QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I wanted to start this thread so that non-trad med students and residents (and attendings if there are any around) could dicuss what they did (either specifically or in general) to ensure their success as non-trad applicants. If there are any non-trads in other fields (dental school, vet school, optometry, pharmacy, etc.) who would like to also contribute, please feel free to jump in and tell us about your experiences, too. Specifically, please describe what your strengths and weaknesses were as an applicant, how you overcame your weaknesses to successfully gain admission to your program, and any advice you have for current and future non-trad applicants.
 
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QofQuimica

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I am a current allopathic medical student who started med school at age 31. I applied at age 30 to 22 medical schools. Of those, I received 21 secondaries, was invited on 19 interviews, attended 17 of them, and received 12 acceptances, six with full scholarships.

I'll start by saying that my general philosophy is that there are two broad categories that you must consider as you go through the app process. The obvious one that we spend a lot of time discussing in this forum and elsewhere on SDN is how to improve your weak areas. That is certainly a major component of improving your competitiveness as an applicant. But one equally important aspect to being a successful applicant that we don't discuss nearly as often is that you must also highlight your strengths. Do not underestimate the importance of doing this: medical schools are not charities, and they are looking for people who are successful. You must show them that you are successful, as well as that you have the potential to continue being successful in med school and beyond.

I would say that there are six areas where medical school applicants must strive to distinguish themselves, whether they are trads or non-trads. These include the obvious ones like GPA and MCAT, but also ECs, essays, LORs, and interviewing skills. I will go through each one and give some examples from my own application saga.

GPA: This is a big area of weakness for a lot of non-trads because many of us have subpar UG GPAs for allopathic medical schools, and I am no different. I had an especially sticky problem in this respect because I had no UG GPA at all. I took all of my UG coursework (including the pre-med pre-reqs) P/F, and I have no credit hours or grades. AMCAS calculated my UG GPA as zero. As you can imagine, this caused me significant problems at several schools. I was able to overcome this problem in several ways. One was that I scored very high on the MCAT. A second was that I had graduate grades and GPAs for my MS and PhD. The third was that I copied my narrative evaluations from college and sent copies of them to all 22 schools along with a cover letter explaining how my college worked, as well as that it was accredited! This was amazingly expensive and time-consuming, but I believe that it helped considerably. When I went for pre-app counseling, one admissions office suggested that I consider taking a year of post-bac classes at the UG level in order to establish an UG GPA and prove that I could still handle the work. I elected not to do this since I was in grad school for my PhD at the time. My decision to not follow this advice may have hurt me at a few of the schools, particularly the ones that rejected me with no interview. In my applications and interviews, I stressed that my graduate record and MCAT scores both "proved" that I was capable and ready to handle medical school coursework.

MCAT: This was an area of immense strength for me. I scored a 43S on the MCAT in August 2004, and I have posted extensively about how to study for the MCAT on SDN over the past two years. You can find most of my MCAT advice in the MCAT forum and Study Questions subforum if you are interested. The MCAT score was not an area that I particularly had to do much explaining about on applications or at interviews; it basically spoke for itself.

Essays: This is another crucial aspect of your application. Both your PS and your secondary essays are read by the adcoms, and at most schools, by your interviewers. In general, your PS should answer the questions of why you want to go to med school, and what experiences you've had to back this assertion up. Initially, my PS was not very appropriate for a medical school application. I got a lot of feedback from some SDNers (thanks again, njb!) and the preadmissions counseling sessions about this. I decided to follow their advice, and I rewrote my PS from scratch along much more conventional lines. It wasn't nearly as entertaining to read, but it was a lot more appropriate. I think that this was one area where the pre-admissions counseling I received both at the med schools and from some SDNers helped me improve my app tremendously. I do not think I would have been as successful of an applicant if I had obstinately stuck with my first essay. In general, I advise all of you to ask others in the know (med students, admissions counselors, etc.) to read your essays. If everyone keeps making the same criticism, you probably should seriously consider taking their advice.

LORs: These are not directly in your control, but what *is* in your control is to carefully chose whom you are going to ask for letters, and to get the proper letters. Most schools require three LORs but will permit you to submit up to six. I usually sent four, but I had five total. I got letters from my PI for my PhD, my PI on the clinical trial where I volunteered, my manager at Kaplan, one of my PhD committee members, and one peer. (My state schools require peer letters. I asked a former UG student of mine who was an M1 at the time to write the peer letter for me.) Second, I advise you all to use interfolio ( www.interfolio.com ) or another online clearinghouse for your LORs. This makes both your life and the life of your recommenders MUCH easier. It costs a little more, but I think it was completely worth it in terms of the decreased stress associated with submitting LORs to the schools. Third, many schools want letters from non-science faculty. This was not possible in my case, because my UG Spanish professor had retired some time in the past ten years since I left the college. I asked those schools for permission to substitute the employer letter instead, and they all agreed to this. I advise you non-trads who have been out of school for a long time to ask your schools for permission to substitute employer letters too. It will make your life a lot easier. Also, when you ask people to write your letters, impress upon them that these letters must be strong, and they must attest to your abilities to succeed in medical school. The best LORs cite specific examples of things you have done to show that you possess characteristics like responsibility, a good work ethic, honesty, etc. Give the person a copy of your transcript and your CV to use in crafting the letter. Finally, it goes without saying that you should send thank you notes to everyone who writes you a LOR.

ECs: This was another area where I was kind of lopsided and did not have a very good appreciation of my strengths and weaknesses before I went for the preadmissions counseling. It was obvious to us all that my research background was one of my strengths. I was also extensively involved as a volunteer for BBBS, doing science demonstrations for inner-city elementary school kids, working on the MCAT subforum here on SDN, and volunteering as a co-investigator and project manager of the clinical trial. I thought that should be enough. However, what I learned from the counseling is that many medical schools would like to see RECENT CLINICAL volunteering. I was advised to volunteer in a hospital or clinic on top of these other things. I decided to take this advice, and I began volunteering in a hospital surgery waiting room. At the time, I was in my last year of grad school, and the only time I could do it was from 6-8 AM. This was incredibly painful. Every week, I would turn off the alarm clock at 5 AM and wish I could go back to sleep, but then I would ask myself: Q, would you rather get two more hours of sleep, or do you want to go to med school? And then I would get my butt out of bed and go volunteer. That I did this was TREMENDOUSLY important. I got asked about it at a third to a half of my interviews, even at several heavily research-intensive schools. What makes this all the more incredible is that I would not have even known about this weakness of mine, let alone taken steps to correct it, had I not gotten the preadmissions counseling.

One other thing I came to discover is that I had a "hidden" strength that I hadn't ever really considered before, and that was as an educator. Look again at my list of volunteering ECs, and you will see that nearly all of them involve teaching of some kind. I had also won two major teaching awards, and I was employed as an instructor for Kaplan and at my university. I didn't come to appreciate how important a strong teaching background is to the medical schools until after I had the preadmissions counseling. Now that I am in medical school, I appreciate the importance of it even more. Doctors spend their entire working lives teaching people: their patients, their colleagues, and themselves. Thus, medical schools are extremely interested in applicants with a teaching background. I wound up making this personal strength one of the central themes of my PS and discussing it extensively at my interviews. Again, I doubt I would have thought to do this had I not gone for preadmissions counseling.

