Feeling alone and a bit defeated today...

Hello all.

It is has been a rough weekend for me. But first, who am I? My name is Shane. I’m 41 and in my first semester of study for a chem/biochem BS so I can apply to med school. I attended the old premeds conference in June which energized me and demonstrated that I am not alone in my dream to be a doctor.

But this weekend was rough. I was forced by my performance in physics to drop the class to avoid the pending D grade. My performance in the class was hurt by my lack of knowledge regarding the complex algebra required to solve the problems. I have just been away from algebra for so long – over 10 years. I became clear after the last test that I need a refresher course in algebra.

So I have a plan to take college algebra in the winter session and retake physics in the spring. I at least intellectually understand that my ability to recognize what caused my poor performance and create a plan to close the gap probably indicates that I can adapt – a quality I am sure is good for a doctor to have.

Despite this I still felt incredibly defeated this weekend. Here I am starting on a difficult yet incredibly rewarding path to be an MD and I get knocked off my course by physics. It is difficult to talk with my 18-22 year old classmates about this – hard to relate to my age and my situation. I mostly get “why are you here?” and “why do you want to be a doctor now?”

I know that you “get it”. I come to this community for words of encouragement and support – particularly from others who have performed badly and have a W on the their transcript yet were successful in getting into med school. It seems that the W may not prevent admission particularly because I intend for it to be the last. It just feels bad. Make sense?

At any rate, I am still in the game. Being a doctor is something I have wanted all my life and I continue to align my life and make the sacrifices necessary to be successful.

Thanks for being out there. We have to stick together…


Ah-- so sorry you had to do that! It sucks to have to drop a class because of a bad grade. However, when you are an MD or DO, this honestly will be a very small memory, no matter how frustrating it is at this moment. Yep, makes sense…I’d feel crappy too (and I’m sure my time is coming lol)!

I was out of Algebra for a long time, and don’t laugh, but I picked up a book that was written for teenage girls. It explained things really CLEARly. Aside from the silly references, it was the best thing I could have done to master prealgebra and algebra.

As I was reading, I was really ‘getting’ the concepts and the steps it took to complete each type of problem. I was honestly surprised that I GOT it, and I enjoyed it…! I thought I was awful at math for many years, and I was actually a little annoyed that it was so easy to learn from these books. I could not believe how I struggled from textbooks and classrooms in the past. I think to myself, “That’s IT? That’s all it was, and I was so wrapped around the axle over this stuff?” It’s really powerful to feel that you’ve mastered what used to be a weakness.

Danica McKellar is the author of ‘Math Doesn’t Suck’, ‘Kiss My Math’, and ‘Hot X-Algebra Xposed’, and a geometry one. I found that I did well by starting with the most basic one and building from there. They are ridiculously cheap on Amazon; I think I paid $6 each or something? It’s better than any ‘For Dummies’ book. I literally took about 2 months to go through each book, starting with long division, fractions, that sort of thing. I keep them around and once in a while just need a refresher. I highly, highly recommend them.

As a note, I did see some ‘similar’ books with more of a male slant, but I can’t say if they are as good as the McKellar books.

You can explain a W with the truth, “Hey…I didn’t realize how rusty I was in math…! It was really frustrating, but it was great to go from that to really making it my strongest subject. That’s why I did so well in Phys I and II after that.”

You are absolutely still in the game.

Shane -

I agree with veeone. Part of the excellent narrative we as oldpremeds have often is the overcoming of difficulties. Demonstrate good “engineering analysis” of what needed to change (needed a refresher in math), taking the action, and succeeding and that shows a very positive quality that will help you in medical school!

If I may borrow the tagline of a fellow OPM’er

“Never give up! Never surrender!” (Galaxy Quest)


I just checked the prices on those books for you; they are now about $12-$14 each on Amazon (you can also get them on Kindle)


first of, do not feel defeated. Second the good news is that both Algebra and Physics are easy (really). As easy as running a 10 mile marathon. Now of course if you haven’t trained, there is no way in hell you can run a 10 mile marathon.

My point is that to start with the beginning. Sure it will take a bit more time, but does it really matter now?

So take algebra and make sure you are good at it. These solid foundations are needed in physics and chemistry. Don’t be bashful with that.

One step at a time my friend. Good luck.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. I plan to take college algebra or precalculus in the winter short session. A bit out of order considering I am in Calculus and doing well.

I am interested to know more about your story. I see that you’ve just started med school right? Are you an “old premed”? Would you mind sharing about your journey to med school? Tips, etc…

Thanks for that.


I understand how frustrated you are. I am 39 and have just applied to 8 different med schools. So far the only one that I have heard back from is AUC in the Caribbean and they have scheduled an interview for me on December 17th. I will have to fly to Miami for the interview.

My undergrad was a nightmare(20 years ago) but I did very well in graduate school so hopefully some will look past that. I will let you know what I find out.

Have you looked at Khan Academy? There are lots of free online tutorials for all the math you could ever want with practice problems.

Please don’t let what some 18-22 year olds say frustrate you. I am really lucky that the University I went to had very encouraging young and older people. I think when we are 18, 30 seems pretty old, when we get there we realize that there is still so much life left to live. I think it mostly ignorance and disappears with age. You have to make your life experience your selling point. I have heard from several MD’s that medical schools do like older applicants.

Please dont be discouraged. You are not alone for sure!!! If you are working hard and still not getting the grades you want, this is very important - YOU NEED TO CONSIDER YOUR STUDY TECHNIQUES. Try different things - are you studying as a lone wolf or in groups? writing a lot down when studying (active) or just reading through the material? I am a strong believer in study techniques, and finding what works best for you. For some people it is teaching the material to others - your spouse, an empty room etc, listening to mp3s on an ipod etc. In a math class, group studying is always the best in my opinion. Find out what works best for you and change to that instead of putting more hours doing what does not work well. Dont be discouraged! You are not alone! As for their questions about why you want to be a doctor NOW…just don’t give a ****!! Why you want to be a doctor now…that’s…is like asking a career criminal “why do you want to be a good guy now”? that’s a real BS question first of all. I am 35 and just got accepted to Med School, and If I get that question, the person on the other side better be wearing good mouth-guards because they’re gonna get some. Ask them - “Why do you want to be a doctor when you are still so young with no real life experiences”? Keep your hands on the deck & don’t give up!! The darkest hour is usually just before the dawning of a new day!!

Best response ever Itrinity on what to say to the Debbie Downers. BTW congratulations on your acceptance to med school!