Courseloads and Parenthood

Hi All,

I’m not an active poster, but I have lurked around this site a bit. It’s nice to come out and meet you all.

My question is regarding courseload and motherhood: Will I be penalized for only taking 2 courses a semester while being on full time mommy duty?

If I’m fortunate enough to make it into medical school I understand that I will have no time to spend with my family or kids for at least 8 years. With that in mind I want to spend time with them now, while I can.

I took 3 classes a semester my first semester back and I know 3 classes is my max. I literally would need more hours in the day to do everything I do for my family.

I tried taking two classes this semester and though there were periods where I had no time, it was balanced with days when I would have free time and I found that this gave me the best balance.

My kids are very busy with after-school activities, and I’m still moderately active in their schools. This means that from the time I get up I am either prepping them for school, in school myself, or driving them to/from activities from 6AM-8PM M-F. So, my time to study starts around 9:30-10:30 every night.

In your view do you think medical school admissions offices take motherhood into consideration when looking at candidates’ courseloads? When I was in school the first time I had a 3.86 GPA taking part time courses (3-4 a semester) while working full time. Right now I have a 4.0 while being on mom-duty.

Thank you so much for any insight you can share. <3

I wonder about this myself! I have two small children, myself, and can’t imagine taking more than two classes a semester during the pre-med years. I don’t THINK it will matter to med schools as long as I have the volunteering and clinical experience and grades, but I could be wrong. I’ve spoken to some pre-med advisors at the school I’ll probably be going to and they don’t seem to think two classes a semester is a problem. I’d like to see what other people think, too, though.

Hey Rachel!

Thank you for your reply. It’s great to know there’s someone else going through this out there!

I’m hoping that you, and the advisors you have spoken to, are right because three classes a semester makes it hard for me to be a connected parent. I want to cherish the time I have with the kids now because it sounds like I’ll never see them again when I go to med school.

How far along are you in your premed coursework?

I just started mine. I have some catching up to do because I need to not only get in my prerequisites, but I also want to finish my degree. I put that on hold when I started my family.

I actually haven’t started. I have a degree already, so I’m having trouble getting funding for the post-bac stuff, but I may be able to start this upcoming fall. We’ll see. I’m quite frustrated, though, b/c a lot of people keep saying “Make medical school your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY!” and I just want to say to them, “Do you have kids?” It feels like having kids is viewed as a detriment b/c I have to do things like, I don’t know, SEE my kids and parent them from time to time.

Hi Rachel,

I hope you are able to start in the fall. It took me a while before I was able to start taking classes again. One thing that helped contribute to the delay was the cost of school. Eventually, I gave up on waiting to have enough and just jumped in.

I’m hoping that admissions committees will take motherhood (parenthood) into consideration. I know two courses on the surface doesn’t sound challenging. But two courses, plus active kids is a different story!

I would love to hear if anyone else has been in our shoes and has had a positive experience.

Good luck!

This fall I am going to attempt taking more than my usual and safe two courses a semester. It’s super hard especially since my family is so used to me being readily available. I don’t work so on the one hand I have my family expecting me to do everything because, you know, I’m just home eating bon bons and then the schools expecting me to shine because all I have is time to study…

I’m trying to prepare for this upcoming fall by reading books on time management I don’t know if it will work but I know I have issues with it so I’ll try anything. I also wait until after hours to study as that is the only other time my place is quiet.

Hi Gingersnaps!

Wow, good luck this fall. You can do it!

I can completely relate to what you’re saying about feeling the squeeze between your family thinking you have all the time in the world (to eat Bon Bons!) and schools thinking you have all the time in the world (to study). Or at least, that’s what I feel like they think.

I remember last semester waking up super early one morning (not on purpose), and it allowed me to squeeze in 3 loads of laundry before school. I had the kids lunches made, snacks packed, backpacks checked, kitchen cleaned and I was 10 minutes early to school. I felt like a superhero that day. It kinda sorta helped make up for every other day during the 16 week semester that I felt like a not-at-all-superhero.