Interviews: Once you have reached this point, the acceptance is still not in the bag. It is essential that you practice expressing the points you made in your PS in a clear, concise, and engaging way. It is also essential that you can articulate why you want to attend each school where you interview. I did several things to prepare for interviews. First of all, I studied extensively for every interview. I would estimate that it took me about 2-3 hours EACH to prepare for them. What was I doing for that long? Reading the school's entire website and making notes of interesting features or questions I had about the school. (Sometimes I even knew more about the features of the curriculum than my interviewer did.) Going through the interview feedback from that school on SDN. (There were several schools where I got asked the exact same questions I had already seen on SDN.) Re-reading my apps and making sure I could explain my UG thesis research from 12 years ago. (I actually did get asked about it at one school, and the interviewer was d*** impressed that I could rattle off the entire title of my UG thesis!) Engaging in mock interviews. This is key. Some of my fellow Kaplan instructors were home from med school for the summer, and I got a few of them to mock interview me. They were so combative and tough on me that every real interview I had was a cinch in comparison. They accused me of being arrogant because of my MCAT score, or claimed I was using their school as a safety school, or demanded that I "prove" that I had sufficient social skills to be a doctor, etc. It really made me think about how I presented myself and made me aware of how careful I had to be about what impression I was giving off to the interviewers.

Some other tips: I also got help with my essays and interviewing skills from the Office of Diversity at one of my state schools. This may sound strange, but it really isn't when you consider that diversity is a broad term that encompasses much, much more than just race and ethnicity. If you are a non-trad, you will add diversity to your class based on that reason alone. Second, I called every single school before I applied, explained my grade situation, and asked whether I should realistically apply there. A couple of schools discouraged me from applying. One actually outright told me no, that I almost certainly would not be accepted there. I decided not to apply to any school that was not encouraging, with the exception of the one school that rejected me presecondary. ;)

I hope that this post has been helpful, and if anyone has any further questions, feel free to post them or PM me. Best of luck to the current applicants. :)
 

Megalofyia

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My responce wont be as long as Q's.

I actually think that it helps to have no undergrad GPA than a poor one.

In any case, as someone who had to overcome a poor undergrad GPA, I think what made a difference with me was persistence.

I did alright on my MCAT. Nothing spectacular but not poor either.

I did go to grad school and did very well (4.0) and while this helped, MD schools DWELLED on my undergrad GPA. I even had one school tell me that they wouldn't accept me because of my undergrad GPA alone.

I contacted deans of admissions and was always updating them with things I was doing and asking for their advice. This really helped in getting interviews at some schools.

I had some really good LORs from people that the admissions committes knew and a lot of varried and long standing extra curricular activities although I'm not sure in the end how much weight either of these categories carried.

As it turns out the school that I got into was not one that I had contacted ahead of time and it was one I applied to late. I was very lucky in that it turns out the school is a great match for me.

They saw in my application the effort I had put forth in trying to get into med school and saw that I really was dedicated to becoming a doctor - I was told this at my interview.

In retrospect I would have majored in something that I knew I would have gotten good grades in when I was in undergrad. After that I would have done post bacc work to increase my GPA rather than go to grad school. This is because of the way AMCAS averages GPAs. And after that I would do what I did and keep working and improving your application.
 

Megalofyia

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PS I second interfolio! Using interfolio made life much easier.
 
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trustwomen

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Great thread Q! My advice will probably be more helpful for Canadian students, because the process is different up here, and the schools in general are far less receptive to non-trads. Each school calculates applicants' GPA in its own way, and each one weights the various aspects (MCAT, GPA, personal letter, references) differently. My first piece of advice is do your research on the med schools before you start the process, there's only 17 (14 English) in the whole country, it won't take that long. Look at their websites, figure out how they calculate and weight everything, and figure out which ones you want to apply to (and which ones might be most likely to take you, e.g. in-province schools, or less competitive schools). Also, believe what the websites say. The admissions actually do work exactly how they say they work... except when they don't. If you want to go to a school but wonder if you'll have a shot - email, call, or visit them, and ask. The admissions people won't steer you wrong.

GPA: This was the killer for me - I had graduated years earlier with a 2.5 overall GPA (humanities). I went back to school part-time (working full-time to avoid debt) to do my prereqs. This was my first and biggest mistake. Hear up, fellow Canadians: don't ever go part-time. Most schools will not take into consideration anything else you were doing (work, raising a family, whatever), and will simply not count any grades obtained part-time. Or, you will lose the possibility of having your most recent grades count for more in a "weighting" scheme (Ottawa and UofT have these, and some others I'm forgetting right now, but you have to be full-time for it to be applied). I figured this out late. Did a year and a half at 3 courses/term, a year and 4 courses/term, and only during final (app) year did I do 5 courses/term - so of course, since app year courses don't count... I wound up completing another degree entirely (with a 3.74), and even then got refused at 9 schools out of 10, without interviews - most because they just lumped everything together and I didn't make the cutoff, some because I didn't have enough full-time grades in my recent studies, so they included some of my old grades to calculate GPA. (Western: "you don't have any full-time semesters, so you don't have a GPA at all since 1998"). And remember, current year's courses don't count when you apply, but they can and will rescind your acceptance if you bomb out in your last year (try to stay in the As and Bs).

Moral of the story: if you have a really bad GPA to overcome, you must go back to school full-time (full course load, 5/term) and prepare to do at least two years of full-time study (and THEN apply, meaning apply in your third year). Even so, you'll have to pick your schools carefully. McMaster, which historically likes non-trads, might look at an "upward trend" (will have to be a real sharp peak though, average accepted GPA last year was 3.88) - but your total GPA (bad+good grades, all weighted the same) must still be above 3.0. (Mine was a 2.98 at app time, so I didn't bother applying, the computer would've cut me.) Find out how your target schools calculate, figure out your chances, and plan your studies accordingly. If it's been a very very long time since your bad grades, UBC is for you - upon request, they will ignore any grades achieved over 10 years ago. (Meaning you still need a new, better degree though.)

MCAT: Do as well as you can. (Western's cutoff for in-province interviews was 32 last year.) I got a 35S, so it wasn't a hindrance in that respect. If the MCAT is your strongest asset, try U of Manitoba - they count MCAT for 50% of your admissions score (and they drop a certain number of low grades from your transcript too!). If MCAT is weak but GPA is stellar, McMaster and Ottawa, and the French schools in QC, don't require the MCAT... meaning that a strong MCAT won't help your app at these schools either, mind you.

Personal letter: don't lose your mind and write one about how all your faults will make you a good doctor, as I did for UofT (what was I thinking?). Each school wants their own kind of letter, with their own priorities, so get ready to have a lot of time sucked away for these. Research the admissions websites. Try to stay consistent from school to school, both in style and content, and get people to give their opinions. Take advice. Get proofreaders. Don't be too cliche, but don't be "wacky" either (I must have been smoking crack, I swear...) Be very confident without sounding arrogant, sell yourself, all the usual stuff... But relax, remember that most schools don't weight it that highly anyway.

"Extracurriculars": Make sure to emphasize all the experiences you have, in such a way that they will be blown away when they compare you to yer average 21-year-old. This is best done in the personal letter, with a "stunning display of maturity". Get great reference letters from employers, esp. if you help people, or teach, or do intellectual work for a living. Be able to show them why you know that medicine is for you. Clinical experience is probably more important/essential for non-trads up here than it is for the kids. For some reason they never doubt the kids who say "my dad is a doctor, so I know it's for me" - but the older folk have to explain and justify themselves.

