Hello, wanted to ask for some advise.

I have posted quite awhile ago when I first started toward the path to medical school. I have finished my prerequisites as of this semester, but my concern is still around unfortunately. To reintroduce myself shortly, I am 34 currently, and I decided around 29-30 to attempt to go to medical school. This isn’t a sob story, nor am I trying to justify anything, but I wanted to get the best possible advice from people by laying all my cards out.

Growing up, I was never a good student and was constantly in ESE type classes because my teachers felt I was not quite aligned with “normal” children, up until high school.I also graduated high school a year late due to my academic difficulties as well. Due to this, I never even considered going to medical school because that was usually aligned with “something for smart people only” to me. I never really cared so much as well, because I was fine the way I was, and accepted the fact I may not “normal.” I was in and out of school, and totally bombing my grades, but my goal at the time was to simply graduate a 2 year college and get a random job. Also, due to my then therapists’s “encouragement” to say “it is ok to drop classes and take it easy,” I have more Ws than you can even imagine. After being broke and homeless for awhile as well, I wanted to be able to have a stable job. I applied to a local university along with vocational rehabilitation program’s support, and somehow got in with a very abysmal GPA (2.2 or so with some Fs an Ds). Once again, However, I later started to realize I wasn’t as “dumb” as I thought when taking University courses in social science (I went in as a Sociology major). After much deliberation, I decided to see if I can take science courses. Alas, it was disastrous, and I realized I had a fundamental flaw that even most non-traditional older premeds didn’t have, which is that I had no experience in studying and doing well in “normal” classes, let alone sciences. However, I wanted to test myself one more time, but I also decided to accept the fact that I needed to work twice as hard while building up basic foundations that I lacked and haven’t honed for almost 20 years of my academic life. This part was especially hard because I had to shave my hours from getting the money to live as well as use money for tutors etc.

I was surprised that I finished the semester successfully, and was encouraged to keep going! Throughout the semester, I have had much hardships and emotional distress. I do not come from an affluent family, so I had to work to support myself (quite a bit of hours). I also then recently got married to my wonderful wife who accepted me despite my rather “low” background, but as much as she was an angel, she did not find the fact I wanted to go to medical school a fond choice (she comes from a working class family who value work vs. long school years). Vocational rehab “found out” that I was aiming for medical school and they stopped supporting me toward the end of my academic career as well. My father also had cancer at one point, and my last semester which just ended, my family also went through a housing foreclosure crisis which forced me to shorten my graduation time. I was planning on taking several more upper division courses that I found enjoyable to prove I can do well in sciences, and also spreading out certain type of science courses to graduate next year. However, I needed to go back to help with the home of my mother and father, so I squeezed in 17-18 credits all this semester.

Overall, this is the result of my prerequisite attempt as a Sociology major:

Bio I + lab B (I really didn’t know how to study for sciences back then…such as easy class)

Chem I A-

Chem II B

Chem lab A

Microbiology + lab B (5 credits and an amazingly difficult class due to an amazing professor (great professor!). 1.2% away from A…)

Organic Chemistry I A

Organic Chemistry II A (I believe organic courses are the only courses I aced with average of 100%)

Organic lab A (our school’s lab system is I+II combined and taken mostly during or after 2nd part of a series course)

Physics I B

Physics II B

Biochemistry B (Last Semester. 1.3% from an A and something I felt I could have aced if I were not taking 18 credits + work this semester)

Analytical chemistry A

precalculus A

Trigonometry A

*** I really wish I could have taken upper level biological sciences and clinical courses I really enjoy such as genetics, Immunology and anatom & physiology, but FAFSA will not pay for those as a sociology major starting this year (even loans). Also, my home where I will be moving back to help out family does not have a University where I can take courses at least in the immediate future. <—anyone with some tips regarding retaking or taking upper level science courses at a university please let me know!

These are NOT including my random BCPMs I took 10+ years ago at my community college such as Intro to Bio 104, earth space science, stats,

algebra etc."

If you factor the BCPMs from 10+ years ago, my sGPA ends up being something closer to sGPA: 3.03 sadly.

My overall GPA boost was perhaps the single hardest thing to bring up because I went from around 2.2-2.3 to about 3.049 at the sluggish pace possible (3.049 using ACOMMAS method. the MD school method would be much lower I presume due to some repeat courses from 10+ years ago). Fs and Ds really hurt your GPA…

I now have about half a year to study for the MCAT. While I am not too nervous about doing well on exams especially since I realized I can do well in courses, I am heavily weighed down my the emotion that my grades are extremely mediocre. I also had to accept the fact that although I had a decent upward trend (couple of Dean’s lists), I was different from majority of people. I had to build up my nonexistent studying skills while taking the all important prerequisites. I would have gladly taken some easier introductory courses to practice my skills, but I simply do not have the resources and time to do so unfortunately. My morale is kind of low, which I felt could affect my MCAT scores, so i decided to get some MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) training from a school friend for free! I hope such intense training can keep me focused.

For ECs, I have about 100 hrs or so volunteer hours at a clinic (which i plan to continue to increase throughout the year), I have done an undergraduate research in sociology pertaining to medical sociology. I have planned my shadowing with physicians for the whole year of 2016, and I have numerous experiences going overseas on mission trips to third world countries years before I even contemplated going to medical school. I am also hoping to work as either a medical scribe or medical information technician at a hospital next year as well.

I understand my application is extremely poor compared to others, mind blowing amount of Ws from 10+ years ago, and do not have a typical stellar postbacc 4.0 GPA story. I am older applicant who pretty much started his academic career at 29. I am sure there are people who were in my shoes who have done much better, and I am humble about the fact perhaps I could have done better if I tried to receive more help or been wise about approaching things. However, I would still like to see what would be the best course of action at this point in my life.

