Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Non-Traditional Student

Typically a non-traditional medical student is one who did not enter into medical school directly from college. I am a non-traditional student in this aspect, but there are other aspects that make me non-traditional as well. Another is that I am also a single mother and I have been working ever since I graduated. I also consider myself to be non-traditional because I do not have the typical stats of accepted applicants.

I graduated from my state university in December 2009, and starting working full-time in research a few months after that. Fast-forward to almost four years later, and I am still working full-time at the same institution. My research is somewhat medically-related though, so I haven’t been completely out of the loop.

I first applied to medical school in 2008 and was rejected. After graduating and having one year of research under my belt, I applied again and got the same results. I knew that my GPA was a huge factor in my rejections, and Sallie Mae was killing me so I decided to enter into graduate school. This was not easy due to the fact that I had a GPA below a 3.0 and I also needed to work full-time to support my child. I researched possible online programs, and I was able to find an actual brick and mortar institution that offered graduate degrees that could be taken completely online. Although I did not meet their minimum requirements for matriculation, they allowed me to take two courses under a probationary status. When I aced the courses, I was then able to officially matriculate into the program. It has been extremely hard, but so worth it and I am glad that I am officially done. I can now say that I have a masters degree, and an excellent GPA to go along with it. I will go more into online classes and how medical school perceives them in a later post.

Being a single parent makes me non-traditional because unlike other students, I will not only have myself to worry about once in medical school. As an undergrad, I worked two jobs and attended school full-time in addition to being a single parent, and I believe it really impacted my grades in a negative fashion. Right now, I am in the process of setting up a massive support system because I refuse to encounter the same obstacles once I’m in medical school. Of course, I will have more posts on being a single parent and having to master the art of multi-tasking, but I will also save that for later.

The funny thing is that even though I am a non-traditional student, I think it will actually help me out in the long-run. I know what it is like to have to juggle finances, school, a child, and everything else that comes in-between. I have also had a few years to really take the time to enjoy life and have fun from time to time. I know without a doubt that medicine is something that I want to pursue because I have pursued other things and something about it has always called me back. In a way, I see the past four years as being a mini-vacation. I have awesome memories to look back on, and I’m ready to pursue the next chapter of my life. They say your 20’s are your best years, so I guess I’m kind of glad that I had the chance to experience many of the things that my traditional counterparts haven’t. Plus, I get to enter into medical school with a little more age and wisdom. Who knows, it might just come in handy ;-)   


  1. Hi!! Your stories are extremely inspirational and finding your blog is a God sent blessing. I too am a non- trad and have completed a masters to make myself more competitive. However, I didn't excel and worry that I may have caused more harm than good as an applicant. Because of health reasons I struggled a bit and it is evident during the second and third semesters of the five semesters that it took to complete my program. Do you think there is any light at the end of my tunnel. I have tons of EC's, research and publications, and work experience. Any advice is welcome

    1. Hi Elle, there is always light at the end of the tunnel! Did you have a strong upward trend during the final two semesters of the program? That may help a bit, but without knowing your stats it's hard to tell. I think the best thing to do would be to contact the individual schools that you are interested in applying to and get their advice on how you should proceed. They could tell you where they think your weaknesses lie and the best course of action that you should take. Best of luck to you!

    2. That's wonderful advice!! I've been fearful of reaching out to med schools without having taken the mcat first. But yes I do have a decent upward trend. I received a 3.8 in each of the last two semesters of 6000 level courses. Thank you so much for being uplifting!! I wish you the best of luck in med school!!

  2. Hi Ellie,
    I am on the same boat as you were once. I am want to go to medical school but my grades have taken a toll due to life circumstances. I am undecided about going back to school to start on a Master's degree or go to Mexico. I want to know how was your masters' program experience and what master's degree did you pursued? I wish the best of luck too. Thanks! R.


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