I’m supposed to sort out my personal life which is up in smoke, and get clinical/volunteer hours as well. Please send help/advice!!

Thank you so much for your time and your help!!


Another nontrad here. I had a question about your experience matching. You mentioned you’re 40-something in the original post. Do you think that was an issue with different residency programs? I’m curious as to whether residencies lasting 4+ years might look at older students negatively simply because they will likely not practice as long as a younger student. Thanks.



Dream realized, congrats my man! I am wrapping up Orgo II, applying Summer 2022.

My question is around older residency candidates, How much harder it is to match when you are older (40+), can you offer advice, observations, or comments? Thank you and congrats on your accomplishments!

Thank you for sharing your experiences, Bennard! It’s very encouraging to hear about someone in similar shoes going “into the fire” so to speak, and coming out alive.

I’m currently a 30-something premed and once accepted into medical school I’ll be in my 40s. I’m a full-time working mom of 2 and plan on working right up until Medical school to help save money for my education. I am VERY concerned about the Matching process and already know that every year thousands of doctors don’t get matched. I’m actually considering IM and plan on pursuing shadowing opportunities next year to learn from more IM physicians.

My question to you is: Do you feel you experienced prejudices during your time in medical school from other medical students or professors regarding your age? I see many opinions on the internet, but I’d love to get a fresh perspective. Since this will be the biggest risk and challenge of my life, I’d like to know as much as possible about what I’m getting into. I’m already fighting an uphill battle. My biggest concerns are unseen obstacles that may also affect my journey.

Congratulations on Matching and doing well! All your hard work is paying off.

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I honestly never experienced any issues with my fellow students or instructors regarding my age. My med school class had a pretty wide range of ages, with an average of about 28 I think on starting. Socializing with my classmates was limited as when we were off for the weekends, I was at home with my family rather than going out drinking or whatever. However, you have to do your own thing. Good luck on your path. IM is a great choice, and you’ll likely have plenty of options to choose from.

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I can only relate my own experience here. I don’t know specifically why I didn’t match. I have some theories and I think being older may play a part, but I don’t think that was entirely the issue. However, I have had friends and classmates of a similar age who matched without issue. I think it depends a lot on your personality and what specialty you’re trying to match into. If you’re dedicated to a field and have good evaluations, that helps tremendously.

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Hello Dr Bennard,
What is the most sufficient way to prepare for MCAT? Its really hard to find an online study group. I have been studying independently but wonder how sufficient am I with studying. This will not be my first rodeo with taking the MCAT. I am a very non traditional student and work.

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I’m 52 and finished the Mills program in May. Currently applying to both MD and DO programs while I pick up work in my old career - film/vfx/commercial VFX Supervisor. Writing from a pharma commercial set in Mexico City, which lends an interesting perspective to my medical future.

Planning to pick up days of work as I’m able on the side during MS/OMS depending on where I’m located for school. Hoping for admission in CA but not holding my breath. Applying west and east coast.

FWIW it was expensive AF but I owned my duplex in LA, refinanced it, saved like a Mofo and stashed it in a 529, which I’m using to pay off my post bacc loans as well as looking forward to medical school costs.

Plan, pace yourself and figure out how to live cheaply. I ended up buying a second multi family property and renovating it near my post bacc program before I started. Now with it fully rented I pay no rent, just utilities and mortgages on both properties.

Hard to do in some markets but a possibility in others, depending on your income too of course.

There is no such thing as impossible, the question is “how”

It feels like I wrote this myself. We are in the same boat! Mom of two, upper 30 something and will be 40 when I Begin. How is your journey going?

Hi Liz. Things are going great. Recently secured an attending job as a hospitalist starting after residency. Just trying to grind through these next few months and looking forward to the next phase and finally reaping some of the rewards for all of the effort I’ve put in.