Traditional vs Non-Traditional Students
A traditional student is a student who generally came straight to university after high school and plans to apply to medical school soon after completing their bachelor's degree. 'Soon' is qualitative - the student may matriculate to medical school directly after their undergraduate career, or may even have 1-3 gap years post-bachelor's degree competition. A traditional student has been on the pre-health professions path all along the way and has not had any significant gaps in their educational path.
This is a trickier question! A non-traditional applicant can be any number of things, but the general concept is that there has been some type of difference in their path. Perhaps the student didn't plan to apply to medical school during their initial bachelor's degree and therefore didn't take the required science classes and didn't engage in the many enrichment activities that are so essential to a student's application portfolio. Perhaps the student joined the military, started a family, had another career or other commitment, before starting their bachelor's degree. Whatever it was, the non-traditional student did not follow the A to Z path to medical school.
Don't be fooled by data - you might look at the plot below and think, 'Hey, there are a good number of students that got into medical school with a sub-optimal GPA or MCAT score, so I can do that too." Please think twice about this.
If you are currently on a traditional student path and don't have the GPA and MCAT score, you need to stop and ask yourself - Do you really want to get into medical school and what is your best strategy to achieving that goal. Throwing money at application and MCAT exam fees, when you are not in a competitive position, can lead you to wasting hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
If you don't have the hard metrics, then you need an alternate path to becoming a competitive applicant.