Introduction and Request for Advice

People of Earth,

First-time poster here. I’ve been talking myself out of pursuing medicine for years, but now I’m finally looking into it.

A little bit about myself: 27 years old. Philosophy major in undergrad. Took a couple of science courses and did poorly. Convinced myself that I lacked the aptitude when what I really lacked was the attitude. Sputtered to the finish line in undergrad. Joined the Marine Corps Reserve. Deployed once to an uneventful corner of Iraq. Went to law school, where I discovered that I enjoy the study of law. The practice? Not so much. Graduated with no job in the worst legal hiring climate probably ever. Took some time off after graduation to move with my wife to her new job location. Taking the bar exam this February…and now looking into pre-med programs. Bizarre, but as Woody Allen said, “the heart wants what it wants.” Sure, he was talking about pedophilia bordering on incest, but it’s still a great quote.

In any case, I live in Atlanta, post bacc deadlines are fast approaching, and many of those spots are probably already gone anyway. So, my mind swirls with questions:

Formal post bacc or DIY? Do I even have time to apply for a formal post bacc program? Can I get this done in Atlanta so my wife and I can be together? Is Agnes Scott’s program worthwhile? Would I be better served by DIY at Emory?

I realize this is a scattered bunch of questions, and for that I apologize. I’m just starting to look into this stuff and come to terms with what it is that I want to do, and to be honest I am reeling. So as much as I’m looking for advice, I’m also looking for general support.

First of all, welcome to OPM! You’re in good company here. Many of us (myself included) talked ourselves out of medicine for years, as you put it, but are now pursuing the dream that has haunted us all this time.

I’m in Chicago, so I can’t help you with Atlanta-specific questions. Perhaps others can weigh in here. In terms of formal post-bac vs. DIY, that’s really up to you. I’m doing a formal program, and have really loved it. Some of the benefits (for my program at least) include more structured advising, a committee letter (which you may or may not get at a DIY), upper-level post-bac only electives, and a community of other post-bacs who are in the same boat. That said, my formal program is really expensive, and I’ve had to take out a LOT of loans, including the governmental max ($12,500 per year) and private loans as well (which usually require a credit-worthy co-signer and have higher, and often variable, interest rates). However, for me, I find that it’s been worth it. I’m also at a very small school, which has meant that I’m in small courses and have been able to get to know my professors very well. This has led to a research opportunity, which I’m really excited about, and lots of outside help/tutoring from my profs as needed.

I actually did visit Emory on a recent trip to Atlanta, and will likely be applying there myself this June for my MD/PhD. It’s a great school, and I’m sure you would get a stellar education there. I don’t know what the application process is like, though. It may be on the late side to get in at this point (but don’t take my word on that … contact the admissions office).

I do have a friend who’s doing a DIY at University of Illinois-Chicago, and is very happy with her experience there. So that’s the other side of the coin.

I hope that helps, at least a little bit! DIY vs. formal is in part about finances, in part about what you’re looking for in a program. I would encourage you to contact the programs directly and learn more about them, if you haven’t already. That might help you in your decision process.

Best wishes, and keep us updated on your journey!

Hello E4T and welcome! This will be quick because I’ve got an overbooked clinic so please feel free to PM with questions.

Agnes Scott does have a reputable program. I went to med school with with a former high school teacher, now in practice in Spartanburg, SC, who went through AS. I remember her commenting that not many people who started the program actually finished in the 18 months, so I would ask about that, as well as their acceptance rate.

I did a DYI at UGA while working full time. This was 10+ years ago, so not sure how difficult it would be to get into the classes you need now. I know of two current residents who did the same at Georgia State.

Best of luck!

I agree with jmdmd. Just my opinion, but I think that DIY post bacc at either Emory/GSU are solid, local options.

