Here we go! Any advice?

I haven’t posted much on these forums but I figured I would give an update on my current status.

After begging and pleading with every CSU/UC in the area to let me return for some undergrad, and being almost laughed at on the phone each time I finally applied to some post baccalaureate programs. It seems like the state college system in California is in some serious trouble or they just really hate me. Either way, I was accepted to two programs (CSU East Bay and USC) and have decided to attend USC.

I’ll be taking 2 to 3 classes a semester including summers for 2 years, and i’ll probably take a non-science pre-req or two at a local JC just to avoid USC’s tuition. The program director at USC also really stresses having clinical experience so they should help me get a fair amount of that before my time in LA is done.

With just a little bit of time left before I get ready to be thrown into a science and debt hurricane I wanted to know if anyone had any advice for me. Advice can be anything, ranging from dealing with classes/testing/studying to having long distance relationships and living in LA.

Also, thanks to everyone that posts here. Though I’m hardly the most nontraditional pre-med student its still nice to see that there are people from somewhat similar backgrounds doing the same thing I am.

My advice is that good grades are paramount, so don’t bite off more than you can chew, particularly as far as summers are concerned.

Prep work and studying on my own helped me tremendously before I went back. One of the best decisions I made was to go buy the “chemistry for dummies” series, etc. to get a head start. When it comes to math, it is not a spectator sport, you’ve got to work the problems many times! It will pay off!

Best wishes,


Welcome to the non-trad pre-med journey! I’m not far along myself – I just started my 2-year post-bac program this fall, and am almost done with my first semester (two more final exams to go) – but it is so exciting to get things started, isn’t it?!

In terms of advice … as the previous poster said, not “biting off more than you can chew” is so important, because getting good grades is so important. Science classes are a lot of work, especially when you factor in all the time you spend in labs (and writing lab reports), so just be prepared for that. Don’t overload yourself, either with too many classes, or too many activities.

That said, it is important to make sure you get some volunteering and clinical experience (or a combination thereof). This is, basically, and unstated requirement for admittance to med school. If you’re going to be in LA, there are TONS of opportunities there, given that it is such a big city. Lots of hospitals, lots of free clinics, etc. Try to find something that gets you working directly with patients in some way. Not only is it good experience, and a benefit to people, but you’ll also have something to talk about in your med school interview. And that can only help you.

Also, get to know some of your professors. Spend time at their office hours. Ask questions in class. Participate. Show motivation and dedication. You will eventually need letters of recommendation, and you want QUALITY ones, where the profs can give specific examples of what an inquisitive/motivated/bri lliant/engaged/etc. student you are, talk about your qualities as a person, and so on. Do this from the get-go, not two weeks before you need the LORs.

In terms of studying, here are a few things I have found to be helpful to me as I’ve re-immersed myself in school and the world of science. Obviously, I don’t know your learning style, but as I said, these things have helped me:

  1. Come to class prepared. Make sure you’ve done the readings ahead of time, if at all possible – this way, lectures will actually make sense, and will build upon what you’ve read, and reinforce it. Sitting in class confused and lost is just about useless.

  2. Get help as soon as you need it. Don’t put it off – if you are confused about a concept, get help RIGHT AWAY! Otherwise, the class will start to get away from you, and it will become really difficult to catch up. I’ve found this so true in physics, where things are really cumulative, and if you don’t understand Concept A, Concepts B and C are like Greek.

  3. Do extra practice on your own. If you understand something really well, you won’t need to do as much, obviously. But for subjects that are more difficult for you (physics, in my case!), do LOTS of extra practice problems, re-reading, flash cards, whatever helps you. And do it throughout, not just right before the test. Build up your learning as you go. This will also help you figure out what you don’t understand, and figure it out more quickly – not the day before an exam. Plus, research shows that learning over a longer period of time “sticks” better while cramming doesn’t. So science will be on your side with this strategy.

  4. Practice for speed. (This goes along with #3.) Tests are (obviously) timed, so even if you can reason out a physics or chem problem at home in 20 minutes, you may only have 5 minutes during an exam or quiz. Maybe even less. So do a LOT of practice (this will build up speed, as you better understand the material), and push yourself to do it quickly. Time yourself if necessary. This can really help, believe me, I do it. And if you’ve studied that way, with a clock, you probably won’t be so nervous when you’re timed during an exam.

  5. Don’t procrastinate. This is such an obvious one, but it is so important. I create a schedule for myself, and a “to-do” list. I use Google Calendar in conjunction with my iCal. (I’m not endorsing Google or Apple, just listing them as possible resources. There are others, too.) This helps me stay on track, and get done what I need to get done, in a timely manner.

  6. Develop your own study habits. For me, this has meant establishing a dedicated place where I can study (my home office), figuring out the best times for me to study (I’m better early in the morning than late at night), allowing myself breaks at certain intervals to recharge, etc. I’ve been very intentional about it. When I deviate (i.e., try to study on the couch), I find I’m MUCH less productive.

    One last thing, before I end this tome: Make sure you have (or develop) a good support network. This is a long journey, and it really helps to have supportive people around you to be encouraging, but also sometimes to push you a little when you need it.

    Best wishes to you. Keep posting!

Thanks for the advice guys! I’ll definitely have to “up my game” for the next two years. I didn’t necessarily breeze through College but humanities classes were always easier for me than science or math ones. I’m going to make sure that I re-evaluate my study and work habits.

As for the prep-work, I’m already on it. I’m starting to get my math up to a pre-calc/calc level and im going to being reviewing chem 1 as well. I’ll considering buying the dummies books or some other chem material too.

I’ve been considering getting some sort of recording device and recording all of the lectures. Have either of you done or considered this? I would still take regular notes but having the whole lecture on recording might be useful for studying and reviewing at home.

Some colleges (or the individual professors) do not allow the use of recording devices in the classroom. In my Chem 1 class a student pulled a recorder out on the first day of class, and the professor told her to turn it off and that it was not allowed in his classroom. I guess it depends on the policies of the school you attend.