31 yr old Arts Grad wants to become a Doctor.....

Ummmmmmm helpppp!!!

Okay so I was 18 and wanted to go to medschool. Decided against it because I thought it took too many years before I would be specialized and working.

I am 31 now, am a network engineer and it is still bugging me. So after some soul searching, a lot of thinking and research… I am thinking of doing my pre med and going to med school after that.

I know that I need to take a year of Inorganic chem and Organic Chem for the MCATs. I also know that I need to take math, bio and physics before I apply to med school.

I am a graduate and graduated in 1999. Here is a part of my dilemma. I took some chem and math in high school… which was a while back. I literally hardly remember anything from high school.

Before I take my pre med classes… shouldn’t I do some sort of Chemistry 101 course? It seems that a lot of Chem courses require math as a pre-req. So then I need to take an algebra/math refresher course too?

The thing is that I already feel like I have to go at this hammer and tongs… because it will take me anywhere from 1-2 years to get all my pre-med done. (Yes I read it is possible to do it in a year… but it involves a tonnnn of sacrifice and hard work) So I feel like I am lengthening the process if I have to take all these other classes before I take the pre med classes.

Are there others here who went directly from having not touched math, chem etc etc for a long time…—> to just taking your pre med courses?

Anyone have any ideas? thoughts? tips? pointers?

Thanks fellow OPM’s

I’m taking Bio I/2 over then summer in then Chem I/2 next year during law school. I too have not even thought about math (except to tip bartenders) since HS.

This is what I’ll be look at over the summer to get ready for chem:

http://www.amazon.com/Chemistry-Concepts-Pr oblems-…

http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Algebra-Che mistry-…

Good luck!

Hey Benji, it probably depends on how you did with your math in earlier life. I was ten years older than you when I went back for pre-med classes. Yes, I’d taken calculus I & II during my freshman year of college but got Cs (and those were gifts, honestly). I had taken pre-nursing chemistry and biology as well - but those courses were not nearly as rigorous as the pre-med versions. What I DID know going in was that I liked algebra and did well with algebra and trigonometry in high school.

I didn’t take any prep classes. The math came back to me really easily. Some folks on here might be able to recommend some workbooks that could help you ramp up; I just made sure to do a gajillion problems – there is no substitute for working through them all to understand what numbers are going where.

So more than twenty years after my last math or science class, I did fine. Doesn’t mean that everyone will, because math is one of those funny subjects that twists people’s guts into knots… but yes, it’s possible.


When I was taking my prerequisites, it was ten year after high-school math and sciences. Like Mary, in my ‘previous’ life I was fine with algebra, but totally useless in calculus, and I did fine in both - chemistry and physics without any review, or retaking math classes. I remember that a couple of times I had to google something b/c I didn’t remember how to calculate certain things. Going through tones of practice problems worked for me.

Most of the Gen chem classes don’t assume any previous chemistry knowledge, so even if it’s been years since your last science course, if you are a hard-working person ready to do your work, you should be fine.


I agree from other posters that it probably depends on the class you’ll be taking. I emailed several of the Gen Chem profs and asked them how to prepare. My GChem requires facility with algebra and assumes previous knowledge of chemistry. The professors told me that they will ostensibly start from “scratch,” but really they will go over the basic, foundational stuff really quickly. I don’t want to fall behind early in the semester, so that’s why I’m preemptively reviewing.

I think you should run these questions by your future GChem professors and see what they have to say.

Congrats on going back to your calling! I am in a somewhat similar situation – I have two classes left to finish my psychology degree and when it came time to decide on grad school, I could no longer deny that what I really wanted to do was go to med school. (It’s what I’ve really wanted to do all along.) I’m 31 and started my pre-med pre-reqs this past semester.

As far as chem goes, at my university, there is a “Chem 101” class for “normal people”, and a 2-part “Fundamentals of Chem” class that students are required to take before enrolling in Org and Inorg. Hence pre-meds take the fundamentals and then org/inorg. I was worried as well about being rusty in chem, but it came back really quickly to me, and the professor did spend some reviewing of concepts time at the beginning of the semester, although it would be easy to fall behind if you didn’t keep up with the work. (As is true with everything I have to study now…ha!) Good luck to you!


This may be a moot point for you. The CC and U. that I’ve been at have an “Intro to…” pre-req for each of Bio 1, Chem 1, and Physics 1. I was able to get into Bio 1 & Chem 1 because I had taken the pre-reqs - but it was 12+ years ago. The G Chem 1 math is very very basic algebra that you’ll be fine with.

I’m struggling to decide about Physics though. The intro class is a 2-hour class that I’m afraid will bore me and waste my time (80-mile round trip to the school). I agree with slambo. Try to speak to the professor(s). I spoke to the chair of the Physics department Friday and he was very gracious and offered to meet with me and let me look at the Intro to Physics textbook (which he wrote) and see if I feel comfortable going straight into Phsyics I. I can probably get him to give me permission.

I’m worried because I haven’t taken math since '97. I’m going to take Algebra-based physics because I know the C I got in Calc I isn’t going to cut it for me for calc-based physics.

Find out what your pre-reqs are, and then try to talk to the professors. If all else fails, you might be able to talk to a tutor who knows the class content (some schools offer free tutoring) or to former students to look at syllabi and notes/powerpoints to see if you need the pre-reqs.

After that, if you don’t feel you need the pre-reqs some advisors / professors may be fairly easy to convince to give you permission to skip, especially if you explain and they see you are a serious, mature person sincerely wanting to master the material.

