Well now, how old is too old?

I should first say that I am a committed pre-medical student and going to medical school has been a life-long dream. If it were up to me, no age would be too old to apply to medical school. I am sitting on the cusp of the 2011 application cycle and was just wondering “when does a pre-med’s advanced years become a detriment to their application?” I will be 43 at my intended entrance into medical school. I understand that older students get in, but are they held to a higher standard? Must they have superior GPA’s and MCAT scores? How is age really looked at behind the closed doors of the admissions committees? Any input is appreciated.


GPA: 3.5

MCAT (2009) 25R

Health: Everything still works fine.

I think it is not as big of an issue with the DO schools. With your GPA and MCAT score that is where you should apply. You will not get in to any of the US MD schools with those stats. If you had a 3.7+ and a 35+ MCAT I do not think there would be an issue.

I am thinking 50 would be the number but if you look on here there are people getting in older than that.

I will be 47 when I apply next year. I hope to do well on MCAT which will determine where I will apply.

For what I heard from other people, some medical schools prefer students with work experience.

Apply to as many DO schools as possible and be willing relocate.

  • thomasfx10 Said:
I think it is not as big of an issue with the DO schools. With your GPA and MCAT score that is where you should apply. You will not get in to any of the US MD schools with those stats. If you had a 3.7+ and a 35+ MCAT I do not think there would be an issue.

To the contrary, a 3.7+ and 35+ is not a guarantee of MD admission as neither is a 3.5, 25 a preclusion of MD admission. The holistic application is what matters.

It’s really hard to determine just based on GPA and MCAT what your chances are, as there are many other factors that go into your application - work experience, health care experience, what your letters of rec say about you, etc. Do you have recent hard science coursework? If so, how were the grades?

Your GPA is okay, although you don’t tell us if that’s your overall GPA or your BCPM GPA. Your MCAT is definitely on the low side. My school usually doesn’t give serious consideration to anyone with a MCAT less than 30.

You should probably re-take the MCAT and do whatever necessary to raise your score (Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc). Additionally, if you have a medical school within driving distance (MD or DO), I would encourage you to try and set up an appointment with someone in their admissions office. Take your transcripts and a resume/CV for them to look at. If you can’t find a med school that will meet with you, you might want to consider hiring a professional admissions counselor such as Judy Colwell (who formerly worked at Stanford) to go over your materials and help you decide what’s realistic.

As for the MD/DO - yes, DO schools are typically a more accepting of older students, lower GPAs and lower MCATs. However, I don’t believe you should eliminate MD schools immediately. I know several older med students who have gotten accepted to MD schools with lower GPAs than yours (although they usually have a MCAT score that is competitive). Again, though, you really can’t give a great estimate of your chances just based on your MCAT/GPA.

You are too old when you no longer have spontaneous respirations and a detectable pulse…

Don’t assume DO admissions will necessarily be easier. DO schools are getting to be much more competitive nowadays. Last year, the average matriculant GPA & MCAT for Des Moines University (a DO program) was 3.7 & 27O, respectively. The OP will have to raise his/her MCAT - age will be the least of the OP’s issues.

  • TicDocDoh Said:
Don't assume DO admissions will necessarily be easier. DO schools are getting to be much more competitive nowadays. Last year, the average matriculant GPA & MCAT for Des Moines University (a DO program) was 3.7 & 27O, respectively. The OP will have to raise his/her MCAT - age will be the least of the OP's issues.

Let's not get our mental exercise jumping to conclusions....averages are just that....averages.

I have been told by an admissions worker that they know your MCAT score can vary by 2 points +/- on any given day. D.O. schools are known for looking at the whole package. I can't speak for allopathic schools.

Yours truly got in with a 3.0/25P and 4 F's at the graduate level on my record and took ALL of my prereqs at either community colleges or DeVry Institute.....and I'm about to graduate from TCOM which has the highest board scores by almost a full SD of the other osteo schools and has been in the top 25 for primary care for the last 8 years......

