Planning for med school after PhD at 34!

Hello all,



This is my first time in these forums and am excited to see all the discussions here. I am a 34 yr old non-traditional student planning to get into a MD or MD/PhD program starting 2016 and considering to appear for the MCAT in the first week of August. Briefly, below is my academic/professional background:


  1. BS - Mechanical Engineering (Foreign) - 3.98 GPA
  2. MS - Mechanical Engineering (From a school ranked in the top 50 in the US) - 3.5 GPA
  3. MS - Aerospace Engineering (From a school ranked in the top 3 in the US!) - 3.6 GPA
  4. PhD - Aerospace Engineering (From a school ranked in the top 3 in the US!) - pursued research related to bio-inspired flight - 3.6 GPA
  5. Work experience - Since the last 5 years in an engineering firm
  6. Shadowing experience - 20 hrs so far with a pediatrician, planning to start shadowing an Oncologist shortly.



    Even though my degrees are in engineering, the research methodologies I have used/developed are generally applicable to medical problems as well. I have a fair number of research publications.



    There are many personal and professional reasons why I want to get into medical school and I’m not getting into those here. Many of my science prerequisite courses were done outside of the US and so I enrolled myself as a transfer student in a local college to pursue one or two missing prerequisite courses (e.g., General Biology) and to get my foreign credits transferred. Apparently, AMCAS will then include such transferred credits and grades in the GPA calculation even though they are of foreign origin. I have contacted at least 50 medical colleges so far and many of them do recognize the foreign undergraduate courses provided they are transferred to a US college and appear as transfer credit in a US transcript. Of course, there are also many colleges who would like me to complete the science prerequisite courses strictly in the US itself even though my foreign undergraduate degree/courses are acceptable to them otherwise to fulfill any minimum credit hour requirements.



    Anyways, I am preparing myself to complete one or two prerequisite courses in the summer. However, I’m not stopping myself from taking the MCAT in August even though all of my prerequisites are not complete yet. I have been reading and preparing on my own in the last couple of months or so to fill gaps in knowledge. Of course, I still have to take my practice tests to see where I stand. For now, I am going to register for the August first week MCAT and see how my prep work goes. Of course, I do realize that August is late in the game but few of the pre-health advisors I spoke with said that it is not really a dead end situation and there will still be a slim chance of getting an interview.



    Anyways, all that said, is there anyone else similarly placed in terms of academic background etc here who would like to share their plans and also any experiences? Also, do you guys have any comments about my background and if any of you believe that adcoms will or will not care for someone with the kind of background I have?



    Hoping to hear from you all! Good luck to everyone.



    -aeroaero

Nice background. The question I have relates to the age of your pre-reqs (gen chem, ochem, biochem, physics - lol given you pedigree, psychology, sociology and bio). Some schools have a hard cut off on the 5 years old and some don’t. Make sure you ask about age of courses, not just location where they were taken.



Also, your research background will be helpful in the statistical and reasoning portions of the passages. Much of the new MCAT is squarely focused on that aspect and less on the v=d/t or PV=nRT or … SP3 hybridized is a “what kind of geometry” …



Last, take a prep course. I have been reading SDN and Reddit forums on the exam administered yesterday and can say that if you just buy the books from “pick you favorite prep company” you will not get the full support and prep. In addition to the books you can buy from whatever prep company, the courses themselves have a lesson book. It is the Lesson Book that makes the difference, everything else is content review.



I can honestly say after reading all the other forums, perusing all the feedback from last weekend’s administration that, for me, Kaplan will have well prepared me for the types of passages it sounds like appeared on the test. (No, I don’t get a kick back from Kaplan! :smiley: )

Thank you Adoc2be.



Actually, my prerequisites are from 1999! But, note that I have not done biology and ochem at that time. I did talk to several schools and they are OK with those age old prerequisites. I am reading Biochem on my own.



Thanks also for letting me know that Kaplan may prepare me well for the new MCAT. I bought ExamKrackers books last week and they seem to be good. But, based on your asssessment, it looks like a Kaplan full course will prepare me better. I will consider taking that then!



And, BTW, I just registered for the August 6th MCAT.

As long as the schools you are applying to are okay with age of prereqs - your pedigree makes me drool (and not much does!)



Biochem - if you have questions, please feel free to ask. It is, by far, my best subject despite that I got A’s in everything else. My professor teaches it from the medical school perspective and warns us at the beginning of the semester that he is not an easy A but that medical school will be easier because of him.



Kaplan & EK - I had both for the 2014 test and found that EK is great for content but Kaplan REALLY sets apart everything not the books but the actual course.



Nothing in the books will prepare you like the actual course. I’m sure you’d do well either way but I am far more confident now with the MCAT than I would have been with just the books.