References: check with the schools whether you really have to have professors do it, sometimes you don't and employers/professional contacts can work just fine. Make sure they really like you, as they will have to fill out different reference forms for each of many schools, as well as writing a standard letter to enclose. And they will have to send it to the schools (or OMSAS) themselves, so offer to reimburse postage.

Interviews: show up on time, be neat and friendly, express passion and determination, don't be afraid to express who you really are. (Note: I only went on one interview, so grain-of-salt time... but hey, they took me.):)

Oh, and one last thing. I know this sounds incredibly daunting (i.e. tell me about those American schools maybe? How about the Caribbean? Ireland? Australia?) but don't let it discourage you. It's TOTALLY WORTH IT once you're in. Tuition is cheap, the education is world-class, and you just can't go wrong with any Canadian school.

Good luck to all my fellow Canuck non-trads!!!
 

kate_g

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I'm in the process of applying to vet school, but I had a similar experience to Q with my personal statement - I wrote it thinking I wanted to have a really catchy opening, and show off my literary skills by having an overt theme that tied the whole thing together. It was beautiful. But everyone who read it kept saying "isn't that a little too... CUTE?" On elaboration it became clear that what they were saying is that kind of thing might be OK for the 22-year-old kid with nothing else to distinguish them, but that it was inappropriate for a 30-year-old woman - it obscured my mature and deeply considered reasons for embarking on this career path.

Now, I gotta say I sure don't feel a heck of a lot different than I did at 22. I don't feel like a "30-year-old woman." I don't *want* to feel like a 30-year-old-woman. But the advice I keep getting is that experience and maturity is an advantage, and I want every paragraph and every line item in the application to reflect how much of it I have.

Writing is a particular point of pride with me, and I'm *really* not good at taking criticism on what I write. I revised my essay several times but stubbornly retained the catchy opening. But after reading this thread, seeing that Q had exactly the same experience... Well, I severly de-cute-ified the opening just now. Like she said, if you get the same advice over and over, you should probably take it. I'll let y'all know if it works. :)
 

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Now, I gotta say I sure don't feel a heck of a lot different than I did at 22. I don't feel like a "30-year-old woman." I don't *want* to feel like a 30-year-old-woman. But the advice I keep getting is that experience and maturity is an advantage, and I want every paragraph and every line item in the application to reflect how much of it I have.
You will feel the same way at 40, I do LOL (Oh I remember 22, what an age!)
 

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Wanted to add that in addition to getting admissions counseling, I found attending the Old Pre-Meds conference extremely helpful. It saved me. I went a year-and-half ago, a year before I was going to be applying and I am so glad I did. Admissions counselors, deans, students, etc. spoke and I got so much amazing advice I could have never come up with otherwise. Highly recommend. I'm financially challenged and I feel it was worth the expense. It's in June each year. :thumbup:
 
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QofQuimica

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I'm in the process of applying to vet school, but I had a similar experience to Q with my personal statement - I wrote it thinking I wanted to have a really catchy opening, and show off my literary skills by having an overt theme that tied the whole thing together. It was beautiful. But everyone who read it kept saying "isn't that a little too... CUTE?" On elaboration it became clear that what they were saying is that kind of thing might be OK for the 22-year-old kid with nothing else to distinguish them, but that it was inappropriate for a 30-year-old woman - it obscured my mature and deeply considered reasons for embarking on this career path.

Now, I gotta say I sure don't feel a heck of a lot different than I did at 22. I don't feel like a "30-year-old woman." I don't *want* to feel like a 30-year-old-woman. But the advice I keep getting is that experience and maturity is an advantage, and I want every paragraph and every line item in the application to reflect how much of it I have.

Writing is a particular point of pride with me, and I'm *really* not good at taking criticism on what I write. I revised my essay several times but stubbornly retained the catchy opening. But after reading this thread, seeing that Q had exactly the same experience... Well, I severly de-cute-ified the opening just now. Like she said, if you get the same advice over and over, you should probably take it. I'll let y'all know if it works. :)
Wow, I know exactly how you feel. My first essay was way better in terms of the writing compared to the second one. And I got the exact same comments that you did, except people told me that my entire essay was "too cute." :p I hope your new and improved one works out well for you. :luck:

Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far; I hope that more people will post their stories. mega, I'm glad your persistence finally paid off. trustwomen, I had no idea how differently things work in Canada. Congrats on navigating such a tough system successfully!
 

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Mine won't be nearly as detailed as Q's, but she inspired me nonetheless.....

GPA: My GPA was competitive, although my science GPA was a little lower. I made up for that post-bacc. I went to a lesser-known state school for post-bacc, which apparently didn't seem to be a problem. I was asked where I took my classes, but the quality of undergrad institution was never brought up. I explained that I went where I did because of location.

MCAT: I studied on my own, and that was a bad idea. I know I learn best in a classroom or study group, so it would have been better for me to take a class. Although I used tons of practice tests and old Kaplan books, it's not the same as having someone who knows better lead you through the nuts and bolts of the test. I also scored poorly on the writing sample, although usually I'm a fairly good writer. It would have been better to get an objective reader.

Essays: I had the same problem. My initial PS was way too cute and more about my philosophy of patient care than why I want to be a doctor. I got lots of SDN feedback (probably 15 people read it--you might have to promise to read theirs ;) ), and it went through major revisions. I took out all the fluff, and every sentence had to do with what makes me right for medicine. (I'll read yours if you want.)

LORs: That is one place where non-trads can really shine. I had built relationships with my writers over time, and they had seen me act professionally/interact with patients/take leadership roles. I was also able to get a health professions committee letter, which was a big plus (they never had written one for someone a few years out of college). I had gotten the faculty LORs while I was an undergrad "just in case", and they had kept my file the whole time. And you must write thank you letters. :) I even wrote thank yous to the premed office secretaries and mock interviewers. No one gets into med school solely on their own volition; it's your duty to acknowledge those who've sacrificed their time and energy to help you get ahead.

ECs: I had solid clinical experience, but very wimpy research. I was never grilled on it. I explained in my interview that while my focus was patient care, I was still interested in exploring research, and mentioned how I planned to specifically be involved in research. I used the AMCAS spaces to mention why an EC was important to me, not just what I did. I felt the personal characteristics and motivations behind what I did were obvious, but you can't assume the adcom would notice the same things.

Interviews: I love meeting new people, so the interviews were kind of fun. I went on 5 mock interviews and also had my husband ask me tons of questions. I *hate* being on stage, so I really had to get over feeling put on the spot and focus more on the conversation. I was awful for the first few, but by my last one, I felt more confident. It's one thing to know what you're trying to say; it's another thing to actually say it. Also, the admissions committee wants to know what YOU will do for THEIR school. Don't just talk about what great things you've done, but tie it into their specific programs/strengths. Like Q said, "study" the school!
 
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QofQuimica

QofQuimica

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Bumping up in case any of the non-trad class of 2011 would like to share their tips. Congrats to those of you who have been accepted for next year. :hardy:
 

vtucci

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I am a current allopathic medical student who started med school at age 29. I applied at age 28 to 31 medical schools. Of those, I received secondaries to every school (although I missed the Northwestern deadline to file it as it was only 5 days), was invited on 11 interviews (I yanked all my outstanding applications once I got my first acceptance in December of 2004 so I do not know how many of those might have turned out).

GPA: Many non-trads do not have the coursework from UG and those that do, many of the courses were completed > 5 years ago. Time to repeat it (or take it for the first time) and do a post-bac. A post-bac lets you show the ADCOM that you can excel at the coursework.