I talked extensively with an admissions specialist who said that ultimately she didn’t think it mattered too much where you took the med school prereqs as long as it wasn’t online or from clown college. (I realize that sounds like a bit of an oversimplification, but GSU and Emory both have great science professors with solid curriculum)

I am doing a DIY a little bit down I-75 from you, and have been pretty happy with the advice/feedback I’ve gotten from professors both here and in Atlanta.

Good luck!

Many thanks for the warm welcome. This past weekend was my monthly Marine Reserve drill weekend, so I had plenty of time to ruminate while freezing out on a firing range. I have a number of new questions that I’ll post here on the chance that anyone wants to take a shot at them. Some of these questions are pretty inward-looking and amount to self-examination more than anything else—but I welcome any and all advice. If I don’t get any bites, I’ll start a diary for my brainstorming.

  1. Is it unrealistic for me to think that I can cram all of these prereqs (plus MCAT prep) into 12-18 months? Am I setting myself up for failure with a such a compressed timeline, even if I’m not working?

  2. Where in a timeline like that does one do research and volunteer work? Do people just leave it for the glide year and discuss their exciting plans in their application essay?

  3. If I have some trepidation about such an accelerated approach, should I even be considering formal, out-of-town post bacc programs? I can swing a quick 12-18 months away from my wife, but 24 months is a bit of a stretch, especially with GA State or Emory DIY right here in town.

  4. Aside from tuition differences, what’s the better option between GA State and Emory? It might be easier to chalk up great grades at GA State since I wouldn’t be competing with Emory’s whiz kid undergrads, but Emory has that name recognition…

  5. Emory’s website for non-degree-seeking students is full of warnings about not always being able to get the classes you want. How worried about that should I be? That could really throw a wrench in a carefully-laid plan.

    Thanks, and apologies for any redundant or unoriginal questions

Welcome! Your “name” made me laugh-- my husband is a pilot, and you’re speaking his language!

Your timeline question is one I’d like to chime in on. Doing the pre-reqs in 12-18 months is pushing it, but it depends on the kind of student you are. Some people handle multiple classes with labs just fine, and others find it to be far too overwhelming.

For me, personally, I started my pre-reqs Jan 1, 2011 (4 semesters), and I’ll be done May 5, 2012. I did only the bare minimum (Bio I/II, Chem I/II, Orgo I/II, and Physicis I/II), I work full time in corporate America, and I have a family. Taking classes only at night made me very afraid that I wouldn’t be able to squeeze in any hospital volunteering…

But I found an opportunity that allows me to volunteer a 4 hr shift on Friday nights (in the ED) and a Sunday afternoon shift in the NICU. So those hours add up pretty quickly… and before I know it, I’m getting done with all my pre-reqs, maintaining my career and family, and volunteering/shadowing… all while prepping for the MCAT at the end of April.

I don’t sleep much. And there are weeks that I don’t see my husband or kids much. And sometimes I feel like banging my head into the wall, because I don’t think things will ever get done. But they do. They always do…

So can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? That’s entirely up to you and your family and the quality/lifestyle you’re looking for over the next several years! My family and I have found ways to make our quality time together really quality time, and we always try to spend one full day a weekend and at least one night a week together… Some weeks we get way more than that, and some weeks we barely meet that goal. It doesn’t sound like much, but we make it count!

Just food for thought!

Best of luck!

Add a year to your schedule and do it right. Work a bit part-time if you can if that makes the slower schedule feasible. Now volunteering, shadowing all becomes possible. The most important thing you can do in your pre-med program is: Don’t mess up. And one of the keys to “don’t mess up” is don’t rush.

I rushed - did a 15 month post-bacc program. It worked ok for me - I did NOT work at all and ate, lived and breathed school. Did a little shadowing, a little volunteering (I had done a LOT before school), and no research at all - since I was targeting DO schools, they are less concerned with you having done research. Some of my classmates got involved in research projects their second summer, after they had connections on campus, and talked about it in their interviews.

