Older career-changer - medical admissions view of ancient grades?

I did some (admittedly) cursory searching, but couldn’t find something that I’d have thought would have been a rather common question.

I’m 45, have been a nuclear engineer for 16+ years, and am currently assessing the possibility of changing careers into medicine (interest, rather than a financial necessity).

For the traditional medical student applying to medical school, it appears that it is predominately based upon a combination of grades and MCAT scores, with peripheral issues like extra-curricular activities (etc) being secondary considerations.

For a potential student changing careers, what are the “golden criteria”? In my case, I am highly successful as an engineer, but actually got relatively poor grades in classes like calculus and chemistry (back in 1987) due to immaturity, a taste for partying, and general hedonism. Quite obviously, my priorities have changed just a little (::sarcasm::).

To (finally) get to the gist of my question - do I need to go back and formally take some classes that are particularly ancient (late 1980s era) and not particularly good (i.e. B and C grades) to demonstrate my ability to succeed in an academic environment? Or would the combination of a high MCAT score and a successful professional history put me over the edge?

Again, sorry if this is a repeated question - seems like something that would be commonly asked…

  • Tom

Hello Tom,

Med schools will want to see recent courses as evidence that you’re equipped to handle their coursework; most med schools want premed classes taken no more than 5 years prior to enrollment. You will also want to prove that you’re capable of better grades than you earned back in your undergraduate days. No matter how old your previous classes are, those grades will still be considered in the application process. Any future premed courses will be averaged into the undergrad GPA you earned previously, although they will also be computed into a separate “post-baccalaureate” GPA since you will be taking them after having earned your undergraduate degree. This will allow med schools to see the more recent performance separately, as well.

I hope this info helps!



Hi Tom,

I can only speak for myself but I was worried about the same thing. Some med schools state that coursework can only be x amount of years old. However there were some that had a lot of wiggle room and included special instructions for people like us changing careers. Many stated that letters from employers could sub for letters from professors.

. I got into med school in Louisiana for the 2014 class. I graduated with an undergrad in 1999 with lots of issues due to family and financial problems. I taught for 14 years and went back to get a masters in 2009. I had a graduate gpa in biology of 3.91.

I think more and more many med schools are looking at the whole package and many might be attracted to your engineering problem solving skills.

We never know until we try so I would take the mcat enroll in a biochem class and apply.

Best of luck


Hmm, as an serious engineer with a taste for analysis, I find that it strains credulity to assume that grades older than most medical school applicants, obtained during a period of extreme immaturity and wild use of alcohol, could possibly have relevance to a medical school application. Particularly in light of highly successful M.S. work in nuclear engineering and a successful 15+ year career. My first instinct is to say that I think medical schools haven’t adapted.

However, they do need something to indicate that a candidate can successfully transition back into intense scholastic work, so I guess I can understand why they’d like to see something. I’d be seriously disappointed in them if they’ve not been able to assess the success in a professional career as a factor in medical school.

Fortunately (???) for me, I’ve never taken organic chemistry or biochemistry, so I feel like those would be excellent demonstrations of my ability and commitment. In the meantime, I’m patching up my academic dotage in intro chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and technical reading via a combination of Coursera courses, working completely through some contemporary textbooks, and MCAT review workbooks (to the tune of 12-14 hours per day).

Well my undergrad was studded with not so good performance either. My GPA was abysmal by many standards. I think grad school turned it around for me as far as interviews PLUS my career in teaching.

I may be viewing you in a different light (as I think they will as well) because of your background in engineering and my respect for engineers. I taught pre-engineering to high school students and spoke at a local mechanical engineering society to showcase what we offered to students in terms of our CAD software and classes. They were impressed that we offered such topics and had a structural stress analyzer. I was impressed that I could even learn it enough to teach it so my hat is off to engineers.

I spoke to an ADCOM at a DO school about the grades thing. She basically said with old grades, they want to see some recency in a harder-level science class to show that you still (or now have) the capacity to learn seemingly difficult subjects. They look even more kindly if you take more than one at a time.

I finished most of my prereqs back in 2000-2002. I did some online coursework in 2006-2007 and finished my MBA in 2010. The ADCOM was happy with the graduate level stuff but seemed more interested in the fact that I’d just finished up Bio 2 and a Biochem class recently.

By no means do you need to redo all of the coursework in my opinion. I would say take your biochem and genetics type classes (“upper” level science) with some recency before you apply and that should hopefully suffice. That is unless you want to apply to a school with time requirements (I think Duke says max 5 years). Then again, I got an interview at a school that “recommends” everything within the last 10 years.