MCAT: I had a 29S and had my butt handed to me with PS. Make sure that you get at least an 8 in every section. If you have to do considerably better in one subject, let it be verbal-- this is the section that corresponds best with USMLE performance.

Essays: You need to write a kick ass personal statement. You will be expected to have more stories and a broader frame of reference. Dig deep. You also need to reconcile a previous career if you had one with your pursuit of medicine. Also, the ever popular why medicine and why now questions.

LORs: I do not agree with previous posters. These are in your control. You can use a boss, a professor. If you do not have recent coursework with a professor that knows you, take a class. Get a clinical letter (you can shadow a doc if all else fails) and a research letter if possible.

ECs: Your time to shine. Well-rounded should be the description here. Unique is another good one. Volunteer work is a must. Leadership is a must.

Interviews: As a general rule, non-trads have considerably more life experience to fall back on in the interview process. This can make us much more articulate than our younger colleagues. However, this is a double-edged sword. More will be expected of you. Think your answers through but do not make them seem canned.
 

Orthodoc40

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I don't know if you can say this is a "success story" but here goes anyway.
Sorry for the length - I hope it inspires and/or helps a few people.
Apparently, though the school is yet to be determined, as it is early yet, I will be starting med school in August 2007, in my early 40's. YIKES! I might just be crazy.

GPA: As an undergrad, I didn't study for a thing. I was a performer getting a bachelor's degree in Music. Any academic classes I had – if I ever went – got the least possible effort I had, sadly enough. My undergrad GPA was a 3.10. That was nearly 20 years ago.
I took my premed classes all in the last 3-4 years, and got pretty much straight A's. So my science GPA is a 3.89. Make sure how ever you go about your prereqs, you do really well in these classes.

MCAT: I truly believe this is the most important factor for your application. Meaning – if your score is competitive you will pass the gate and the other aspects of your application will be considered. If not – you're in for a real battle at the MD schools. If your score is excellent, it can counteract a lower GPA. I've heard of WAY more people getting into school with a lower GPA and a high MCAT than the other way around. It just doesn't happen as often. So take this seriously, give it all you've got. It has been my personal stumbling block. I've really given that test all I've got. From working 20 hrs a week so I could study 5+ hrs a day, to a Kaplan class, to ExamKrackers, to a combination. I pray I get the hang of test taking when boards come around.

Essays: I ran my personal statement past several people and every one, strangers included, really said this was excellent. I basically talk about my decision, how I got to it, and all the things I did to test that decision – and believe me, I tested it. A person does not invest their life of effort & love & dedications & hard work into music performance the way I have, and then change careers lightly. (In fact, now that I've been accepted, I still wonder if I truly want to do this. It is going to be a hard road, and I better be sure before starting!) Tell your story like it is. No extra unnecessary words, avoid colloquialisms.

LORs: All my science classes are recent, so it was easy for me to get LOR's from science professors. I audited a class in sports medicine, too – and that professor wrote me the non-science LOR. If I hadn't done that, I would have just taken any other class at night – English or something – and gotten an LOR from that teacher. I had several other LOR's from employers and my mentor, an orthopedic surgeon who is one of the most skilled writers I have EVER met, wrote a stunning LOR for me on top of it all, plus 2 other physicians I had shadowed a lot. Even though I've been working in clinical research for a little while, I never felt like the PI involved could say much about my potential as a med student, so I didn't ask them. I believe quality is far more important than quantity.

ECs: I have so many of these, it was hard to pick the most important ones. The most important thing to my mind in all of this is that every med student goes through the ‘recipe' of required ingredients to get into med school. This is the wrong approach to take (in terms of attitude about it) and I think it prevents some people from getting in because they think they have ‘met the minimum requirements' and can't understand it when they hear nothing back from schools. Well – so have thousands of others met those requirements.

Also - admissions people have seen it all, guys – they can see right through the B.S. and the canned answers. They are like your parents when you were a teenager. EVERYone thinks they outsmarted their parents in one way or another but years later, when you're a parent, or even a friend of a parent, you know that the kids are lying to you or whatever. You see right through it, and it amazes you that the kid actually thinks you're dumb enough to believe them! That's not meant to say don't volunteer - it just means don't do it ONLY to put it on your application. Get something out of it.

Anyway. As a musician I have had tons of experiences – volunteer, leadership, awards, fellowships, and teaching. I've held interesting jobs from legal work to dog walking on top of my musical career, which includes some big name orchestras, broadway shows, and others.

I volunteered at a nearby hospital in the surgical center and when the woman who ran the program retired, I was hired to coordinate it myself. I've held 2 clinical research positions most recently.

Probably the biggie for me was that my mentor started up a humanitarian effort in a developing country. I have gone on 3 trips with her so far, working in clinic, and in the OR with her and a very small team – providing surgical care for kids there who normally wouldn't get it. We are in the process of creating a 501(c)3 foundation, and I am an officer. I have helped collect over $300,000 worth of supplies & equipment, including driving down to NYC's Hospital for Special Surgery to pick up equipment there and bring it back to Boston, where we ship a 40' x 40' container full of stuff over to the hospital there. This is not a "I'd better get some volunteering on my application" commitment. I plan on continuing this work far into the future. It taught me so much about medicine, and needs out there I never understood before. It also taught me just how lucky we are in the USA.

Also, I shadowed MANY physicians, for many hours. My mentor let me come to the OR with her every week for 9 months. Plus I've shadowed her husband, also an orthopedic surgeon, in the OR a few times. I've shadowed a radiation oncologist, and a diagnostic radiologist, plus a hematologist – all from my orchestra. Not one time each – this is several times, for full days. I shadowed a podiatrist in clinic and the OR, a DO orthopedic surgeon in clinics, and a physical therapist.

I want schools to know that I have checked it out – thoroughly, and know what I am getting into. As best as one can before they start!! I more importantly want to know that it is really a path I want to follow. I tried to find or make as many opportunities to learn about medicine as I possibly could. It means time. I took days off from work to do this – or with my mentor, I changed my schedule so I could be in the OR at 6:45 am, and started work at about 12pm on those days. I didn't do this to impress anyone – I think it is so neat!! I love learning this stuff & everything new to me is a real thrill. It doesn't get old.

As a career changing non-trad, the oweness is upon YOU to prove that you are committed to this change, and while you are doing that - prove to yourself that this is really what you want to do. Use these experiences to do that first, not to impress anyone. Because that will impress them - if that makes sense. But more importantly - the way I see it, med school will be tough. There will be times when I am really wondering to myself, "WHY did I change my life for this?!!" I need to know why, now, as a fortification, before I start. To be ready for the storms ahead, I guess. It's always good to know clearly why you want to do anything in your life, if you think about it.

Interviews: This year I've been on 5 interviews. Last year my state school interviewed me, but I did not get in. They interviewed me this year, too - with the same results. This year, though, I had 3 DO school interviews, and 2 MD school interviews so far. I've been accepted at two great DO schools: DMU-COM & UMDNJ-SOM. I've also been accepted off the waitlist at one MD school as an out of state applicant. The DMU acceptance is in spite of the fact that my plane was re-routed 3 times and it took me 14 hrs to get there, my luggage needless to say, did NOT get there. So I showed up the night before my interview at the hotel at 10:30pm, exhausted, without a suit. I took a taxi to an all-night Walmart & managed to find a more reasonable set of clothes than the "Life is Good" t-shirt & jeans I was wearing on the plane all day, but I couldn't try these clothes on, so the next morning I just hoped they'd fit, called the school to see if they wanted to just re-schedule me, and they said no, to just come in and the committee would understand. Well – they must have, because I got my acceptance 11 days later! The point here is – try not to have to check your luggage, and keep your wits about you if crisis occurs. Use your resources. I think we non-trads have advantages there, too.