The OP needs to get in touch with the schools they're interested in and actually talk to an admissions advisor on how their package looks and how to strengthen it.

I can speak from experience that TCOM and KCOM admissions advisors are very forthright and helpful in working with people....

Oh, yeah, I was 42 when I matriculated...and there are people older than I in my class right now.....I second OMD's idea of when you are too old...lack of spontaneous respirations and no measurable brain activity.....

Agreed! There are A LOT of variables that go into the medical school admissions process and there really are no hard and fast rules. As an aside OMTDave, yours was one of the many truly inspiring OPM success stories that kept me motivated during my own pre-med days.


Welcome to OPM and the medical school journey. I notice that most 1st time posters wonder if they are too old. If you look through the medical student/resident/physicia n forums or the OPM diaries, you will see that age is a non-issue. There are many variables that go into the medical school admissions process, but age is not one of them. If you’re still in doubt, I am 43 and I’m a first year medical student. You will not be held to a higher standard than anyone else and you will not be held to a lower standard than anyone else. I think your GPA is OK and there are probably many people that wish they had your GPA. Your MCAT is a bit on the low side and it could be a liability. However, there are many other aspects of your TOTAL application to consider. I have a few rhetorical questions to guide you.

  1. How long ago did you graduate from college? This can be a liability for non-trads. There are many medical schools that either won’t consider an application from someone who’s been out of school for more than 5 years (University of California schools, for example) or won’t give serious consideration to someone who’s been out of school for more than 5 years (USC, Temple, Tulane, Drexel, Loyola, for example). The competitiveness of your grades and MCAT scores will not matter to them. Then again, there are medical schools that don’t consider this an issue if you’re otherwise competitive among their applicant pool. Each school is different. I found that talking to someone in admissions at schools you are interested in before you apply is the only way to know for sure. I found most admissions offices to be very friendly.

  2. Did you graduate from a US undergraduate college or university? If not, you could be in for a difficult time.

  3. Do you know your GPA breakdown by year (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and by BCPM (i.e. biology, chemistry, physics, math)? If your year-to-year grades are consistent or show improvement, it is a major plus at some schools; a year-to-year decline would not be so good. Other schools only look at the end GPA.

  4. Do you have a science degree? If so, you may have already met the pre-requisites. If not, you will have to do a post-bacc program to complete the pre-reqs. Advantage: opportunity to increase GPA and show recent coursework. Disadvantage: time & cost.

  5. Do you have any research experience?

  6. Do you have any clinical experience?

  7. Do you have any community service involvement?

  8. How old is your MCAT score? There is a great deal of variability in the time limit for accepted scores between schools. Rush Medical College, for example, will only accept scores no more than 1½ years old, but the University of Texas schools will accept scores up to 5 years old. Most medical schools lie somewhere between these 2 extremes with the average being 2-3 years. If it’s been a few years since you took the MCAT, you may need to retake.

  9. What is the breakdown of your MCAT score? Is there one area that was particularly troublesome? You may wish to just strengthen your skills in that area. You can take the MCAT up to 3 times. Again schools vary in terms of how they view multiple MCATs. Some will only use the most recent scores, some will take an average of all scores, some will take only the highest score from each section among the different attempts, and some will only use the highest overall score from among your different attempts.

  10. What is your state of residence? Residents of some states fare better in this process than others. California, for example, has a reputation for being the #1 exporter of medical students.

    This only scratches the surface of things to consider and there are many other factors to consider (essays, work experiences, aspects of your background that make you unique, interviews, etc). But, I reiterate that age is not one of them. Good luck!

I am 49, going on 27 by the way, and will be applying for my third cycle this June. First two years only applied to my in state schools and only just got one WL this year. First try my MCAT was only a 27, was advised by my first choice to try and raise it. I did, to a 32R. Now I am about to apply to about 22-25 schools this year because I am determined to get in.

