I am a non-traditional applicant, married and with a 6-month-old baby, and with a foreign undergraduate education in an Asian country. I applied to medical schools for the entering year of 2009. I have been very lucky in this application cycle, with 7 acceptances already and still waiting to hear back from a few others (post-interview and post-secondary). Before and during my application, like many non-traditional applicants, I was stressful and a little scared, not sure what would happy. I got tremendous help and encouragement from many kind SDNers. I would never have done it so successfully without all your help. Today I am writing my story and my insight regarding the application process based on my own experience. Hopefully it will be helpful for some non-traditional applicants. 1) Undergraduate degree and prerequisite courses I did my undergraduate in an Asian country, so English is my second language. I came to the U.S. for a Ph.D. degree in Physics. During my third year of my Ph.D. program, I realized that I wanted to pursue medicine. I went to a medical school counseling and they basically told me that it was almost impossible for me to get in medical school (at that time, I did not know about SDN). They said that I had to have an undergraduate degree in the U.S. to apply (which is NOT true) and I had to take all the prerequisite courses in the U.S. including math and physics even though I was in a Physics Ph.D. program (again, not completely true, see below). For my undergraduate degree, I could not change the fact that it was done in a foreign country. I figured since I would be holding a U.S. advanced degree, it should be all right. It turned out I was right. But I did take the advice of using credential evaluation service WES to evaluate my undergraduate degree and transcript. I was planning to order one report from WES to every school, so whenever possible during the secondary application (such as in place of "do you have any other comments") I would write that I had done a WES evaluation and would order an official report to be sent from WES. However, ordering report from WES was too costly (~$20 per copy) and I decided to hold a while to see if I would get interview invitations without the report from WES. Fortunately, interview invitations started to roll in at mid-August. So I haven't ordered any copy from WES yet and I think I probably only need one copy for my final-decision school. Isn't that sweet? For the prerequisite courses, I took them selectively. Since I have taken many physics on the graduate level I figured they should be able to substitute the general physics, so I did not retake the general physics as those counselors suggested. I did not retake math neither, because I figured I had taken many in my foreign college and my math skills should not be doubted because of my advanced degree in Physics. For general chemistry (w/ lab), organic chemistry (w/lab), biology (w/lab) and English, I decided to take them in the U.S. But as a graduate student working in the lab full time, I could only take one course per semester as allowed by my Ph.D. advisor. I laid out a time frame, and it did not seem that I had enough time to finish all four courses before 2008, the year of my application. I prioritized the courses in the order of: organic chemistry, biology, general chemistry, English. My graduate school is a very good private school, so I took organic chemistry and biology at my graduate school in two years, while took general chemistry and English in a state public school during two summers. In this way, I finished all the 4 courses in two years while doing my Ph.D. study at the same time. I learned from some SDNers that an applicant with a foreign undergraduate degree need to have >= 90 class credits (or >=60 for some schools) in the U.S. to be considered in medical school application. I am not sure how strict that requirement is, but I did not have that many credits. Combing the undergraduate prerequisite classes and my graduate classes, I had only 68 credits, and this did not seem to be a problem for most schools (I applied to 20 schools in total, have received 13 interviews). 2) Mcat I knew I had to have a good mcat score to succeed in the application, so I took this beast with a lot of respect . I took Kaplan online course, together with Exam Crackers books. There was a lot of excellent advice given on SDN regarding how to attack each session and I do not really have much to say. I just want to stress the importance of "smart" practice--taking notes of the mistakes you made and understanding every question you got right. Since English is my second language, Verbal session was my biggest challenge. I remember I started with a 4 or 5 in Kaplan practice, and got really concerned when it did seem to improve after I reached 8 or 9. I got Exam Crackers 101 and practiced a lot. Before the real exam, my verbal was around 9/10 (or 8 if I was not giving my full concentration). I told myself to stop freaking out and just try my best to score 9 or 10. Fortunately I got 10 in the real mcat. I think CONCENTRATION is the key to do well in mcat. During Verbal session, I was fully focused on just my screen and did not really notice when people around me getting up and going in and out the room. I got really hungry during my last Bio session (I was about 4-month pregnant ) and got distracted. I barely finished the bio session and got 11, which is lower than my practice (~12-13). So CONCENTRATION is the key. In case you wonder, my mcat score is V10+P14+B11 =35 O. For those who are struggling on verbal, do not give up. If I can do it, you can do it. Practice and Concentration! 