Hey all,

I’ve wanted to write something like this up for a while. I apologize in advance for the long post.

There are a lot of things that get thrown out there that you have to do if you want to get accepted to med school. You’re supposed to have volunteer hours, shadowing, research, clinical exposure, and leadership activities. In addition to that, you’d better submit your application in June, apply to 50 schools and reply to all secondary applications within 2 days and so on. This isn’t bad advice, and your odds are probably better if you can do all of these things. However, it can be tough on us non-traditionals to balance all of these requirements and take care of the other things like work, family and school.

So, I wanted to let you know that you don’t necessarily have to meet all of these requirements to get in. I got accepted (twice), and I didn’t have all of these things. I also did some things I was directly advised NOT to do.

I can’t say that this is universal, because I’m basing this on my own experiences, and my sample size is admittedly small. I have been through two application cycles with two different schools. I will say that I think my work/life experience and my academic performance/MCAT score helped me overcome some of these barriers. However, there are definitely things I could have done better.

I’m going to go through point-by-point below and address a few of these issues, and also talk about a few things I could have done better.

You can still get in if…

  1. You only apply to one school.

    I was directly advised against doing this, and I understand the reasoning behind it. However, I needed to stay in the same geographic location for family reasons. So, applying to the local school was my only option.

    On the plus side, though, I had the opportunity to talk with the admissions staff at the school face-to-face prior to applying and get feedback from them, which allowed me to tailor my application specifically to that school.

  2. You apply late.

    I applied late – twice. The first time I was waiting for my MCAT score (I took the MCAT in July), and also for some letters of recommendation to come in. I was complete in October for that cycle. The second time, I had just moved and my focus wasn’t on applying, and I was also waiting on some letters to come in. I was complete in November this current cycle.

    Now the first time, this didn’t work against me because the school I applied to (UAMS) doesn’t do rolling admissions like everywhere else. The second time, when I applied to LSU, they were accepting people when I applied. Fortunately, I got an II in very short order after submitting my secondary.

  3. You’ve been waitlisted.

    After my first application at UAMS, I was waitlisted. Being waitlisted sucks, especially if you have only applied to one school (see above). I waited for several months, and was getting ready to reapply when I got accepted off the waitlist in late June. While this was good news, we had just sold our house and were getting ready to move out of state, so I ultimately didn’t take that position (see below).

  4. You decline an acceptance.

    This one was really difficult. I was told by one of the doctors that I scribed for that, in no uncertain terms, I was “f*cking up” by not taking this acceptance. He felt strongly, as did others, that turning down an acceptance would essentially blacklist me from getting into medical school.

    It was a very difficult decision to turn down something that I had been working towards for a few years, but I think it was the right thing to do for myself and my family. We ended up in a location where we have a lot more family support.

  5. You have limited ECs.

    Basically the only EC that I had on my application was working as a medical scribe in a local ER, and I shadowed one doctor for a couple of shifts. I had no volunteering, no research, no other extracurricular activities to speak of (other than being a husband, father and employee).

    Should I have done some volunteering? Absolutely. I went through the volunteer program at a few local hospitals, but something always seemed to get in the way.

    On the other hand, I was able to focus more of my time on school which helped me get better grades, and a better MCAT score, which likely helped contribute to my acceptance.

  6. Your prereqs are old.

    This will probably vary from school to school, but I applied with some prereqs that were from my undergrad degree and were 15+ years old. I never received any questions or comments about those. If you’re concerned about this, I’d recommend getting in touch with the school directly and running this by them.

  7. You haven’t taken any upper-level science courses.

    I was advised it would be good to have some sort of upper-level science course to show that I could handle that kind of material. I took the absolute minimum amount of courses required to matriculate. Part of this was out of concern for time, the other part from the concern of expenses. Taking these prereqs was not cheap, and it required me to leave my full-time job to go back and take these courses, so I wanted to minimize the impact and I was able to fit what I needed into three semesters. This also goes back to knowing your target school(s) and understanding what kind of prerequisites they require.

  8. You mention your family in your application/PS/interviews.

    This is another area where I was advised by several people, including my wife, not to bring up the fact that I had a family in my applications/interviews. My wife and others thought it might prejudice the admissions committee against me as they know that I’ve got other priorities than medicine. I spoke freely about my family in my interviews. Anywhere that wouldn’t have accepted me as I am, was not a place I was interested in being a part of.