(Given my accommodations, I will probably be August 5 and 6th - two days)

@aeroaero68 wrote:

…Apparently, AMCAS will then include such transferred credits and grades in the GPA calculation even though they are of foreign origin. I have contacted at least 50 medical colleges so far and many of them do recognize the foreign undergraduate courses provided they are transferred to a US college and appear as transfer credit in a US transcript…




This is a comment only on one portion of your post, but did your local college specifically say they would transfer your foreign coursework, grades and thus GPA included, onto their transcript? Or would they transfer “credits” only, thus reducing the number of credits you need to earn a degree from that college? Plenty of colleges transfer “credits” but they will not transfer the grade or GPA onto their own transcript or if they do, they will only list it as pass/no pass. I assume you’ve found a local college that will actually transfer both your foreign coursework as well as the letter grade.



A few other points for you to consider:


  1. August MCAT for this year’s cycle may be slightly late for MD based on conventional wisdom. Should be OK for DO.


  2. Over on that other site on the re-applicant forum, one of the most common reasons for rejection is “lack of clinical experience”. I’ve seen that story over and over again on that site, and it seems to be the most common non-GPA and non-MCAT reason for rejection. Looks like you don’t have much clinical experience - you said you have about 20 hours of shadowing. Consider moving your application out a year and use 2015-2016 both for pre-reqs and volunteering. You will have a much stronger application in 2016.

DH - I think the conventional wisdom with an August MCAT and Sept validation = too late in cycle might have held true in prior years… prior to the new MCAT.



I think that alone is changing the game though ever so slightly. I think August MCAT should be fine (the 5/6th)… obviously, I might have a vested interest in my statement too :wink:

@Adoc2be wrote:

DH - I think the conventional wisdom with an August MCAT and Sept validation = too late in cycle might have held true in prior years…




True, that’s why I said “slightly” late. Even if you take the test in Aug, I guess one could have their AMCAS completed in June and thus not be too far behind.

@Dullhead wrote:

True, that’s why I said “slightly” late. Even if you take the test in Aug, I guess one could have their AMCAS completed in June and thus not be too far behind.




Submission of package 6/1 with final validation post MCAT score in Sept. Gosh, I hope so!!

Hello Dullhead,



The local college said that they would transfer both credits and grades. I made sure to ask them that because w/o a grade AMCAS would not calculate GPA. I am sure you are aware of that. Of course, in order for the local college to do that, an applicant must be enrolled as a degree seeking student. And, I enrolled as a pre-med associate of science degree student. But, since it is a community college, they will only transfer the first and second years of my foreign undergraduate course work. So, I also got admitted to a 4-year college as a transfer undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering. Tomorrow, I have my advising session there and I am hoping that they will transfer almost all of my foreign credits corresponding to the four years! If they are able to do that, I will do my prerequisite courses in the 4-year college. Of course, I have to pay more tuition then. I hope this answers your question.



Regarding the clinical experience comment you made, yes, you are very correct. I don’t have much as of now. But, between now and when I will apply i.e. July 2nd week (note: I’ve to delay my application submission until then because my first summer semester at the college will end on July 7th and then I have to request for a transcript so my transfer credits will appear and then I can safely enter them into AMCAS!), I will have acquired at least 50 more hours of shadowing with a primary care and an Oncologist both. I am sure that is also not enough given the competition. But, I still want to go through the process this year end-to-end and see what happens with my luck. I am so much non-traditional that it is not clear even to my pre-med advisors as to how the adcoms will look at me. Even though my degrees are in engineering, by virtue of the work that I have done as part of my research and otherwise, there are clear cut reasons as to why medicine has become the next obvious choice to me and I made it very clear through my personal statement. Let’s see what happens. I am mentally prepared to spend an extra year as well before matriculating if necessary, though!



Good luck,

aeroaero

It is good that your CC transfers grades onto their transcript. I would make sure to get some volunteering hours in addition to the shadowing. Comments from adcoms on that other site that shall not be named indicate they do not consider shadowing “clinical experience”. Shadowing is needed, but they expect volunteering as well.



Good luck.

I used to do volunteering in a Food Bank three years ago and have around 40 hours of that experience. Not sure if that is decent enough for now.

Definitely add that to your AMCAS, but I don’t think that would count as “clinical”. Suggest volunteering in an ER or hospice or free clinic or something. Typical is 4 hrs/week over a year’s duration, to total 200 hrs. Some have 1000s of hours. For non-trads, a bit lower may be acceptable. There are certainly folks on this site who have got in with lower than 200, but since you have the opportunity, you should get in as many hours as possible. I believe they like to see longevity and commitment, but you are where you are, so get in as many hours as you can and apply.

OK, thanks for the suggestions. Does providing ‘general office support’ in a free clinic considered a good volunteer opportunity? I’m assuming it is a yes but am wondering if it surely counts as “clinical” from your perspective. Thanks in advance.

@aeroaero68 wrote:

But, between now and when I will apply i.e. July 2nd week (note: I’ve to delay my application submission until then because my first summer semester at the college will end on July 7th and then I have to request for a transcript so my transfer credits will appear and then I can safely enter them into AMCAS!)




I would pose the question to others:



Given that his final AMCAS package won’t be validated anyway until POST MCAT, would it make sense to have the 6/1 date on the submission anyway?



I have been told by someone who sits on the adcom on a solid MD school that the 6/1 date is critical and means a lot whether or not the package is actually validated right then or after the MCAT score is obtained. Thus, I’m wondering if the same would hold true with the grades?



