My Fall Schedule-too heavy?

I’m trying to plan my Fall schedule and it is not easy. I
want to take the April 2005 MCAT, so here is my schedule for Fall and Spring. (BTW, I am finishing precalculus now, and in the summer I am taking General Chemistry I and II)
Fall: Biology, Physics, Organic Chemistry, and Calculus I.
Spring: Biology, Physics, Organic Chemistry, and Calculus II.
Note: I don’t need to take Calculus, but I am attending 2 different schools (for financial reasons) and one of the schools requires that I take at least one class to remain eligible for aid. So instead of Calculus, should I take a non lab science elective?, or maybe an intro psychology class? The intro psych wont be part of my science gpa, though, and I need all the gpa points I can get. I am worried that Calculus will be too hard with my other classes. Has anyone taken 4 classes in a semester? I am very studious and accustomed to being in school…

IMHO I think that is quite a bit but you know your strengths so if you think that you can do it and still get A’s go for it.

Your schedule is almost pathognomonic for OldPreMed Hurryosis. The key feature of Hurryosis is the pervasive belief that you are old and therefore must rush your schedule in order to get into medical school as fast as possible. However, it is called Hurryosis because this can cause decay of your soul as well as your GPA.

Is is possible to achieve what you’re seeking to do? Yes. Is it wise? I’m not so sure. First of all, it will be even more difficult to enjoy the classes than it will be to excel at them, and both will be difficult. Second, taking the MCAT while taking four courses, including material that you will still be learning while taking the MCAT, is risky. Third, it leaves no time for extra activities like volunteering or clinical exposure.

Looking back at some of your old posts, my memory is that you do not have a significant healthcare background (i.e., you were not a nurse, a health educator, a paramedic, etc). You very much need to have clinical exposure before you apply to medical schools, and starting in June of next year will not be soon enough.

OPM Hurryosis is very common, but it can be deadly to your GPA and to your application chances. It is possible to do what you’re thinking of doing, but for most–with some rare exceptions perhaps of people like RNs at academic medical centers who do not need additional clinical exposure and already have support from mentors who can help them get in–I personally think it is not wise.

Take a big breath and consider a slower course.

One option might be to take pre-calc physics and then take calculus while you are applying for school; no school needs to see your calculus grade to let you in, they just need to see that you’ve finished it respectably by the time you start. And your extra credit hours might come from an internship in a clinical setting.

Good luck.


Hi Claudette, Your courseload does seem a bit heavy. Even the year-long intensive post-baccs don’t do schedules like that. They do 1)Chemistry I and II with labs during summer, 2) BioI, PhysicsI, and OrgoI with labs in the fall, and BioII, PhysicsII, and OrgoII with labs in the spring. If you want to take Calculus, they have you stay an additional summer. They also volunteer in clinical settings throughout the year and take the April MCAT. The success rates of these programs proves that it can be done and can be done well. I’ve heard from students of the program that it has been the hardest year of their life, but it did get them in and prepare them well for medical school. A big difference is that the classes in these programs are devoted to the post-baccs - the professor understand your background, your course schedule, and your timeline. I’d be worry about taking on this kind of schedule in a school where the professor have no idea that this is the first time you see this and expect this to be your one or two sciences classes per semester. Even if you feel you get around this, I would definitely reconsider taking Calc I and II. If you’re doing it for financial reasons, I would just take an easy elective that will not require a lot of your time - make sure no big research papers.


…1)Chemistry I and II with labs during summer, 2) BioI, PhysicsI, and OrgoI with labs in the fall, and BioII, PhysicsII, and OrgoII with labs in the spring.

Hi, iwant2bMD,
I’m planning to do exactly the curriculum you have outlined; I’m signed up for summer Chem I and II with labs. If this goes well, I’ll continue in the fall with Bio, OChem, and Phys, plus labs.
Do most people who are studying full time find 3 sciences plus labs is a bit much?
My fallback plan is to move Physics to next summer, and maybe just audit Physics during the fall and spring to get a head start.
But, I’m also worried that if I can’t hack three courses per semester, how am I going to handle graduate/medical school?

