While my age has been posted on this blog ever since it began over a year and a half ago, only recently have some commenters drawn attention to my age:
"Blogger, one question for you. How on earth did u get in to med school at 21? What was your life style like from high school through undergrad? " - anonymous
"I have never understood why medical schools have twenty year olds learning medicine. They have gone from high school to undergraduate to medical school and have absolutely no life experience. Of primary importance are the marks of the applicants; all else is secondary." - fossildocBefore I begin I'd like to thank the many, many people who brighten my day every time they post a comment on this blog. Even if you don't agree with me (or my medical school's decision to accept me, perhaps, in an indirect sort of way?)...no offense taken. Keep 'em coming!!
It's interesting hearing this perspective when, first of all, I am by no means the youngest person in my class. Most medical schools publish statistics of their admissions class, which show that the average age is usually in the mid-twenties but the youngest person is often 20 years old on admission (and sometimes younger).
This is by no means the extreme, however. In some schools in Quebec, students are admitted to a five-year med program after only being out of high school for two years. And in the United Kingdom, students are admitted to a six-year med program straight out of high school.
Secondly, I sincerely agree with the fact that life experience is important. Personally, I took a year off and worked in a completely unrelated field and travelled between my undergrad degree and the start of medical school. I gained so much perspective in this year.
And not only is this my personal opinion, but many med school admissions committees would agree. If a spot comes down to two applicants who are equal on paper in terms of their academic qualifications, the applicant with more life experience will always be the one finding the thick envelope in their mailbox.
While fossildoc may have been right twenty years ago, and many schools retain a minimum mark cut-off, today it's no longer true that med schools admit students based primarily on their marks.
And as a result, the amount of life experience in my class alone means the people in my class are all fascinating and there are so many whom I admire for various incredible reasons.
In addition to life experience though, medical adcoms look for something even more important: maturity. Maturity is an important factor in medical students and indeed physicians and you'd be hard pressed to find a school that admits someone whose immaturity compromises their professionalism.
Given all that, however, I can empathize with these readers who question how young medical school applicants are. I submitted a forum post a while ago after being frustrated at the immaturity of some of my classmates:
"Most of the 3rd years in my class have demonstrated immaturity at one point or another, more so than the people who got in after 4 years or took some time off after graduating. By immaturity I mean anything from showing disrespect by talking loudly in lecture to uncontrollable giggling and crude comments during the genitalia examination clinical skills video. ... If it were up to me, based on what I have seen, I wouldn't allow 3rd years to get into medical school at all."Needless to say I pissed off a lot of third-year applicants with that last statement, and in retrospect it was a bit extreme, but a) ruffling feathers on the interweb is fun and b) the number of mature young students compared to the number of immature young students - from my impression - is miniscule.
But while the ratio is low, the presence of a distinction demonstrates a point: the maturity of an individual cannot be inferred from their age. In other words, just because a student is young, doesn't mean they're immature. There are some students in my class who have stunned me when they revealed their age, because based on their maturity level, I would have guessed they were five years older than they actually are.
And that's the point I'm trying to make. Unfortunately I couldn't have said it as well as worriedandwaiting, who summed this topic up really nicely in a statement on that pre-med forum, and with whose comment I'll close:
Are you a better doctor because you're 25 or because you're 35? That question has no correct answer. Age is not the factor. Who you are as a person is what matters. It is your life experiences that define you as a person, so try to maximize this opportunity to grow as an individual. As we all know, some 21 year olds already have a lifetime of experience, while some 30 year olds still think like teenagers. It all depends on the person.