OLDER STUDENTS: Prep, motivation etc.

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by [email protected], Jul 21, 2000.

  1. RL@UT

    [email protected] Junior Member

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    Hello!!!!

    I'd like to get an idea of what my peers are up to:

    I'm 35 years old, and I am preparing for medical school.

    I have a degree in psychology, and I worked for 7 years in academic research before deciding to go back to school to fulfill
    med school requirements.

    I decided that a career in academics was not fulfilling, and that working with patients to educate them about their ilnesses and to treat them would be much more satisfying...

    To that end, I decided to work for a hospital
    and eventually achieved a post as a clinical research coordinator at the medical school here in town. I've continued to work part-time at the hospital and the balance is giving me a realistic--and affirming--view of
    what to expect in school and beyond.

    I'd like to know what you older students are doing to preapre for med school (besides classes, MCAT, "becoming competitive" in the application process etc.) and what caused you to take up this goal. I'm very mindful of the added challenge of being an older students and I'd like to share thoughts and ideas with others in the same situation.

    Thanks in advance...
     
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  3. fiatslug

    fiatslug Senior Member
    Physician

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    I'm 30, and I'm going to be starting MD school (UC Irvine) in the fall. I decided to become a doc at age 25, after a BA & MA in poetry (so practical! so wonderful!), and 2 years as a PT/OT aide at a county hospital. They will tell you how much they love non-traditional applicants.... but to many adcoms, "non-trad" = 24 year old, rather than 22. Age bias is out there: can you handle the work? do you have the stamina for residency? are you going to do as well in your classes/on the MCAT/on the USMLE as a Doogie Howser biochem savant? will you drop out because of family or money concerns? who will bankroll you during your education? how long will you be able to practice, beginning at your age? These and other questions are typical subtexts to med school interviews for us elderly students [​IMG]. My advice is this: if you're serious, get your prereqs done IMMEDIATELY, excel at them, and prepare extensively for the MCAT. My boyfriend is 38, with 35 MCATs, and he's reapplying. After age ~33 or so, I think age bias becomes more of a factor. Consider applying to DO schools; they are much more accepting of older students. Make the absolute most of your experience in the hospital in your essays; most high MCAT/high GPA premeds have done the typical "urine courier" 3 month stint in an ER, but if you have meaningful medical/patient care experience, this will set you apart. Expect that your peers (in your age group) will think you are insane for even thinking about medical school "at your age." Expect them to have little sympathy for how hard you will have to work--now, in med school, and beyond. If you have a spouse/SO, make sure he/she knows what you are getting into, and can be supportive. If you do not have a spouse or SO, I highly recommend getting one, preferably with a high paying job and/or a trust fund, at least until you get out of residency. I am only slightly kidding about this. If you are on your own, welcome to the poverty line! I waited tables for 4 years while taking the prereqs; it was the most money I could make at night without a pimp.

    But if you are sure that you want to be a doctor, none of the above will matter. You will, like the shoes say, just do it. Go for it!
     
  4. GeoLeoX

    GeoLeoX Ancient

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    I'm 31 and my experience is halfway between you two. I had decided long ago to go into medicine, but as an MD/PhD. As time closed in during undergrad I realized that I was nowhere near where I would have to be to get into a MD/PhD program (or an MD program for that matter). So I sailed on a different tack and went into a Ph.D. program in biochemistry. I could have tried the whole application process for medical school while writing my dissertation or immediately afterward, but I was enjoying research and moved on to a post-doc. It was after a couple of postdoc years that I had the time to devote to the MCAT, volunteering, etc. I start school next month.

    To be honest I am scared to death. I know that I can handle the science, but it's the rest of it that is a little intimidating. I agree with fiatslug on the questions that we get when you are over 30. Ignore them, I don't know about you but I feel better now than I did when I was 22. I am happily married and I have a realistic worldview. I also exercise a lot - and I think that it really helps. It is a motivator, it keeps you on a schedule, and it makes you think more clearly. Also to prepare I am trying to read a lot. Nothing to do with medicine, though. I try to read to stay on a schedule. I hope that it will help me with my study skills which have always been poor. To me organization of time is the most important factor.

    Hope some of this helps,

    Geo
     
  5. riverweb

    riverweb Member

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    I'm 44 and starting in Aug. I have 3 degrees (BME, MM, MA.) My fields were choral music and worship, so I have been educated at a university, conservatory and seminary. I started post bacc at 41. I volunteered in a hospital for 6 months, in basic research for 1 year, then was employed in that sam lab for another year. My overall and science GPAs are both 3.82. 29R (9-10-10). I worked full time and volunteered while doing 3 of 4 semesters of the post-bacc, which nearly killed me (not literally), so avoid that schedule if at all possible.

    I have a very long and disgustingly aggregious story about age discrimination. But in the end, I applied to 6 schools (3 MD, 3 DO), got 4 interviews (2 MD, 2 DO) and 4 acceptances. I'm going MD.

    Be aware that age discrimination does exist. All the schools say they accept older students, but in reality....

    On the other hand, it can be done! Go for it! GOOD LUCK.
     
