Mechanic to Med School, How Do I Start?

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OPM 301: Mechanic to Med School, How Do I Start?

Session 301

Today’s nontrad is a mechanic premed who lives in a rural area and needs help getting up to date. Let’s help this student!

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[10:30] The MCAT Minute

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We are in the heat of the MCAT season. If you are applying to medical school in 2022 to start in 2023, one of the many questions I get about MCAT is when is it too late to take it. My date is the end of June. You can take it later but you’re going to be pushing back when medical schools will review your application. This may hinder your ability to get an interview because of the rolling admissions.

And so, ideally, you want to take the MCAT in June but you have to make sure that you’re going to take it when you’re ready.

Check out Blueprint MCAT and use their amazing Study Planner Tool to figure out when is the best time for you to take the MCAT based on your specific needs.

[03:26] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I started on the premed path traditionally, but when my daughter was born very sick right after graduation I needed to focus on her. So now, a lot of time has passed. 

I’m now 31 and looking at getting back on the path. I walked in graduation in 2012 at 21 years old, but my entire last semester, I was pregnant and in and out of the hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum. My grades suffered – I didn’t know at the time that I could take an LOA. 

That summer, my school reached out and told me someone mis-audited my transcript and that I actually needed two more classes for graduation. 

Family Challenges

Then in October, my daughter was born with FPIES and mitochondrial disease and she was in the hospital more than she was out for the first year of her life. 

I finished my degree in 2014, and I’m still paying off my Perkins loan right now. They won’t let me see my transcript yet but I’d estimate my GPA is only about a 3.3 and my science GPA is only about a 3.0. 


In college, I worked as a TA, as a lab assistant, and in an animal caretaking lab. I did some independent research (not published, just presented at a symposium) and some group research (published but no authorship). I worked in a chronic pain clinic for a summer in 2011.

A brief overview of life since getting my degree:

I worked in an inpatient unit for a little over a year in 2012-2013. I went back to school to finish those two dang classes. Then I had my second child, and my daughter’s needs continued. I shadowed a primary care physician for about 40 hours. 

I’ve served on the board of a foster youth nonprofit for six years, volunteered with that nonprofit as a development manager (securing grants, etc). 

Right now I spend most of my time volunteering as a mechanic for another nonprofit, diagnosing and repairing cars for free for veterans and the homeless.

Medical Foster Mom & Other Activities

I’ve been a medical foster mom for almost 7 years. I’m just above conversational in Spanish, and – due to medical fostering – I’m very familiar with medical Spanish. I’m studying ASL right now but I know basic conversational signs due to having nonverbal kids over the years. I’ve adopted three more children and am in the middle of an adult adoption for our oldest, so six kids altogether. 

I currently serve as a mentor for new medical foster parents. I’m teaching them how to navigate insurance and support devices (feeding tubes, cardiac/bladder stimulant devices, trachs, ostomies, etc). Also, I teach them how to coordinate care between multiple specialists, etc. 

For a year just before the pandemic, I worked as an office manager for private medical practices, including submitting and appealing insurance prior auths. But when I suddenly had four kids to homeschool, I had to let my contacts lapse without renewal.

I have over 60 hours in TBRI training (for interacting respectfully and successfully with individuals who have experienced profound trauma). I taught math and science for 3 years to grades 1-12.

Having a Son Diagnosed with AML

Last February, my son was diagnosed with AML. Ironically, pediatric oncology was the specialty I originally wanted to pursue. He’s doing great now! I thought the physician career door was closed when my daughter was born and I couldn’t go to med school right away. 

But now it’s wide open since I spent 6 months living in the hospital during chemo, talking with all the students and residents and realizing that many of them were nontraditional too! 

So I’m busting through that door with all the mama-bear energy of someone who’s watched their child go through hell and live to tell the tale.

Since most of my clinical experience is either a decade old or experience as a caretaker (albeit as a caretaker to many children with a plethora of diagnoses and interventions… The good news is that I have several physicians who will write glowing letters of recommendation for me!), I know I need to fix that. I also need a post-bacc, probably. What are some things I can do as someone who currently lives in a very rural place to bring my efforts up to date?”

[07:32] The Next Steps

The question really is what you need to do to get into medical school.

“At the end of the day, the goal of getting into medical school is, first and foremost, prove you’re academically capable.”Click To Tweet

It’s an atrocious process to have all those loans and so you have to figure that out next. The next step is maybe taking a postbac to show that you are academically capable right now, of doing well in medical school.

Also, look into that semester where you got pregnant and you could have taken a leave of absence (LOA). See if you can apply for a late or retroactive withdrawal. 

So you would have to call your registrar’s office to ask if they have a process for requesting a later withdrawal from the classes you took. Simply explain your story. I’ve seen many students who have done this in the past and it can be done.

Ultimately, you need a postbac to prove your academic capability. And this may take one or two years of classes. And if you’re in a rural area where you don’t have a lot of access to schools, you may need to do it online. It may hurt you a bit. But a lot of schools have lifted those restrictions due to COVID. Some students are doing a hybrid. This depends on the medical schools’ specific processes.

[10:16] How Many Credit Hours Do You Need?

You may probably need 30-40 credits or a little bit more depending on your situation. This is not to get to a specific number for your cumulative GPA. But it’s to get your 30-40 credits as close to a 4.0 as possible.

“The final number matters less especially if you struggle early on.”Click To Tweet

[10:40] Clinical Experience and Shadowing

Ultimately, apart from postbac, you need clinical experience. You need to put yourself around patients.

“You have lots of clinical experience being a caretaker, but that shouldn’t be your only clinical experience.”Click To Tweet

Obviously, due to your situation, that’s going to be the majority of your clinical experience. But taking care of your own kids is very different from taking care of someone else’s kids.

You need to go out and take care of other people to make sure you like it, and not just take care of people under your roof.

At the end of the day, you just happen to be in a different stage in your life. But you’ve ended back up in a spot where you need to do exactly like everyone else.

The difference you have as a nontrad is you have a lot more story to tell in your personal statement, your activities, your secondaries, and your interviews. That is where being a nontrad separates you.


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