For starters, I plan to study a good while for the MCAT and do really well. I believe “getting this out of the way” is the single most important thing I must do at the moment and will dictate which direction I should take in the future (if poor, giving up may not be that out of the question). I also wanted to receive some advise on how to prepare for the MCAT “wisely” and efficiently.

Thank you so much time for taking the time to read my situation and hope it did not come off as a rant. I never really share my personal stories or situations because I often feel shamed of it especially after seeing academically amazing young kids around campus. However, I am done with my prereqs, and wanted to see what would be the wisest course of action to take.

I hope all of you have a great day.

Sounds like you have a good story of personal reinvention, which could theoretically be viewed as favorable by certain schools. Be sure to be able to concisely describe your previous “issues,” how you overcame them, and what you learned from the experience that can be applied to life in general. Basically, show them on your personal statement that you aren’t a gamble for them.

In my opinion, the deal breaker given your recent academic record will be your MCAT score. You’ve shown that you have consistently done well in school, but the MCAT is the great equalizer (and has a strong correlation with board pass rates). You’d have to apply smartly and target schools that appreciate reinvention over a flawless record.

As far as prep for the MCAT… AAMC has a very general list of all of the testable material that you could develop your own study plan off of. I’d recommend a commercial prep course that can help tailor your studying to what can actually be expected from the test. If you’re a good self-starter, you could probably get by with just getting the course books and teaching yourself versus taking their full classes. There are pros and cons to each option, and the classes are NOT cheap.

Thank you so much for the detail. I actually for the same suggestion from a premed advisor who have seen couple nontraditional students as well. Though the last couple of days, I decided for now to focus only on the MCAT and worry about Postbacc later. I have a pretty significant upward trend, but compared to top medical students, it’s really nothing special. I have been on dean’s list past or so, but so do most kids who have been perfect throughout their academic careers. I was bit worried due to this, but I have clarified a trend at all is very important. As you have said though, MCAT is the single most important thing to me.

I also heard about the correlation to MCAT and STEP 1, but I guess it is true after all. I feel I get very deep into my studying material than I should. I need to learn how to become more acquainted to med school/step 1/MCAT style of study, being able to filter important details.

This may sound rather vague, but is there a thought process of specific studying method anyone can suggest on doing so (such as having a notebook full or important topics, skipping certain type of sections in book etc)? I tend to study every single line and paragraph, which is not the way to go in med school I heard. This works in topics such as Organic, or physics, but I noticed it burns me out in Biochemistry etc.

Thank you for your time for the reply. It means so much to me!

What’s your goal with the postbacc? It looks like you have most/all of the prereqs done already with a B or higher (not sure exactly what the prereqs are post MCAT change).

The problem with studying for undergrad, studying for the MCAT, and studying in med school, is it’s a pretty different mindset for each.

In undergrad, they expect you to know all of the details because that’s really the only thing they can test you on. Everything is important so you have to know it all to some extent.

The MCAT tries to bridge the gap between undergrad and med school (as well as get some gauge on future board potential) by testing you on specific topics that you’re told to know ahead of time and should have learned along the way. It isn’t just rote memorization, but you’re expected to have a solid background in certain areas to be able to do calculations and think through things objectively. It’s a lot about being able to sort through question stems, picking out what you need or understanding the overall picture, and using that information (coupled with what you already know but not necessarily) to answer the questions. The downside is you don’t really know what is “important” until you read the questions.

Med school tests are all about what amount of information you can cram into your head (hopefully learning it along the way) and using that information to either answer direct questions or to figure out the right answer based on what you should know. Like the MCAT, you have to have a solid foundation in the material and must be able to use that information (and possibly just logic in general) to come up with the right answer, usually in a clinically-related, application-type question. The major difference is the short amount of time you have to learn the large amount of testable material. In studying for the tests, some people take different strategies: Try to memorize everything; Try to actually learn the material; Try to only focus on “high-yield” material knowing you’ll probably miss a few “low-yield” questions (problem being that teachers rarely come out and tell you what ‘high yield’ is).

That being said, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT MED SCHOOL TESTS RIGHT NOW. Your whole focus should be on rocking the MCAT and/or doing well in whatever classes you take. After the MCAT you can look at different study techniques to add to your “toolbox” to get through med school. The school itself may offer different strategies during orientation (mine did) and/or have different methods to help you if you’re struggling.

All that being said, the best way for you to get away from focusing on every minute detail would be to do a ton of the reading comprehension type practice questions for the MCAT. They force you to not only get through the passages fast due to time constraints, but they also get you to note details while maintaining a perspective on the passage as a whole. There are different strategies to this that you can try out, but most of them will probably tell you to outline/frame the passage, know where you can find the details but not necessarily memorize them on the first pass, and maybe read the questions first so you have an idea of what is important when you read the passage.

If you’re going to study for the MCAT on your “own,” I would say to surf the internet for a lot of different free sites that can help you focus your studies. Definitely do not just get textbooks for various classes and memorize them because AMCAS already tells you what topics are important to study (available somewhere on their website). If you go with a paid commercial prep class, they’ll already filter through the information to teach/refresh what you need to know for the test and will probably give you different testing strategies.

Thank you for the reply. It really helped alot!

Welcome and congrats on taking those first steps towards being a physician! Nothing compares to doing practice problems. A lot of practice problems. Not only does it force your brain to apply the knowledge that you study it also is incredible at moving that information from short term memory to longer term memory. It’s also one of the main study methods people use in medical school. I really can’t emphasize enough how important doing practice problems becomes. Good luck to you on your journey!