Recommendations and volunteer work???

Hi. Reading and learning from you all has truly been a blessing! I’ve been enjoying OPM for awhile now but am only now getting around to introducing myself and posting a question. I’m 32 years old and am about to start my senior year studying Biochemistry (BS)…the eternal student is actually graduating I would love to go to Med School … after I take a year off to recover from my undergraduate work. However, being an “older” student, I’m a little daunted by the extra requirements of applying to med school (ie recommendations, research, volunteer work). I did one semester of research, have no volunteer experience, and didn’t have the time to spend with professors in hopes of trying to get good recommendations. I had a 3.9 GPA untill a couple of years ago when I transferred to my current school, a more competitive and challenging school, where needless to say my GPA dropped to a high 2 - low 3. So my question is, is there still hope of getting into a school? I don’t see any research prospects in the coming year, I don’t have the time to do any volunteer work, and I expect my MCATs (which I’ll take next August) to be “average”. Do med schools tend to be alittle more lenient, or should I say “understanding” when it comes to these areas for older students? Thank you for any advice, tips, comments…just feeling a little lost (and late) in this whole process. Take care.


Hi there ---- well, I’m fairly new at this too, but I have managed to acrue some volunteer hours by working the triage area of my local hospital ER. What is nice is that they apply weekend hours as “double” hours … that is, though I only work 4 hours a week (1/2 day on Sunday), they record it as 8 hrs. Now, I probably won’t reflect those as “double hours” for my med apps, but it could have been very beneficial for one thing … my local CC has a course called “Service Learning” and is one credit hour (can take it up to four times = 4 credit hours) and the deal is this … you work 20 hrs volunteer per semester, keep a very brief journal and write a summary of your experience and they include both your course grade (an easy A) and the hours spent volunteering on your transcripts. I’m told that this is a permanent entry on your transcripts. Also, many professors will allow you to use this program to gain extra credit in their classes (amazing)!! The volunteer program is huge - and includes many intersting sites (riding therapy for disabled children, hospitals, Team In Training - for those intersted in marathons or cycling events, hospice, etc.). I wish I had signed up for this class before I put in my 60 (or 120) hours of volunteer time!!! So, you might want to check to see if your university/CC offers such a program. I got many good ideas for different volunteer efforts that I never even dreamed of too. Recently I sent in my application to be a Wish Granter for Make-A-Wish Foundation. That’s about all I can suggest … good luck.

Hey funkill! Thanks for all the tips! So how did you get to volunteer for the ER? Did you just walk in and ask or do you have to go through an organization?

I first got on-line and went to the site for each of the hospitals that I was interested in volunteering for (i.e. within a hours drive and with an active ER). Each hopsital had a link to their volunteer service area. I both emailed that program and phoned a few. I finally decided that the closest one was best for me because of my limited time to spend on travel. (I would have rathered volunteer in Orlando, where they have a higher level ER, but the extra 45 minute drive to-from was too tough on my schedule.) This hopsital was one that I emailed, listing my phone number, and they called me. They had a person in charge of volunteer services, whom I scheduled a meeting with. She told me of the various positions and I chose ER Triage. I had to sign a few forms dealing with privacy and conduct, have a badge made, and get proper clothing (all white). Then, after one training session (4 hrs), I was ready to work alone. What I mostly did was greeted patients as they arrived in the ER (sometimes taking a wheel-chair to their vehicle), getting their name and an idea of why they came in, then gave them the necessary forms and notified the Triage Nurse of their condition. After I settled in a bit, I was asked to do a few things in the ER - like stocking some rooms, taking patients to the various other areas like XRay, labs, etc. Each 4 hr shift goes very fast and I am able to stay very busy. Though I haven’t received the exposure to the patients or doctors like I hoped, I did have a fun time and met a few really neat people (nurses and patients alike). There were a range of volunteers there — but age category seemed limited to teens (summer teen program) or retired folks.
I saw your other post and can’t believe anyone mentioned your age. That’s a real surprise to me. No organization that I contacted ever made any comment on my age! Whew - cause I would have given them a real piece of my mind (not that I can spare any). Every person I have spoken with was more than gracious and happy for my interest. I’m attaching a link to my schools list of organizations that they work with — I contacted many - but didn’t mention that it was in any association with the school. The list just provided me with lots of alternatives … if, for some reason you can’t get through this link, just google under “service learning” and many schools come up. Just “use” their list for your own benefit! Also, many of these organizations have websites with contacts for volunteer oportunities … and other’s can be found in your local directory. Just do a little googling …

Hi, I was a Hospice Rn for 9 years and Hospices are always looking for Volunteers. You usually don’t have to commit to like 20 hours a week but to some hours a week. You can learn a lot about interacting with people and their families.

hi, would you recommend any specific hospices in the NY metro area? or anything else to consider when thinking about volunteering at a hospice?

Med schools are not more lenient when it comes to older students.
A friend of mine on the admissions committee of our med school said recently, you end up being compared to whichever pool you fit into. As an older student, you are compared to older students. Many of these older students have significant experience in the bare minimum: clinical work and shadowing. You do not get bonus points for figuring out how to do this while you are working/taking care of a family/whatever; it is expected that you will be able to manage this extra work, because so many other people do. Personally, I think research is the optional piece; it is most important to have good experience in clinical medicine so you can demonstrate that you have explored medicine and understand what you are getting into.
Your MCAT should be the highest you can possibly manage (do not optimistically think that a 25 will be adequate, and that you don’t need to work harder); it is very important to keep your GPA as high as possible, since this is the adcom’s barometer for how you will handle med school work.
Take your time and do things properly. Do not feel that you have to rush; you’re still young.
good luck

To add another bit of reality to this thread, not only do med schools not cut older students any slack, but those of which I am aware do not judge older applicants against older applicants and traditional against traditional. They look at the whole pool of applicants and look for the best applicants consistent with that particular school’s mission statement. This is a tough process and there are no “free lunches.” (Or even cheap lunches.)