Hi! Introduction questions

Hi everyone,

I am so happy to have just discovered this community of non-traditional premeds, and I’ve really enjoyed reading these very supportive forums. I live in the Chicago area, so I’m also really looking forward to attending the conference in June!! A little about my background: I’m a 27-year-old professional classical musician. I wanted to be a doctor throughout my entire childhood and through high school, but somehow when I got to college I went in without a concrete plan and ended up in an intense music music performance program, with few science classes and no med school prereqs (music has always been a hobby; I had never intended it to be a career). I also got a masters in music performance - hey, I figured I’d already gone as far as a bachelors’… anyway, my career has been great as far as music careers go - I have amassed a list of musical accomplishments that I’m VERY proud of. But over the last few years many things have happened to make me realize that I never wanted to be a professional musician, and that, in fact, my dream to be a doctor is still very much alive - and I’m way more passionate about it than I’ve ever been about music.

So, I started taking night classes at my alma mater to get the prerequisites I needed to even apply for its post-bacc premed program. I also started getting my feet wet in some volunteer work and lab work to make sure I enjoy both clinical and research settings… and I DO!!! I am volunteering in the ER of a local hospital and at a center for fetal alcohol syndrome research. I am also working in a lab part-time at my alma mater, helping with a research project.

Like most non-traditional premed students (I imagine), I have some aspects of my application that I’m afraid med schools may look at askance, and I want to minimize that if possible. I have two primary concerns:

  1. Although both my undergrad GPA (3.815) and masters’ GPA (3.95) are high, and I’ve gotten all A’s so far in my post-bacc career, my undergrad transcript has a giant eyesore on it: a C+ in 2nd-quarter Calculus (I AP’ed out of the first quarter, so that C+ is the only math grade I have on my transcript). I was required to take a refresher math course in order to apply for the post-bacc program, and after that Calc experience, I was terrified of getting a bad grade again. So, I took Precalc and aced it (mainly because the professor was SO great). But I’m concerned that this is going to look really bad - a C+ in Calculus back in 1997 or '98, then for some reason a Precalc class in 2006… even though it’s an A… So, should I retake Calculus? A whole year of it? My concerns are twofold: 1. I am really not good at high-level math like Calculus. I have many strengths, but Calc is NOT one! 2. I still have to work full-time as a musician and music teacher to pay for school (and food, etc.), in addition to 20-25 hours a week of lab work and 10 more hours of volunteering, so I can’t just pile on the classes willy-nilly; aren’t science classes (like the basic prereqs, anatomy, physiology, biochem, etc.) more important?

  2. I have been receiving conflicting advice about doing my prereqs in a post-bacc program. My alma mater is a top-ranked elite university, and there is a real bias within the community there against the “night school” division (where I’ve been taking classes this past year). I’ve been advised by members of the “day school” community that med schools will really look down on me doing my prereqs in this or any “night school.” However, 1. The prereq classes are taught by the same professors that teach them in the day school!

  3. as an alum (and someone with flexible musician hours), I have the ability to take the classes at the day school if I wish… but at over 3 times the cost, or nearly $4000 per class, per quarter!! I would NEVER be able to afford this without some hefty loans (and I’m already in debt $50,000 from my previous degrees and plan to go further into debt for med school). Should I bite the bullet and do the day school classes anyway, to maximize my chances of getting into med school? I don’t want all of my effort in taking any class I’m taking now to be in vain… I completely LOVE the material I’m learning, but it’s been a financial hardship and has also taken a toll on my personal life, as I’m sure many of you can relate to. I’ve been going back and forth about this issue, and I’ve read so much reasonable, helpful advice on this forum… any advice you could direct my way would be much appreciated.

    Thanks in advance, and I’m looking forward to meeting some of you at the conference in June!

This advice is getting ridiculous. This isn’t a ding against you just how retarded the advice is now becoming. It’s not enough you are taking classes at an “elite” university but now it matters whether or not you took them during the day or night??? I mean come on now how stupid can the advice get.

This is too much! Do well WHEREVER you’re taking your classes…do well on the MCAT…submit your app early…do well on your interviews…that’s it!

Please do not take my comments personally. I’m not upset at you but all those well intended people who are giving just plain stupid advice.

Thanks for the response, crooz… didn’t mean to rile ya up. I am not a naturally competitive person, and so the amount of competitiveness I’m encountering as a new premed has really thrown me off… I don’t know what a reasonable expectation is anymore! I really don’t have much perspective on the matter, and I don’t feel like I can talk to the other premeds at my school.

It’s just - everyone I talk to says that getting into med school is the hardest thing since going to the moon, apparently, so I just want to make sure I’m not going to spoil my chances by making a bad choice that could have easily gone the other way. Sorry if I angered you in the process of figuring that out.

Hi, HarpistMD!

Glad you’re interested in medicine–join the club. I play music as well, not full time but often enough that I think of myself as semi-pro, though I’m in the folk realm and nowhere near the excellence of you classical types. I’d offer a couple of ideas for you to consider.

