Harvard Extension School

I’m applying starting this summer.
Those who have completed the pre-med post bac program there, any pros and cons?

They rejected me.
I am over it now.

I thought it was open admission!

Are you applying during the summer or to start during the summer? I have taken a few classes there (intro. psych, gen chem I… will be starting gen chem II in a week and a half), though I haven’t officially enrolled in the Health Sciences program yet. Here are my takes:
* tuition is very reasonable
* evening lectures and fairly flexible lab/discussion session options
* general chemistry class has tremendous profs
* good facilities and location
* diverse group of students (age-wise, at any rate)
*cost of living in Boston is extremely high
*very difficult to work full-time and take more than one class at a time… it’s been manageable with one, but I was hoping to do two next fall and I don’t think that’s going to work… unless I win the lottery
*The people in charge of the program don’t seem to be the friendliest… I guess they want to be realistic, but it can come across as negativity… luckily you really don’t have to deal with them that often.
My $0.02!

Calvin, did you apply to the program and get rejected? Now I’m having second thoughts. Hmmm…
Tris, I thought HES was open enrollment too but I believe one still needs to apply to get in to the program.
Arciedee, I’m applying now to start in the summer with Harvard Summer School then on to the Extension School in the fall. I’m not from the Boston area but if all works out, I’ll be relocating there possibly this spring. Currently, I’m in a rampage searching for work and room and board. Since you’re from there any suggestions?

I’m planning to take chemistry at the summer school without enrolling in the HCP. If I do well in chemistry, I’ll probably move on to organic and biology in the fall and apply to officially enter the HCP program. The way I see it, if my brain isn’t classroom-compatible anymore I won’t have wasted people’s time. (Just my own. And my money.)
Courses at the extension school and summer school are indeed open admission, so in theory you don’t have to apply for anything. HCP (http://www.extension.harvard.edu/hcp/) gives you a premed advisor and the opportunity to get a letter of recommendation. They are having an informational session tomorrow night (1/29/04) so if you are in town you might want to drop by. I’ll be there; anyone else going?

P.S. regarding housing… for a single, you might check at the Harvard Univ. housing referral office (don’t know the official name); they have, or used to have, apartment listings that are presumably student-friendly. Cambridge tends to be expensive but you might find a place in Somerville or Arlington that is on the bus line to Harvard Square. Summer is a relatively good time to get an apartment; lotsa students leave in June. August/September is a tough time since hundreds of thousands of students are returning (Boston area has about 1/4 million college students). Expect to pay upwards of $1500/month for a single apartment, $700 or $800 if sharing. Prices have come down in recent years however so you may find a better deal than this; I’m just going by some ads I’ve seen.

Housing in Boston - try www.bostonapartments.com for roommate listings.
It is expensive - so do plan ahead!

I’ll be at the info session Terry, so I will look out for you!

Great; I’ll be the old guy with a beard. Actually I’m quite excited; I have lotsa questions that I’m hoping these people can answer. And tomorrow is my interview for a volunteer position at Beth-Israel-Deaconess (don’t you love that name?). And yesterday I commenced preparing for chemistry; I plan to read the textbook about an hour a day between now and the summer, plus a light science book “Physics Demystified”. Things are starting to roll.


And tomorrow is my interview for a volunteer position at Beth-Israel-Deaconess (don’t you love that name?).

Do you have a specific position that you’re applying for, or is this just a general interview? I’d love to hear about it!
I found a volunteer program at Brigham & Women’s specifically geared towards pre-meds that sounded cool, at the end of the 100-hour commitment they arrange for you to shadow a physician and will write a letter of recommendation. I was going to sign up for it, but was worried how it would work out with my job and class and other commitments, so decided against it. Plus it’s not exactly convenient to where I live. I’m thinking that maybe this summer I’ll try to put in some volunteer hours. I’m thinking maybe MGH, it’s much closer to where I live, assuming I don’t move before the summer.
It’s tough living near Boston, there are so many incredible hospitals and it would be great to volunteer at one of them, but at the same time I’d like to give back to my more immediate community. Unfortunately my local hospitals are much smaller and seem to have very limited opportunities for evenings and weekends… sigh.

This is a general interview; I guess I’ll get lots of answers tomorrow and will post what I learn if there’s any interest.
A friend of mine is at B&W and likes it a lot. In fact, I might inquire over there myself depending on how BIDMC goes. As far as fitting in with your schedule, I would imagine it’s tough between work and school to find the time. Maybe summer is your best bet (unless you do summer school, of course).
One of the things that came out in the HCP (Harvard) talk tonight was that anything you do once you’re a premed is considered a resume building activity by adcoms, not a pure giving-of-yourself kind of thing like the Peace Corps. Apparently, adcoms really love Peace Corps experience and similar.
Well, I figure, I have plenty of stuff on my resume just because I’ve done a lot in my life and I’d like an adcom to focus on things like my two years in Taiwan, starting my own business, writing open software, being a bandleader and playing music at nursing homes, etc. At this point a few months of hospital volunteering probably isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference, but it will be a learning experience for me and that’s what I’m after right now.

Okay Terry, dish the dirt! I want to hear all about last night. I didn’t make it (long story…), so I would love to hear what you thought.

