Medical school admissions are very competitive, but if you're over 50 and want to go to medical school, you can expect even more challenges. While medical school admission committees are very interested in getting a more diverse student body, they are also worried about admitting older students who might not have the stamina for the intense program, including 80-hour work weeks, and who won't have as long a career as a younger student. If you want to go to medical school after you turn 50, you need to be aware of these challenges and develop a plan to overcome them.
Take Prerequisite Courses
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, most medical schools require that students take a least a year of biology, a year of physics, two years of a chemistry discipline, and at least a year of English before being admitted. If you didn't take these classes in college, you will need to take them now. Even if you took these classes before, it has likely been more than two decades since you were in a classroom, so you may want to consider taking some of them again. While this won't be necessary for admission, it may help to refresh your knowledge about key subjects. If you need to take prerequisite courses, sign up for them at a local community college, which may have night and weekend classes that can accommodate your work schedule.
Take the MCAT
Everyone who wants to attend medical school must take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. The MCAT is divided into three sections: Physical Sciences, Biological Sciences and Verbal Reasoning. Each section is scored from 1 to 15, so the highest possible score is 45 and the lowest possible score is 3. The higher your score, the better the medical school to which you are likely to be admitted. As an older student, you may need to score even higher than the school's average to make yourself a more attractive candidate. By taking the prerequisite courses again, you'll strengthen your knowledge and improve your score.
Prepare a Strong Application
One thing medical school admissions committees find attractive about older applicants is their professional and life experience. Highlight any relevant experience you have, including professional and volunteer activities. This could include working with patients directly in a support role or serving as a leader. Get great references from your professors and supervisors. Admissions committees prefer academic references, so taking your prerequisite courses again will help here. Finally, be prepared to answer questions about your career goals and how you plan to balance studies with family commitments. Admissions committees want to know that you are ready to put in the hard work required and won't be distracted by other obligations.
Be Ready to Wait
Many older applicants have reported applying to dozens of medical schools and being rejected by all of them. You may have to wait a bit before you are accepted. Be prepared for this, and keep applying. If you don't get in the first year you try, apply again the next year. Talk to admissions counselors about how to strengthen your application, and do what they recommend. Consider alternative programs such as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine program, which may be more willing to accept older applicants.
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Admission Requirements
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Percentile Ranks for MCAT Total and Section Scores for Tests Administered in 2013
- The DO: Older Medical Students Persist, Leverage Life Experience to Achieve Dreams
- CNN: Never Too Late to Be a Doctor
Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.