45-year-old pre-med

Hello Everyone! I’ve read many of your posts, and have really enjoyed the great interchange here. I was somewhat frustrated last night about my career planning and I ran across this website. It gave me the boost I needed! Age is irrelevant to me, I would do this at 60. However, as an older adult it’s the path getting there that is challenging. I’m 45, and will be starting the pre-med science requirements Fall 2010. After high school I completed 60 units at UC Berkeley for architecture. Now … 25 years later, I’m completing my degree online in Business Mgmt with Ashford University, but all pre-med science requirements will be taken at local colleges/ universities . All pre-med science classes are now full, so I enrolled in a basic chemistry class at a local community college for Jan 10 to prep me for Inorganic chemistry this Fall. I will also spend the next 8 months reviewing algebra/trig/calc (I got a ‘A’ in calculus at Berkeley but would probably flunk a basic algebra exam today).

I spoke with a pre-med counselor at UC Irvine School of Medicine who stated my Intro science classes (for ex. Inorganic Chemistry) may be taken at a local community college while upper division should be completed at the University level. This agrees with many of your posts too. However, here’s my dilemma and would appreciate your feedback:

I have full-time day job. 4 year universities (UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton for example) usually do not offer evening classes (if they do it’s rare), and with budget cuts priority goes to full-time students, and not the 1 or 2 class/semester student like me. Then the private universities offer evening classes but they charge about $1,150 per unit, so we’re talking $4,000-5,000 per class per semester. I won’t begin my upper division courses for another year or so, and naturally I would prefer them at the public university. However, let me assume worst case scenario: I end up taking most of my science at the local cc, and I take a few upper division at the university which science should be the MUST-HAVE at the university level?

Hi DeanD

well it seems you are eyes are well set on the prize, so good luck.

As for your question, I can only provide whatever info I have gathered so far.

  • Always check with the Med Schools you would like to attend. Some will say no to CC credits, and some will say OK
  • Now if you go to CC, it is important to maintain a high GPA and even more important to score highly on the MCAT, as it is the normalization factor somehow. With a high MCAT, where you took your pre-req will not matter as much.
  • Obviously, it is best to take as many classes as possible in a 4y U. But there is the cost issue and when you are older, with responsibilities (kids, house), committees understand that flexibility (finances and time) is of the essence. If there was only one class to take in a 4 year U, I'd say it is OChem (I and II). For the others I'd tend to believe it's OK to take them at CC (and that's what I will do). In any event high GPA must be maintained.

While you take your classes, I'd also advise you to prepare for the MCAT. Attending classes will help you connect what you learn to what you need to be knowing to ace the MCAT.

Thank you for your advice! Good point about studying for the MCAT now … will do. I also plan on visiting a few doctors I know and inquire about volunteering somehow to get exposure to the doctor/patient relationship.

Are there particular clinical settings you recommend for volunteer work that looks good on a med school application?



Unfortunately I have no clue about volunteering (I plan on opening a thread about that). My plan is to pursue my interest and shadow docs in various specialties of interest, at least to see what it looks like and figure if that’s what I want to do.

I also plan to volunteer and help some kids with disabilities.

Volunteering is quite a time commitment, do what you like rather than what looks good on an application. If you are truly passionate about something, you will communicate it in your application. If you just volunteer for the application then it will sound more like a chore…

Have you considered going back to school full time to complete your degree? Is it an option for you?

no, not an option with a FT day job … and a mortgage. i should be completed with my bachelor’s in about a year though.

I just want to know where you get your inspiration? I’m turning 40 in a few days and that is making me question going back go school. You mentioned you’d do this at 60…why?

Great question. I realize my age is not typical for pre-med, but having said that, i think it’s important to pursue your dream no matter what age. If i complete Med School at 52, then I’ll be a 52 year-old doctor, it doesn’t matter. My dreams are mine, and are not to be undermined by anyone. Someone who is 35 may view 45 as older, but a 55 year-old views the 45 as being young. It really is all relative. I just completed a craniosacral course, and one student was 58 years old, she looked amazing and had so much energy and vigor. I just looked at her, and thought “wow, i could be a doctor at her age”. I was very inspired by her zeal and zest for life.