  6. tonem

    tonem Senior Member

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    As you can see from the responses so far there is as wide a range of experiences as there are applicants to medical school. I'm 35...I started my premed work at 30, after 9 years as a firefighter/paramedic. I was afraid that I would get "the business" from everyone I worked with because I was planning on leaving a profession with a very low turn over rate (it is very rewarding, not to mention exciting). I was surprised that my friends and co-workers were very supportive. When I started applying to schools, I did my research and looked for schools that had a reputation for accepting older students with a lot of life experience. I was rejected outright by the schools that weren't really interested in "older" students (so my research wasn't so great) and was surprised again by how encouraging many of my interviewers were at the schools that were looking for a well balanced class. My point is...do your research and be ready to talk about your unique story. Medical schools also love people with academic backgrounds (such as yours) so you have that going for you.

    P.S. I interviewed prospective students last year. You wouldn't believe how nice it is to talk to someone who isn't a "cookie-cutter" replica of every other applicant.

    Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.
     
  7. I am 32, married with 6 and 4 year old boys. I am starting med school (ACK!) 3 weeks from today. I also had a degree in Psychology, and after college went on to get a masters in public health (which I would highly recommend!). While doing the MPH I had the same feeling as you-I didn't want to only be in the ivory tower studying hypothetical people, I wanted to help and heal individuals. Fortunately, and providentially, one of my master's thesis advisors was on the admissions committee at the medical school. He gave me lots of great advice, including that schools (especially this one) like older students (but well qualified older students), and that waiting until I was "done" having kids would be OK. I was a stay at home mom for 3 years, and then got a job doing research in pediatrics, and started taking prereqs (I had only done bio). I made a three year plan, did well in my classes (except for a B- in second semester orgo), and did decently on the MCATS. I also considered the MD/Ph.D (in health services research) but since I didn't pull out a 38 on the MCATS I gave it up [​IMG]. I applied to 5 schools, was asked to interview at 4, and was accepted at the two I interviewed at (I was accepted at Rochester in November, and knew I wanted to go here, so I turned down the other interviews).

    I made a conscious decision to place work before academics/MCATS in my premed phase; I think the fact that I did decently, and also worked full time, helped me. If you can publish, do it. It makes a BIG impression. Adcoms like people they think will go into academics, so don't downplay that too much. Letters of rec are also very important, especially for older students because the writers can say so much more than "so and so was an excellent student in organic chemistry yada yada yada". Seek out leadership opportunities in the community-while I was at home with my kids I joined the junior league (don't laugh!) and chaired a couple of committees; adcoms like prospective students to show leadership potential. If your scores are at least competitive, it is much easier for the adcoms to find things to like in an applicant who has been around for awhile. Also, with the new curricula at many schools focusing on problem-based learning, many are looking for people with more mature learning styles.

    I agree that the age bias seems to be more prevalent for applicants over 35. I had no comments about my age (but everyone I interviewed with asked me about child care arrangements!).

    Sorry this has been so long winded! Good luck, and let me know if I can help answer any other questions.
     
  8. RL@UT

    [email protected] Junior Member

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    Thank you all for those replies...a nice balance of humour and strightforwardness.
    It's reassuring to know that the dream--complete with its realities-- takes on many forms and is not limited to "traditional students". It's good to know that support is out there for applicants like you and me.

    I'm glad to be in such good company--it's obvious that you all have been productive and succesful in different areas and that medicine is the latest step in your journey.

    Let me ask you this: When you begin your search for schools that would seriously consider you as an applicant, do you depend on the demographic info. in the prospectus, do you broach the question directly with the adcom rep. (and if so, how did they respond)and what other resources did you tap in your search?

    I'd be interested to hear your ideas and experiences on the subject of age discrimintion, as well.

    look forward to hearing from you all...
     
  9. gp

    gp Member

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    My background is similar to yours in many ways and the good news is that I, like the others posting, will be starting school in 8 weeks and counting ...yeah! I will turn 30 in October, and I started working on my Post-Bac work when I was 27 - took me 2 years to pick up my sciences, then take the MCAT and then applying takes a year.

    I have been working in academic research for 4 years since I finished a Master's degree in health policy. In fact, my Master's degree advisor enlightened me about the whole post-bacc option as his wife had pursued that path. Before that, I worked as an outreach worker with homeless women in Pittsburgh. I was a Russian major in college.

    One of the hardest things for me in the application process was trying to figure out how to get the real scoop on the schools rather than just the basic numbers that you can find in the MSAR. It's difficult for sure. I had the best luck looking around the schools' websites. I found detailed information about the curriculum - sometimes syllabi and even full lectures from the school. Sometimes the students will have put up class pages too, so you can get an idea of student life, for what it's worth. (I say that because I know my needs in terms of student life are very different now than if I were doing this straight out of undergrad, but it seems to be exactly those folks that have time to put up class pages - so the information is usually geared toward them). It took me quite awhile to locate the information - I think some of it wasn't available on the web when I was looking last year, but since then, some of the schools have put up better web sites.

    I have the sense that all of the schools in Chicago are very non-trad friendly (except that I don't know about Finch because I did not apply there). I do not believe that I experienced any age discrimination what-so-ever - I don't know whether the few years difference in our ages would make any difference. What I do believe is that medical schools are always looking for interesting people to compose the next class with - it sounds as though you're on the right track - good luck.

    E-mail me: [email protected] if you want more info on my application experiences or the schools in Chicago.

    [This message has been edited by gp (edited 07-26-2000).]
     

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