OK, Liz, you asked for it! This is from my notes which I took on my Palm handheld. If there are errors, people should feel free to point them out.
Session was presented by Prof. William Fixsen (biology) and Owen Peterson (didn’t get his field 'cause I was 5 minutes late). The primary benefit of HCP (Health Careers Program) is sponsorship; they provide counseling and letters of recommendation. If they don’t accept your application then you are probably unqualified for medical school. 99% of the students are premeds. Labs are included in the course fees.
HCP will write LOR for students enrolled in their premed program. It’s OK to take a class at Harvard Extension, then enroll later in HCP; it’s rolling admission. However they like you to be enrolled in HCP for 1 year prior to med school application. So if you apply in August '06 to med school, you need to have enrolled in HCP by August ‘05. Alternative is to submit “orphan application”: no sponsorship, no premedical committees to help you. Med schools tend to look askance at this type of application because there is less mitigating information to explain or excuse bad grades, gaps in school or employment, criminal record, etc. It’s generally better to use a sponsor.
Many undergrad schools have fantastic support for alum post-baccs; you should contact them even if it’s 10 or 20 years later. Other schools could care less. The better you are as an applicant, the less important is sponsorship. We tell you what you need to get sponsored, which will likely help you enter med school.
You take minimum of 5 courses (20 credits) up to max of 8 courses. Age range of students is early 20s up to early 50s. 27 is the median age. The sweet spot is 25-32 (don’t know what he meant by this). The longer you’re out of college, the more accomplishments you’re expected to show so age can be both good and bad; if you’ve done nothing for 10 years they (med schools) won’t be impressed; if you’ve accomplished a lot, you have an advantage. They want you to “prove to us medicine is a good fit for you”.
Alternative to sponsorship is dossier: for students who do not need sponsorship. HCP will send letters w/ letterhead. $600 fee (not sure if he meant for dossier services or for full sponsorship services). If you’re in a diploma program, you get library borrowing privileges. You need to maintain a good GPA to stay in the program. Summer school requires you to pay for the frills so you get borrowing privileges, access to sports facilities, etc.–which you will have almost no time to use! It would be next to impossible to hold a job while attending summer school; it has happened but for most people it’s not physically possible.
I asked about UMass negative attitude toward summer school. He says they know Harvard’s summer school and are OK with it, but they may not be as accepting of some lesser known school somewhere far away. Someone asked about courses at Umass Boston; he says students’ experiences vary. Some courses are great, other times it can be very bad. Costs are low, though. Alternative to extension school is to be a Harvard special student and take regular undergrad college courses; this is very expensive.
HCP needs to know the students in order to help them.
Suggests you start with chem. The fast track is to then take bio, orgo, and physics during fall/spring. Take the MCAT in spring. Generally, the MCAT material has already been covered by April, but no guarantees. Finishing during summer is hard for MCAT; the MCAT occurs literally on the last day of classes (or exam week, I think). 2 courses is enough, 3 is a lot. You can’t do too much to prepare for med school, but you can do too little. You should be doing medical stuff during all your free time. You should have at least 3 physicians telling you you’re crazy to go into medicine. 40% of students now do the MCAT in August, but April is better because you can get your applications in earlier. If you take multiple MCATs, the higher score won’t cancel the lower one; most med schools will average the scores of multiple MCATs. 3 LORs if on your own. (3 is min.)5-7 LORs if sponsored, employer, graduate advisor, undergrad. Grading at HCP courses is generally not curved except in the sense that a prof might look at multiple factors for a given student.
MCAT prep courses: Kaplan, Princeton Review are the big ones; teachers are not all great, in fact some of them are failed students from the HCP program, but it’s a good social and team building effort. Some people just obtain the books used and do self-study.
EMS as useful experience–some adcoms dislike it, others like it.

Thanks for the detailed description! I am curious to know how much it costs. I will call them and inquire.
I’m unsure whether a formal program is right for me at this time. Especially since I am working full-time AND am taking a Kaplan course. I will need to re-visit HCP once I have taken the MCAT. Yes, I know, that’s a backwards way to do it. I think that it’s the best way for me… I took my prereqs in undergrad (well, I took 2 trimesters of Physics, and still need to finish the final trimester). I need to re-connect with old profs and see if they are willing to write a LOR. However, if a letter from a “pre-med committee” is required, then I will have to go through a formal program and finish up Physics via that route.
Anyway, sorry to think out loud. Again, thanks a bunch for the summary, Terry. We really appreciate it. Best of luck to you!

Thanks a bunch for the synopsis! I can see that it would have been good to be there, I will probably go to the one in the spring. I am going to Dr. Fixsen’s Biology class on Monday.
Did you get a chance to ask your questions? Were there a ton of people there?
I am definitely older than the “sweet spot”, not sure about accomplishments. I have spent the bulk of my time raising my four sons. I personally consider this an important thing to do, not sure what the HCP will think.

There were about 30 people there. Maybe 35. I asked several questions. Actually the format was 30 minutes of lecture, 60 minutes of Q&A, so everyone appeared to get their questions answered. When it was over, about ten people went down front to ask more questions. Clearly this is a crowd who want to learn.
As for life accomplishments, I can’t imagine anything more educational or fulfilling than raising four children! Not sure what adcoms think, though.

The BIDMC interview was, in a word, great! I really liked the people I met; they seemed very open minded and friendly and supportive of midlife career changes. I was told about several clinical areas that use volunteers. There is also the possibility of being a medical interpreter (I speak Chinese) that would involve some training. They like that I’m willing to make a long term (1 year plus) commitment and it makes them more willing to train me. I was up front that I would be unavailable for 8 weeks while at summer school, and they are willing to work around that.
This is a huge facility; I had no idea that a hospital would rely so heavily on volunteer effort. They have around 300 volunteers; of these, some 50 are off-site, making phone calls out of their homes to maternity patients and the like. For days you are on duty you get parking fees waived, which is good because the for-profit garage charges about $30 a day. You get a meal ticket for every 4 hours you work. Most work is M-F daytime hours; I expressed willingness to sometimes work evenings or even overnight but they said that was probably not necessary. Some of their volunteers are high school kids and college students, and others are people who have been there for many years. I’m quite excited about working there and can’t wait to start.