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How to Become a Doctor at 50

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A traditional medical student usually goes straight into medical school after a four-year undergraduate degree, and is commonly in his early to mid-twenties. As the average length of medical training can be upwards of 10 years, even this student will not be in full practice until his thirties. However, it is possible to think of launching into medical training as a second or even third career. If you are contemplating beginning medical training at 50, you will have many more complications and difficulties to consider than a younger student.

List the reasons why you want to become a doctor. This will help you to determine whether it is really the right decision for you. You are about to embark on an extremely challenging path, and you should be certain about your motivation and your determination.

Talk to your family--your spouse, and your kids if they are still at home. This is a step that will require maximum support from them, as well as significant sacrifice, as there will be times during your training that you will be absent for long periods. Determine whether they are really on board for the challenge you are about to take on.

Investigate financial aid, and create a financial plan. Especially if you have dependents, it’s crucial that you think through exactly how you will both fund medical school and how you will support your loved ones during the training process. If you are accepted to medical school you will receive help in securing loans. There are many possibilities for at least partial loan forgiveness for doctors once they're in practice.

Review your qualifications, and if necessary, apply for extra courses. If you have an unrelated bachelor’s degree, you will have to take pre-med courses before applying to medical school. This process could take up to two years. You should seek guidance from the medical schools you intend to apply to about their specific admission requirements.

Gain an understanding of the clinical medicine setting. The easiest way to do this is to volunteer at your local hospital. Ask for a position with maximum patient contact. This will accomplish two things. It will give you more information as to whether this is really the right career for you. It will also stand you in good stead during the admissions process for medical school. Although medical schools are not legally allowed to discriminate on the basis of age, you will likely encounter skepticism about your application. The more you can demonstrate your awareness and commitment, the better position you will be in to argue your case.

Prepare to be challenged about your age during the admissions process. Talk yourself through how you will answer awkward questions about your age and your decision to take on medical training late in life. You should be prepared to demonstrate that the responsibilities of an older person will not interfere with your studies, and that you have the drive and energy to succeed.

Prepare for and sit the MCAT, the standard exam used by medical schools in assessing applicants. You would be well advised to take a formal MCAT preparation course ahead of the exam. You should sit the exam in the spring of the year before you anticipate entering medical school, and have your MCAT score available when you apply for schools in the summer. In order to be seriously considered by most medical schools you will need a score of at least 30 on your MCAT and a grade-point average of more than 3.6.

Gather letters of recommendation. Some of these should be from professors from whom you have taken science courses; others could be from current or former employers.

Write a personal statement. This is an essay on yourself and your aspirations to become a doctor, and is a requirement for medical school applicants. In your personal statement you can turn your age into an advantage, outlining your stability, wisdom and experience.

Apply to medical schools. You should do this through the American Medical College Application Service. It’s advisable to apply to a wide range of schools as you have a lower chance of acceptance than a younger applicant.

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