Will I be too old?

This letter writer wants to take a gap year before med school but is worried about being older than their classmates. 

Our elder helps them overcome their “age consciousness”.

Dear EWC

I’m a 19-year-old student who moved to Canada about a year ago with my family. I already had a high school certificate but schools here wouldn’t accept that so I had to go back to grade 12. I finished that and applied to university for a science degree. One university in the city where I live didn’t take me because of the low average, however a university in a different city about three hours away took me in so I decided to pay up the deposit and move cities. In the meantime, I thought a lot about taking a gap year but couldn’t convince myself as I am 19 years old already and was a year older than I should’ve been to start university and would be even older by the time I become a doctor. I’m very age conscious. 

Now that I’ve moved cities and started university, I don’t feel like it was the right decision and that I should just go back, wait for a year, improve my grades and go to uni in my hometown. Know that my family is not in the financial situation to afford me living in a different city and studying also. I feel I can do so much more if I take a year off and live a little but at the same time since I’ve already moved out and changed cities, I feel like I should just focus on my studies and get my degree and not worry about anything else.

Shorty replies

I am honored to be the Elder answering your letter today. I hope that I can give you an independent perspective which may help you with your decision.

I do understand your concern about your age in comparison to your classmates. You may be worried that you won’t be able to find friends or others with similar interests, but I don’t believe that age will matter as much as just reaching out to others and finding out who has common interests with you. You may also feel that med schools will not be interested in an older student. But, becoming a doctor is a long process, as you already know. I think when you get to medical school you will find that not everyone there has gone down the expected path (uni for four years, then med school) either. Not everyone gets into med school on their first try, or some are taking time off before med school to work in the field to get practical experience or get a second bachelor’s degree. So, I hope you can minimize this “age consciousness” and eliminate that from your decision. 

We Elders answer many letters from your peers about this worry of career indecision – it is completely normal to have doubts because you are thinking that there is only one path to the final goal. If you can wrap your mind around the fact that you have years and various ways to reach those goals, you can be relieved of a lot of this stress and make better choices for yourself based on what is happening in your life now.

You know yourself better than anyone. What do you believe at this moment would allow you to be more successful in reaching your goal? If you are realistic, does your current financial situation play a large part in adding to your stress and making it difficult to justify your choice? Do you think that taking a year off from school, moving home, and working in a place where you could get practical medical experience might help solidify your commitment to becoming a doctor? Or will you feel more confident and be more successful if you continue where you have started (without regard to your age)? What path do you feel would be the best at this time to achieve a successful undergrad experience, so that you have choices for the next step whatever it may be? Try to eliminate the feeling that there is a wrong decision – there is only a right decision based on what you know about yourself and what you need to happen to see a way forward. You can do it.

Trust yourself, and it will all work out, I promise. I congratulate you on wanting to become a medical doctor – it’s not an easy journey for anyone. The better prepared, both mentally and emotionally, you are, the more likely you will succeed. Whatever contributes to that preparation is valuable – perhaps that consideration might be useful in making your choices going forward. Choose what feels supportive of you and your dreams.

Best wishes to you on the path that you choose. Be well and take care.

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