One is that once you’re in med school, you can look forward to about 7-8 years of hard work and little or no time for musical performance. You need to be sure in your heart that you can make this sacrifice. It’ll probably affect your community as well as your self-image. I believe it’s possible to return to the same level later on, but those lost years can’t be reconstituted, obviously. A friend of mine switched from premedical to pharmacy because she didn’t want to give up symphonic clarinet. Albeit, pharmacy is plenty rigorous, but it does cut short the training by several years and affords one a more regular and predictable schedule later on.

Now, regarding the academics: I wouldn’t worry too much about your Calculus grades. You passed, and more importantly you have the math background to succeed in the core prerequisites of chemistry and physics. Medical schools require trig-based physics, not calculus-based physics, so your algebra and trig are the skills you’ll be using here on out. Some medical schools also have calculus as a prerequisite–you may want to investigate if your target schools will be satisfied with your calc grades but that’s probably less important than doing well in science.

The questions of night vs. day, extension programs vs. undergraduate colleges, community college vs. university have all been discussed ad nauseam in these forums and I recommend you search around and read up on them. The bottom line is, you need to go to an accredited institution, preferably uni but CC not ruled out, as long as the courses are rigorous and prepare you adequately for the MCAT. If you do well on the MCAT, the question of the quality of your education is laid to rest. But it sounds like you’re in a perfectly good program so as Croooz says, don’t listen to the alarmists.

Premed is different–people are panicky, desperate, uncertain about their prospects. There’s lots of misinformation floating around, some of it disseminated by premedical advisers but most of it spread by poorly informed premeds. I recommend that you pick and choose your advice and go with what your common sense dictates. There are some very knowledgeable–and successful–people on these boards and I encourage you to hang around. Best of luck!

Harpist -

First, welcome to the community. I’m glad to hear you are going to the conference - I think you’ll get a lot out of it.

Second, do NOT be concerned about your C+ in calculus. There are many people on here who wish that one C+ was the only blemish on their record. Your GPAs are outstanding. Since you have taken very little math and science to date, if you do well in the pre-reqs, you will also have an excellent science/math GPA. As long as you feel your algebra/trig skills are up to gen chem and physics, I wouldn’t worry about retaking any math. Do some review of the basic concepts on your own.

Third, you don’t have to take your pre-reqs in a formal program. (I think you realize this, but just wanted to make sure). I have a question about the “night” program vs. the day program. Does the transcript indicate that you took the courses at night or via extension? I ask because, for example, at Ohio State, courses taken at branch campus are not noted any differently than courses taken at main campus. So, if there is no notation on the transcript, there is no reason that medical schools will even know that you took your pre-reqs in the “evening” program. (another possibility is that the courses are numbered differently). In any case, especially if this is a four year institution, there is unlikely to be a significant bias on the part of the medical schools. If it concerns you that much, talk to people in admissions at the MEDICAL schools in your area (not pre-med people) and ask them if they have any bias against the evening courses. In any case, as long as you do well in them and do well on the MCAT, it’s very unlikely to come into play.

Next - you talk about your schedule. If you have been volunteering for a decent period of time prior to even starting med school pre-reqs, it’s not necessary that you keep up the same level of volunteering that you were previously, especially if you are carrying a heavy course load. If you have a significant history of volunteering, you have already demonstrated the characteristic of altruism in your past, and they will not ding you if you volunteer less due to a heavy load. I personally didn’t do any volunteering while taking the pre-reqs because I didn’t have time with working and my course load. However, I had years of volunteering previously. My lack of volunteering while taking the pre-reqs was never mentioned. Now, I’m not telling you to give up volunteering, especially if its something that brings you great pleasure in your life. But, if you have already demonstrated altruism, this is an area where you can afford to cut back.

I hope that answers some of your questions. In addition to the attending the conference, it may be worth your while to schedule appointments with the admissions office of some med schools in the Chicagoland area. It’s always helpful to get perspective straight from the med schools, especially if you are interested in applying to several of them.

Good luck.

I’ve discovered that premeds whether post bacc or not are not to be listened too. I’m a postbacc so I fall into that category. However I have nothing to gain by giving you bogus advice. I don’t win by having someone else lose. I don’t believe in karma but it sure has a way of believing in me.

Listen to the med students, residents, fellows, and attendings who post here. The rest of us are premeds in some form or fashion. However we who post here aren’t out to derail anyone…unless you’re applying to every school I’m applying to and your app is identical to mine.

Hi there, glad to hear you will be coming to the conference in Chicago.

Like others have said do not worry about the C in calculus. Get good grades from now on (which you are) and do well on the MCAT.

To be honest, I think that getting into A medical school is NOT that difficult IF you do everything possible and in YOUR power to maximize your potential. Folks say it is hard to get in because to be honest many do NOT know how to apply! There are key steps that MUST be done to maximize your chances and these are very easy to do if you have the will.

I will go into details about this at my talk at Chicago

Lots of good answers here, so I don’t really have anything to add except to say, Harpist, that you just sound like you have good innate common sense. Hold onto that now as a pre-med and then through med school, residency and beyond… it will serve you well. Don’t be swayed by the opinions of other people; consider whether they really know what they’re talking about; remember that common sense is sometimes uncommon!

Your focus needs to be on learning what you need to know to do well on the MCAT, learn well in medical school, and work well as a physician. For those concerns, the money and “name brand” aren’t nearly as important as YOU learning it. So you will be fine.