Too young to get into medical school?
How applicants often become discombobulated during the admissions interview
Q: You have a great website. It answered lots of my questions, except for the following one. I will explain my situation first and then the question. I am going to be a high school junior in '05-'06 and am taking the Post Secondary Enrollment Opportunity (PSEO). PSEO is a program that lets high school juniors and seniors take college classes either full-time or part-time at a college. So I am going to be taking PSEO for my junior and senior years. I will graduate high school at the age of 17 and will graduate college at the age of 19. I hope to start med school at the age of 19 right after college. So my question is, DO YOU THINK THAT I WILL STAND A CHANCE TO GET INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL OR WILL I BE TOO YOUNG AND BE REJECTED? I will have all the med school requirements done when I apply. So, do you think they will let me in or reject me for my age, even if I get good grades, scores, have good reference letters, and have extra-curricular activities?
Answer by Kevin Pezzi, MD: Most (perhaps all) US states stipulate that physicians be at least 21 years of age, so US medical schools typically do not reject young applicants unless their current age is such that they could potentially graduate from medical school before they're 21. However, medical schools can and do reject applicants of any age if the Admissions Committee has doubts about the applicant's level of maturity. When an unusually young person applies to medical school, their level of maturity is bound to be given extra scrutiny. Hence, maturity — and not age per se — may be a stumbling block for some applicants. However, the assessment of maturity is very subjective. You likely will not have any problems if you:
- Appear to be avidly interested in medicine and learning in general.
- Are cognizant of the fact that becoming a physician will require a substantial sacrifice on your part (what should have been some of the best years of your life will be spent cloistered in medical schools and hospitals).
- Seem to genuinely care about helping people IN THE ROLE OF A PHYSICIAN.
Incidentally, this latter point is one of the most common ways in which applicants of any age become discombobulated during the admissions interview. Here is an example of what happens to too many applicants who have not adequately prepared for the interview:
ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE MEMBER (ACM): Why do you want to be a doctor?
APPLICANT: Because I want to help people.
ACM: You can help people by becoming a nurse or aide. Why do you want to be a doctor?
There is one supremely obvious answer to this question. I won't give it to you, but I will give you a hint: What is the principal role that differentiates physician activities vis-à-vis nurse or aide duties? Think of this answer in advance. By the way, do not make your interviewer ask the question twice. The first time it is posed, give a concise but comprehensive reply. By doing this, you will seem more contemplative, intelligent, and mature.
Congratulations on accelerating your education!