Can’t recommend it because you may not get A’s —and you may be too rushed for good MCAT prep. But, it is an option (despite Carrieliz, I think you are superhuman if you can do it and work, like she has done)

Regarding EMory - name recognition is not THAT huge a factor - I’d say getting the A at the other school is more important. How worried should you be about not getting the classes you need…very. I tried thru 5 schools in my native city and then relocated 2 hours away to do a formal post-bacc because I simply couldnt’ get the courses I needed, when I needed them, as a non-degree student.

THe other option is to register as a degree student but not complete the degree. More hassle upfront with application but may simplify getting your classes. This is not necessarily frowned upon by the relavent department - sometimes it’s even suggested.


If it were me, I’d go to GSU. It’s not about the name or beating out whiz kids at Emory. The $$$ is insane. And I agree with Kate…that name thing isn’t the end all/be all. I’d rather have the flexibility of state AND know that if I had to move for any reason at all within GA my credits would transfer seamlessly in the University System of GA…that’s anywhere from UGA to Valdosta State.

For what it’s worth, I think you can hustle and do it right. If you couldn’t, you wouldn’t be much use to the military! :smiley: Good luck!

Honestly, if I had to do it over again, I would’ve taken more time. I got lucky…REALLY lucky…and I have a very understanding boss. I also have a super-human, supportive beyond belief husband who’s stepped into the gaps in every way, shape, and form imaginable. (Kate, it’s definitely my husband who has the super powers…not me!! )

So yes, while I say it’s possible, because people have done it (including myself), I’m not sure I would recommend it. And I’m not admitted into med school yet–so we’ll see how it all turns out!

I agree with the others about Emory. I think you should go where you’re going to get the best education and the least amount of debt (i.e. strike a balance.) I could’ve gone to a private school in the Nashville area, but one class would’ve cost me more than an entire semester is costing me right now at a state school. I’m paying my own way, and it just wasn’t worth it–and now I know for sure that all my credits are accepted at any Tennessee state school.

Taking longer to do this may also mean you can pay for more of it without feeling stretched.

I had a hard time getting a few of my classes, and even had to beg once or twice. With working all day, I had to have the night section–and there’s usually only one night section for each of those classes and labs. It was a one shot deal for me, and I almost didn’t get in several times. At my school, I had to wait until everyone else had registered for the first semester, but now I register with everyone else (even though I am non-degree seeking). But many schools aren’t like that… and scheduling can be a nightmare!

Lots to think about, I know! The good news is that once you make a plan, you can tweak it along the way if need be! Good luck!

Thanks for the replies. Inspiring folks here. After much soul-searching, I’m starting to formulate a plan: I am thinking that I need to use my law degree, at least for a year or two, before I start this process. Otherwise I risk looking too flighty or like a degree collector to adcoms.

I’ve talked to my wife a lot about this, and we’re thinking that it only makes sense that I give the practice of law a real shot before I commit us to this path. I don’t have to love it to recognize that it’s the smart play. Practicing for a year or two would also allow me to do some weekend shadowing that would strengthen my applications for the top-flight post bacc programs. I understand that these programs aren’t essential, but the uncertainty inherent in the DIY path honestly freaks me out. I think I’d breathe much easier if I embarked upon this journey at a Goucher or Bryn Mawr. It seems like if you get into one of those, then you know it’s all going to work out.

So I am thinking:

  1. Pass the bar. That is the here-and-now.

  2. Get legal work, with a healthcare tie-in if possible. Easier said than done in this economy.

  3. Do some shadowing on the weekends.

  4. Get pro bono work relating to medicine.

  5. Keep the spark alive–but be methodical, patient, and calculating about all of this. There’s not much difference among starting med school at 29, 30, 31, or 32. It’s all just life.

  6. Try not to wallow in existential angst based on what I didn’t do for the last ten years. Life is good.

Sounds like an excellent strategic overview. No doubt the specifics will fill in as time passes. And you’re completely right about the lack of difference between 29 and 32. (I’m kinda pushing the envelope on that one!)