Are you a nontraditional medical school applicant? If you’re not fresh out of college, or have a more distinctive background, then the answer is yes, but don’t despair – a medical education and career can still be in your future!
Here’s some advice for you from the experts:
• Consultant Dr. Barry S. Rothman, PhD advises that you can use your life experiences to your advantage when applying. “Even work like managing a pizza joint or bartending provides valuable leadership and customer service experience.”
• “Medical schools love nontraditional applicants because they bring life experience,” says Consultant Alicia McNease Nimonkar. She recommends highlighting all of the special training and professional experience you’ve acquired.
• Consultant Dr. Herman “Flash” Gordon, a teacher of nontraditional students in a pre-admission pathway to a med school program, sees two keys to nontraditional students’ success: their drive, and eagerness to engage with new opportunities.
• According to Consultant Jessica Pishko, who changed her own profession, “The key is to show why medicine is right for you, not why you dislike your prior career.” Don’t feel defensive about your background or the change you’re making, she explains, but “use your story to show an evolution.”
• According to Alicia and Consultant Cydney Foote, these three steps will help you write your nontraditional med school app personal statement:
1. Look at the app as a whole.
Your personal statement should offer a glimpse of your past, it shouldn’t tell your whole life story. Use your personal statement to catch the attention of the adcom so you’ll be invited to submit a secondary application or to participate in an interview. In the secondary app and interview, you will be able to provide detail that you didn’t have room for in the primary application.
2. Anticipate questions about weaknesses.
The best essays, especially for the primary application, anticipate the concerns the selection committee may have specifically about YOU. Therefore, it’s these concerns that you should address constructively in your primary application. Doing so will enable you to be strategic in talking about any weaknesses.
3. Answer the question, “What would make you a great doctor?” instead of “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
Answering the former question will allow you to give concrete examples, highlighting your experiences and showing the things that have confirmed your choice for you. Including these attributes and strengths will help the adcom to see your real potential and the qualities that will lead to your success in medical school and beyond. Show how the skills you already have are valuable in medicine and how they will contribute to your excellence as a physician.
Embrace your past and use it to your advantage. You’ll be wearing your white coat before you know it.