If that would hold true with grades as well, to me, it seems more reasonable to enter the grades using the current transcripts and then update once the transfer is completed and first semester done under transfer so that the 6/1 date is there…



Oh, and you might have answered this elsewhere: you do realize you still have to provide the original transcripts from the original schools whether or not they transferred the credits, right?



For instance, despite that I went to “pick your favorite big football school” and flunked the classes (I was drunk 100% of the time in class, out of class, etc), those credits DO appear on my transcripts of the university I finally graduated from (top 10 research). I am supplying both, however.
One other thought on your other comment about clinical stuff: I do not believe office support in a volunteer setting counts as much as sitting as fly on wall with physician in exam room or surgical suite. It's good to have the ICD-10 background and surely add that to your package but ... it is not really "patient focus with physician" which is what I think the medical schools are looking for.

You can submit whenever to join the queue for validation. However, when they get to your app and find a discrepancy, ie missing transcripts, they basically out you on hold until you remedy the situation. Once you submit the missing documents, I believe they do put a priority on getting back to your app to complete it. I was missing a transcript this cycle that I didn’t think I needed to submit (professional education, not actually academic) since they didn’t mention it the previous cycle. Once I submitted, my validation was quickly completed.



You’ll just have to wait until your MCAT makes it back to AMCAS for your app to submitted to schools. Does 6/1 matter in this case? I don’t think it necessarily will as long as the app is still submitted early enough to be validated before your mcat score is released. Your guess is as good as mine as to when that is…



I gathered that shadowing is “clinical experience” but not considered volunteering. I had only 50 hours, so I guess it’s partly what you take away from the experience and how you write about it. The only minimum requirement I saw was for UW, and they wanted at least 40 hours. I got rejected from there pre-interview, so maybe the minimum isn’t good enough :?

@aeroaero68 wrote:

OK, thanks for the suggestions. Does providing ‘general office support’ in a free clinic considered a good volunteer opportunity? I’m assuming it is a yes but am wondering if it surely counts as “clinical” from your perspective. Thanks in advance.




BIG Disclaimer: I’ve not volunteered yet and I’m a year out, if not two, from my own app cycle. All the info I have is what I’ve read on that other site that shall not be named!



There’s the well-known LizzyM quote: “If you can smell the patients, its a clinical experience”. But I get the impression that it also matters how you interpret the experience and thus, how you describe it on your AMCAS and secondaries. Over on that other site, people report seeing classmates or friends showing up at the ER, signing in or punching in, doing nothing for 4 hours, then leaving, and still being able to count those hours. If you want to be sincere, stocking bedsheets, wheeling patients from room/ward to radiology, greeting patients, etc are all supposed to count as “clinical” experiences.



The only thing I disagree with: those who claim that volunteering is supposed to demonstrate altruism. Over the years, I think that the app process has turned into such an elimination process that volunteering is required. Not for altruism, but to make sure that boxes are checked. That’s another topic altogether. But do your research and make sure your boxes are checked…



You should GG “pre-med clinical volunteer” and read up on the top 20 links that show up. That will provide you better info than I can.

Here’s my take, which differs from the popular view.



Sure volunteering shows altruism, but schools are more interested in a) you knowing what you’re getting yourself into, b) diverse experience that makes you a more well-rounded person, c) roles and responsibilities that show leadership and maturity, and d) time management. Traditional students jump all over this stuff because they have little else to offer otherwise to show these desirable traits. Standard college student/entry level jobs probably won’t give them the opportunities to “shine” like clubs and volunteer experiences.



Nontrads can show these traits in other ways (though I definitely don’t discount the personal/professional benefits of volunteering). “Real” work responsibilities, raising kids, succeeding in ones ventures, living life and taking adult risks, learning from both successes and failures, etc. I personally applied with zero point zero creditable volunteer hours but “made up” for it with leadership/work experiences, unique training and skills, etc. I obviously can’t pin-point exactly what schools were interested in or why others outright rejected me, but an otherwise well-rounded app can make up for shortcomings in other areas.



AAMC has a list of competencies that the schools supposedly look for in applicants. Use your experiences and show how what you have learned and done help you meet those competencies. If that involves volunteering, all the better for your app.



Again, my perspective based on personal observations. Other people may have had different experiences that lead them to think otherwise. Take everything you read about what adcoms are looking for with a grain of salt unless speaking to an adcom. And even then, that is what that person is looking for and is not necessarily what every other adcom/school is looking for. Isn’t applying to med school fun???

No disagreement, Kennymac. Non-trads should be prepared to match/exceed “trad” expectations or demonstrate how their non-trad experiences match or exceed trad requirements. For example, service in the armed forces could demonstrate leadership, in lieu of the traditional “president of the pre-med club” type of stuff. Volunteering as a means to figure out if you want this life/career is also important, yes. Finally, yes, what one adcom/school is looking for is not necessarily what other adcoms/schools seek - good point and agree completely.

@Kennymac wrote:

…Isn’t applying to med school fun???




You must be a sadist! J/K.