Do the kids still say cool? An old-premed's anxieties

Longtime lurker, first-time poster here.

I’m proud to say that after years of wondering “could I?” I’m finally on the long path to medicine.

Long story short: Was supposed to graduate with my B.A. in English in 1999 but due to my shoddy ugrad performance came up six credits short. Had a newspaper job already lined up, and the kind hiring manager (God bless his soul, he passed away a few years ago) decided to bring me on staff sans degree. I made a good living as a copy editor for nearly 10 years, eventually moving my man (I’ll call him Mr.ChicoBlue) and child to NYC and working at top magazines. But something was missing. I wasn’t fulfilled. I started volunteering at medical clinics and in emergency rooms. Eventually Mr.ChicoBlue suggested I explore a career change. After much exploration, I decided to do some research. I found several sources (including this website) that suggested I wasn’t crazy for wanting to return to med school in my 30s. And when I told people my plans, no one laughed.

In 2008, my magazine folded and I decided to take the plunge. I’ve been freelancing and upping my volunteer time in the ped ed and ped ward at a hospital in the South Bronx, and I finally applied to some schools as a transfer student.

I’ll be starting Columbia in the fall! I’ve decided to major in women’s studies (a subject I wanted to study in ugrad but wasn’t offered at my college) with a premedical sciences concentration to take my med school prereqs. I know a lot of people on here and SDN have negative things to say about Columbia, but I have something to prove to myself. I never thought I was Ivy material growing up, and whatever placed me there, I still have to perform. I plan to retake the classes I didn’t do well in before, to raise my GPA and also in preparation for DO schools. I have family support, something I didn’t have the first time around. Mr.ChicoBlue has made it possible for me to be a full-time student only; I haven’t been a full-time student only since I was 14! I’m getting a second chance, and I’m not blowing it:)

So that’s my story. I’d appreciate any and all advice about how to adapt to being a student after 10 years away from the classroom. My first thought: “Do students still take handwritten notes?”

Thanks everyone for your inspirational stories. I wouldn’t be here without them.

Good for you! You must be so excited. Welcome. You will get used to being in classes with the young ones. It took me about three semesters, actually, but you may adapt sooner. The brainiac sitting next to me in my first chem class was half my age, and I could have been his mother. It made me laugh.

You’ll figure out the notes part. Different schools and classes seem to have different notes “cultures.” I personally find the tap-tapping of the keyboard super annoying, even when that person sits in the back.

For me, it has been such a gift to be able to go back to school. I’m really happy for you and hope that you enjoy it. Your professors are gonna love you. And it’s nice that you have a ChicoBlue to be your cheerleader And at Columbia, too. Yay, you!

Thanks, overthemoon! I’m so excited and nervous, but I’m very determined. I’m glad to know that pulling out a notebook and pen won’t mark me an old fogie; I retain information so much better when I write it out. I would never remember my son’s doctor appointments or Mr.ChicoBlue’s work engagements otherwise:)

What were some of your advantages/challenges when you returned to school? I feel like stamina will be an advantage for me; after sitting in boring all-day meetings for work, I can stay focused during lectures. I recently attended a med school recruitment conference and most of the attendees were high-school students. I was shocked to hear snoring around me, and I chuckled to myself: 15 years ago I would’ve been right along with them, but now I know better!

Hello ChicoBlue!

I haven’t gotten online in a while to check OldPremeds, but I thought I would reply to your post.

I was 31 and had a 5 month old little boy when I started back to school last August. I’ve been through 2 semesters and currently in summer school. I have to say this journey has been difficult but more than I could ever have hoped for! I have met many new and wonderful friends at school (young and old).

It was an adjustment at first, getting back into the swing of things - I laugh because when I was in college for my undergrad, laptops weren’t even available and now everyone’s got one!

You will adjust - my school (UT Dallas) is very “techy” - most everyone takes notes via laptop if the professor hasn’t posted them online already in some format. I started out taking notes the old fashioned way, but have come along and now I type - then retype when I get home - long process but it works for me.

I could share so much more if you are interested but don’t want to take up too much of your time, so if you want to email me please feel free (; I always love chatting w/ non-traditional students about this journey.

Best of luck - you will find you are a much better student than you used to be…its amazing!

Take care! And please email if you’d like (I’m not on here much anymore!)



Hi ChicoBlue and welcome!

I’m actually taking a major (Interdisciplinary Social Sciences) where one of my cognates is Women’s studies (the other anthropology). It’s a major that both interests me, and it will also allow me to take a few advanced sciences once I finish physics and organic chemistry.

As for the “cool.” I have to admit that I have used that expression a few times and also wondered about that little possible generation gap.

Best of luck in your future…you’ll love this site!

It depends on the school… I think that it takes a lot to take the plunge and decide to go for it, so congradulations… I still take handwritten notes at my school. Some have lab tops. Some kids use recorders and take hand written notes. Some teachers just go so fast that it is hard to keep up with them. Just a side note, I have observed that getting an A depends on dedication to your studies and adapting to the professor. In my anatomy class, the professor just mentioned the bladder and on our test the entire urinary system was convered. On that test the class average was a 44, and he said “that’s the way the cookie whatever”. Those words exactly he did not even finish the quote. Sorry for rambling, but truely understand what your professor wants and study. You will do great.

Hello ChicoBlue and welcome to the forum.

I understand your anxiety, and from my experience, you will quickly overcome your present concerns, only to discover new ones after school starts!!

Making friends with 20 year-olds came much more easily to me than I had ever expected. And this was a crucial part to my success at school. I tried to spot the brighter students, who I thought might be inclined to chit chat about class problems. I mostly was the one to approach my younger counterparts, and it simply worked out quite well, even though I was 50 when I started my pre-reqs. Heck, I even ended up private tutoring another non-trad who was in her 30s for her physics assignments!

I take all my class notes hand-written - a laptop simply does not work for me. Most students in my classes also use written-notes. I also use a (home-brewed) cue-card application as I progress through my readings. I’ve found it helps come review time for finals.

My counterparts all use teen-age lingo like “cool” and such; mind you, I’m in a french language university in Quebec, Canada, so the words are different!

As far as sleeping, yawning, chatting in classes, I see a lot of that too. And like you, I also prefer and do manage to stay focused in class. But, do not underestimate your younger counterparts. I’ve found that many who do seem unattentive, to be exquisitely brilliant and be the ones that pull off A+ grades!

Good luck to you.



Congrats on starting on your dreams!

I will say that taking organic, chemistry,…was easier the 2nd time around. Physics was another thing - but I did not have a strong/recent math background. I did the old fashion hand written notes. I also would re-write notes several times to help me remember things (pre-med & during med school).

If you are having ANY trouble/questions get in to see the TA ASAP. Do not get behind, it will only get harder. They also have special hints for what to expect on tests. I think half the battle is knowing how you will be tested.


I’ve been going back to school for most of my life. I was an undergrad in Physics at 30, talk about a generation gap! One day in the electronics lab, I was chatting with my buddy about getting older (he’s the same age as myself) and mentioned being almost 30. A much younger classmate overheard this and exclaimed, “30?! What have you done with your life?!” I was stunned and insulted but took it in stride; my buddy and I now laugh about it.