Anyway – I still recommend a suit – though I have to say if you can make it not black, you'd be wise. Honestly – 20 kids in a room all – I mean ALL – wearing black suits really is silly. Okay so you each have a different colored shirt or tie. Yawn. Not enough. Why not grey? Brown? Tan? Navy? Olive? Plum? Stand out. Look good, though.

One interviewer said to me that it was refreshing I was wearing this outfit from Walmart b/c it was a nice change from the depressing black suits they see all day. So think about it…(don't go buy something else if you've already invested in black – it isn't worth it!!)

Know all you can about the school, and figure out some questions that you truly have about it. Save them for your interview. Remember – even if they are answered during the tour, your interviewer doesn't necessarily know that. Plus you can get a different perspective by asking more than one person – a student's view vs. a faculty person's view, for example.

Know your answers to some standard type questions you are likely to get. Do NOT rehearse them or memorize them! Just know what you will say, what you will leave out – that type of thing. Have a clear, general idea ahead of time. Practice with an advisor or someone that doesn't know you too well. It is not exactly like a job interview. When a school asks you for a weakness, they want to know that you know what your weaknesses are – they don't want you to give them a strength like the job interview B.S. where you say something like, "I'm a real perfectionist!" – gag. Figure out a weakness that isn't so terrible, and learn to talk about it like it is not so terrible. You know you have at least one thing you'd like to kick yourself over, don't you? Figure out a real strength or two, and know what you want to say about those. Know the general idea for what you would say about things like why you want to go there, what you'll do if you don't get in anywhere, why they should accept you, etc…. and don't memorize it. Be yourself. These are real people. Talk to them like real people. The interviews I've had and have heard about are mostly conversational (knock on wood!) so go in prepared to converse! This is probably the EASIEST part of the application process for the older non-trads! Go get ‘em! Good luck!
 
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ortho, your post is fantastic and really inspiring. :thumbup: Congrats on your acceptance too; it's especially sweet after you had such a hard trip to the interview. :clap:

P.S. I've heard from other people about not wearing black suits because everyone does. But I decided that I better wear one too, because I figured I already stood out enough based on my freako transcript and the little Einstein thing I have going with my hair whenever it gets humid....I have to confess that I did wear a leopard print shirt under my suit at some of my interviews though. :laugh:
 
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Orthodoc40

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ortho, your post is fantastic and really inspiring. :thumbup: Congrats on your acceptance too; it's especially sweet after you had such a hard trip to the interview. :clap:

P.S. I've heard from other people about not wearing black suits because everyone does. But I decided that I better wear one too, because I figured I already stood out enough based on my freako transcript and the little Einstein thing I have going with my hair whenever it gets humid....I have to confess that I did wear a leopard print shirt under my suit at some of my interviews though. :laugh:
:laugh: Wow - the hair combo and that leopard print shirt probably did all you needed it to do to stand out!! :laugh: Too funny.

I just had a little celebration dinner w/two of my physician friends that I mentioned above, and they were saying that when THEY went to med school, everyone wore navy or grey suits. No one wore black. So it's weird that everyone seems to go for black now.

Well I wouldn't tell anyone to go get a new suit just for the color, but I had heard the suggestions & the jokes about the little mob of black suits getting tours around the school... And when I had an interview last year, there were only 3 of us at a time so it didn't matter, but this year, at that DMU interview, where there were like 15 people, all in black (except me, of course, in my "Midnight Walmart Special"!!! :laugh:) I realized how much it would help.

Just think if you were on the adcom - and you're looking at this room full of nervous kids all wearing black suits, or you could look at the same room full of kids wearing tan, grey, black, navy - some daring woman in olive - it would be so much more refreshing! :love:

Anyway - just one of a few - hopefully helpful suggestions. :D Thanks, Q!!
 
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:laugh: Wow - the hair combo and that leopard print shirt probably did all you needed it to do to stand out!! :laugh: Too funny.

I just had a little celebration dinner w/two of my physician friends that I mentioned above, and they were saying that when THEY went to med school, everyone wore navy or grey suits. No one wore black. So it's weird that everyone seems to go for black now.

Well I wouldn't tell anyone to go get a new suit just for the color, but I had heard the suggestions & the jokes about the little mob of black suits getting tours around the school... And when I had an interview last year, there were only 3 of us at a time so it didn't matter, but this year, at that DMU interview, where there were like 15 people, all in black (except me, of course, in my "Midnight Walmart Special"!!! :laugh:) I realized how much it would help.

Just think if you were on the adcom - and you're looking at this room full of nervous kids all wearing black suits, or you could look at the same room full of kids wearing tan, grey, black, navy - some daring woman in olive - it would be so much more refreshing! :love:

Anyway - just one of a few - hopefully helpful suggestions. :D Thanks, Q!!
I think an olive suit would be fine; it's still a pretty conservative color. At one of my interviews, I saw this girl wearing a fuschia suit....now THAT, if you'll excuse the expression, takes balls. :p
 

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I think an olive suit would be fine; it's still a pretty conservative color. At one of my interviews, I saw this girl wearing a fuschia suit....now THAT, if you'll excuse the expression, takes balls. :p
:wow: You're not kidding!! WOW! Fuschia! Q - I didn't know you had interviews in the Carribean... :laugh: (Well I'm sure it was some place South b/c I don't think anyone in the NE has the guts to stand out that much!!! LOL!)
 

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Thanks Q
This is great advice. I'm 30 and hoping to attend med school some day. I haven't even started studying for the MCAT but your suggestions are very helpful.
 

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Q, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am sorry it's a little too late for me to see it, I am scratching my heads to get the LOR done. I wish I knew the interpolio a little earlier. After all, it's the non-traditional peers more helpful and considerate!
 

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Wow. Thanks Q!

Shame none of your background will ever apply to me; I spent my 20s doing a whole other career and building a portfolio as a graphic artist. I spent my off time just playing AD&D/other games (anyone here who is a gamer/ex-gamer/acquainted with gamers, will know how much of a lifesuck these games are), going to sci-fi conventions, wearing goth makeup, taking the occasional class, and generally being a slacker. I had ADHD type issues (still no formal diagnosis though), and long-term depression, and didn't feel good about my work.

I'm still two years away from transferring to UC Davis (because of major change; I was an art major and am now a science major). Really. Medicine is the *only* thing I have ever felt serious about and really felt good about. I did poorly on some of my jobs because I would spend the whole day reading PathGuy and science/disease stuff on the internet. I did well in school when I went, but I spent my off time trying to be a graphic artist and playing AD&D, not getting ECs. Not only that, all of my resume-building experiences were aimed at graphic arts, not medicine or science. I wasn't very successful at my career, and eventually I went back to school and decided to pursue something else.

My life didn't turn around until I 1) started getting therapy and medication for the depression, 2) started actually taking advantage of school services like tutoring, and 3) actually resolved to change careers. I'm now coming off the medication and my life is changed.

So I am 32, but am in the same situation now that a 22 year old would be. Unfortunately, I'm going to be judged as a 30something, not as a 20something.

