what are your options when age is held against you in interview/admissions

I interviewed for the school I am currently on the Alternate list for back in January. During this interview, the two people who were interviewing me seemed overly focused on my age (I turned 35 last October). One specifically said to me “You do realize that at your age that you will be among the oldest in your class, don’t you?”. They also specifically asked me the age of my children as well as seemed overly focused on them in general (as to what would happen if they were unexpectedly sick, etc). I repeatedly told them that I am fortunate to have a good support network at home in the form of my husband, as well as living less than a mile away from my parents and I have extended family the next county over (about a 35 minute drive away) that is also able to chip in and help out…but there is only so many ways one can say this without sounding like a broken record.

Having worked in the professional arena and conducted interviews in the workplace, I immediately recognized their questions and comments as inappropriate. After my interview, I went to my advisor (who serves on the medical school adcom) and told him such, informed him of exactly what was said and that I felt it was highly inappropriate. He brushed me off and acted like it was no big deal.

Less than a week later I found out I was placed on the alternate list. When I asked my advisor is it was due to my interview, he said he could not discuss what happened during the adcom meetings.

Another adcom member happened to see me eating lunch by myself in a breakroom a few days later and asked me what happened during my interview. When I told her what I had told my advisor she was shocked and appalled. She asked me if I had told my advisor what had happened and seemed surprised by his lack of action when I told her that I had the day of my interview.

So now I sit waiting for a call that may not come, most likely because I have a poor interview score, and I feel that my age is being held unfairly against me in this process.

I have no idea what to do or how to proceed…

Help please!!!

A few offhanded comments from a non-med student:

  • If you are an alternate, that means you were not rejected outright, which suggests your interview score may actually have been pretty good.

  • How were your GPA, MCAT scores, and LORs? If any were shaky, that might be a more telling reason than age discrimination. Even if all were solid, lots of students highly qualified on paper don't get accepted into their med school of choice.

  • If we assume the worst -- that you are a bona fide victim of age discrimination -- there is no use in worrying about it. If you can't prove it, and I suspect you can't, it probably is not actionable. Don't waste your life ruing the unfairness of things or getting angry over events out of your control. Find out where they thought you were weak, prep for next year, and maybe cast your net a bit wider, if possible.

As per the initial disclaimer, please take everything I say with a grain of salt.

I think the key to these types of questions is to 1) keep your cool and 2) bring the interview back around to those factors which got your the interview in the first place. OTOH, if your personal statement speaks in any way about your being a mom/wife, then you should expect that someone is going to ask you questions about that.

Personally, I didnt mention my family at all because my desire to become a physician was in place long before I had a family.

Here is the nuclear option:

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/rights/guid/oc r/age.html

Call the admissions director at the school and tell him/her that you were put on the alternate list and would like to discuss ways to make your application better for the next cycle (assuming that you will not get off of the wait list). Don’t mention the age issue and see what they suggest.

At my school they will meet with applicants that were not accepted into the class, pull out the file on that person, and tell them why they didn’t get in. They give suggestions on how to improve your chances for next time. For those that do reapply, they check on the next application to see if their advice was followed. You may be surprised to find that it really wasn’t your age.

Good luck.

Does “alternate list” = “wait list”?

Typically, yes.

Honestly, any older applicant should expect (though not always get) this type of question during your interview. It’s something you should have rehearse extensively during your interview prep process.

I mean it sucks and is probably inappropriate but it’s there and you shouldn’t be thrown by an interviewer’s fixation on your age since it’s more or the elephant in the room with non-trads.

I was prepared for interview questions about my age…about how it affected my decision process, about how it affected my ability to become involved in on-campus activities, about how it affected where I could apply, etc.

What I was not prepared for and did not expect and thought crossed the line were the questions and comments indicating that my age would adversely affect my academic performance…same with my children and their ages.

  • phoenixrising Said:
What I was not prepared for and did not expect and thought crossed the line were the questions and comments indicating that my age would adversely affect my academic performance...same with my children and their ages.

WOW!! Any interviewer that made this statement to me would quickly realize how dumb the comment was, LOL!!

I was an incredibly BAD student 20 years ago and my grades in recent years are far superior! If this is the case for you, then it would have been real easy to flip this situation around and unwittingly, make the interviewer look like an ass, all at the same time!!

In thinking about how my interactions with adcoms may have gone wrong in recent years, I'd say that not being prepared to flip the conversation to my positives is at the top of my list!!!

In retrospect, I don't think age is necessarily held against anyone. We simply need to work on our comebacks! A poor comeback could cost you in any number of real life situations like a job interview or thesis defense.