Moving Forward

I haven’t posted on here in a long time.I doubt that anyone will remember my situation ('cause everyone has problems), but I was the one who was deciding whether to live at home or on campus when I started school. I’m sorry to have disappeared when there were those who were trying to help me. I was going through a lot with my mother. I still have a hard time with her,but she is who she is and that’s it. I took the past months to really decide if I truly wanted to study medicine. My high school grads were awful,but that’s the past and I wasn’t serious about school like I am now. I’d go over and over in my mind and in my heart if this is what I want.I feel that the answer is yes. I know that I would feel more at home in a hospital than anywhere else. It makes me so happy helping people. So,now that I’m positive about my direction,it’s time to move forward. I won’t be starting until next spring,which I hope will give me time to save up. I’m still waiting on my financial aid results. My EFC was 0,but I know I’m gonna have to pay something…that’s what’s got me worried a little. I’m going to see if I can handle working full-time and carrying a full course load. I know it can be done,but can I do it? We’ll see. Sorry for dragging this out. I just wanted to thank all the nice people who help out here. I know I’m gonna need A LOT of help just getting through the first year.

Veda, welcome back! I do remember a little about your situation, but I don’t remember if you have any college-level work under your belt at this point. The way you talk in this post, it makes me think that you’ll be going to college for the first time?
If that is the case, I would urge you to take the MINIMUM full-time load if you are also going to be working. You are right, lots of people work and go to school. But it is something that can take some getting used to, and so you want to maximize your chance of success at the outset. I realize you may have to be a full-time student in order to get financial aid. I also know the rationale that if you are paying full-time tuition, which is the same for 12 credits as for 18, you should get “more bang for your buck” and take as many credits as you can. DON’T DO IT. Part of your tuition value will be realized in very good grades, and if you take a heavier courseload and that results in not as good grades, the value is lost. I hope this is making sense; I know what I mean but am not sure I’m saying it right.
Bottom line is, go easy at first both with your course load and your work load. You can always increase the pressure in future semesters!
Again, welcome back, and good luck to you!

Thanks for the wekcome. And yes,I understand exactly what you’re saying,and it’s excellent advice that I’m going to have to follow. I don’t want to,in any way,hurt my chances by doing poorly in my classes. This will be my first time going to school to start my pre-meds. Actually,I just found out this week that I’m not an actual NEW student. I took a couple of long distance classes about 7 years ago and those grades went on my offical student record. I only took the classes to get the credit to get into an art school I was planning on going to. So,as of right now,I have a GPA of 3.3…only 2 credits,though. Since I’m not going to start until January,would it be a good idea to take a few more long distance classes that would go toward my major? I’m majoring in History. I figured that I could get about 2 or 3 classes under my belt since I had the time.

I just have to underscore Mary’s excellent advice of not taking on too much. From someone who is now trying to overcome a few not so great grades and W’s, it is much easier to do things right the first time. I thought that I could “do it all” I was and am a very good student, but you never know what is around the corner. If you have yourself tapped to the max and something unexpected comes along, there is no wiggle room. It sounds like from your post that you have some family obligations, that was my situation and my academic life took the brunt of what went on in my personal life. It is better to take things at a managable pace and do well, then to have to go back and try to make up for having fallen short. Just a bit of advice from someone who’s had the “what if” actually happen.
Best of luck to you, keep us posted on your progress.

Thanks for the great advice. It’s gonna be hard taking it slow because I feel I’m gonna get antsy about wanting to make sure I get all my prerequisites…I read that it’s gonna be harder since I’m not a Science major. I was reading in my book about pre-meds that it’s better to go full force the first year or two to help prepare you for the rigors of med school. I guess the latter is okay if you have no trouble getting good grades. This is really gonna be a scary time for me because practically every grade can either make me or break me.


I was reading in my book about pre-meds that it’s better to go full force the first year or two to help prepare you for the rigors of med school.

You know what, I do not agree with this advice. The truth is that there really is no comparable experience to medical school - the pace and the quantity of information presented is just ridiculous compared with even the most rigorous undergraduate curriculum. And EVERYONE in medical school finds it very challenging.
I was going to say, I think it’s far more important to concentrate on doing well in courses rather than trying to set the most rigorous schedule, but in fact it’s not a question of “more important” because the one thing, getting good grades, is just in a whole 'nother universe of important compared with trying to do a tough curriculum as prep for med school.
I believe that your best preparation for medical school is to do very, very well in your courses and start appreciating the importance of learning for learning’s sake… get away from rote memorizing and start understanding why things work the way they do. This requires that you really concentrate on your core classes and give them quality and quantity time. So no, do not set yourself an extra-demanding schedule; set yourself a schedule that allows you to really immerse yourself in those core courses to learn them well.
My .02.