    I’ve listed above a couple of areas that I haven’t complied with the “norm” for premed students. I’m not recommending that you approach your med school applications in these ways, but I wanted to let you all know that it’s still possible to get accepted as an outlier. If you’ve any questions, let me know.

Thanks for this. I’ll be very happy if I can follow a path like yours and stay in my current city. How receptive were admissions staff at LSU to your requests for meetings? Did you speak with the Dean or other staff? I want to do this when the time is right. I have 6 pre-reqs remaining (2 years) and my current timeline has me applying in 2017. How early would you suggest I reach out to admissions staff? On that other website, reapplicants forum, I see plenty of high-stats folks who get rejected for either poor interview skills or lack of “clinical” experience. Although I will put in my time, I won’t be able to amass the 1000s of hours that some do. I’ll have 200 hours at most. I hope that is enough. It is good to know that you were able to make it with limited ECs.

The admissions staff were pretty receptive for spending some time with me. The first time I spoke with them was before I started school to go back and get my prereqs, so I was able to understand what they were looking for, and then just some general questions about the process for applying and things. That was about two years before I applied.

If you’re in that range, and you have a specific school in mind, I’d say go ahead and get in contact with admissions. It can’t hurt to get your foot in the door early.

When I hear about “outliers” gaining admission to med school I’ve found that when I dug a little deeper, I usually also find either a parent that’s a Physician/PhD, or a parent in the medical profession, stats show that “medical parents” tip the scales in favor of an admission.

I also think there’s a HUGE difference between a man talking about having a wife/family while attending med school versus a woman talking about having a husband/family. HUGE. So while I think men get kudos for “balancing it all” (I could too with a wife), gender bias in medicine (which I think is worse than I saw in the 90’s) doesn’t allow women to benefit in the same way IMHO.

At the end of the day, ALL nontrads work hard to get into med school and there’s no taking away from that but mentioning those things that help tip the scales in favor of an acceptance especially if you’re an “outlier” (URM status, ect) is important to mention as well.

Yeah, it would be awesome if I could remain in San Diego. Getting into UCSD is not going to be easy though. It’s not top 10, but it’s up there, research-oriented (research is not on my list of planned ECs), and well, the state of CA and I’m ORM. Plus, I’m single, so I can’t point to any strong ties to the city other than the fact that I’ve lived here the past 15+ years and have a social network. But I’ll give it a shot anyway - nothing lost. Nothing gained without trying either.

Dullhead, I inquired at UCSD as I am also here in SD. However, the admission officer their told me that UCSD is only for grade enhancers where the students already took science courses before. Their program is not for career changers.

I can see the UC Consortium has this grade enhancers.

With your background I supposed you haven’t taken the science courses yet and you want a career changer program.

I’m applying post-bacc too by the way.


I actually meant UCSD SOM, not the post-bacc. Post-baccs are typically not an option for me because they are usually full-time and during the day. I’m taking all my classes at CC. I have taken all the science courses many many years ago, except Bio and Biochem, but it does not count because it was not in this country.

Good luck on your post-bacc.

Thank you DH.

You gave me some thoughts on this. What is SOM?

My Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are out from this country. I dont know if i take the post-bacc will they honor it?

Should I take a 2nd Bachelor’s again instead but that path is longer rather than a post bacc where i can finish the courses which are required.

We are piggy-backing from outliers. I contacted Rochesters and they said why don’t I try to apply. The fact is I dont want to spend money on post bacc and later on I found out that Med Schools will disqualify me because my degrees are from international though I plan to have a post bacc that time.

Check out the MSAR on AAMC (google it, can’t remember what it stands for). It costs money for a subscription, but basically is a database of the requirements/info about every MD school in the US/Canada. AACOM has a free pdf version for all DO schools in the US. You can probably sort through the lists and see which schools will accept international students. If you’re willing to apply to the schools that do take international students, then just finish up the prereqs. Otherwise, you may have to complete the requisite 90 credits/Bachelors or whatever the requirement is to compete for a slot at the other schools.

SOM = School of Medicine