If I wanted to go the Masters/Ph.D. route I would probably be 60 by the time I started med school.

How to spin my past now that I AM a serious person, is a good question. I don't have a great work history (I was a contractor and worked intermittently, then after the dot-bomb, didn't work at all sometimes for two years at a stretch) nor do I have any kind of resume-building experiences.

I mention this because for every two nontrad students like you (very serious in their 20s) there has got to be at least one like me... or at least I hope...

I still do graphics a lot. It's a hobby at this point, and it'll never again be a career. I took a lot of my phlebotomy and EMT notes in pictures, and when I have to do presentations, they usually have lots of illustrations. The last had illustrations of heart and lungs and was a powerpoint presentation about Congestive Heart Failure.
 
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I think you "spin" your experiences by showing what you've learned from them, and how that will make you a better doctor in your 30s than you would have been in your 20s. You are who you are now, not who you were then. The mistakes of the past can't be undone, but they don't have to be repeated either, and this is definitely something to emphasize. I will tell you that my path to medicine isn't anywhere near as neat and tidy as it apparently looks on SDN. After all, if I had truly had my act so together ten years ago, I'd be close to finishing my MD/PhD residency by now. :)
 
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md2011

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Q, how do you ask the permission to use employment letter for the non-scicence faculty letter. Did you just ask them when you send in the supplementary application? or you asked beforehand to get their permission.

I wonder what the admissions committee look at for the non-science faculty?
can a "intro to sociology" teacher considered as non-science? I did take English Comp last year with other BMCP courses, but he is not that familar to me, I don't know if he will give me a good recommend or not. I will use him if I have to.
 
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Q, how do you ask the permission to use employment letter for the non-scicence faculty letter. Did you just ask them when you send in the supplementary application? or you asked beforehand to get their permission.

I wonder what the admissions committee look at for the non-science faculty?
can a "intro to sociology" teacher considered as non-science? I did take English Comp last year with other BMCP courses, but he is not that familar to me, I don't know if he will give me a good recommend or not. I will use him if I have to.
Not all schools require non-science letters. For the ones that did, I emailed the schools after reading their LOR requirements, and explained why getting a non-science faculty LOR would be a hardship for me. I told them that I could get a non-science letter from my employer, and asked them whether they would be willing to allow me to substitute that for one from a non-science prof. In every case, they allowed me to do this. Always send an email instead of calling by phone, because that way you have the email as proof that you did receive permission to substitute your LOR.

Assuming that your sociology course was taught by someone hired in a sociology dept, then yes, it would probably be considered non-science. (I would call it social science.) Whatever you do, though, NEVER ask someone for a LOR who "isn't that familiar with you." Those LORs need to be written by someone who knows you well enough to comment on your specific characteristics and accomplishments that would make you a great physician some day. If you're not 100% sure that the English prof would write a great letter, you need to ask someone else.
 

md2011

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Can I use the reason that the instructor is not familar with me as the excuse for using the employment letter instead? What do the schools look for when they ask non-science, or humanity professor's recommendation
 

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I thought that the thread was good enough to be made sticky, instead of Q reviving it every few days.
 
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Can I use the reason that the instructor is not familar with me as the excuse for using the employment letter instead? What do the schools look for when they ask non-science, or humanity professor's recommendation
Hmm, I don't think I'd advise doing that. It doesn't sound like a very GOOD reason in that it kind of reflects negatively on you, you know? :p Why aren't you going to ask the sociology instructor? I thought s/he did know you well. Or do the LOR instructions prohibit you from using a social science instructor?
 
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I thought that the thread was good enough to be made sticky, instead of Q reviving it every few days.
Thanks. When are you going to post YOUR secrets of success??? :)
 

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Hmm, I don't think I'd advise doing that. It doesn't sound like a very GOOD reason in that it kind of reflects negatively on you, you know? :p Why aren't you going to ask the sociology instructor? I thought s/he did know you well. Or do the LOR instructions prohibit you from using a social science instructor?
I think I can use sociology instructor as she volunteered me on recommendation, though she didn't know I am a pre-med. BTW, is sociology belong to liberal arts?
 

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I asked the question below, it seems not many people looking it, I am moving it here.
Many schools ask what I did after graduation? What's the purpose for them to ask for that? to what extent should I say about my work experience. As the CV on the AMCAS application has all those stuff, why schools ask this information again? to what detail and goal I should address, do I need to say all I have done like those in resume, and say what I have learned from the job?
 

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I asked the question below, it seems not many people looking it, I am moving it here.
Many schools ask what I did after graduation? What's the purpose for them to ask for that? to what extent should I say about my work experience. As the CV on the AMCAS application has all those stuff, why schools ask this information again? to what detail and goal I should address, do I need to say all I have done like those in resume, and say what I have learned from the job?

I think it addresses a few things, like how much clinical time are you getting, are you just loafing waiting for medical schools to get back to you, have you had real-world experiences, etc., etc. Who knows why these schools want the data again; from a practical standpoint, I suspect it's because their applicant files are probably database driven, and cannot simply pluck the information from the file AMCAS sends to them (since it looks like they probably get the same PDF we receive).
 

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Thanks. When are you going to post YOUR secrets of success??? :)
I came to the interview with a lovely woman under each arm. The guys on the ADCOM said "Hey! He looks like a cool guy. Let's bring him on board." The rest is history.



Seriously?

I can't add much to what others wrote. In my case, it came down to a fundemental inability to listen to others and persistence.
 

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Folks - If you are a non-trad applicant that sucessfully navigated the application process, and you'd like to contribute, please private-message any of the Advisors of this forum (they have a white briefcase with green + sign under their screen name) with your pearls of wisdom. We'll append your tips to this thread.
 

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ECs: This was another area where I was kind of lopsided and did not have a very good appreciation of my strengths and weaknesses before I went for the preadmissions counseling. :)
Q:
First of all, this thread is great-thanks! I have a question about ECs and clinical volunteering. I work in clinical care already and have done so for the last 13 years - also volunteering for my professional organization along the way, etc. What other type of volunteering activities would you suggest someone get involved with in my shoes? Thanks!
 
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Q:
First of all, this thread is great-thanks! I have a question about ECs and clinical volunteering. I work in clinical care already and have done so for the last 13 years - also volunteering for my professional organization along the way, etc. What other type of volunteering activities would you suggest someone get involved with in my shoes? Thanks!
I think that the most important thing is for you to pick one or two activities that are meaningful to you and that you feel passionate about, and then participate in them long-term. You want to show that you are involved in the community and that you care about contributing (volunteering), and you also want to show that you have some idea about what being a physician entails (clinical experience). It sounds like you've done that from what you've said. But if you're still worried, then again, talk to the admissions office at your state school, or a pre-med advisor if you have one. One thing I would NOT suggest doing is getting involved in some activity that you hate just because you think an adcom would like it. If you don't want to be doing something, then you probably shouldn't be. In my case, I hated having to get up at 5 AM to volunteer at the hospital, but once my lazy butt was out of bed, I didn't hate the volunteering itself. Does that make sense?
 

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There's probably not a whole lot I can say here that hasn't already been said, and better. :) but since I like the sound of my own voice (and the sight of my own text) i'll shoot off anyway.

Now my application wasn't godly like Q's, and didn't exactly have my choice of schools like she did, but I was still able to sneak my way into my state MD school. (currently an MS2) I guess I was able to hide my crazy from the interviewers long enough to fool them.

