Students who take the traditional path to medical school send in applications at the end of their junior year and enter medical school the fall after graduating from college. However, this traditional path is becoming less traditional. Swarthmore's pre-medical advising department reports that the average matriculant to medical school is now 24 and has taken a few years off between college and medical school. Regardless of age, you can succeed in this process if you meet admissions requirements.
Find transcripts from all of the colleges and universities that you attended. Medical schools require that you send a copy of your transcript from any college that you attended, even if you just took college classes in high school. Start looking early, because transcripts become progressively more difficult to find as time passes.
Calculate your AMCAS GPA using the downloadable calculator in the Resources section of this article. AMCAS, or the American Medical College Application Service, has a standard method for calculating GPA to equalize school-specific GPA variations. The average GPA for accepted applicants is usually a strong B+ average around 3.7. If yours is significantly below that, you should take additional undergraduate courses to boost your GPA.
Make sure that you have taken all of the prerequisite courses necessary for medical school. Almost every medical school will require two semesters of biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as some humanities courses. You can check with individual schools to see if they have additional requirements. If you have not taken these classes, you will need to complete them.
Begin studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT has four sections: Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Writing. You should aim for a score of 30 if you want to be a serious contender for a medical school slot. You can take review courses offered by test prep companies or study by yourself out of textbooks.
Get clinical experience in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private practice. Admissions committees will ask you why you want to be a doctor. You need to have specific examples from your experience in clinical settings in your answer.
Write your personal statement explaining why you want to be a doctor. As a nontraditional applicant with about a decade of work experience, you should be able to clearly articulate your reasons for a major career change and your desire to become a physician. You will be expected to show significantly more maturity and empathy than a 21-year-old straight out of college.
Develop your AMCAS activities list, which gives you 15 slots to describe work experience, extracurricular activities, awards, community service, clinical experience, and leadership activities. Make sure that you choose the activities that present you in the best possible light and talk about them with passion.
Submit your application and interview at as many places as you need to in order to gain an acceptance. Once you get in, you're set to become a doctor and will graduate in four years with an "M.D." behind your name.
- doctor cricket image by Keith Frith from Fotolia.com