Updated: Jan 12, 2020
You've graduated college and now you're a non-traditional pre-med student. All you can hear is "tick tick tick"! All that ticking is in your head, and it represents your age, gap years, and time you might have wasted before this point.
Should I do a post-bac or a special Masters program? Should I go full-time or part-time? Should I drop the class or risk failing? Is retaking the MCAT the right move? Should I apply to medical school this year or wait until next year? If you've ever asked yourself these questions and more, then you are not alone. We learn in physics class that distance over time with direction equals velocity. What's the fastest way to get into medical school? It depends on the decisions you make!
Are your decisions helping or hindering your goal of getting into medical school? There's no one right answer for everyone. It's tough to know as you're going through the process if you're doing the right thing or not. Here is what can you do to get yourself into gear!
7 tips to put you in the right direction
Admit when you don't know something. Applying to medical school is not the most intuitive process. Most people don't know what it takes to get into medical school as a traditional pre-med, let alone a non-traditional pre-med. If you know you need to become a more competitive applicant, but don't know where to start, the first step is admitting that you don't know where to start. Why waste time flailing and potentially setting yourself back a few years?
Put pride aside and ask for help. One of the biggest mistakes I made as a pre-med was waiting too long to ask for help. I thought I could just do it on my own after someone discouraged me. It was foolish pride that resulted in my having FOUR GAP YEARS! Your goal is to get into medical school, not to prove a point to all your naysayers. So, stop wasting time being proud and ask for help!
Get a mentor. This was one of the best things I could have done for myself. Having a mentor was life changing and definitely helped me make decisions that put me on the right path. Remember that being a mentorable pre-med is just as important in your success.
Talk to your pre-med advisor IF you have one. Non-traditional pre-meds don't always have access to a pre-med advisor once they graduate from undergrad. It's always worth a try to see if your undergrad institution's pre-med advisor is still willing to advise you. So, give him/her a call. If you are in a post-bac or special Masters program, then you should take advantage of this resource that your other non-trad counterparts only wish they had. Use your time wisely!
Talk to a doctor or a medical student. Many doctors and medical students are willing to impart some knowledge and share their stories of how they overcame challenges of getting into medical school. They can tell you how to avoid pitfalls and unnecessary detours along the way.
Join an organization. A great way to get support is to join a pre-med organization. Whether it be a campus club or a national organization, there's something comforting about knowing other people who are in the same boat as you trying to reach the same goal. Many of these organizations have resources that can help you get closer to medical school.
Consider a pre-med coach. A good pre-med coach can help put you in the right direction. Two running themes among the pre-meds in my coaching program are 1) not knowing all of their options and 2) not knowing what to prioritize during the journey to medical school. If they don't get into a specific post-bac or special Masters program, we discuss other options. If they've previously been rejected from medical school, we focus on strategic next steps. If they are concerned that they have, yet, to fulfill academic and extracurricular activity requirements, we make a plan for the best sequence in which to get them done. Investing in a pre-med coach may be what you need to help you get to your destination in the shortest amount of time.
For more strategies on increasing your chances of getting into medical school, pick up this FREE strategy cheatsheet: 5 Strategies you're currently NOT using to get into medical school!