Good luck!


You make an excellent point about speaking to the professors. Although I could have taken physics I would have been struggling had I not first spoken to the professor before hand and found out that it was strongly calculus based and waited until AFTER I spent winter break reviewing my math to enroll. The pre-med advisor had not mentioned anything about this except for the required math course that had to be completed (which was not calculus!) So I definitely agree - when in doubt - go speak with the professor of the class. I have found that they are usually more than happy to speak with you and you are establishing a relationship up front that can help you when you start the class.

Hi mindseye,

I see we have somewhat in common. I just finished my psychology BA in December. I realized through the course of earning it that I really wanted/needed the hard science of medical training, and the ability to treat the whole problem. I began to see how inseparable psychology and physiology are and decided to go for the whole thing, crazy and impossible as it seems at my age (33). Are you hoping to enter psychiatry like me?

I think my email will encourage you. I had just turned 35 when I started my postbac program. I had NO science courses in college and did not remember anything from HS (which, honestly, I rarely attended). I only had one algebra class from college. I was working full time directig a program for at risk families (as a social worker)when I started my postbac. I took algebra/trig, precalc and calc before starting Chem I. You dont need calc, but it cannot hurt to brush up on math before Chem. I ended up w/ an A in chem but worked very hard and got a tutor after failing my first test (never failed a test again in premed). I learned quickly that studying science is very different from studying for classes like sociology. After a couple of semesters w/ a tutor (math and chem) I did fine on my own, but I def needed that one on one help b/c science was totally new to me and it helped build my confidence. You can do it. The only thing I regret is taking it so slow, 1 class a semester for 7 semesters and then 2 classes a semester, b/c now it is killer studying for MCAT. If you feel that this is the right path for you, go for it. Most important thing is to start out strong; develop solid study habits in the beginning and you will be fine. Also realize that there are many different paths to med school and keep your options open. Hope this helps and let me know what you decide!

Wow thank you so much ladies and gentlemen for the plethora of responses.

Slambo thank you for the book references. I am going to swing by borders or some book store to take a look at them and probably pick them up.

Mary Renard thank you for your advice. You certainly make me feel better about this whole ‘being older than the average pre med’ thing. If you could go back at your age and still do it, I certainly am filled with hope and am inspired. The only thing though is that you were really good at Algebra and Trig in high school. I too was good but only in my final years of high school. Prior to that I sucked at math and well I did not do well in Algebra either but that was only because I was lazy and did not study. Hence I think it will be good for me to take some refresher courses in Algebra etc.

Mindseye and Lign I took your advice and tried to get in touch with some Chem professors and admission counsellors. I managed to meet with one person so far but am trying to meet with the others this coming week and explain to them frankly, my situation to see if they feel like I need to do some prep classes.

Though honestly like a lot of you mentioned, I think I would need to take some pre req courses before I start Gen Chem. Like Jen T I might end up taking algebra/trig pre calc etc.

Jen T thank you for your reply. You seem to be the closest and most similar case to me. I guess I was looking to see if there was anyone else who had gone into this with nothing more than a desire for this and will to do hard work. Someone who did not have the science background but still did it.

All of this deals with Gen Chem and then Organic Chem. From my research I found that I need to take 1 year of Gen/Inorganic chem with labs and 1 year of Org chem with labs.

However in addition to that I also know that I need to take Biology courses and Physics along with 2-3 qtrs of Math. If I am going back to school full time, shouldn’t I look at doing Bio Chem and Physics simultaneously? I am hoping to and wanting to finish my pre-med in about 2 years.

Lastly… everyone seems to focus so much on the Chemistry. What about Biology. isn’t that important too? It seems that that would be more important than the Chem. Why is it that we need 2 years of Chem and only 1 year of Biology. And what about physiology and anatomy. Would those fall under the Bio classes?

Sorry I know I have a lot of questions. I’m just trying to get some clarification. Because I want to make sure that I take the right classes. The ones that the Med Schools will recognize and want and the ones that will help me with my MCAT’s.

Thank you in advance for your help and advice guys ‘n’ gals.

Hello again. Bio is very important and not difficult if you stay up on the material. If you feel ready to start with two classes, I would recommend taking Bio I w/ Algebra/Trig. I wouldnt take Chem and Bio together “yet” since you have some apprehension. Best to see how you do with one class or two. As far as what classes to take, if you are going to a 4 year school with a premed program they will guide you. If not, usually 4 year schools have some type of prehealth advisor even if it is not an official premed office. But you are on target: you need 1 yr bio, 2 yrs chem, 1 yr physics (not for some caribean schools but is required for MCAT) and most schools require math up to precalc (a few require calc). Check MSAR. As far as orgo, dont worry about that now. Once you get into your classes, you will have a better idea of where you stand. A & P is not required for medical school. Proabably best to focus on the requirements. Oh, and physics! I never took that either in HS or college. B+ first semester and holding an A now (my last premed course). So, trust me, you can do it! Some tips: check out professors before you register (ratemyprofessors.com) and keep up daily on all the material. Physics: read before class, go to class, outline what was covered in class and do problems done in class again on your own to make sure you understand them. Do several HW problems every day and go to SI (supplemental instruction) or workshop if your school has one. Struggle through problems until you get the answer. Sometimes, you may be tempted to look at the solution manual (if you have one) but I have found that struggling through them w/out a soluntion manual is far more helpful. This is true for all classes, not just physics. Good luck!