Friendliest Medical Schools for Non-Traditional Students

Padya Paramita

Friendliest Medical Schools for Non-Traditional Students

Whether you’ve taken a few years off between college and applying to medical school or you’ve decided once you’ve settled into another career that you wish to be a physician instead, being a non-traditional medical school applicant is far from an easy place to be. You have to figure out how to best prepare your application, whether medicine really is for you in the first place, and of course, which programs may support you best given your circumstances. In order to help guide you through this journey, we’ve prepared a list of the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students as you prepare your school list and hope for a medical education that helps you become the best physician possible.

Who is a Non-Traditional Medical School Applicant?

Before we dive into the list of the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students, you need to familiarize yourself with the term itself. The University of Michigan Medical School, on the other hand, defines them as “career changers, non-science majors, post-bac graduates, military veterans, and Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteers.” As taking 1-2 years off before medical school has become more and more common, non-traditional applicants generally fall under the following categories:  

  • Older applicants - The average age of medical school students is 24. If you’re in your late 20s or early 30s, you qualify as a non-traditional medical school applicant. Even if you had always been interested in medicine, you might have taken more than a couple of years off to travel or try out other careers. Your job may have be connected to medicine. For example, you could have worked at a research lab for over six years. Since you’ll have more in-depth experience than other candidates in the pool, you’ll still count as non-traditional. 
  • Recent Graduates Who Weren’t Pre-Med - You might still be a year or two out of college but have only recently made up your mind to attend medical school. Your experiences could include a journalism degree and a job at a newspaper, or an economics degree and experience working at an investment bank. Either way, you don’t have pre-med experience under your belt. In such cases, you are a non-traditional applicant.
  • Career Changers - Another kind of non-traditional applicant is someone who is far older and more established in their career in a non-medical profession, such as a chef or a fashion designer. You might have had a sudden revelation that you’re actually not as invested in your current profession and instead want to be a physician. Unsurprisingly, you are not a typical candidate that medical school admissions committee members come across every day!


Friendliest Medical Schools for Non-Traditional Students

Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

One of the most competitive MD programs in the world, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine boasts that 14 percent of the class of 2024 had an undergraduate major that wasn’t a science. The school’s website states, “Beyond the successful fulfillment of these basic prerequisites, the Committee on Admission considers the overall quality and scope of an applicant’s undergraduate educational experience. The field of concentration for undergraduate studies and the selection of additional science and mathematics courses are the student’s personal choice and will not affect the admission process.” They evaluate candidates on the following criteria:

  • Academic Excellence
  • Leadership
  • Service, compassion, and humanism
  • Diversity
  • Ability to work in a team (or as part of a team)

Non-traditional students have had plenty of opportunities to succeed in these areas no matter which field they come from. In other words, the background you have does not determine your fit for their institution. As long as you have completed the prerequisites, your application will be considered—and holistically too, making JHU one of the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students.

Harvard Medical School

Harvard Medical School says it “welcomes applications from nontraditional students, such as those who have an established career, have a partner, spouse, or family, or have been out of school for two years or longer.” On top of this, 30 percent of HMS’ class of 2024 are non-science majors and the ages represented range from 20 to 34.  The school also states that “No preference is given to applicants who have majored in science over those who have majored in other disciplines. Students can be successful in their medical studies regardless of undergraduate concentration, providing they have had adequate science preparation. Students are urged to strive not for specialized training but for a balanced, liberal education.” It is clear from all of this info that despite its competitiveness, Harvard is also one of the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students. 

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Case Western comes up numerous times when people discuss the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students. The program website mentions, “Although strong academic credentials are important in the admissions process, equally as important are interpersonal skills, exposure to medicine, well-roundedness and qualities such as professionalism, empathy and leadership ability.” They want to make sure you have the personal traits it takes to succeed as a physician, as well as a passion for the medical field. If you’re a non-traditional applicant who hasn’t taken math or stats in college, fear not—Case Western’s pre-med requisites also don’t have a math requirement!

Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami

The University of Miami is very welcoming to applicants of all ages and backgrounds. The school mentions, “It has been a long-standing policy of the School of Medicine to admit students with diverse backgrounds. Therefore, qualified non-traditional students, women, socio-economically disadvantaged students, and minorities underrepresented in medicine, are especially encouraged to apply.” You can also use AP credits to satisfy requirements for English, behavioral science, biology, physics, and inorganic chemistry. If you scored well in any of these AP exams back in your high school days, you’re in luck!

George Washington University Medical School

GW’s entering class in 2020 pursued careers in the military and teaching, as well as founded organizations and non-profits—therefore entering from a range of backgrounds besides directly out of college or involvement in scientific fields. The school explicitly adds that they look for students of diverse backgrounds and welcome all types of candidates. The website includes the sentence, “In order to develop a diverse class of students they also look closely at geography, colleges attended, majors and minors, graduate coursework, ethnicity, race, non-traditional experiences, and unusual interests or hobbies.” Psychology was the second most popular major among its first-year students!

Albany Medical College

The language surrounding Albany’s MD program is nothing but extremely welcoming to applicants from all backgrounds. The school mentions, “Medical students are likely to find that a broad-based education best prepares them for the ever-changing demands of today's practice environment. Consequently, in preparing for the study of medicine, premedical students are advised to choose a balanced program particularly one that develops their own special talents and interests.” They also add that students are absolutely not required to major in STEM. The college has a long history of admitting candidates from a wide age range and a variety of educational experiences, making it one of the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students.

University of Toledo Medical Center

Toledo’s admissions requirements are quite non-traditional student-friendly. The letters of recommendation requirement, for example, has specifications addressed to students who have been out of school for a while, stating, “If you are not a recent college graduate, three (3) letters of recommendation are required and can be obtained from faculty from your former college/university or from someone who is familiar with your activities since leaving college such as a job supervisor or volunteer director.” The age range of their first class last year was 21-37 and they even have a student organization just for non-traditional students!

Don’t Forget to Consider DO Schools

Osteopathic schools can also be a great option for those looking for the friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students. DO covers more of the holistic care of the body, looking at the patient as an individual rather than their organs. DO programs are generally easier to get into than MD programs. If your MCAT score is in the lower 500s, DO schools might be a good option for you. Kirksville College Of Osteopathic Medicine even has a Still Scholars program which gives students the chance to matriculate into their medicine program without having to take the MCAT. Plus, the average age at DO schools is 27!

At the end of the day, because the admissions process is so holistic, almost all medical schools in some way or the other welcome non-traditional applicants. What is important is that you pay attention to the prerequisite requirement and highlight exactly why you would thrive as a future physician. Use our list of friendliest medical schools for non-traditional students to start your initial search, but don’t forget to look up other schools as well, especially because every circumstance is unique. Good luck!


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