Fast push or paced pre-med/MCAT process?

I feel like I have way too much backstory that I’d like to provide, but the best synopsis I can provide is that I am a mom of four, including a medically complex, special needs infant. I returned to the dream of being a physician last year after having given up on it at 18 when I struggled to earn a C in an Honors Chem course. After leaving school with an associate’s degree and working in banking until becoming a stay at home mom with my three older kids (including twin boys!) I went back to school just before learning of my pregnancy with our youngest special girl. We unfortunately had a difficult NICU stay and diagnosis for her shortly after delivery. That time was transformative for me and reignited a passion for medicine and the realization that doctors are humans who’ve simply worked really hard to get to where they are. I realized that I was the only one stopping me from reaching my dreams of becoming a doctor.

So for my question:
At this point I am finishing a bachelors in Kinesiology (I am passionate about anatomy and the body-mind connection) and am hoping to go to DO school for my medical training (I had an incredible ObGyn who was a DO for my twin’s delivery and fell in love with the DO marriage of caring for the patient as a whole and not the disease, while still being a highly trained physician). I have three semesters following this current semester to finish my undergrad with taking 17-19 credits each. With this trajectory I’ll need to study for and take the MCAT this coming spring/summer and apply for this next cycle if I want to start med school immediately after graduating. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken many sciences with my associates degree and am still playing catchup. I will need to take an orgo-chem and a biochem before graduating but can only take one of them before the MCAT in the spring. Is it even realistic that I’ll be able to score well without taking one of these courses before the exam? I can see the mountain of work that studying for the MCAT will be on top of my full course loads and personal commitments and that’s before adding teaching myself the basics of a complex course. My options at this point are to push through and see how I do, knowing that I might need to take the MCAT a second time and delay a year if I can’t align everything by this coming spring, OR I could just plan on focusing on finishing my undergrad and wait until 2022 to take the MCAT and apply for the 23’ cycle while trying to get some sort of clinical job for the gap year. I’m turning 30 next spring and we already have significant loans from my husband’s engineering degree, so although money is not the biggest motivator, the added years of cost (from choosing the delayed route) is a huge component in our timeline considerations.

What would you do? Should I just plan on pacing the rest of this process at a slower rate, or should I keep my head down and try to push through? I feel like the med school experience and clinical (and intern) years will be as difficult as pushing through will be and so a big part of me wants to prove that I can handle it.

Thanks for reading this far and any potential advice you have!

I would say it depends on how successful you are in your class work. You obviously have a busy household, and full time school and trying to cram for the MCAT is rough for traditional students, let alone with your situation. I don’t know what your GPA is from your associates, but straight up you need good grades and it is crucial to show an upward trend. Take the time you need to show that.

You also mention with option 2 the idea of taking a gap year to gain clinical experience. If with option 1 you don’t have time to gain shadowing and clinical experience, 1000% take the extra year before applying. Clinical experience is absolutely crucial.

I agree with the above post. Clinical experience is a must, and so is an upward GPA trend. GPA/MCAT gets you in the door for an interview, with a mandatory 3.0/500 minimum unless you are willing to send dozens of emails asking to be manually reviewed before filtering. Everything else actually gets you into the school: ECs, volunteering both clinical/nonclinical, clinical hours, shadowing, leadership activities, etc. ad nauseum.

You 100% can study for the MCAT before you take the classes, but man is it tough. I recommend getting the complete MCAT study deck for Anki, and start working through it, as well as the psych/soc and KA documents on reddit (about 300 pages total). This will also get you going on the classes you have yet to take. Biochem is not “required”, but does help for sure, so I would personally recommend that if you can only take one, take Ochem 2. There are so many free resources out there now, that there is zero excuse to not get the score you want. It sounds like you have a ton on your plate, but it is important to finish your plate cleanly, not just pile it up with food and quit out. It’s not how much you can do, it’s what you can do that committees want to see. The earlier you start studying for the MCAT the better, but most people take anywhere from 3-6months to study at 3-8 hours per day. Do not take the MCAT with the knowledge that, “Ehhhh, I’ll just have to take it again anyway.” Only take it when you are ready. I cannot stress this enough. Seriously. 5-10+ full length practice exams, the last 2 getting the score you want.

