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non-trads and statements of purpose

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by iam, May 1, 2004.

  1. iam

    iam Junior Member
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    i am a previous lurker going official: hello to all.

    are there any other non-traditionals here (and i'm not talking 23-year olds) :) that could offer some input on the following dilemma:

    i'm a 30-year old premed career changer, with a doctorate in music, of all useful things. though my interest in medicine and pursuing the med school path has been going strong for several years now, i am finding it difficult to explain the drastic career change to people, and am worried about adcoms thinking it's all just a little TOO non-trad for them. i've thought about it a lot, and i am committed, but it's hard to explain why i spent the last 11 years studying music in a way that seems, well, relevant.

    anyway, i'd be curious to know if there are any other ex-humanities people (or otherwise) who went a long way towards one goal only to realize, after seriously reevaluating their lives, that they needed to be doing medicine.

    BTW, i am going full-time this fall and hoping to get in as much experience and science background as i can in the next two years. i know i'll be somewhat old when i enter med school, but i don't have much related experience at this point and my undergrad years are relatively far in the past...

    thanks-
    iam
     
  2. hilikus

    hilikus Senior Member
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    I'm 27 with a BA in Journalism. I have an established career directing news for a major affiliate and have been for 7 years. I always wanted to be a doctor but to be honest, I don't think I had the maturity or the discipline to conquer that goal at the age of 21. Now that I have a career making good money, I thought it would be fun to give it all up to spend the next 10 years working towards doing something I love.

    I think you'd be surprised at how many non-traditional students there are. I recently went to an open house at TCOM in ft worth, tx and I'd say a good third of the students were non-trads. I have talked to a lot of different people on this subject, including med students and adcoms about this and the consensus seems to be quite positive. If nothing else, it shows that you had the heart and desire to achieve a goal and you did. You have established a career in society, but now you know where you heart is at. I think most adcoms dig that. At least I hope they do because I'll be applying next year.
     
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  3. LionInTheDark

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    iam,
    i'm 27 and starting med school this august. i had no idea i wanted to pursue medicine until a couple years out of college, and had taken the gre and was preparing to apply to phd programs in a different field when i decided that it was not what i wanted out of my career. so for the last three years i've been working full time and taking the prereqs for applying to med school (if you can afford not to work, you could do it alot faster). i've amassed a year and a half of research experience at penn's med center, volunteered on the wards at hup, and shadowed some doctor collaborators. honestly, i've enjoyed everything i've done relevant to medicine.

    in my personal statement, i highlighted the non-traditional route i took into medicine, spent half a page explaining what i learned from my previous field. to me, several years working in the real world taught me what i wanted out of a career, and i certainly wanted to have a tangible, positive impact on society. i explained this, and how it steered me toward medicine. i then went on to describe what i had done to test my interest in medicine, how much i enjoyed it, and what my goals following medical school were (primarily clinical, but with some teaching and public policy interests).

    i think the chief concern of schools, if you are strong candidate otherwise, is that you have tested your desire to be a doctor, and aren't just switching careers on a whim, since you might easily do it again if that were the case.

    it's perfectly reasonable to come into this a little late in the game- i'm thinking of pursuing a surgical specialty too, so that'll be a long residency after med school.

    i'm happy to answer any questions you might have- just post.

    -lion
     
  4. KatieOConnor

    KatieOConnor Senior Member
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    I'm not super nontraditional, but my application is definitely wierd. I've done some job-hopping, took time off from school a couple times, kept changing my mind about my career, and then finally decided (this is after starting out premed) that medicine is for me.

    People have told me that some adcoms will love the route I've taken and others will hate it. It took me several weeks of re-writing my personal statement to come out with a coherent explanation of why I wanted, after all this hopping around, to become a doctor.

    I wrote about how I'd come into contact with a variety of people, and how I'd had a whole lot of different experiences crammed into a relatively short period of time, and how all this has given me perspective.

    It's all about spin. You could say you've gained maturity, you've had experiences which can enhance your career as a doctor, you could emphasize the fact that you're well-rounded, and that you have a passion for learning...

    Your application should tell a story. And, just remember, not everyone's going to like your application. But some people will.

    Good Luck! :luck:
     
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  5. Tofurkey

    Tofurkey Senior Member
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    Hello,

    I am a 27 year old J.D. who is applying in one month! I was an English major in college, took a year off, then went to law school, which I hated. Then a week after law school I entered a post-bacc program and started gen chem. I have been in that post-bacc for one year (and have two more classes to go this summer plus the MCAT, then I'm done.)