3) Clinical experience I started to volunteer at a hospital at the same time I started to take the prerequisite courses. Because of my tight schedule, I only did one ~4 hour shift every week on Sundays for about 1.5 years. I figured that since I was going to be weak in this area compared to other applicants who might have done clinical work for many years, I needed to make my volunteer experience really valuable. So I chose a volunteer work that had a lot of patient contact. It turned out this was very important because I got asked about my volunteer work during almost every interview and the interviewer was happy to learn that I had the experience of close patient contact so I knew what it was like to work with patients. Therefore I highly recommend doing volunteer work that involves a lot patient contact. I stopped my volunteer work when I got really busy preparing for Mcat. I was not sure if my 1.5 years of volunteer work was enough in the category of clinical experience. After I got back my mcat score and decided for sure that I was going to apply in the summer of 2008, I asked for advice from a few SDNers. They all told me that my clinical experience was too scarce and I needed to do some more. They especially recommended shadowing with doctors. I knew that shadowing with doctors was standard clinical experience for almost every medical school applicant, so in the early March of 2008 (when I was ~6 month pregnant) I decided to do some shadowing. However, I could not really find a doctor to shadow. So I went back to my ex volunteer coordinator to see if she had anything for me. My coordinator kindly arranged me a volunteer work where I could have even more in-depth patient contact (I interviewed a lot of patients and selectively enroll them in some patient-care program). It turned out this rather short two-month volunteer experience (had to stop it because my baby was coming ) was very important because during the interview when being asked "what ELSE clinical experience do you have?" I had something nice to say. I would not have done this two-month volunteer work if not for the advice I got from those SDNers. Therefore, it is very important to get feedback about your application package before you apply, and be sure to leave some time to fix those weak points. As for shadowing with doctors, I think it is a necessary for traditional applicants because the AdCom need to make sure that you know what you are getting yourself into. But for non-traditional applicants, especially those who have explored other career choices and in their late-20s or early 30s, I feel shadowing may not be a necessary. Do it if you have the opportunity, but do not loose hope if you just cannot find a doctor to shadow with. Just make sure you have two or more than two clinical experiences that involve some patient contact. During one of my interview, when being asked "what do you think is a weakness in your application?" I mentioned my lacking of shadowing experience. My interviewer told me that shadowing was not necessarily needed for my case. He said that giving my life experience and my age, he knew that I was mature enough to have a realistic view toward medicine. 4) Application Again, the general wisdom, APPLY EARLY. I submitted my primary application on the very first day when it was open, and submitted all the secondary within 2 or 3 weeks after getting it. That was one reason why I got interview invitations in August. After I submitted my primary, I actually added Vanderbilt about 1 month later after learning that I only needed to submit secondary if got an interview. But let me tell you, I have not heard a word from Vanderbilt yet. I would think I was a good candidate for Vanderbilt giving my research background and apparently just applying a month late hurt my chance (maybe Vanderbilt did not want me even I applied on June 1st ). Everybody knows the importance of PS. So be sure to find as many readers as possible. I got a lot of help from the volunteer readers on SDN. In total my PS was read by about 12 people and I got a lot of valuable advice. If you get similar critical advice from many readers, then that is something you want to change. Based on the advice I got, I made major changes 3 times regarding to the content of my PS and I think these changes really made a difference in my application. For my secondary essays, I got help from one kind SDNer with grammars and flows. 5) Interview During an interview, you really have to stand out among all the promising candidates to get an acceptance. My interviews overall went pretty well and I have a few tips here. 1) Being confident Do not be nervous. When you are selected for an interview, you must have certain qualities the school likes and you must be a promising candidate. So be confident. Walk into the interviewing room with a confident smile. 2) Think before you give an answer. It is OK to take a few seconds to think about your answer when being asked a question that you do not have a ready answer. Actually this is much better than rushing out a quick answer without thinking, because that few seconds' thinking demonstrates your maturity. 3) Knowing your strength and weakness. Be prepared to address your weakness. Do not bring it up voluntarily, but be prepared to talk about it when being asked. When talking about it, do not sound too defensive, but provide the reasons for your weakness and ways to improve it if you can. Knowing your strength, this is the most important part, in my opinion, more important than knowing your weakness. You have to make sure that after the interview your interviewer knows your strength—the qualities in you that will make you a successful student and a good physician, and what you can bring to the school. Sometimes you have to use a little bit communication skills to get these points crossed. For example, when being asked about what I do for fun, I would tell them about my hobbies and how these hobbies helped me deal with stress (which lets the interviewer know that I could handle the stress in medical school); I would also indicate how these hobbies make me unique and interesting (which lets the interviewer know that I could add to the diversity of the class). Sometimes if your interviewer did not give you the chance to talk about your strength X, you could direct the conversation by saying something like " Oh, I have not got a chance to talked about X," 99% of possibility your interviewer would say "Yes, tell me about it." Then you could go on and talk about your strength X. Therefore you, as the interviewee, has some control over where the conversation goes. I realize how long this post is. It is the longest one I ever posted online. Thank you for your patience to read it through, and I hope it is helpful to you in some way.