I couldn’t agree more. I never regret having taken an extra year in my application process compared to some of my colleagues; I simply couldn’t have done it any other way, and it also allowed me to do some cool work, some great volunteer stuff, and some additional classes that ultimately led to a lab fellowship in my application year. All of which meant a lot more to my application for med school than my class load during any given semester.

Getting good grades–even if you are taking literally one class at a time–is the most important thing. If you can do that quickly and in a concentrated way, OK; but lots of us can’t, or at least would be made really unhappy if we had to, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of about that.

There’s really very little relationship–emotionally speaking–between the prereqs and med school. Med school isn’t school. As one of my teachers wisely pointed out, you will almost surely graduate and become a doctor. Therefore it is the first part of your work life as a doctor: it is a job. A pretty tough and emotionally demanding job at times, to be sure; and one where it is possible to get fired, like any job; but still, a job. So, it feels very different.



Thanks Mary and Joe! If it means getting into med school,I’ll take it slow. I may have to take longer anyway since I did so poorly in math in high school.I’m hoping I’ll be able to keep up.Actually,I hope I may even begin to enjoy it,too.

Hi again,
I know you mentioned that your high school grades were not the best, how long has it been since you’ve been in school? One thing you’ve got to consider when deciding the number and combination of courses you are going to take is how confident you are in your ability to handle what you take on. In other words, if you have been out of school for awhile, I wouldn’t load up your first term back. There are some adjustments to be made when going back to school, the level of difficulty of the coursework, the whole time management issue, etc. I’m sure you are tired of us all advising you to “take it slow”, but especially in your first term don’t bite off more that you can chew. Once you get the feel of how much you can do, adjustments can be made to take a more or less demanding course load. You will definately not “ruin” your chances of getting into med school by being prudent in your first term back at school. You will however, hurt your chances by maybe taking on too much and having a less than desirable result. Because as you say, there is a lot of pressure to earn high marks in ALL of your classes.
I’m not sure what the book your reading says about choice of major but, it is best to choose a major in which you have some interest and the major you think you will perform best in. If that happens not to be a science major, that’s fine, plenty of non-science majors are accepted to med school (in fact the percentages of acceptances of non-science majors seem to be pretty close to that of science majors). I can tell you though, that all of those non-science majors had to demonstrate the ability for acacedmic science study by earning great grades in their pre-req science courses and competitive MCAT scores.
So, I guess we keep telling you the same thing, but we do so because we know how important it is. I know how hard it is not to just dive into the deep end when you are so excited about something, just make sure that when you do you have a life preserver to keep you afloat.

I don’t mind at all about you guys telling me the same things over and over. You guys have been there and are only helping me. The info is so valuable,so whatever you have to stress,please stress !! It’s been almost 20 year since I graduated. Just writing that sounds so discouraging.I have a copy of my high school transcripts and I know math is going to be my hardest subject. I’m planning on taking the placement tests soon and I’m fearful of where IU will place me for my freshman year. If I’m gonna be set back with refresher math courses my 1st year,I’m figuring that I’ll have to take extra classes during the summer to get all my math prereqs completed. Not only that,but I’ll have to ace these math classes to get anywhere near competing for a med school spot. I think I’ll do okay in the science courses,though. It’s just gonna be a big puzzle to solve with my having to fit everything in with a History major. I read about people who did so rotten in high school,but aced their college classes…boy,I hope I can pull that off. I’ve got the desire,but that’s not enough.Oh,and I’ve been reading a couple of books by Jennifer Danek (The Med School Survival Guide" and “Becoming A Physician”). I’ve been getting a lot of information from there.

Listen, Veda, you are NOT the person who graduated from high school twenty years ago. Your life experience is going to help you prioritize and recognize what’s important. This was one of the more amazing things to me as an OPM; my 19 y/o classmates sometimes didn’t seem to have a clue where to start with an assignment, whereas to me it seemed so obvious. And this is life experience I’m talking about, not academic experience.
Do be aware that until you’re comfortable with math skills through algebra and some basic trigonometry, you ought to avoid general chemistry and physics. Gen-chem is a LOT of algebra and physics has some trig. If you can knock off degree prerequisites and area requirements while you’re getting your math up to speed, you’ll be in good shape for tackling more of the pre-med prereqs just a few semesters down the road.
You may find that math isn’t the big, bad horror you remember. Maybe the BEST experience I had when I went back to school for my prereqs was to find that I really enjoyed gen-chem, whereas my first time around in college, I dreaded it and didn’t get it at all. Time makes lots of interesting changes in your brain as well as your attitude!

