Can I really do this?

Hello everyone! I am an old (38) premed hopeful. Although I have always been a “gifted” student, I grew up in a situation where there was never enough stability (financial or otherwise) to do something like medical school, which takes such a long time to complete. I always dreamed of this and now, at 38 with two kids (age 13 and 15) I have a very supportive stable life, with a husband who is encouraging and super supportive.

I have just finished my 4th quarter at community college and my first upper level math course (pre calculus in the engineering math path). I got a 3.7 - my first grade under a 4.0 - and now I’m scared! The teacher was super challenging, but it was sobering and I know this is only the beginning. I have never taken a class before where even when you put in all the time, you never feel like you can learn it all and truly feel “ready” for the test. It made me really doubt myself. That being said, I absolutely love the challenge and the feeling of the bar being raised.

I agree with what so many here have said - this is a lonely business! My friends can not relate to needing the grades and pursuing an education with so much drive. Everyone thinks I am crazy for being discouraged about getting a 3.7 in a class where 1/3rd dropped out in the first 2 weeks and another 1/3rd failed (many of those who passed were taking the class for the 2nd time). One friend said it will make you a better doctor because teachers that challenge you teach you so much more deeply, even if you get a bad grade. Of course I know there will be no being a doctor if I get a bad grade! I know that’s how high the bar is and I have to jump it. And frankly this is one of the reasons I have always wanted to go to medical school and become a physician. I want to work with the very smartest people and be challenged to grow every day, and I want to do the very most noble thing I can do with my brain and my heart, by caring for that which is the most pivotal - another human being’s health.

I have been playing with various majors, and am applying to the university this winter for next fall (not medical school yet just the 4 year). I want to major in global health, but if I don’t make it into medical school the pay is not fabulous. As an older student, I do feel I have to be practical about this - just a little bit. I am too old to pay for school to come out making 40K. But what I really want to do is jump in and go for it assuming I will make it in somewhere. By the time I apply to medical school my kids will be graduating high school, and my husband is open to moving wherever we need to. What are people doing for premed majors? Are there others out there scared they won’t make it?

Terrified but jumping in!

Mary Mathison

  • mominseattle Said:
I want to major in global health, but if I don't make it into medical school the pay is not fabulous. As an older student, I do feel I have to be practical about this - just a little bit.

Hi Mary!

I quoted this part of your post because I want you to read it. And then forget about it.

You HAVE to make the leap and say "I WILL get into medical school." There is no plan b. Don't leave a fall back, because then you won't run full steam ahead.

Ok - enough Reverend Ryan! I had a C in college! and I had 2 withdrawals! And look at me now!

The path to medical school is a marathon, you can stumble during the race and still finish strong!

Don't forget that the AAMC has tons of data to show that no matter what grades/scores you have - YOU CAN DO IT! table17....

Before the recession (which we’re still in IMHO), I was all for going for med school without a plan “B” though mine was “built into” my current career. However, I no longer think that’s a financially prudent thing to do given the economy and cost of pursuing/attending medical school.

That said, I’d leave the global health pursuits as a volunteer activity and/or I’d pursue it during/following med school.

Hello Mary,

I don’t blame you for feeling scared. It is a big risk to pursue this. I’m kind of an example of every ones worst fear. I decided to pursue medicine in spring of 2007. I gave it my all. I took a low paying part time job in order to focus on school and do all the activities I felt I needed to do to make myself the best applicant I could. I felt I didn’t want to have a plan B cause it would distract me from my goal. I had a very optimistic “failure isn’t and option” attitude.

Well, I applied summer of 2011. I was unsuccessful at getting accepted at any of the 23 schools I applied to. All my resources are drained (401k, equity in my home, savings, etc) and I fight bouts of anxiety. I feel trapped. All the optimism in the world isn’t going to pay my rent.

I have decided to retake the MCAT again and apply again this coming year. In the mean time I have put my name on the 2 year wait list for nursing school at the local community collage as a back up. In my case, I now need a backup, and if I had to do it over again I would have had that in place sooner. In my case, not having a backup added to the stress and pressure.

My friends and family have been as supportive as they can, but just don’t understand why I don’t “just apply again”, “can’t you just go talk to them, maybe they will change there mind”. It’s very hard to explain the process to them. “But why are you taking more classes, I thought you were done with “that pre-med degree”?” Nobody really knows it unless they have gone through it.

I’m not trying to be a Debbie downer and I do hope you go for it and are successful. You never know unless you try. I might not get in, but I also don’t want to “wonder if”.

Best of luck, and welcome to the journey.


Thank you so much for your reply - I am glad to have that feedback. I wonder if I should stick with my global health but add a minor in Math or something that would offer a good backup plan without a lot of additional school…Hmmm. Any suggestions? The nice thing about the global health major is that it is in anthro and so there is a lot of room for additional requirements.