    I am currently working on my personal statement, and I'm trying to delicately explain why I did law, and now medicine. However, I think what helps my case is a lot of volunteering in the medical field plus a secured job for my glide year in clinical research (i.e. no lawyer jobs for me.) I'm not sure how I'll be received in the applications process, but I hope my committment will show from my essay and activities. I took no pre-med courses ever (and no science ever) before this post-bacc year, and I managed to pull off a good GPA.

    So hang in there, I know that law and my English major are kinda non-trad like your music PhD, but adcoms like diversity, just make sure to do a lot of volunteering and such so they know you're 100% committed to your new direction, and try to work full-time in the medical field during your glide year.

    -Tofurkey
     
  6. omores

    omores sleep deprived
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    At age 29, just as I was wrapping up an MFA in painting, I decided that it was time to get myself into medical school instead. I'd always kinda dreamed I'd one day be a doctor, but with minimal high school science and math and none in college (majored in art and music), it was easy to keep putting it off.

    Long story short, I finally bit the bullet and enrolled in post-bacc classes at a state school, worked at a clinic, tutored science, and applied to medical schools.

    One of the hardest parts of the process -- harder even than teaching myself algebra from a library book -- was writing that dratted personal statement. I realized fairly quickly that for many medical schools, "non-trad" means a 26-year-old who works in a lab, or public health, or some other medically-related field. But artist and waitress? That seemed too far a stretch.

    I wanted my statement to sound as if my whole life had led me to this point, rather than that my previous career had simply been a mistake. I talked about my early interest in medicine that had gotten derailed in high school; I described what frustrated me about the art world and why NOW was the time to pursue my childhood dream. The spin (there has to be a spin) was that what I had learned from being an artist would influence the way I practice as a doctor.

    I also took pains to emphasize that I had been truly committed to and was reasonably successful in my art career -- but though I still loved painting, I no longer wanted to pursue it professionally. In other words, I wanted to avoid coming across as a flaky and disgruntled artist who was changing careers on a lark, and who lacked the dedication and committment necessary to become a doctor.

    Some schools declined even to interview me; others not only accepted me but also gave me scholarships. I'm currently a third year student, and am planning to go into child neurology (a field a never knew existed before starting school). It's been a wonderful journey. Best of luck in yours!
     
  7. Wednesday

    Wednesday Senior Member
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    You are definitely not alone.

    I was a theater major and worked for several years in professional theater before deciding to do post-bacc and go to medical school. Like others have said, there are some schools that love this stuff and some that will avoid you. Probably best that way since it's nice to have a few classmates who are also a little non-trad. :D

    Having my experience in the real world I think has given me a real edge in school. I think that the personal statement for career changers is really, really important. And the interview will probably focus on your reasons for changing your path as well (even if you do exhaustively cover it in the PS). I think that some docs are wary of people who took a different path. I believe that I had some trouble at some schools because my interviewer just wouldn't believe that my experiences were as rigerous or meaningful as a trad student (even though I went through all the science classes just like they did). HOWEVER, the interviewer at the school I am currently attending was thrilled with my experiences. I guess it just depends on who interviews you and the overall tone of the school.

    Anyway, there is no reason to worry about that now. You have plenty of stuff to do before you apply. I personally feel lucky that I had a whole life before I came to med school. And although I feel old sometimes surrounded by all these 23 year olds (I'm 30 too), I wouldn't trade those years or experiences for anything, especially since I think my life as a physician (and those of my patients) will be much better off for having lived them. Good luck!

    PS You should check out the olderpremeds site.
     
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  8. Laura JC

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    I had a degree in music several years ago, too. I never really found myself having to justify WHY I switched careers in interviews. Everyone seemed to accept that I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in music and had moved on. I didn't really waste a lot of space on my personal statements writing about it either. I was afraid it would sound defensive. Instead, even though I had next to no medical/clinical experience, I concentrated on a few incidents in my life as a patient or as a family member of a patient that were inspirational to me in becoming a doctor, and I described those thoughts. I didn't really write a resume style essay, so my former careers weren't that important, they just added some background color to my application. I honestly don't think you will get any negativity at all about it.
     
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  9. Baditude

    Baditude Senior Member
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    hey I am 34 and have two kids ages 11 and 8. I put off going to college for 12 years while I "figured myself out" I had always wanted to go into medicine but I spent my high school years battling low self-esteem and self doubt. With a push from my husband to do what I had always talked about I took the step and went back to school. I am now applying to med-school and could't be happier!!!
     