Medschool is a beast in-and-of-itself, and most traditional students with no children or any life responsibilities at all find it like drinking through a firehose. You will need to come up with ways to stay focused, especially with all of your external stressors. It won’t be impossible by any stretch, but you’ll have much more work ahead of you than most. If you want it, you can do it :slight_smile:

Thank you both for replying!

To add more info: My first semester in college gave me a C in Chem I, a D in an Old Testament religion course (it was a private university that required religion studies) and three other As so overall gpa stunk for that semester. I had a 4.0 at the community college and am not entirely sure what my combined GPA was for the AA but I have a 4.0 currently, expecting a slight drop because I think I’ll finish Chem II this semester with a B+ instead of an A but we also still have another midterm and final before knowing the extent of the grades. I’ve done extremely well despite a hectic personal life.

As far as clinical goes, I currently have a decent amount of older clinical experience in addition to my exposure to the medical field with my daughter- which I know doesn’t count as clinical but I believe I’ll be able to add it to my overall narrative to prove I know what I’m getting into. I’m also beginning to work with a Biomechanist PhD professor at my university who is using ultrasound in musculoskeletal research and she is also doing a ton of research into injury prevention and recovery. We have a semester long course of clinical experience worked into the degree program and I will have completed that course by the spring semester as well. I think that with my lifelong exposure in addition to this research and clinical, that I’ll have enough for the application.

Really its just this aspect of feeling like I’ll be able to devote enough to score well on the MCAT- and I appreciate the comments about focusing on being ready. I feel like I’ve heard mixed messages about retakes for the MCAT, some seem to think its no big deal to have to take it again, others are under the impression that med schools don’t like to see multiple attempts but I’m not really sure which is more accurate? My husband is extremely supportive and honestly has more faith in my ability than I do sometimes which has been really helpful in this process so far. We have the resources and have talked about me enrolling in the Nextstep prep course, I would have just about six months to study but realistically wouldn’t spend more than 14 hours a week with the rest of my time divided between coursework and family. I’m not sure I’m convinced the prep course is worth the investment if I’ll still not be ready.

My schooling at this point is my career so I’ve approached it in the same way I did my banking job and that’s served me well so far. I don’t think I’m naïve about the extreme that Med School will bring me to, in the same hand. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read through this and off your advice- truly!

Just to clarify, the MCAT tests on: Physics 1 and 2, bio 1 and 2, gen chem 1 and 2, ochem 1 and 2,
biochem, psychology, and sociology. It sounds like by the time you take it, you will have just completed ochem 1 in the spring? This would mean that you would need to self-teach yourself all of ochem 2 and biochem. If you are already concerned about being ready, this is a serious task that most people cannot do.

It sounds like you have some older clinical experience which is good, and that you recognize that your daughter is great exposure, but does not technically count as “hours.” Non-clinical volunteering is also quite important, because it shows that you care about humans not just medicine. Research is a bonus but not required for most schools. Leadership experience is important, such as banking regional manager, starting an underwater basket weaving club in undergrad, president of council, etc. Shadowing hours are huge, because how else do you know what being a doctor is really about - most people recommend at the very least 50 hours of long-term shadowing. All of these should be integrated into your life and completed over the long haul, not just over 2 summers. It’s not a checkbox simulator, you have to actually want to do what you are doing.

In my very humble opinion… prep courses are extraneous, as there are so many free resources available. Don’t let me tell you what to do, but I have heard nothing but negatives about them as compared to the free resources. Reddit has a 300 page document, and 154 page document outlining literally everything you need to know for the MCAT (Google for: Khan Academy MCAT 300 page document or the shorter 100 page: Formatted Lazy OCD KA, and AAMC Content Guidelines UPDATED MCAT document), as well as full 10,000+ card Anki decks covering everything you need to know, organized in great form. Anki will be your life in med school, and starting it now is only a bonus - coming from personal Anki devotion, it is a god send to learn vast amounts of information.