Older, GPA,, chances, or just dreaming???

I’m new to OPM (today)and this seems to be a great site. The questions I have I’m sure have been asked and answered countless times but nevertheless, here goes.
I have always wanted to be an MD, from as far back as childhood. I always felt I’d make a great doctor. Problem was when I had the chance, I just didn’t actively pursue it. Oh I took some of the classes my med school bound classmates did but I just ‘went to school’, didn’t apply myself, basically looked forward to getting out, being married, etc. At the time, I never felt I could genuinely have a chance at going to Med school and fullfilling the dream. Consequently, I didn’t work at it. The predictable result was an average GPA ~2.5-6. I never took the MCAT. I never visited with the premed counselor at school. I did graduate with a Bachelors in Chemistry. I now am the R&D Mgr at a polymer company in the midwest. I make a very, very comfortable living but… it’s NOT medicine. I have a very supportive wife and daughter.
Though,it’s been many years, the dream has NEVER died!
Needless to say, looking back at it I wonder why I didn’t apply myself when I was in my 20’s. Recently looking over the subject matter in Premed classes makes me regret that I didn’t. The material just didn’t seem that difficult… if you worked.
I’ve recently seen people long after famlies have been started and careers begun, applying and being accepted into Med school,( albeit rarely),into their 40’s-50s!. This has re-fanned the flames! I guess I was very slow to come around /back to what was careerwise my first love.
I know I wouldn’t be able to practice medicine for 40 years. I have only ever wished to be in Family practice, Pediatrics, or Emergency Medicine. I do not have the desire to pursue a specialty requiring many years of residency.I’m more of a generalist in that sense. Money is NOT a motivator. With the time out of the work force and loans to repay, I’d be much better off to stay with what I’m doing.
I would need to go back to pick up the premed requirements as well as advanced classes(and do well with them), so a Med School has something more recent than a 25 year old transcript to judge ability. I need to take the MCAT.
But assuming I do all this, is it possible that I could be taken seriously as a candidate for Med school in my early 50’s? Would my age count me out? Realistically, would they overlook my earlier college experience and the sins of my youth in favor of recent good work and give me chance? Would a Med school opt to give a place to a much more mature student with life experince then just another 23year old?
I know no one has a crystal ball but what do you think? What insight, experiences, and advice can you share?
What steps would you suggest I take? or Should I check myself into a dementia ward.
Despite the length and difficulty of the journey,I would love nothing more than pursuing medicine at this point in my life!

Hi Randy,

When I started medical school, the oldest person in my class was 52. He had been an minister before applying to medical school. He is now in his second year in a Family Practice residency and plans on providing care to Native Americans when he is done. He received a Health Services scholarship and has almost no debt from medical school.

My other question is: What makes you think that you won’t be able to practice medicine for 40 years? There is no age limit on medical practice as long as you can safely do your job.

I have repeatedly said that medical schools will not reject you on age alone. If you have a competitive application, you are going to get acceptances. Work on making your application competitive and go for it. Who knows, you might be practicing into your 100s with all of the new robotics. Besides, 90% of medical and surgical practice is mental. A used mind stays sharp!


Because I am in the process of applying this year myself, and had old, not so hot grades, I can tell you, you will have to go back and do better. How much? I don’t know for sure. I had a 2.0 (134 hours) and did 3.3 this time but my MCAT was only so-so (22) and I’ve not gotton any invitations to interview to date. I am 41. I will re-take the MCAT and re-apply though. OldManDave, our founder, had an ever lower GPA when he went back, but kicked butt the second time around and is in his residency. I don’t think you have to come back with a 4.0 but you have to show that you know your stuff, especially the sciences. Since you have family, their support is important too. Natalie and many others have said this is a marathon and not a sprint. Good luck!

Randy, my situation’s pretty similar to yours except I have not always wanted to be a doc. I discovered this 4 years ago when I just turned 35. I also am currently in another career, married and have children.
My undergrad degree is in Chem Engin. w/ a 2.5 GPA…so essentially 130+ hours loaded w/ science courses, many of which are the medschool pre-reqs. The transcript is 20 years old. I’ve checked w/ a couple of medschools on transcript age (need to check w/ more that I’m interested in) and there was no limit. I’ve heard some schools do have a limit (i.e. pre-reqs w/i 7-10 years). You are correct in your thinking…the advice I’ve been given by others is that those of us in this situation (long time since undergrad and mediocre GPA) need to prove we have the capability to withstand the rigors of medschool. This means recent coursework and a solid MCAT. How many hours and what magic MCAT score proves this …I don’t know.
For me, I’ll have completed 18 hours (A&P II, Bio I&II, Org. I&II) by the time I apply this summer and 25 hours by ‘05…hopefully the year I enter. Right now, this recent GPA is at 3.8 and I intend for it not go lower. However; the cold, hard reality is that 25 hours at 3.8 barely nudges 130+ hours at 2.5. My overall GPA will still be below 3.0. This does concern me in terms of getting weeded out at the beginning w/o looking any deeper; i.e. personal statement, EC’s, LOR’s, interview. I’m taking the MCAT in April. Clearly, a good score would go a long way to easing my concern, but GPA will be a weak spot on the application.
In answer to the main question in your post, everything I’ve heard from others experience is that, Yes…medschools will select you for a spot in which a 23 year old is competing, but not because you have life experience and the 23 year old doesn’t. It will be because your total package is what they are looking for and what they feel will succeed. Now obviously the maturity and “groundedness” that comes w/ age & life experience will be a part of your package.
Good luck.