I hope my college years are a lot better than my high school years…actually,they could only get better. And I’m gonna try to face this math fear head-on by doing extra studying before the placement test. I have a little over 2 weeks,so why knows…

I’m sure you aren’t looking forward to the possibility of having to take a refresher course in math, but the good thing about placement tests is that they place you according to your ability at the time. With math having been a prior sticky subject for you, this is good, you won’t have to worry about the course being “beyond” you. You can now begin to climb the math mountain confident that you will be building up the basic skills that will be necessary to navigate your way through the basic sciences.
I agree with Mary, in that returning to college an older and wiser woman is defiately an asset we have over our younger counterparts. There is an intuitive sense I have for the material now that wasn’t present when I first entered college. I approach my courses in a different way, I am there to really learn, not simply “get” an A. The A’s on my transcript are now truly earned, not gotten by rote memorization (which I happened to be good at so was often prone to employ.) I mention this because, going forward with your undergraduate education it would be wise to gear your learning style to best understand the material, not just memorize it. When you understand how something works, it isn’t necessary to try to stuff every single bit of information about it into your head through memorization (information crammed in in this manner usually ends up leaking out at the most inopportune moments…like exam-time.) Beginning to form good study habits early on will surely help you in your upper-division courses.
In terms of setting your schedule, does your school have a pre-med advisor? A good advisor can be invaluable in the planning of your schedule at every stage of your education, especially when you plan to go on to a professional school. Also, check to see if your school offers peer advising services. These are current students a bit further along than you. They can offer great advice on the specifics of courses, such as, which are intersting, boring, easier, and more importantly can point you toward good professors. They can also let you know about other services that the school offers which may be helpful for you.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when looking at everything that needs to be done all at once. Take things one semester at a time, you don’t want to burn out before you get started. Try not to stress too much about the math placement test, it will put you where you need to be.
All that said, this is a pretty exciting thing to be doing…isn’t it?

I’m nervous about the math placement test next Saturday,but I’m gonna accept the results and just go from there.I am definitely a different person from the one in high school. My attitude towards school is more positive. I hated high school and I guess my grades can back it up,unfortunately.And you’re right,it IS really exciting to finally be working toward something as bold as medical school…it’s just gonna be a little more harder for me. I’m gonna take it hurdle by hurdle. Once I get my placement results,I’ll move on to the next one. Plus,I really need to find out the correct way to study. I think if I correct that,it’ll make learning a lot better.As for the advisors,I’m not sure if we have a specific pre-med advisor,but I’m sure gonna check that out.

A few little study tips to get you started:
Read the chapter that’s GOING to be lectured on. Then the lecture can fill in any gaps. Work any sample problems in the chapter to get a feel for things. For math and general chemistry, PRACTICE is the key to learning. So do the homework problems, and if they’re not easy, do them OVER–multiple times. Somehow doing this helps you get good at doing whatever problems show up later on the exams.
For biology, I formed a study group, so we could explain the concepts to each other. Nothing will surprise you like trying to explain to someone else a concept you thought you understood.
Good luck! It’s fun to be a grownup!

First off, if you want to study, try It’s a free, online algebra study site. User-friendly, and not only explains well, but has practice questions, too. I’ve been using it to prepare for MY algebra class (which starts tonight - YEA!!). Second, I wouldn’t worry too much about the placement test. The last math class I took (algebra I) was in 10th grade - 32 years ago. I made C’s and an occasional D. I HATED it. When I took my placement test a month ago, I was SHOCKED by how much I knew and how well I did (98 out of 100). And the section which tested what amounted to HS algebra II (which I never took) I did well enough on that I was able to sign up for college algebra, rather than a remedial course. What I discovered about myself in the intervening years is that I am FAR more logical than creative (in HS I was certain I would be a singer or actor or artist and in fact majored in voice in my first college career.) I also learned that I am much more capable than I ever gave myself credit for when I was a “youngun”.

Thank you, Dr. Lisa, for the advice on going online to brush up on math skills. I, too, am taking Intro to Chemistry (before General Chem) and Intermediate Algebra as a way to get my feet wet before I take premed classes at the University of South Florida in the fall of 2004. I’m muddling through chemistry okay but am completely lost in math. I, too, haven’t had a math course in almost 30 years.
I’ll take you up on your suggestion.
Thanks bunches!