You’re going to do great this fall.

Thanks for the vote of confidence! I hope we can keep each other updated.

Hi there!

I have two young children, and have taken between 2 and three classes these last four semesters while working and parenting (commuting too).

My best advice is one step at a time. At the outset this whole process overwhelmed me and was just too intimidating to even begin…but then, once I began and just kept going it was less and less hard to visualize how it could all work.

I constantly try to balance things out, and frankly, it is constantly hard. Every single break that I have from school I thoroughly re-evaluate if this is the right path, or if I would rather be doing something else. Every time I come up for breath, I decide that medicine is still the right path, albeit hard.

I am now done with my pre-reqs (two lab sections to go) and am preparing for my MCAT. Feels good!

I can say that I miss the time with my children and husband, and long to have less stress and more time. I miss connecting with my friend, and feel fatigued a lot. In spite of all of this, it still feels worth it to me.

I would encourage you to take it slow, and don’t compare yourself to other pre-meds. Keep trying to stay balanced, and allow yourself to evolve and change in the process. Ask for help. Take breaks in summer. Keep evaluating if this is working for you and your family. It is not an easy path, and is also possible.

Best of luck!

Hi Blaze

Thank you for such an inspiring and helpful reply! Your advice is great and something I will definitely keep in mind. One step at a time, reevaluate, and don’t compare to others. That last part was super helpful because when I think of what it must be like to add work and a commute into the mix it makes my head spin!

Looking forward to seeing you around.

Thank you! It’s so hard when you get into a mix of driven (and can we say neurotic) pre-meds to not compare–but I think comparison is so toxic and not worthwhile. You bring your own strengths and wisdom to this whole process!

Thank you for the advice. It’s difficult to not compare where I am to where I should be even though I have read on here for the last couple of years ‘It’s not a sprint but a marathon.’ I am a working progress

I’m super excited for you and what you have accomplished. Seems so surreal to me now to even imagine a finish line but reading these stories I know there has to be one. Would you mind telling me how you grouped your classes when you began? I’m still trying to get an overall idea of how to do this.

Ha ha–do you want to know how I did it or how I recommend doing it?

Few facts. I finished my BSN in 1998, and had taken Chemistry and Biology, along with all pre-nursing classes. Got a Masters in Nursing in 2006. Called all medical schools to make sure my classes didn’t “expire.” Concluded that the expiration was a myth, and decided I just needed a few classes…that was my first error! You have to be fresh on all of these for the MCAT!

How I did it

Summer 2011, signed up for O Chem I and Lab I and dropped after first lecture class b/c I was still working 30 hours a week and parenting and commuting. Terrible teacher and I was not prepared to be in school yet!

Fall 2011

O Chem I

O Chem I Lab

Basic Biology

Spring 2012

O Chem II

O Chem II lab


Fall 2012

Chemistry I

Physics I

Spring 2013

Chemistry II

Physics II

Fall 2013 (coming)

(lecture and lab are separate classes where I go to school)

Physics I Lab

Physics II Lab

What I wished I’d done!

a) Found a competent advisor to help me understand classes/steps I needed to take on the timeline I was interested in! I wanted to apply to med school now, and am not. I cannot be ready to take the MCAT until this fall b/c of classes/parenting/working biz. I could have re-structured, and been ready…so, first things first, find someone who is GOOD to advise you! My school does not have good advising, and that is a separate story. I highly recommend shelling out the money to some of the excellent pre-med counselors out there: ie Liza Thompson or Judy Colwell. Yes, their rates are high–but they are awesome and will help you develop a plan! This saves you time, which saves you money!

b) In terms of classes, I wish I had taken

Chem I

Physics I

Chem II

Physics II

O Chem I

Molecular Biology (or other upper level bio)

O Chem II


And likely Biochem.

Hope this helps a wee bit!

Yes it does help. You did an impressive job even if you wished you did it differently

I’m mulling some things over and after I do a thorough search I will post for opinions–I like hearing various life experiences. Thanks for the response!