Yes medical schools will give you a look based on your academic credentials first. Meaning the first kind of rough cutoff for many medical schools will be did this person do well on the MCAT? can this person handle the difficulties and rigors of a medical school curriculum? then when this questions have been answered as a resounding YES. Then they will also look at the other facets of your application, this is where maturity, leadership, overcoming adversity, life experience comes into play. Although your old GPA is not good that does not mean that you will be automatically cut off from the applicant pool but you will have to demonstrate via recent coursework that you can handle difficult science classes. This can only be demonstrated by taking science courses and diving in with the rest of the folks attempting this endeavor. You will more than likely need to take a good amount of science courses not just the pre-reqs (of course this is only my opinion I would check with individual medical schools to make sure). So plan possibly to take courses for one year or more to include the pre-reqs and some other higher level bio/chem/physics/math courses. This will not only demonstrate that yes you are serious this time around about making this thing work, but it will be good review of the MCAT material so you are killing two birds with one stone. Do not try to rush things because that is one thing that us non-trads may end up doing to our detriment. You want to take it slow and kick arse in these courses and get A’s and maybe a couple of B’s for adcoms will be lookign at your recent coursework with a magnifying glass due to your soso old GPA so beware. Remember (like Mary says) this is their game and you need to play by their rules no matter how idiotic these rules seem. Good luck.

Hi Randy,
If becoming a physician is what you really want to do, then go for it. I wouldn’t worry about your age, life experiences, or competing against 23-year-olds, since it’s really your GPA and MCAT score that gets your foot in the door. So as you mentioned in your post, you’ll need to do some damage control first to offset your original GPA.
What you probably need to do is to retake all of your premed courses, getting all A’s, over very close to this. I think you probably also need to do above-average on the MCAT (say, 33 or higher). I talk a little about this on my web site under the topic, “Second Chance”.
The first step is to find a decent college with an active premedical program or a formal post-bacc program. Talk to the premed advisor at this school ASAP to map out a strategy.
Best of luck.

To earlier advice posted, I would add: make SURE the pre-medical advisor is supportive of non-traditional students. At my school, the pre-med advisor told me he referred a strong candidate “a 35 year old former military with great academics” to a Caribbean school. That is not the type of pre-med advisor you want. If you have the choice, shop for schools.

Hi, Mike,
I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your webpage. It gave me a lot of inspiration to hear your story and your advice.

Great advice on this thread! I need advice on how to proceed slowly regarding prerequisites. I realize that everyone’s schedule and workload possiblities are varied, but I would really like to hear what combinations of classes worked for other OPM’s.
I am 37 and would like to apply for Med School by the time I am 40? I have a craptacular GPA from my undergrad at a great school. I need to take the following years of prereqs:
1 year Anatomy
1 year math
1 year Chem
1 year Bio
1 year Physics
1 Year O Chem
Is it possible to take the first set (A/P, math, chem) next year and then the remaining three the next? Or is it better to spread it out over 3 years instead of 2? What has been your experience if you found yourself with this courseload?

What you propose is feasible, depending on what else you are doing (like working full time). Taking 3 premed courses with labs is basically a full-time load.
BTW, A/P is not a prereq for medical school. And depending on what you did as an undergrad, you don’t need math either. You might want to consider taking Bio and Chem the first year, and Organic and Phys the second year.
One more point, is that if your undergraduate GPA is as bad as you suggested (“craptacular”), be prepared to take extra courses or complete a quick master’s degree. You can do this during the 15 months your medical school application is being processed (from June through the following September). Then if you have to reapply, you’ll have a much stronger post-bacc or graduate GPA.

As the above poster stated A&P is not a medical school pre-req so beware. Most pre-meds usually do take one or two pre-reqs together per semester. I remember taking gen chem with biology and then physics with organic. Depending on what other things you are doing this is doable but be prepared to put in a lot of time for these classes…

How bad was your math in undergrad? You use a lot of algebra in general chemistry, including just a little bit of logarithms. Be sure you have a solid grounding in math before you undertake general chemistry.
Math will be the foundation for your success in general chemistry and physics, so if you don’t have what you need there, yet (can’t tell from your post), lay that foundation first. You can take bio while you take the math, if you want a full courseload. You don’t need a/p as a prereq for any med schools I’ve looked at, and the nursing school at my university uses it as a weed-out course for nursing students, so it could take a lot of your time and still do a number on your grade point average. So tread carefully there.
Welcome aboard! It’s a lot of fun planning your coursework.

Thanks all for the advice! I really appreciate knowing what you think and what has been your experience. I had originally enrolled in A/P to finish the prerequisites for nursing school, before realizing that nursing was not going to fulfill my needs. I have been really looking forward to taking this series and I’m comfortable with the instructor since I’ve had her in intro to Bio. I’m torn between dropping the series and just taking it for the info that I’ll get out of it.
As far as math, I took some college calculus before switching my major to sociology while in undergrad. So far all the math (this time around) has been review and not too difficult. My premed advisor said we need to take the year in math, and although I have enough math in my transcript to qualify, she said I will need to have a solid review of it before Gen chem and physics. So that’s how I ended up with these 6 series of classes. If I take the two years to complete prereqs, do i sit for the MCAT at the April of the second year and then apply, or wait another year to apply??
Still open to advice.