Former nurse, PhD, with no premed

I graduated from my RN program (in the UK) in 2008, worked in ICU for 3 years, got my PhD in health policy from UCSF, and then have worked on and off in health research (but non clinical) between raising a family.
I don’t have any of the traditional science prereqs. My PhD wasn’t clinically focused, more social science/policy.

If I can get a good MCAT score does it matter that I don’t have the traditional premed courses?

The science pre requisites (bio/chem/phys/etc) are usually hard requirements even though some schools now are saying that they have no specific “required” coursework. They’ll say things like “a strong applicant has a background in XYZ sciences”, which is code for “you need these classes or we’ll probably throw your app in the garbage.”

These prereq courses are hard requirements, there’s no getting around it. An 18yo fresh grad and a 40yo 100 paper phd researcher both have to go through the same system, and are looked at through the same lens. All requirements are mandatory for all applicants.

But not every medical school requires them, some of them “recommend” that you have them. My question is, what does that translate to in real terms in the context of non-traditional students?

Two things here

#1 – If you have not taken the pre-requisite courses for medical school what makes you think you will score well on the MCAT, even with months of study? It is often recommended that students study at least a total of 300 hours before taking the MCAT, and that is having already taken bio/chem/orgo/phys/biochem. If you are learning the material for the first time just for the MCAT, you are in for a rude awakening.

#2 – Another thing to consider is the comparative strength of your application to all the other students applying to medical school. Schools want to know that the students they accept will succeed and pass their board exams. The ground work for the medical school coursework exists on a foundational knowledge of the sciences mentioned above. If you do not have a general grasp of that content and attempt to drink from the firehose as a first year med student, you are going to struggle and potentially fail. US medical schools do not want students that may potentially fail, as it will look bad on their programs and they will be dinged in accreditation. If it is between you and someone else with comparable stats, but they have actually completed the prerequisite sciences, who do you believe they will pick?

I don’t mean to be a downer here but there is probably not a reasonable way around these courses. You should reach out to medical programs that don’t require the coursework you are asking about and see what they recommend. Check out MSAR to see which schools you need to reach out to.

Also looks like Dr Gray answered this question here:

I only 1/2 agree. There are many people who can autodidactically learn the necessary material, but this is assuredly more difficult than just taking the courses first. If you aren’t “that” student who would get a 99 and f*** the curve on every ochem exam, then you probably shouldn’t risk learning it all solo. If you trust yourself and your industriousness/science background, then it is certainly possible to learn the material before the coursework.

This is not to say that you can skip the courses altogether, which is why I fully agree with @wildgm 's #2 statement. Just because some med schools say they, “want to you understand the concepts”, does not mean that you can skip the courses. Med school is brutally competitive, so like @wildgm said, if it comes down to you and another applicant for 1 seat, and you are both identical candidates but they have the courses and you don’t, a med school won’t risk you over them for fear of a knowledge deficit. It’s unfortunate because 80% of the material on the MCAT will be completely thrown out in med school, but it’s how the system works. You have to be able to prove that you can succeed at brutal content loads, and handle med-school specific content like physics/ochem - not just “hard” classes.

Because you are already currently a RN with prereqs, at most you would need 3-4 semesters of a 1/2 load of courses (probably physics 1/2, ochem 1/2, biochem*) - biochem is not ‘mandatory’, but it is on the MCAT. Just remember, there’s no rush, no matter how badly you think there is one. Most applicants (60% for MD allopathic) won’t even get in their first cycle, which means even more “wasted time.” It’s all one big journey, don’t play the game only for the last move. You’ve got this if you want it! :slight_smile:

Thank you both.

It makes sense. I do have a general grasp/foundational knowledge of the scientific content, enough, I believe to build on to self-learn the material and get a good MCAT score. But if that’s not going to cut it in a competitive admissions process then I appreciate that it’s not really the point and medical schools might want me to have that coursework regardless.

Hi Kate,

I’m in a similar situation: also a PhD, also working in healthcare-related research (but not clinical). I’ve heard Dr. Gray point out to others on the podcast that coursework also demonstrates academic aptitude in the sciences. So it may add a piece of evidence in your favor to show that you are able to be a student and that you have a good chance at handling the academic workload.

Perhaps, if you feel confident in your knowledge of the MCAT topics, my instinct would be to take 2-3 upper-level science classes on advanced topics to convey that.