Anyway, it can be done. You just have to be hopeful/crazy enough not to care about the "oh, med school is so hard to get into" line that everyone will be telling you. Help from your friends and family really won't get you through this, at least in my experience as a non-trad. We don't have a daddy doctor who groomed us for the profession since age 8, right? So it all comes down to yourself and your own determination. If you have any serious doubts about medicine as a career... and you're a non-trad... resolve those doubts before proceeding! Unlike traditional 22 year olds, we don't have the luxury of doubt.

- LORs: Get two from your postbacc science teachers, that you know will describe in glowing terms your newfound committment to medicine and to science. Get one from an MD where you volunteer/shadow/research. Get one from a boss in your previous career path, if you can. A well-written LOR really can tip the scales in your favor -- adcoms do not automatically treat them as form letters, no matter what certain cynics may say.

- Volunteer and/or paid experience: From what I hear, this is a binary proposition. The adcoms want to know if you have any, or not. One year's experience is just about as good as ten years' in their opinion. M.D. schools are generally not very impressed by credentials as a tech or nurse... at least no more so than fleeting experience in shadowing.

- MCAT: This and your cum GPA are the two most important parts of your application for any school. Don't forget that! If your numbers suck, all the clinical experience in the world just amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. Some schools weigh the MCAT heavier than others, and some weigh certain sections of the MCAT more than others. Try to figure out what schools are best for your individual scores. And devote some good studying time for it with some good texts. The big Kaplan text was my Bible for this. Also, use the official practice tests on the AAMC site... they are expensive but well worth it. Every question you get wrong, research to find out why. Use the Verbal as a sort of prototype section... that part does not test past knowledge and is purely a measure of your test-taking abilities. Figure that section out and you've figured out the entire MCAT.

- Testing out of courses: If you feel you can pull it off, in order to shorten your postbacc load... go for it. If it lets you apply a year earlier, then the benefits are obvious. It's not as bad as you think. Departmental final exams for physics and chemistry (which is usually what they give you if you want to test out) do not hit the details as hard as individual section tests. The big Kaplan MCAT book contains maybe 80% of the information you need for each... the rest you can find in textbooks available in the library. If you're an independent learner, testing out may be the way to go. Note: when I was going through the process, I was unable to find any place that would let me test out of O-chem. Unless you get lucky, you're going to have to bite the bullet on that one. Also, testing out only lets you get out of the lecture portion of a course... you will still need to spend time in the lab.

- SDN: Do not get discouraged by the tales you read on the forums here. Most people who post their stats on SDN have absolutely insane applications that are not representative of the average med school matriculant. (no offense, Q! You're just way above average ;) ) And besides, all that premed angst is totally irrelevant after you get in. The disreputable slacker like me that barely slouches in is in no better or worse shape than the school's #1 pick after the white coat ceremony. So good luck, and take everything here with a grain of salt... including this post!
 
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QofQuimica

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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- SDN: Do not get discouraged by the tales you read on the forums here. Most people who post their stats on SDN have absolutely insane applications that are not representative of the average med school matriculant. (no offense, Q! You're just way above average ;) ) And besides, all that premed angst is totally irrelevant after you get in. The disreputable slacker like me that barely slouches in is in no better or worse shape than the school's #1 pick after the white coat ceremony. So good luck, and take everything here with a grain of salt... including this post!
I'm not offended, FC. I completely agree that once you're in, none of this really matters very much any more, even if you mainly got in by hiding your craziness from the interviewers. ;) I also acknowledge that there is almost nothing conventional about my application in any way. Most people won't have an extreme application like mine. BTW, there IS such a thing as being TOO interesting, IMO. ;) Yes, my strengths were "way above average," but my weaknesses were also way BELOW average. I think that's why the schools responded to me in such extreme ways; they either loved me like crazy, or else they couldn't kick my derrierre out the door fast enough. :p There was very little in between; i.e., I never got put on hold, and I only got one or two waitlists. However, even if no one ever applies to medical school with a bizarre constellation of application oddities like mine again, I do think that the general advice for successfully making it through the process and overcoming obstacles in the process is more or less the same for all of us: you need to accentuate your positives, whatever they are, and downplay or remediate your negatives. This was mainly what I was trying to emphasize in my long post above. :)
 

asunshine

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M.D. schools are generally not very impressed by credentials as a tech or nurse... at least no more so than fleeting experience in shadowing.
I disagree. I think my 3.5 years as an ICU nurse (very different than shadowing/volunteering--I actually made decisions, had a professional license to maintain, worked full-time in a hospital...) was a little more impressive to them than the standard clinical experience. Would I suggest becoming a nurse just to get into med school? Of course not, but depth of experience can carry a little weight.
 

lpressley130

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I agree, asunshine!
 

scpod

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I think that the most important thing is for you to pick one or two activities that are meaningful to you and that you feel passionate about, and then participate in them long-term. You want to show that you are involved in the community and that you care about contributing (volunteering), and you also want to show that you have some idea about what being a physician entails (clinical experience)....One thing I would NOT suggest doing is getting involved in some activity that you hate just because you think an adcom would like it.
I couldn't agree more. "Long-term" is one thing that shows your commitment. I volunteered for nearly 10 years for the American Red Cross as a CPR/First Aid instructor before I started in the Emergency Department of a level one trauma center. I had a good job, but was very unhappy with what I was doing. However, I loved leaving work every Friday because I knew that I'd be spending the next 8 to 10 hours in the ED (I would have lived there if they would have let me :)). I just loved it! It got to the point that the only reason I was willing to wake up and go to work each morning was because I got to go to the ED again on Friday. One day, when I was thinking about just how much I absolutely hated my job, I realized that I was in my late 30's and if I didn't want to be miserable every single day, that I needed to make a lot of changes in my life. "Wouldn't it be incredible," I thought "if I actually made my living in a place like the ED-- a place that I absolutely love going to!"

I spent a good bit of time on research first, since I knew that my previous academic background was less than stellar. During my previous college carreer (twenty years earlier), the only thing I was interested in was beer and women. I had a lot of both, but I also lost nearly a decade of my life in a drunken stupor. That old dream of being a doctor had resurfaced, but it wasn't possible that I could actually do it...was it?

My fiancee was my biggest cheerleader, and together we mapped out a plan that would get "us" through the college prereqs and into medical school within four years. It was pretty tough. At first I went to school and worked full time, but eventually I had to quit my job because the classes I needed weren't available except during the day. I made all A's my first semester, but I had taken a few easy classes just to get back into the "swing of things." After all, I hadn't taken any classes in 20 years. The next semester was tough because I spent 14 days in the hospital with pancreatitis. That really sucked (getting a foley while 25 nursing students watched is a story for another day :) ), but it didn't slow me down and I made all A's again.

The classes passed, the MCAT came and went, and the application process was in full swing. I was 41 years old and was competing with a bunch of 20-something students and just loving it. I needed another semester to get a Biology degree and Chem minor, but decided to take a few classes in the Spring semester that might help me later, even though I didn't need them. The plan was really simple: graduate next May, get married and honeymoon in June, and move to a new place in July to start med school. Life has a funny way of changing plans, though. In August, before we could start going on interviews, my fiancee died.

My school work suffered a bit that semester, but I still pulled off a 3.7. I only attended one interview that Fall. I got an acceptance, but it just didn't feel right. I procrastinated a whole lot. For a time, I actually thought of giving up the whole thing. But...sometime right after Christmas I got back into the swing of things and filled out a few secondaries. I was surprised to find out that some professors still hadn't sent in my LOR's yet (wish I had known about Interfolio), but that problem is easy to remedy with a little persistence. It wasn't long before I had some interviews and was back on track.