So why should i allow my age to dictate a certain role society may have set up for me? To take it easy or play golf? I just read this great book about Adult Development, and studies show that older adults (and i’m talking 70s and 80s) can learn technical skills just as qualified as young adults. Although it may take them longer, they often make less mistakes. I thought this was outstanding research … live life to your fullest and keep learning! Life can end even for the 20 year old unexpectedly or for the 60 year old. Never settle because of age.

I’m so excited about my studies, i feel so energized from this. And honestly, this forum and reading all of your stories keeps me motivated too!

Hi Dean!

I think your attitude about age is great and inspiring! It really is amazing the difference staying active can have on aging. I have a neighbor who is 82. The woman is amazing! When I met her I thought she was in her early 60s. She takes ballroom dance and I have seen her walking to the grocery store and back numerous times. Compare that to my grandmother who is 84. She sits in her house all day and has a bad back, bad knees and complains about it all day long! When you suggest she try to get out and exercise, maybe go to the pool, she is flabbergasted you would even suggest it. Life is what you make it!!

I hope things go well for you on your journey.

thanks Bethani!

My friends joke with me saying by the time i finish my residency i’ll be able to give my own blood pressure at the retirement home! haha oh well, that may be true, but i’ll have fun getting there. good luck too!

Hi Dean, I am a 45 year old pre-med student as well. I am just starting to take the eight req. classes (Gen & Org 1-2, BIO 1-2, Physic 1-2). I am going to a CC due to the high cost you mentioned … Here in Dallas it is about 3K a class at a Uni. Keep a positive attitude and your GPA up. Do not let anyone discourage you from your goal (including family). It seems family members can be the worst at that, at least for me.


hey thomas - that’s great to hear! Keep us updated on your progress.

I just posted a question in the main forum about the order of the science courses. I understand that some courses are pre-req’s for others, but basically at what point can you begin doubling the sciences? take a look at my post, and please offer any suggestions.



You can double the sciences at any point you feel comfortable doing it, as long as you have the pre-reqs accounted for and are up to speed on your math. There is certainly no reason you can’t take gen chem and physics together or gen chem and biology together as long as your math is up to par.

Your answer cheered me up, thanks Could you tell me the title/author of the book on adult learning you mentioned?

Here ya go …

Adult Development Custom Edition for Ashford University, 2006, Boyd & Bee, pp 217-18

I wonder if you could take Gen. Chem and Organic Chem at the same time. I think I would have a brain meltdown. Gen. Chem is tough enough but if it was allowed (and you could handle it) it could speed up the pre-reqs by a year.

Hi Dean,

You just answered all worries and doubts in my mind. Your post energized my motivation to pursue my dream to become a doctor.

I just got accepted to a Post Bacc Premed Program, and like yourself, I am 45 years old. I just finished my second BA. When I arrived to the US as immigrant 7 years ago, it took me someitme to blend in with the culture, sadly, I had to retake courses I have taken back home because they are not up to the standard assessment, while I work full-time as IT professional here.

Anyway, here I am now, just about starting my 8 pre-med science courses (+ electives!) this spring of 2010. I am also starting a volunteer work in a nearby hospital. In the summer, I plan to leave my job and concentrate fully in school.

Thanks again for your post. I feel I belong, and yeah, you are right, age is relative. It can be just a matter of numbers and counts, the fact is, the human mind is ageless.

thanks, Delia


You said you’d be doing this if you were 60. Well, I’m 60 and I am applying to med school. After all, I have to do something after I retire–I just as well be a doc! You’re right–age is irrelevant!

Dean, great post.

Your planning and thoroughness are laudable. Those of us over 40 sometimes question our decision to go down this trek, and your post just helps confirm my decision I made at age 42. Good luck and keep us informed on your progress.

Remember, Barack Obama is considered a “young” President at age 48. Why should a medical student at 48 be considered anything less? Isn’t his job a tad more of a grind? Food for thought.

The university of New England has online distance learning courses in science. They are cheaper than the tuition you are quoting ~ $1300/class. Good Luck. I am starting the same thing and Im 44yo. I have a science background, but completed school over 20 years ago, so I need to retake classes and obtain better grades.

Good Luck!!!