REALLY non-trad applicants -- those in their late 40's or 50's

Hello All:

This is a great site with lots of useful info. However, I think I may be non-trad among non-trads. I’d be really interested in the experience of 40/50 year old applicants (I’ve read yours, Mary; you’re an inspiration). What does it take to get into an MD program at 50? Will slightly above average grades/MCAT/other stuff (as compared to a particular school’s accepted students) get an old white male into the program? I’d appreciate any feedback.

Also, thanks for all the positive support that I witness on this site. You guys are great.

My “big sib” at GWU was a woman in her early 50s who had 5 children and a grandchild when she started med school. It is not easy to find these anecdotes but there are any number of stories about people in their 40s… 50s… even a few 60s.

I think you need to make a convincing case that you’ll be an asset to the class and to the profession, and that you’re up for the challenge. Obviously recent good school performance is key, but a lot of it is going to be intangible.

I initially struggled with my personal statement and my application, trying to make my distinctly non-traditional experience somehow fit into the “standard” mold. And then I realized that it wouldn’t work - it was kind of like getting my size, um, XL body into a size small dress.

So my personal statement, my LORs and my description of extracurrics all flaunted and celebrated my life and experiences to the point where I applied. Since I eventually got in, I can conclude that it didn’t hurt. I was memorable, apparently.


Dear Crazyman -

I turned 49 a few days after receiving my first acceptance to DMU. My wife and I put a lot of thought and planning into it - we have three children, the youngest is a senior in high school this year.

Your experience will be so individual, as at this age there are a lot of irons in the fire. I had an English Lit degree from 1981 and had been teaching for 20 years. We sold our house (to minimize debt and be flexible enough to move) and I audited a gen chem class at night while I was still teaching to see if science classes would stick in my brain (I had minimal science in UG). I really liked it and did well in the class so I took the plunge and took the entire year of chemistry in 9 wks at a 4-year school. I figured if it didn’t work out I could still teach again in the fall and I felt like the intense schedule should show me if I could do it. It worked out well.

For the academic year last year I took Org Chem, Physics and First year Spanish (I speak French and German but I thought Spanish would be more helpful in US medical settings). I got mostly A’s (except a C in the middle term of OChem) and then last summer I did the intensive class for Biology while completing my applications.

I was planning on studying for and taking the MCAT AFTER my biology class was over but I couldn’t get a seat for ANY testing site within 500 miles before the end of my Bio class so I bit the bullet and took it during the class with only 6 days to “study”. I took a couple of online practice tests the weekend before and reviewed notes - but had to keep up with Bio/lab for my grade. I ended up with a 28 on the MCAT - maybe I didn’t really have time to tense up about it.

I decided to apply to 4 schools (also did primary at PNWU) and if I didn’t make it this year I would give it one more cycle. I was only interested in DO schools. Two rejections - KCOM (after weird interview) and TCOM (before interview), one acceptance at DMU and I have an interview at Western in Feb. The only thing that could turn my head from DMU is a Northwest Track acceptance at Western.

Right now I am working as an exercise/movement therapist full-time at an osteopathic practice and taking Anatomy and Physiology and Second year Spanish in the evenings. My wife is teaching and our kids are applying for college. It is busy around here.

This is a long version of the story so far but I think that it can help to see how others have made their decisions. Best of luck and keep posting so we know how it is going for you.

Thanks Craig and Mary – that helps. Bottom line, it sounds like the onerous is on the older applicant to make a strong case in the intangibles.

One other question. I am a professor at a nationally recognized university (business school). I am hoping that having spent most of my career in a “learning community” will be an asset (having endured the rigors of a Ph.D. programs should be a marginal plus also). I’ve developed good research/statistics skills and worked on published interesting article is scholarly journals. Do you think this is a non-factor, marginal factor, or a significant factor?

Thanks again. You guys are great.

I think that they would be significant factors because it all boils down to who you are. Personally I think it would be worse to have turned 80 and thinking, wow, if I just pushed myself I could have been a doctor.

I’ll be 48 when I hopefully enter medical school, and it doesn’t bother me a bit!


Crazy Man,

I believe medical schools are interested in three things:

  1. Are you ready to dedicate your life to medicine?

  2. Do you have what it takes to get through medical school?

  3. Do you have what it takes to become a good physician?

    Corollary to this is “are you wasting a seat that could go to someone more qualified or more likely to stay in the field?”

    So I would respectfully suggest that you make sure your personal statement and essays all reflect the fact that you have the energy, the drive, the stamina, and the academic ability to make it through, and when you make it through, you’ll be the World’s Best Doctor, bringing all sorts of fantastic life skills to the game to enrich the profession and practice of medicine. Which I’m sure you can and will. Best of luck,

I posted the following link on one of ayoung45’s threads. Bruce Stafford was also a college professor.

Does anybody know if he has ever contributed here on this forum?

To be honest, I think ttraub hit it on the head with the important questions. Sure, it’s nice that you are a good teacher, learner, facilitator, it’s nice that you have a PhD, but really unless those are all in medical-type fields, no one gets very excited about them. My experience was that adcom members didn’t really understand or know how to interpret those out-of-medicine experiences.

One would think that PBL-type schools would want students with those qualities, but really they just want you to be a doctor. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.