I learned a lot of things during my interview season. One, is that it is NEVER TOO LATE to apply to schools until their deadline has passed. The only people that are guaranteed NOT to get interviews are the ones who don't apply at all. Two, a lot of obstacles may be thrown in your way, but persistence can pay off. Three, you are never too old to realize your dreams. They can come true if you are willing to put in a little effort. Four, You may think that you are competing with thousands of other students for a finite number of seats...but in reality, you are competing with yourself. It doesn't matter what anybody else does. It doesn't matter what their MCAT's, GPA's, LOR's, or EC's look like. It only matters what YOURS look like. If you work to make yours the best they can be, then you'll have a chance, no matter what anyone else has. Five...I can't really think of a five right now, but I reserve the right to print that one later :)
 
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Awesome post, scpod. :thumbup: Are you a fellow Floridian? Extra :love: to all of the Floridian non-trads out there. :)
 

scpod

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Awesome post, scpod. :thumbup: Are you a fellow Floridian? Extra :love: to all of the Floridian non-trads out there. :)
I'm not originally from Florida (neither are most of the people who live here, I think :D ), but I chose it for its warm environment. The company I used to work for sent me to Richmond, VA one winter, and it turned out to be the snowiest winter they'd had in over 20 years. I got enough for all of us those few, short, miserable months, and I really don't need to see it ever again. The only "White Christmas" I want to see is the color of the frothy waves as they crash to the beach on the west coast of Florida, while sipping my Margarita and playing Buffet tunes till midnight.
 

AlkaIL

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It was nice to read this to stay on track. I went to see my pre-med advisor and was nicely encouraged to look into physical therapy or physician assistant schools. :) But this post got me back on track!
 

ForbiddenComma

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I disagree. I think my 3.5 years as an ICU nurse (very different than shadowing/volunteering--I actually made decisions, had a professional license to maintain, worked full-time in a hospital...) was a little more impressive to them than the standard clinical experience. Would I suggest becoming a nurse just to get into med school? Of course not, but depth of experience can carry a little weight.
I was generalizing a bit in my post and obviously, your mileage may vary and different schools may value tech/nurse credentials more than others. But the unfortunate truth is, most M.D. schools still are not entirely non-trad friendly, choosing instead to fill 80-90% of their entering class with 22 year old biology majors without a day's worth of *paid* medical experience.

Now I fully agree that in a better world, you should be far more desireable a candidate than said 22-year-old, given your years of relevant experience. But, we don't live in that world...
 

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I can't add much more than what's been discussed. But as a non-trad with pretty average (maybe even a little below average in the GPA) stats it helped me to do a couple of things:

(1) I did the same "pre application" visit at my top two choice schools that Q has recommended. Yes, it is a trip and requires a day off work - not to mention some coordination if your top choice is out of state. But it is certainly worth it. Both schools gave me specific advice on how to improve my application in their eyes and I was accepted to both of them in the "first round" of acceptances.

(2) Have a plan that makes sense and stick to it. I recently found the pad of paper I used to plan out my application 4 yrs ago. It made me laugh - but sitting down and thinking about what deadlines I needed to meet (early MCAT, getting LORs in, finding volunteer experiences in time to actually do something worthwhile and that I enjoyed!) made my application process much easier.

I hope this helps some of my fellow non-trads.

Good luck! :luck:
 

Orthodoc40

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It was nice to read this to stay on track. I went to see my pre-med advisor and was nicely encouraged to look into physical therapy or physician assistant schools. :) But this post got me back on track!
These are also good choices, though. Probably the route I would take if I wasn't holding an acceptance. Even now, I have my moments of reconsidering....:oops:

But the biggest change for me between applying last year and this year was that I did NOT use the same advisor. The one I had last year really truly knows her stuff, but was such a negative influence on me I couldn't bare it. I knew (nearly from the start) that she did NOT think I would get accepted anywhere, and it was tough to fight that attitude, even though last year, she turned out to be right. I learned while working with her what kind of attitude I DID want to have, and what kind of attitude I did NOT want to have about myself in this process. So, this year I said siyonara to her, and things are turning out MUCH differently this time, thanks to the help of mostly, my friends and mentors.
 

jackieMD2007

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GPA: I had to work part to full time in undergrad, but still managed to finish with a 3.6 BCPM. I was pretty hardcore about studying because I was footing my college bill.

MCAT: I was the MOST scared about doing the MCAT! It had been like 5 years since I had taken Organic Chemistry or (kill me) Physics! I took a Kaplan night class because I needed the review. I supplemented myself with Examkrackers "1001 Questions in..." books because I can study content all day but until I know how something is asked I don't really master it. I had some good practice tests ranging from 28-33 and my mentors said to take the MCAT, so I went for it. I hit in the middle of my range and was okay with it. The MCAT is just something you totally have to get through, do the best you can (studying after work is a b!tch but you can do it!). I had computer papers with PHYSICS EQUATIONS on my walls in the kitchen and in the hallway where I saw them everyday. You ignore F=MA when it is on your coffeemaker! You laugh, but it works!

Essays: Make sure your Essay answers the question "Why Medicine" AND "Why Now" AND "What have you been doing with yourself since college?" because those things are all things they are going to want to know. I used a professional editing service in addition to the advice (which was sometimes a bit hard to take!) of friends/family. Remember that you have a story to tell that is more unique and has more perspective than someone fresh out of college--working in the real world for awhile teaches you something. Now what was it? And why does the coffeepot have one of Newton's Laws on it?

LORs: I went to my undergrad (out of state!) to visit three of my favorite professors that were still there. Over coffee and lunch I explained what I was doing, and they all remembered me from school. I did not do a post-bac so I was lucky to be able to pull from my undergrad. The trip was fun and the professors were really nice and cool to me. They were extremely supportive the whole way. INTERFOLIO, by the way. INTERFOLIO. It will really, really help. That way when Such-and-Such SOM loses Prof. X's letter (again) you don't have to strain the colloquial relationship with Prof. X to get him to send another one. Also, if you designate more schools later on in the game you can go file complete pretty quick if you bang out your secondaries.

ECs: I volunteered at a large downtown hospital for three years. I know this was a big help. I have also had a few interesting jobs, all of which got asked about and I was able to identify applicable skills: professionalism, keeping confidentiality, managing a team, being part of a team, etc. You also don't have to be afraid when they ask you about hobbies or whatever because chances are you do plenty of interesting stuff when you're not working, even if it is just reading/going to bars/bowling/playing an instrument/hanging out with friends and family/etc. Be you. Be authentic--I know I want a REAL PERSON to be my physician.

Interviews: So far I have been on two interviews, and have a third scheduled for December. I have been accepted to one school so far. I was really excited. I wore a skirt suit and the most "sensible" looking heels I could find (Get those FOOT PETALS from NORDSTROM and put them in your shoes they will SAVE the DAY!). Since most of you are business people you won't feel so "weird" or "overdressed" in a suit or look "rumpled" or whatever. You've done this before. No biggie. The interview is totally where the non-trad rules--you've been on job interviews, you've been on dinner dates (scariest type of interview, haha), you've given presentations and attended business meetings. All of that is prep for this.

Good luck to everyone! See you in the class of 2011!:luck: