Advice for Non-traditional Medical School Applicants

If you spent an extra year in college or have some other gaps in your study years, we believe that Medical schools do not typically view extended time spent in your undergraduate academics negatively.

Here are our expert tips for navigating med school admissions as a non-traditional applicant.

  1. Show Off Your Unique Skills
    As a nontraditional applicant, you have unique experiences and skills. These will help you differentiate yourself from other applicants and can be an important strength. Your job is to prove that your choice to attend medical school is a thoroughly considered one. Even if your resume is impressive in other areas, you should add some medical-related volunteer work to show that you're committed to medicine and understand what practicing it is really like. Look into volunteer programs at health clinics, or find a part-time position as an EMT or nurse's aid.
  2. Make Time for MCAT Prep
    A competitive MCAT score is important for all applicants but may be especially so for non-traditional ones. The benefit of the MCAT is that it is standardized, supposedly allowing admissions committees to compare the aptitude of people with different backgrounds. Take an MCAT practice test to gauge your strengths and weaknesses before choosing the right MCAT prep option for you.

If you need to re-take MCAT, it is okay. Like reapplying to medical school, retaking the MCAT does not inherently look bad. That said, you should strive to take the MCAT as few times as possible. For that reason, each time that you retake the MCAT, you should study diligently in order to meaningfully raise your score, which will demonstrate your commitment to becoming a physician and your determination to improve your application profile. If you’re able to show an appreciable score jump from one test to the next, the majority of medical schools won’t see having retaken the MCAT as an issue.

The following are proven study tips and preparation strategies for improving performance on the MCAT.

-Start early.

Begin your actual test preparation a 2 to 6 months prior to the test. Six months before test day take an initial diagnostic practice exam to see where you're at.

-Do practice problems.

The best way to enhance your critical thinking ability, as it relates to MCAT performance, is to do practice problems. There are various resources, both on and off line. Complete practice tests. The MCAT is 6 hours and 15 minutes – one of the longest and most rigorous graduate entrance exams. Completing several practice tests prior to test day will not only improve your critical thinking skills, it will also help you build the mental stamina required to maintain your focus throughout the exam. Don't just focus on your strengths. Use practice tests to help you identify where your strengths and weaknesses are. Then use this information to develop your study plan. The most effective plan will help you further develop your strengths and improve in your weaker areas.

-Don't overload yourself.

If you can plan ahead so that you can manage a lighter academic load during this period it will give you more time and mental ability to focus on MCAT preparation.

-Get expert advice.

Seek advice from people who've obtained a high score on the MCAT. Find out what study materials they utilized during their preparation and what preparation strategies they recommend. You may even want to consider enrolling in an MCAT preparatory course.