  10. snapdad

    snapdad Rock and Roll Doctor
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    These two quotes sum up the non-trad personal statement for me. I'm 35...36 when I start med school this fall. Looking back, I actually started down the medical path about ten years ago, but got derailed into other things for a variety of reasons I won't go into. What's important is that I eventually figured out what my priorities and interests are, and also grew up a bit. Not everyone comes out of the gate knowing exactly what they want to do with life, but when they do figure it out they're probably stronger for the life experience, and certain adcoms realize that. The thing to do with the personal statement, I think, is to emphasize your journey through life to this point, how your experiences have solidified your resolve to become a doctor, how you've grown as a person, and what a person in your age group can contribute to a medical school's student body (i.e., experience, maturity, etc.). Spin it so you're showing your value as a non-trad to the adcom, and I think you'll do fine.
     
  11. Notzfall

    Notzfall NREMT-P, MS-IV
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    Im 27 years old. My major is Biology with a German Studies minor. Diversity in studies will definitely help you, but I know what you're saying...where's the science? I can't say much about a drastic change in fields of study because, aside from military service, I've personally focused on science. However, I know a lot of non-traditional students. I work with a doc that studied at the Univ South Florida Medical school, and he said they have a reputation for seeking out applicants like you (non-trad., extensive studies in non-science fields). You might want to check them out. You could actually have an advantage. If USF does it, I'm sure others are out there.
     
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  12. iam

    iam Junior Member
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    wow, the diversity and quality of the life experiences that you all bring to medicine is really impressive!! i feel very encouraged having heard from you. it seems invaluable to have some "older" students and the maturity and perspective that they bring to med school. people that have gone away to do something else for whatever reason and are now making the sacrifices necessary to commit to medicine probably have thought about their reasons extremeley thoroughly.

    on the other hand, having learned about some of the harsh realities of the application process (second hand), i realize that it is still a challenge to get in even for very intelligent people in our situation, and that no amount of fascinating or meaningful post-college experience will make one a shoe-in to med school. that's why i am starting to take grades and GPAs seriously for the first time in my life :eek: (a little late, but still possible!). when i was working as a teaching assitant at a large university, i was thoroughly amused (and bemused) by the kids that would come in to my office hours and fret over every little point. now i know to be careful what you laugh at; sometimes you find yourself on the other end of the joke! :laugh:

    hope i can make it. it's all riding on my grades this year (chem, physics, bio)...i'll post more as things develop! now, back to calculus. what better on a beautiful spring afternoon in paris than a little rendez-vous with the indefinite integral?

    thank you all very much for your replies-
    iam
     
  13. asdasd12345

    asdasd12345 Membership Revoked
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    i am 27 now, but by the time i get in to medical school i am predicting i will be 35 years old. do you this would be a major disadvantage in the admiisions process?
     
  14. willow212

    willow212 Senior Member
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    I also agree with this post. Of course, grades/MCAT will be very important. But I think that the most difficult (and important) thing for a non-trad to show is that they are committed to medicine. So I would definitely get a significant amount of medical volunteer experience in so you can convincingly say that you understand what medicine involves and that you are willing to give up your past career to become a physician.

    Good luck!
     
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  15. Cydney Foote

    Cydney Foote Senior Member
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    Lots of non-traditional applicants are accepted each year. The important things to write about in your personal statement are (1) why you're turning to medicine at this point in your career and (2) what skills do you bring to the table from your other life. You might find these articles useful as you think about these questions:

    Older med school applicants
    Non-science med school applicants

    Good luck!
     
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  16. freaker

    freaker Senior Member
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    I can certainly relate to the experience of being thrown into a swirling cauldron of intersts having to make heads and tails of it all and where you fit into the scheme. I grew up on a small farm in a very rural town and wound up going to college in a city of several million people. Needless to say, life changed a bit for me in college.

    So after swearing in high school that I would never take another English course upon graduation, I ended up as an English-Art History major with a minor in French. I did finish the pre-medical curriculum during my undergraduate years, but I don't think I was done exploring the world at that point. A job in London and then another in California later... And that one semester venture at a top 10 law school... Yeah, I'm heading into medicine with all the conviction that this is what I should have been doing all along (though am quite happy that I didn't up to this point).

    I'm honestly a bit worried about my background, as I just dropped out of law school this past December and studied my tail off for the April MCAT. I have had some volunteer experience in the past, though only for a few summers. I worked as a lifeguard for several years, which I guess is somewhat related. No research. I'll probably be volunteering around 10 or so hours per week as I enter the application process, though I guess we'll see how well that goes.
     

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