Going into medicine as a nontraditional (non-trad) applicant can be daunting. How do you know a school will give you a chance?
Admissions policies state there’s no discrimination, but there’s no real way to know for sure.
This article looks at the more commonly mentioned schools non-trads seem to have had success with.
Here you’ll learn:
- Which med schools welcome nontraditional students
- Why these schools like non-trads
- Why some might have a bias against
- How to increase your chance of getting accepted (as a non-trad)
Nontraditional applicants to med school shouldn’t be deterred from becoming doctors because they’ve spent time out of school, working or starting a family. The same for not having a strong science background.
The reason I care so much? Because I am one!
And that’s why I want to help.
Let’s get started.
Med Schools That Like Nontraditional Students
As most med schools say they’re open to nontraditional students, it’s hard to pick those that truly are from those that “say” they are.
After several hours of research, here’s a list of several schools I feel fit that first category.
Note: pick up a copy of the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) published by the AAMC. There you’ll find a profile of each school that gives data on the average age of their students. That can give you a good insight into how ‘open’ schools are to non-trads.
John Hopkins School of Medicine
John Hopkins has one of the best reputations in the U.S. and it’s tough to get into (its admit-rate is just 7%). From those that do get accepted though, a healthy amount (17%) are individuals without an undergrad science background.
That’s good odds for non-trad students with diverse backgrounds.
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Case Western comes up as an especially non-trad-friendly school on many forums out on the web. With an admissions process that doesn’t just favor in-state applicants, their national pool is made up of pre-med applicants from a host of different backgrounds.
They’ll take non-science grads and don’t require any math either.
Miller School of Medicine – University of Miami
Miami is another school well known for taking a high percentage of older students.
According to one non-trad, they got in at 34. And they’re not the only one – plenty of others have mentioned Miami has had several nontrads among their annual 198 person cohort.
Here’s what Miami says in its own words…
It has been a long-standing policy of the School of Medicine to admit students with diverse backgrounds. Therefore, qualified non-traditional students, women, socio-economically disadvantaged students, and minorities underrepresented in medicine, are especially encouraged to apply.http://admissions.med.miami.edu/md-programs/general-md
Fun fact: I actually spent a year at Miami during an exchange program on my UK undergrad days. Pretty cool school!
George Washington University School of Medicine
Based in D.C., George Washington attracts a lot of non-trad applicants. Similar to Miami, the school explicitly states they look for students of diverse backgrounds and welcome all types of applicants.
Another school that gets a lot of mentions by non-trads on forums, Reddit, and the rest.
Albany Medical College
Founded in 1893, Albany is one of America’s oldest schools of medicine. It also has a long history of accepting students of all ages and educational experience, as evidenced by many of its generous donors.
Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
Like many DO schools, Kirksville has a solid reputation of being open to applicants from all backgrounds.
Their scholarship program Still Scholars, is proof of that. It gives students the chance to matriculate into their medicine program without having to take the dreaded MCAT – something a lot of non-trad’s fear.
The University of Toledo Medical Center
Based in Ohio, Toledo has one of the most diverse med student crowds in the whole of America.
They even have a thriving non-traditional student organization active on Facebook.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx-based Albert Einstein College of Med has a strong commitment to taking students from diverse backgrounds.
Almost 40% of their med students have a non-science background, with many (25%) coming from the arts.
Harvard Medical School
Many non-trad applicants might be turned off by Harvard’s ivy-league reputation but they do accept a good number.
According to their official selection factors, it could even be something that works in your favor. Especially if you’ve had an established career first.
Why Do Med Schools Like Nontrads
The reasons why most med schools welcome non-traditional applicants include:
- Diversity: certain med schools have quotas or strict policies to diversify their student bodies to give equal opportunities to candidates.
- Image: med schools like or enjoy the image having a diverse student body brings. Particularly when it comes to international research and marketing efforts.
- Experience: nontraditional applicants can bring a lot to a school in terms of experience and skill. Many students have proven themselves in other industries and can do a lot to improve departments or hospital care.
- Leadership: as non-trads tend to be more mature, they often make great leaders that can lend support to their colleagues and better the overall atmosphere.
Be sure to appeal to some of these factors when shaping your application.
Reasons Med Schools DON’T Want Nontrads
Here’s why some med schools might not like non-traditional students:
- They feel nontraditional students don’t fit: they’re maybe too old to make friends, or expected to struggle academically etc.
- They lack confidence in their commitment: because of a non-traditional student’s position not coming directly from school or college, they can be seen with an air of suspicion. What’s to say they won’t want to leave med school a year in when things start to get tough?
Although most med schools accept nontraditional students, there may be some unseen bias when it comes to their selection process.
Med schools won’t overtly admit to this but the web is alive with student reports of discrimination.
Always research a school as much as possible before you apply to try and uncover things like this first.
What Can Nontrads Do To Get Accepted?
Nontrads can improve their chances of success by following general admissions advice.
You’ll want to meet all the prerequisites of each school, get good letters of recommendation (from past employers, etc), and tick all the boxes.
Where you can go the extra mile is capitalizing on your maturity and experience in the application process.
Instead of answering “why medicine” in the tired ways many other candidates will, really drill down and expand on your motivation.
Talking about when your interest started in medicine, how that interest developed, and what led to your eventual commitment are all things that should be covered well.
Here are some additional tips:
- Be open and honest
- Don’t be ashamed of past failings or mistakes
- Prove you’ve grown from them.
Obviously, you’ll want to ensure you’ve done plenty of shadowing, clinical volunteering, and thought about research too.
Forget your age and your background. Apply as competitively as you can and go with schools that you feel best fit what you’re looking for.
Nontrads have a lot to think about when it comes to applying to med school (I know, I’ve been there).
Knowing that there are schools out there that will actively welcome your application can hopefully give you a little extra push.
This list is by no means exhaustive.
The best way to get a sense that a med school is open to you is to simply bite the bullet and apply!
You have nothing to lose.
Image Credit: @mohammadshahhosseini at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in digital marketing and journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.