Hm - I have to respectfully disagree a bit with the title of your post. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that med schools offer this option for ALL students, but I don’t care for the implication that non-trads are more in need of a decompressed schedule than traditional students.
There are also some disadvantages to the “decompressed” schedule that you have to think about:
- It’s an extra year (obviously). This is important not only in the time sense but in the cost sense. At my school, half time med school tuition is more like 2/3 - 3/4 the cost of full time tuition, making an extra year extremely pricey.
- It’s also an extra year of borrowing living expenses for many people. Working after obtaining permission to do a decompressed schedule would probably not meet with approval from the med school.
- It may make you less competitive for matching into your desired specialty. There are multiple angles to this, of course. You might improve your competitiveness if you got far better grades on the decompressed schedule than a regular schedule and performed better at a board score. However, some residency directors might see the extra year as a negative factor. I can guarantee that program directors WILL ask you why you took 3 years to complete the first 2 years of medical school.
- The decompressed schedule might not make things THAT much easier. I know a couple of non-trads who went on a decompressed schedule at my school (only possible in the independent study program) and honestly, I’m not sure it made life that much better for them in the long run. After some initial relief when going to 3 years in terms of not having as much time pressure, I think they still found themselves struggling with deadlines, etc.
Additionally, I think they both had difficulty adapting to the fast pace of 3rd year. After having a couple of years to spend extra time studying, they were back to having the same (or less, due to family obligations) time to study for 3rd year rotations as everyone else. I really think this put them at a competitive disadvantage. Third year grades are SO much more important in applying for residency than your pre-clinical grades and doing decently on end of rotation shelf exams can make or break your rotation grade, even with outstanding clinical evaluations.
Just my thoughts on subject . . . I wouldn’t pick a medical school based on whether or not they have this option. In fact, if interviewing at a school that offers this option, I wouldn’t even ask about it while interviewing. Med schools tend to offer this type of option because they want to say that a high percentage of their matriculating class graduates.
I agree with Emergency!. In residency and beyond, you have to continue to digest large amounts of new information in fields that continue to make new discoveries, all while holding down a full-time+ job. If you ask about a 3-year option during interviews, med schools will question your ability to ultimately cope in medicine. If residencies see that you did it, they too may question your ability to manage all of this information you must learn. Med schools and residencies know that you will ultimately be a reflection on them.
That said, if you have an extenuating circumstance-- such as a dying parent that moved into your home so you could care for them, is different-- it is a temporary situation and not a reflection of your academic abilities. I would add that child-rearing may not be seen in the same light as a few years later when you go to enter residency, you will still be raising those same children who will continue to have issues that you will need to deal with.
I also have to disagree. These programs are set aside for specific purposes. One of those purposes is not that you are a non traditional student with other responsibilities, especially children.
I can tell you from experience that you do not want to be in class more than you need to. You want to be finished. The longer your prolong it, the more stress you put on yourself and your family. In addition, you are taking out 1 more year of loans and the interest that it accumulates and you are 1 year less of a salary.
It is doable, you just need to make sacrifices and be very disciplined to take the time to study and miss some functions.
In addition, the longer you delay Step 1, the more reviewing you need to do for studies that will be 3 years old instead of 2. It would truly suck to lose another year because you have to repeat your boards.
Premeds take heed! Every step of medical education is more time-consuming and intensive than the one before it. (Excepting fellowship.) Slowing down any given phase is just postponing the eventual shitstorm.