What It’s Like as a Student in Your Thirties

Primarily most of us are medical students, mostly from different backgrounds, so it’s not surprising to be a student in your thirties when you’re in medical school. As a non-traditional student, and unlike a student on the traditional pre-medical track, I had the opportunity to explore other professions before entering the one I’m currently on. Post-baccalaureate programs make it easy to become a doctor without having a science education. In fact, I would highly encourage any student who is considering a post-baccalaureate program to pursue it. Looking back on my journey, I am convinced that taking time to pursue other interests and potential careers was incredibly worth it. Not only does your background enhance  your admissions interview, but it makes you a person with more depth.

You’ll never regret the time you took off, but will always regret not taking any time off. I am amazed at students who decide to pursue combined or accelerated programs. Personally, that wasn’t the best choice for me.

When I agree with my classmates about taking more time to discover whether this profession is the right fit, they remind me that I did have time to think about my options.  The truth is no matter how good your application essay and how convinced you think you sound about becoming a doctor, you truly don’t know what it is like unless and until you are in it.

Because of the time I took off before starting a program, by the time I graduate, I will be in my thirties. Being a student is hard, especially when you are one of the older students in your class. From my experience, there are two areas of my life that are most affected by being a student at my age.

First among them is financial. It is a terrible feeling to graduate after four year and realize most or all of your first paycheck will go towards your loans. During orientation week I was told “live like a student now, so you can live like a doctor later.” While I understand this advice was meant to provide hope for a bright future, I just don’t think it is true. After living like a student for four years, we will required to live like a resident for another year at the absolute minimum. I truly hope the luxurious lifestyle comes sooner than later, because at the present moment, living requires making deep sacrifices. I look forward to the days I don’t have to get excited about free food, or buy something nice and not have to feel guilty about it.

The second drawback about being in school in your thirties is putting a halt on important relationship milestones. Long distance relationships are extremely difficult. It’s emotionally draining to not be able to not come home to your significant other everyday. Managing schedules and deciding when to travel and visit each other isn’t easy, either. One of the hardest aspects of being in a relationship is watching friends and others your age move forward with life – move in together, get engaged, get married, have children. While there is no right time and every relationship is different, it feels like I am watching my life go by and waiting for graduation day.

My mother says these are small sacrifices for a big reward.

It’s worth it, they say. And I sure hope they are right.

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Sonal Kumar

Sonal Kumar is passionate about combining science and storytelling. She has vast experiences outside of healthcare including marketing and advertising, print and broadcast journalism, including TV/radio production. Sonal is an alumna of Columbia University. She tweets @sonalkumar2011.