Pursuing Medical School via a Non-Traditional Route

Do you wish to change your career and become a doctor? Pursuing a medical career after staying out of school for a significant number of years or after working/studying in a different field can be quite arduous. Luckily, you can effectively pursue medical school via a nontraditional route as many people do (myself included). As a non-traditional applicant, you can leverage the skills you earned from your previous career to better inform your pursuit of medicine as a career.

Regardless of the reason why you wish to change your career, you need to be thoroughly prepared to impress admissions committees and prove your dedication to your ultimate goal. More importantly, you need to be ready to embrace your status as a non-traditional pre-med student.

If you are set on applying to medical school as a non-traditional pre-med student, below are some invaluable tips to guarantee your success.

1. Be fully decided and committed. It’s all or nothing.
Being a nontraditional student, you are required to show an unparalleled level of maturity and responsibility. You need to ensure that you are making the right decision. Having specialized in another field, you have certain advantages over your younger peers. You have more diverse life experiences from which to draw, which means you have more compelling reasons as to why you have chosen to change things up and pursue a medical career path.
Therefore show commitment to the course. Let your life experiences be your motivation. Ideally, evaluate your opportunities and play to your strengths. Have a mentor who is in your area of specialization. This will help to give you an insider’s view of how to face challenges that you are bound to face on the way.


2. Prepare to crush your MCAT
Extensive MCAT prep is essential if you hope to score high enough to qualify for top medical schools. There have been recent changes in the grading policies between nontraditional pre-med students and their younger peer applicants. This calls for more preparedness prior to the test.
According to the AAMC, you should aim to spend on average 300-350 hours on your MCAT prep. That hour range can greatly vary for individuals. I studied for the MCAT for over a year. Some people are able to score well just after 3 months’ studying.


3. Consider medical school linkage programs
Registering for a medical linkage program such as a Postbac program is a convenient way to fast-track your entry into a medical school. Postbac programs allow you to complete academic prerequisites for admission to your desired school of medicine.
But remember completing a Postbac program does not guarantee your entry into the affiliated medical school. It only gives you an advantage in that you are more familiar with the required coursework to get accepted into a medical school.
Postbac programs can be quite costly. If possible, explore such programs in institutions where you qualify as a state resident and inquire about the possibilities of financial aid.


4. Ensure proper scheduling
Other than being a non-traditional pre-med student, there are higher chances that you have multiple responsibilities or other commitments in life. This might consist of work, classes, or family responsibilities. While we understand the enthusiasm of getting admitted into a med school can be an empowering factor for your ability to juggle these things, it’s essential that you maintain a proper balance between your job, school, and personal life.
Schedule your classes during your free time from work and preferably during mental peak performance time to help you comprehend your studies better without neglecting your responsibilities at the workplace.


5. Healthy lifestyle
Always observe a healthy diet to help nourish your brain and consequently enhance your mental ability. Regular physical exercise is also recommended to relieve you of any build up tension, improve your moods, and help you maintain your energy and focus throughout the day. Body exercises are also beneficial in increasing your blood flow to boost your alertness and optimize your learning comprehension.

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