I thought about majoring in diagnostic radiology, there is a local school that offers a BA, but the advisor at the university told me not to have anything technical before applying to med school. I will have all the pre-recs done for that though, and it’s only a few quarters, maybe that’s the backup plan.

After I missed my first 4.0 I totally looked at caribbean medical school acceptance rates :open_mouth:


Mary Mathison

Thank you so much! I love your blog too. We have a lot of common interests. I sincerely hope you make it. I truly am willing to go anywhere I have to in order to do this - so I’m jumping in!


Mary Hopeful MD

What was the advisor’s reason to avoid anything technical? As long as you have the broader liberal arts background and all of the premed prereqs in addition to the “techy” stuff, I don’t see the logic in this advice. Most of the folks I’ve met in diagnostic radiology (I’m an RN, but interact with a lot of ancillary staff) seem fairly content with their jobs.

I totally agree - I think it would be a great back up plan. I don’t know but she was on the board (formerly) so I listened. I have to tell you quite honestly I think it may be a bit of classism sneaking into the admissions process. She said “they don’t like to see that.” I wonder two things…

  1. I wonder if they don’t want you to have a good backup plan because maybe you are more likely to not finish med school and just be happy with the backup job.

  2. I wonder if they want you to be totally unbiased before entering the program. So that you are a blank canvas.

    Those are the only things I can think of in terms of socially acceptable reasons, but truly I do wonder if there’s a little bit of classism behind that too. She also inferred that there is a bit of prejudice against PAs and RNs.

And the thing is - that’s one school, right? I’m sure there are as many admission preferences as there are schools. She was the one who told me about global health as a major too - there are a ton of jobs in that field here in Seattle with Path and the Gates Foundation but they are not the best paying jobs. I do wonder though if I paired that with a math minor if I could get a bit higher paying job within that field doing statistical analysis or something - or just go back to the diagnostic radiology degree if I don’t make the medical school cut.

Hi Mary. Good luck on your journey and I tend to agree with Doc Gray, re: do not seek a plan B because you could be tempted to not “go all in” for the long haul.

I am brand new to OPM. It was suggested by my pre-med advisor. Like you I am 38 years old with two kids, except they are not teens but 5 and 6 years old instead. I graduated in May with an Asc in Science from my local community college (4.0) and just completed my first semester at the University of Michigan where I transferred in with a scholarship. At the end of this semester I have started to ask myself whether I can still do this (hence my advisor’s suggestion to join OPM). It just seemed everything went horribly wrong and now my GPA has taken a dive, taking with it Organic Chemistry I and Physics I. But I’m trying to dust off and start over (chalking it up to transition). I had to relocate completely! Started my kids in new schools in the area, my husband started a new job, and I had to quit my job. I was a nervous wreck in exam rooms with 750 students compared with 30 at my local CC. But my worry is med schools won’t care about my “transition” since they might figure as a doctor you should learn to handle changes with a certain aplumb. I don’t know, but as I move into semester II at the 4 year U, I’m sticking out my best foot and intend to tear into Organic II and Physics II with a vengeance.

Any advice from anyone on whether a bounce back is possible and how does it look that you plunged first semester at your 4-year?

Nice to be able to talk to people in similar situations. My 4-year U is totally traditional.

Congratulations on your journey as well! I am also brand new - this was my first post and I have to say, what an incredibly supportive community. I have been reading this site for about a year now! It’s great to connect with people I have felt so alone in this - and frankly I think many of my friends think I am absolutely nuts. Not because they don’t think I can’t do it but just to be starting fresh (and on such a long journey) at this age. I can’t tell you how often my friends tell me that they are exhausted just hearing about it. It’s funny - I want this so much I don’t even want to let myself want it as much as I do. Like even I might think I’m a little crazy :slight_smile:

I don’t know how admissions people feel about the grade plummeting thing - but I will say that relocation is one of the very most stressful things you can do. I understand though, that we are expected to run all over the country to wherever we have to for school, residency, opportunities, etc. So who knows?! I bet though that if it’s isolated you are fine.

I enjoyed your comments about transitioning from community college to a large university too because I am terrified of it! My CC has incredibly dedicated profs and resources, I fell like I am in private school. I am taking all of the hardest classes that I can here so that I have a super solid foundation in the sciences for when I get to the UW.

Last night I was talking to my husband about this and he told me that I have to jump in and go for it, “balls out” so-to-speak. He said this is something I want and I am less likely to look back and regret having tried and given it my all than I am to regret not giving it enough, or having too easy of an “out.” I love that man. We will make it, we will be ok whatever happens.