Just to make a point: First go-round - original uGPA 2.7 (in 1983) my AMCAS app: cGPA 3.01, post-bac GPA 3.65, science GPA 3.65, graduate GPA 3.89 MCAT 27

second go-round - same but 32R MCAT

Based on what I have learned directly from med school ADCOM members - the worst possible scenario is that all of your ug work will be looked at, ie. with my cGPA of 3.01, it will be considered along with the fact that I had to play catch-up and did well, but still the worst case scenario I am not as competitive as someone who actually did well in their fist ug try.

However, my 32R MCAT and 3.65 science GPA and 3.89 graduate GPA make me competitive overall, and some schools are less critical of NT’s first try poor GPAs. Some are more critical of it.

In my opinion the fact that I have come back and proved myself, have been very successful at my other career, have fantastic EC’s, work in health care now in a responsible position, scored well on the MCAT and have life experience (wisdom and experience) that a 22 year old could not hope to achieve other than waiting 20 more years… I will not get burned out from a medical career and quit after my residency. I already have a life, and lots of experiences my patients will benefit from.

That said, it is imperative that non-trad’s like myself with a poor cumulative GPA do BETTER on the MCAT than the younger students, I believe…

Hey Mooshika, thanks for the post and story. I think it is a good idea applying to as many schools as possible. Your odds increase dramatically, especially with a five point jump in your MCAT.

Can you tell us how you boosted your MCAT score by 5?



Your advanced age will always be examined in light of your grades, test scores, and in particular, what you did with the first 43yrs of your life. If you have good hard numbers, application, etc…then I think that all older applicants are more sized-up/discriminated against during his or her interview.

If your 43 on paper, but you come off as energetic, enthusiastic, and committed during your face-to-face interview, then I find it hard to believe that you would run into any age-based bias.


It looks like you really did great with your school work & MCAT. It seems to me that you would make for a competitive, well-rounded candidate. But, I have to respectfully disagree with some of the assumptions that you make in your post.

You say that it is imperative for you, because of your poor cGPA, to do better on the MCAT than the younger students. It may be true that the onus is on you to do better on the MCAT because of your poor cGPA, but not necessarily because you are older. Your age is a non-issue. It would have been equally imperative for a 21-year old traditional student with the exact same poor cGPA to do better on the MCAT. Some of my classmates are going to medical school in their mid to late 20’s instead of in their early 20’s for this very reason. Nobody cut them a break because they were 21 and didn’t have “life experience”. I think many non-trads need to get out of the victim mentality. OldManDave tackles this issue quite well in post #66795. I think everyone new to this site should check it out at some point.

I also don’t think comparing your future career trajectory to that of a traditional student is entirely fair either. If you graduate from medical school at 53, you will have a career arc that is 27 years shorter than that of a traditional student who graduates at 26. Odds are you would be retiring from medicine long before you were in it long enough to experience “burn out”. On the other hand, one of my preceptors graduated medical school in 1951 at a time when just about all medical students were traditional students and he is still practicing. One cannot assume that someone who enters medicine at a younger age will necessarily get fed up with it. The converse is also true. You can’t assume that non-trads who enter medicine later in life are necessarily immune from career burn out either. This is a situation that varies from individual-to-individual. Nobody knows what the future holds. Regardless of your diverse backgrounds, the first day of medical school is the great equalizer – you’re all in the same boat from that day forward.

I know this process can seem exasperating and arbitrary at times, but I think there is still a possibility that you could end up being pleasantly surprised this year. The waitlists don’t usually start moving until after May 15. Best of luck!

Have you considered re-studying and re-taking the MCAT? Believe it or not, admission is not my concern here; I’ve given up predicting how and who could get into what medical school.

My concern is your academic readiness for the classwork of medical school with a 25 MCAT-- it’s quite low by contemporary standards. If you shore up your basic science skills, you are much less likely to struggle and strive to get in, and then flunk courses in your first year. That is the outcome to be avoided at all costs.