How do you get into medical school without a traditional major?
Medical schools accept applicants with a wide range of backgrounds and talents, meaning that you don’t necessarily need a medical background to kickstart your medical career.
If you want to know how to get into med school, how hard is med school and more, read this article to get the answers to all your queries.
Who is considered a non-traditional medical school applicant?
If you decide to switch career paths and pursue medical school much later in life, you might be wondering if medical schools will accept you as a proper candidate.
The answer is yes, your application will simply fall into the category of non-traditional applicants.
Many medical schools also make notice on their website of their openness to non-traditional candidates to encourage people with different areas of expertise to study medicine.
How can I get accepted as a non-traditional applicant?
- Exceptional MCAT score: A competitive MCAT score is important for every medical school applicant but even more so for non-traditional ones. Colleges are continuously updating their curriculums and even grading scale requirements too. Here, your GPA may not be comparable to that of a recent graduate but the grades in your post-baccalaureate courses are still going to be important. At this point, the MCAT becomes very important as it is a standardized test and is therefore helpful in comparing the aptitudes of different applicants from different backgrounds.
- Medicine related co-curricular or work shadowing experience: Research what volunteer programs are available at your local health clinics, and get work experience in a hospital or work as an EMT part-time in a healthcare clinic. Though most schools value non-traditional students in their classrooms, medical school admission committees look more closely at applicants who are embarking on a second or third career. Try to address this concern by sharing your experiences from previous jobs.
What to know about applying to medical school as a non-traditional applicant?
Medical schools are always looking for adding diversity to their classrooms. Many students take a year off from academia, switch careers or spend an extra year in the university before applying to med school. What matters is your commitment to work in order to become a doctor.
Tips for Non-Traditional Med Applicants
Post–Bac Training will strengthen your admission
Every medical school requires a minimum level of science education, preferably the basic sciences like biology, chemistry and physics. Many universities offer post-baccalaureate programs to help students pursue a career in medicine by helping them fulfil their pre-medical requirements and getting into medical school.
With this, even though you have not got the qualifications for med school, your basic sciences education will significantly boost your resume.
If you've already gained your post-bac, consider taking a refresher course in any of the subjects to strengthen your application.
Highlight your unique skills and experiences
As a non-traditional medical school applicant, you will have unique skills and qualities throughout your different life experiences. All these things can be very important while applying in med school to make your application stand out.
Your resume may be impressive, but it’s important to include volunteer experience related to the field of medicine. This is going to highlight your commitment to becoming a medical professional and showing that you understand what it is like to be a doctor and what is expected of you every day.
Try to explain the reasons why you want to pursue medicine as a life career too.
Great letters of recommendation
Letters of recommendations could be helpful for non-traditional students as well. However, your post-bac recommendations should not be a replacement for faculty recommendation letters from your undergraduate years.
Looking for an esteemed medical school? Check out Saba University School of Medicine, located on the island of Saba in the Caribbean. Saba teaches the systems-based curriculum in small classrooms that facilitate one-on-one interaction with professors. The Saba faculty are highly experienced, with either an M.D. or a doctorate degree.
Saba boasts a 99% first-time USMLE Step 1 pass rate and 94% of Saba graduates have successfully secured residencies in hospitals across the United States and Canada (2019-2021). Know more about the MD program at Saba University School of Medicine.
If it’s been a while since you graduated, try to get in touch with one of your potential recommenders. Explain your reasons for changing career paths and your medical school goals. Many medical schools even accept letters from your place of employment.
Remember that medical school admission committees want to see creative, resilient and talented individuals from diverse backgrounds. As such, recommendation letters are going to act in your favor to highlight all your capabilities and why you should be considered a good candidate to become a doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do med schools prefer traditional students over non-traditional students?
No, medical schools today have a very holistic approach towards the admission process. Many schools today accept students from different backgrounds and expertise to increase the diversity in the medical field. Some schools even explicitly invite applications from students of different backgrounds on their application pages.
Are medical schools encouraging to non-traditional students?
Medical schools are very encouraging to their students, regardless of their field or how long of a study break they’ve taken.
When do I need to retake the MCAT exam? What is a good score for MCAT?
You should retake the MCAT test only if your score is below the average score needed to apply to medical school. An acceptable MCAT score is one that places you above the average percentile. Typically, the higher the MCAT score, the better are your chances.
Is MCAT more important than GPA for non-traditional students?
Yes, MCAT is even more important than good GPA scores for non-traditional students. MCAT is a standardized exam and good results in the same will prove highly beneficial.
Start preparing for your medical school application today and prepare to kickstart your medical career.