Jessica S. is a non-traditional premed who applied to medical school for the 2013 entering class. She did most of her premed requirements when completing her BA in Texas, but attended a mid-west University to update her work after 13 years in business. So far, Jessica has had five interviews. Her guest post addresses an important consideration for all non-traditional pre-meds. -DonO
“Oh! I thought you would be an old woman!” My medical school interviewer was shocked to see me as “not an old woman.” After four interviews, I was used to this overt ageist language. I greeted him warmly and we had a lovely conversation about my motivations to medicine.
As an approximately 37-year-old, non-traditional applicant, I have faced admissions requirements unique to the older student. One school requires three interviews for older students. instead of the single interview required of currently-graduating applicants. Sometimes my interviewers seemed nervous about age as they opened the interviews, and made statements ranging from “age is not a consideration” to unsolicited promises that the interviewer did not know my age.
At yet another school, a faculty member ended my interview with a surprisingly candid statement. He said he enjoyed our discussion, particularly regarding my research, and that ordinarily he would recommend me for admittance. However, he did not feel that he could do so at my age, because, “I would not do medical school again at your age.” Older premeds need to be especially prepared for these surprises during your medical school interviews.
What lessons have I learned through the process to help you overcome any perception of age bias?
Here are my “top tips” for the older, non-traditional applicant:
Exude confidence! As an older applicant you have leveraged your strengths and managed the weaknesses. This is a big advantage you have over other less experienced applicants.
No excuses. Either you are just as capable as every other premed, or you are not. This ability is a gift. Be happy you can learn the material and exude confidence when you make your application and interview.
Be inclusive. Recognize that your peers are now of all ages, from all reference points, and with the best of credentials in all sorts of fields of interest.
Highlight your accomplishments. The less conformist your accomplishments, the more notable your accomplishments will appear on your application. Find your unique achievements and shine!
Make the most of your life forward. You have volumes of past experiences to compensate for your alleged lack of youth. This may be valuable to making your years as a physician more effective and meaningful, regardless of length of service. Face how the years have affected your life, body, and ideas. Minimize the need to be like anyone else. You don’t know what that Ecuadorian lived through before applying to medical school as the first doctor in his family, nor does he know what this older woman experienced growing up in America before making her application.