How much science to be competitive?

Hi all,

I’m wondering if anyone can offer insight into how competitive I’ll be if I don’t take much science beyond the minimum pre-reqs (G Chem 1&2, Org Chem 1&2, Physics 1&2, and G Bio 1&2). Looking at all the med school websites, they say things like: these are the minimum classes required, but most candidates take courses such as biochemistry, microbiology…"

My current schedule will have me finishing by the end of 2010, and will only allow me to take the above courses plus one other elective (probably biochem).

I should also note that I’m trying to overcome early academic mediocrity. I earned my AA in '97 with a 2.8 GPA. However, I spent the last two years of full-time school and full-time work earning a summa cum laude BA in psychology. I just finished my first post-bacc pre-med semester with a 99 in G Bio 1, and a 96-97 in G Chem 1.

Assuming I pull a 4.0 through the rest of the science pre-reqs, do you think I’ll be competitive (assuming a strong MCAT score)? Or should I put it off another year to take more science. As it is now, I’ll be applying in 2011 for entry in 2012. I’m 33 now which will make me 37 at entry. Not only does another year seem hard to wait, but I’m afraid each year reduces my competitiveness. Unlike a lot of others that made it in at this age and older, I have not had a career in nursing or anything medically related.

Thanks for any advice!

Many people will tell you that age does not work against you. Particularly the difference between 37 or 38 or 39. Based on your past couple of years’ work, your academic abilities are exceptional and should easily mitigate your early GPA problems. The OPM mantra about the sense of urgency that many pre-meds perceive seems to be that the journey to professional medicine is not a sprint but rather a marathon. Take your time, and do it right.

My own experience is that the upper-division science courses (Genetics, Bio Chem, Immunology) were good preparation for the MCAT. I’m told that adcoms also like to see that you can perform as well in courses they consider to be representative of the rigors you will encounter in medical school.

If I might offer a bit of advice, it would be to seek some volunteer opportunity which would expose you to a medical work environment. You don’t have to give up your job and go to work in healthcare, but in some of your doubtlessly abundant spare time some close-up observation of what a physician does day-to-day may help you discern whether this is indeed your calling.


Thanks for the reply. I do have a little exposure to medicine, I’ve just never worked in it. A lot of my family members are in medicine (the only doctor is a distant cousin though). My mom is a nurse. When I was an undergrad, I told her I was considering pre-med. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me to do it if I must but that she’d seen it ruin doctors lives and families with the stress and hours. Between that and the long years to do it, I changed my mind. (Looking back I realize I wasn’t motivated enough anyway). I’ve also done volunteering at the hospital years ago and just picked up the volunteer app to get involved again now.

I’ve already slowed my original plans due to advice I’ve been reading here over the last year or so, but maybe I need to add another year.

My big question right now is how much science should I take beyond the minimum? I see genetics and biochem mentioned most often on med school web sites, with a few mentioning microbiology, physiology, etc.

I’m no expert, just trying to get back in the game myself, but I think that a basic anatomy class, or even better, an anatomy class with dissection would be a good idea.

Hi, there!

Since I have an English degree, I am taking more than the basic sciences to prove that I am capable. In addition, anything that I can take now that relates to material I will see in medical school will be a great advantage. Preparing for medical school is just that, preparing for the experience. Anything I can do to make it easier on myself for that first year and strengthen my application is important. Also, since I have taken a good chunk of my pre-reqs at a community college, a couple of admissions people from UC schools have told me that 20 hours of upper level science is a great way to strengthen my application and prove that I can hack it in medical school. I know that this means that it will take me longer, but I’m okay with going a little slower and doing it right (so I don’t have to apply twice, hopefully).

That being said, I’m planning on taking 1 semester each of microbiology, genetics, and anatomy, plus two semesters of bio chem before applying. Fortunately, my local state school is offering bio chem over the summer, so I will be busy all summer. The rest I will take over the next year before applying in 2010, so it will take me an extra year, but I am in no rush.

I hope that this helps.