General advice...

Hi everybody. First off I want to say how glad I am that I found It’s been very comforting to find out that other people are dealing with a lot of the same issues that I am (especially since so many of you have been successful going the “non-traditional” route into medicine)! Truly inspiring. Many thanks to all who have shared their concerns and advice throughout this forum.

In fact, perusing helped me to make the final decision to go after med school. I’ve been in academia a long time already (already got a BS, MA, and PhD in psychology/sport psychology), but decided that I want the fulfillment of helping people more directly in a way that’s more fulfilling to me. What I’d like to do is present my tentative plan for preparing for med school and what you all think of it (e.g., am I biting off way more than I can handle, too easy, too naïve, etc).

I took several of the basic pre-reqs already back in my undergrad days (e.g., 1 year of bio, chem 1, physics 1) and generally did ok in them (Bs). But that was over 10 years ago and I can’t remember much from them. So I figured that I’d take the whole core pre-req sequence to improve my science GPA and to help me prep for the MCAT. So this is my plan for the next year:

Summer 2008: Chem 1 and 2 (sequential intensive five week courses with labs)

Fall 2008: Bio 1, Physics 1, and Org Chem 1

Spring 2009: Bio 2, Physics 2, and Org Chem 2

Early summer 2009: MCAT

Summer 2009: Apply for med school

(note: I’ve already got calculus/statistics taken care through courses in undergrad/grad school)

I’ll probably quit my job after this spring so that I’ll be able to devote my full attention to doing as well as I possibly can in these courses. No partner/kids to consider (I would love to get a dog though)

Any advice on that plan? Would the spring/fall terms be too hard? Have other people taken similar heavy loads?

I’m also planning on volunteering in various medical settings throughout the whole process. I don’t have too much direct experience in medical settings, so I figure this is important. Any recommendations on how much volunteer experience med schools look for and how little is considered insignificant? I was thinking 1-2 nights/days per week…

One final thing that I’m still concerned about is maintaining a life outside of school. Is it possible to still be social (e.g., play in sport leagues, weekend trips) while taking such a heavy load? I’m completely committed to doing whatever it takes to get into med school, but I’m just curious how far that commitment is going to have to go…

Any advice would be much appreciated!

Johnny, without job or family to put other demands on your time, yeah, you can do this. During my second post-bacc year I quit my job and took a very similar sequence of courses, while attending my son’s football games, my daughter’s skating lessons and competitions, and staying involved with friends and family.

Three labs is a pain in the ass but you can do it. I actually had a lot of fun that year, in a sick sort of way.


Thanks Mary. If you can handle all that, then I think I should be able to handle the courses…

Sometimes I get bogged down by thinking about how long this whole process will take. Any advice for how to deal with that? I guess just take it one day, test, course, semester, and year at a time…

I think the key is to go in prepared for the best and worst of the process. Having already earned a doctorate, you probably know how grueling it will be. But if your intention is to enjoy every minute of it, you’ll do fine.

For me, volunteering at a clinic was the most important thing. The direct contact with the patients was what kept me going, hearing their stories, not having any crucial responsibilities other than to help out where I can. I wish I could have continued with it in med school; people tell me to forget about that and study study study, which I guess is the right thing, but it saddens me to lose these precious moments. Anyway, I would recommend finding a volunteer position where you get a lot of patient exposure, and savor it for as long as possible, because it’s just a brief phase in your career.

It’s a long road but you know, there are lots of milestones along the way: completing orgo 1, then orgo 2, the other sciences, taking your first practice MCAT, taking the real thing, getting an interview, and gaining entry to medical school. Then it becomes a week to week grind of passing the exams and keeping your head above water, preparing for that magical 2 year mark when you take your first boards and move into clinicals. Really, medicine is a series of achievements that gradually build you into a practitioner.

Thanks Terry. I definitely wnat to find volunteer experiences that involve direct interaction with patients. I’ve taken the impersonal research track long enough. Any advice on how to find the interactive kinds of opportunities?

Hospice is one good possibility. Residential hospice uses volunteers, and in-home hospice often provides volunteers for respite care so the family can get out to get some groceries or just walk around in the fresh air.