Starting completely over....New direction...


I am 33 and from Montreal, Canada. I graduated with a Political Science degree 13 years ago. During the past years, I took a few University classes in different subjects while working different jobs that gave me no personal satisfaction. I succeeded in some classes and failed miserably in others (due to personal problems) which brought down my GPA even further. This past year, I have been seriously reflecting about re-focusing my direction in life. I am realizing that deep down inside I’ve always wanted to become a doctor but never had the courage to go for it. I always felt inadequate because I was never the best student in HS/University. Instead, I was just getting by with average/passing marks due to a lack of direction/ motivation when I was younger. But after reading about non-traditional students, maybe there is still hope. I do not have any pre-requisites for med school and I am thinking of attending community college (CEGEP level) to take the pre-requisites. This time around, I am willing to work very hard and will hire tutors if I have to. My question are: Can I start with a clean slate? Will med schools disregard my weak GPA from years ago? Instead, If I do well, will they only look at my GPA in Science and my MCAT score? Also, given my past weak GPA/spotted education, which schools should I consider applying to in order to further my chances of getting into Med? (Always keeping in mind that I must have a high MCAT and GPA in Science). Caribbean? Europe? Canada? US?

I will be calling an academic advisor tomorrow at the local community college/Cegep for more information.

Any advice from this community would be great.


Nervous “TD”

Hi and Welcome from a fellow Canadian (ONT)!

First off, how is your French? From what I have gathered, if you are fluent in French, then the grade hurdles into the French speaking schools are lower. I don’t speak french very well but I noticed that when I was looking at U of Ottawa, the academic bar was lower if you were to enrol in their French MD degree (vs the english MD degree). This will be something you should look into.

Also, generally speaking, you can’t wipe out your past performance (unfortunately - that would have helped me), but some schools in Canada do look at grades in different ways. For example, Ottawa (again) I believe takes your 3 best years (or latest 3 years) and then weights them (best year x 3 + middle year x 2 + worst year x 1). You need to do your homework to see which schools look the most promising for you.

US schools look at Science vs Non- Science GPAs spearately so if you haven’t had any sciences, you could do really well on those and have a compelling story to get some of those schools to consider your application. Also, Osteopathic Schools of Medicine in the US (equivalent to MD in terms of practising capabilities in the US) replace grades so that helps. DO degrees are now recognized in Canada but there are few hoops to jump through if you come back to Canada to practice - not too bad though.

One thing to mention though - if you are considering US schools, I would call a few about the CEGEP college angle. In general, most US schools would prefer to have applicants take the prerequisites or at least upper level science courses at 4 yr univerisities. There are some exceptions, but as you are talking CEGEP, it may be unfamiliar to US schools and may make things a bit more challenging - just a thought.

You should also look up another OPM member: Presse. He is going into his 4 year of medicine at U of Sherbrooke. He got in at the age of 50 I believe. That might be a good perspective for you especially if you are fluent in French.

Good Luck


Hello Lynda,

How are you? Thank you very much for taking the time to respond back to me. Greatly appreciated!

After much thinking, I think that I will maybe avoid applying to US schools for financial reasons. Or maybe not. It really all depends on circumstances. Instead, I was thinking of applying to Canadian and Caribbean schools which are less expensive.

I’ve emailed some of the recruiters from the Caribbean Schools to see if taking CEGEP/CC level courses would be acceptable for admission. ( I am still waiting for an answer). Do you think that Canadian schools would consider it acceptable as well? What is your take on that? I am very fluent in French but always felt much more comfortable being taught in English. Funny enough though, I did graduate from Ottawa U in 1997. Well, I guess that I could give it a shot given the fact that I graduated from there. Another odd coincidence is that yesterday, I was also only looking at the University of Sherbrooke medical program. What nice coincidences.

Since I have no science background, I wanted to take the prerequisites classes in the Open Courses (Continuing Education/Independent Studies). Do you think that this is acceptable instead of doing a whole science program? I was also thinking of taking it very slowly with the course load in order to also avoid being overwhelmed with science classes (I have no science background at all so that means double the hard work for me).

Are you a non-traditional student as well? If so, were you in the same predicament as I am presently? I must admit that I am very anxious about this decision and I am very nervous. I am thinking to myself: Am I Crazy? I have been researching enormously about the whole admission process and on top of it, I am very afraid of not doing well in school again. While looking over at the MCAT sample questions in Science, I think that my heart stop beating. It’s intimidating, a tad discouraging and I am wondering if I am making the right decision. Lynda, did you feel the same? Anyone else feeling the same about the whole process?

I would appreciate your help and wisdom again.


Nervous “TD”


I just wanted to encourage you, given that we’re fellow Montrealers (I live in Toronto now).

I can’t say that I can offer constructive advice since I went the “traditional” route more or less, but you’ll note from one of my posts that I’m “non-traditional” in that I’m currently considering going back for added training at 42 (still weighing options on this one). The common theme though is that something within all of us drives us to look for more than what our current situation provides, so go with that and don’t be discouraged. No point letting the MCAT questions intimidate you now if you haven’t taken the science pre-requisites. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll soon find those questions not intimidating at all…all in good time.

I can tell you that I did residency training in the US with one or two colleagues who did medical school in the Caribbean, and they were quite good and obviously successful at landing good US residency positions.

One thing to keep in mind is that while “yes” admissions committees do look at GPAs and performance in science, they also like to know what makes their med school class different, so reflect carefully on both the positives and negatives of your work and life experiences, how they have shaped your decision to pursue medicine now. Be proud and confident of who you are and what you’ve done, because if you truly are motivated for the change and want to work very hard and dedicate yourself to this, the medical field needs you.

I would whole-heartedly agree with Lynda though. If you are fluent in French, then apply to Montreal, Sherbrooke and Laval. All are good, and you’ll be spending a lot of time learning from English texts anyways, given that you’re in North America. Plus, there are also the issues related to the fact that you’re a Quebec resident, and all the advantages that has regarding costs, etc…so go for it.

Best of luck. Keep at it, and don’t be discouraged.

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post. I truly and deeply appreciate the support. This is quite the journey, a long and windy road that requires preparation, patience, resilience and focus.