Tales of the non-traditional

Joshua Tompkins writes about his experience as a nontraditional medical student in last week's Chronicle of Higher Education.

Getting into medical school no longer requires being 23 and having a B.S. in biochemistry. Admissions committees, eager to create more well-rounded doctors, have eased their famously strict criteria to welcome not just art-history majors but also older applicants who've been out in the world for a decade or more. At the more eclectic schools, these "nontraditional" candidates can even leapfrog science prodigies on the wait list by touting their unique skill sets: The art historians might claim a knack for reading MRI's (seriously), while the late bloomers offer maturity and savoir-faire.

I entered medical school two years ago, at age 38. I'm a veteran science journalist, and though writing is a fulfilling profession, writing about science has a way of making you want to take part in your subject (while continuing to write about it). And because my father and his sister were physicians, the urge to hang with sick people is in my DNA. I stifled my medical impulses for years, longing to be a psychiatrist yet convinced that I was too old to begin the process, until an encounter with an inspiring emergency-room doctor persuaded me to sign up.

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