Are You A Non-Traditional Medical School Applicant?  Here Are 5 Tips Just For You


Are You A Non-Traditional Medical School Applicant?  Here Are 5 Tips Just For You

Not fresh out of college and applying to medical school?  Did you take a different path, attend graduate school, pursue other interests or switch careers?  Here are some expert tips for you, a “non-traditional applicant,” as you navigate the medical school admissions process. 

First of all, the medical school admissions landscape has changed over the past decade and the line between traditional and non-traditional applicants has blurred.  Today’s medical schools admit a variety of applicants, attempting to diversify their class in many ways.  They seek qualified applicants from diverse academic and personal backgrounds so that they can create a dynamic learning environment.  At MSIH, the admissions team values diversity in life experience. Non-traditional applicants bring unique perspectives to the medical school learning environment, and often particularly benefit from and contribute to the MSIH focus on global health.

Admissions officers realize that the path to becoming a physician is unique to each applicant.  Here are some tips for non-traditional applicants to assist you when applying to medical school:

1. Consider a Post-Bac

Strengthen your academic record or satisfy the required prerequisites by completing a Post-bac or Master’s Degree program. Most medical schools require a year of biology, two years of chemistry and one year of physics.  If you have not completed these courses during your undergraduate studies, now is the time. 

Completed them already?  A few refresher courses may make your application more competitive. If your undergraduate grades were not the strongest, now is the time to demonstrate you can do the work.  Medical school admissions officers realize that you may not be the same person now as you were as a freshman in college.  They like to see positive grade trends, and even if your grades didn’t start off strong, make sure they finish strong.  Strong grades in a post-bac or master’s degree program will be viewed favorably.

 2. Study for your MCAT

There are many online study tools available, or enroll in a test preparation course.  While no one likes standardized tests, the truth is they matter.  The MCAT is standardized, and arguments can be made against the value of the test, but nonetheless, admissions officers use MCAT scores as one tool to assess applicants.  These scores are evaluated in the context of many other factors, but they are a foundational piece of your application. 

3. Be Proud of Your Background

As a nontraditional applicant, you have a unique skill set. Show it off!   Talk about what you have been doing, whether it has been research, community or global service, earning an advanced degree or working in a different profession.  What have you already accomplished?  What are your skills, talents, accomplishments and competencies?  Emphasize your life experiences, maturity and the unique perspective you will bring to the class. 

4. Tell Your Story

Why medicine? Utilize your essays to explain why you have chosen this new path. Do you understand the pros and cons of a career in medicine?  What are your goals?  You should highlight your extracurricular activities that have exposed you to medicine and steered you down this path. Have you had exposure to clinical medicine? Admissions officers want to be sure that your decision to attend medicine is a well thought out one. 

5. Choose Recommenders Wisely

Provide strong letters of recommendation. Your recommendations should validate that you are capable of doing the work and that you have solid character traits.  Are you a strong student?  Provide at least two letters of recommendation that are academic in nature, from professors you can attest to your academic strengths.   Do you exercise good judgement and have integrity?  Are you compassionate?   Do you collaborate well?  

If you are passionate about becoming a physician, it doesn’t matter if you are a “late bloomer” or “academic or career changer.”  With some planning, commitment and dedication you can achieve your goal. For guidance from the MSIH admissions team, reach out to schedule an admissions consultation and get the personalized information you need to make your application a success.

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Written by: Beth A. Chesir – MSIH Assistant Director, Admissions and External Affairs, and Kelly Coleman – MSIH Assistant Director, Recruitment and Public Relations