Hi Ttraub, I can’t tell you if people find taking 3 sciences with labs as too much. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll let you know very soon. I don’t think that taking one or two sciences while holding down a part-time or full-time job and/or raising a family is any different than taking 3 sciences with labs without those outside obligations.
I think the traditional premed student weaves the sciences prereqs into their other degree requirements, including humanities, liberal arts, electives, etc. So they end up taking one or maybe two science classes with labs each semester. I think this presents a problem for post-baccalaureate students. We have specific needs that can only be met by specific classes. Anything more would be somewhat wasteful. I have a law degree as well as a master’s degree. I don’t particularly want to fill in my schedule with non-science classes.
You bring up a good point, though…if not now, you will soon be taking more than one or two science classes, so are you doing yourself a disservice by taking it slow? My first inclination is that you shouldn’t max yourself out just to prove you make it through medical school. First, you need to get into medical school, not-so-great grades are going to hurt that chance, so I wouldn’t bite off more than you can chew just to replicate the medical school curriculum. I also see the point to the sentiment that after no experience or a long reprieve in science education being cautious in taking one to two classes and giving them all your energy.
That being said, I absolutely think that the adcoms can see your light course schedule and might be less impressed than if you received all A’s with a full courseload, although I don’t think this will keep you out of medical school. But you have to ask yourself if you can get all A’s with a full courseload? It’s probably better to get all A’s with a part-time courseload than it is to get B and C’s with a full courseload.
I think the trick is that you really need to know yourself. I personally thrive in intense situations…I tend to be more productive when I am the most busy. If I have to much spare time, I waste time, period. That’s the way it has always been with me. But this is part of the reason I chose a formal post-bacc program…I myself am not super disciplined, but I like being part of structured things bc they impart discipline and structure on me. Growing up, I was the student that never met their potential…I was always gave just enough to do well, but never my best. I need to be challenged by my peers and professors to fully rise above. So you have to ask yourself what you are like and what has historically worked for you, not other people’s experiences. The problem with other people’s experiences is that they only know what they went through, although they can imagine, they don’t really know what their grades what have been like had they taken less or more classes. After all, I’m sure you’ve had situations where you’ve surprised yourself and did things you never thought yourself capable of. Plus, they have different obligations and learning styles.
Anyhow, sorry for the long post, but I struggled with the same issue for awhile. I’m happy with my decision and feel that it’s right for me. I understand it will be a hard year, but I never expected any of this to be easy. Anyhow, it seems like you’re doing the right thing allowing yourself space to change your mind and revamp your plan if the need arises.

I will be curious how well you do. I just finished my first semester of prereqs (Chem 1 and Phys 1) and ended up getting A’s in all labs and lectures. I didn’t think that was bad at all and wanted to ease into my first semester back. This summer shouldn’t be bad either taking Chem 2 by itself. The kicker is Fall. I am enrolled in Phys 2, Orgo 1, and Bio 1. And Bio at UMKC has a nasty reputation as being a tool to humble the best students. Of course, Orgo is always a bear. So 3 science courses with labs. I figure it will be a good test of my preparedness for med school. Worst case. If it gets too crazy, I could drop Phys 2.
If I do drop Phys 2 is it possible to apply to med school while I am taking it? What if I took it during the summer I applied?

I completed a post-bacc program with the summer/2-semester with MCAT in April plan just fine. Since I already had physics, I took A&P and Medical Micro instead. I also volunteered 5 hours each Friday night at a large academic hospital program for the entire year. In retrospect, I even think I had a lot of quality time with my husband, especially now that I only see him about 1 1/2 hours a day. The one-year post-bacc schedule is very doable. However, my undergrad degree had lots of math and science (mathematical science major with a nuclear engineering minor), so having three hard sciences in one semester was nothing new to me since I often did it along with 2 humanities classes in undergrad. So, if you have a strong science background, then you may do fine. However, if you do not have this type of “training” in preparation for the one-year post-bacc, then you may want to give Joe’s advice about rushing things some consideration. In the grand scheme of things, one year will not be the end of the world, but may give you the opportunity to strengthen your application. In addition to having good grades, we post-bacc’s must also show adcoms that we understand what the health care profession is all about and that we are not just doing this on a whim.
Good luck,

CraigO, it’s possible to have one prereq course in progress during your “glide year”. You can send the updated transcripts to the schools you’ve applied to when the course is completed. I understand there’s a place on the AMCAS application to list courses as “in progress”.
I’m working full time, so I’m taking one or two courses at a time. I took orgo 1 with bio 1, but my campus bundles both days of lab into the second semester of orgo, so I didn’t want to be taking three days of lab while still trying to fit in my full-time day job. My boss is very understanding, but there are limits. Next fall I’ll take Physics 1 and Bio 2, and in the spring I’ll finish off Physics and prepare for the MCAT.
There are all sorts of ways to go.

TTraub,I should probably add that while I don’t think 3 course with labs is too much. I definitely think it might be too much if you work full-time or even part-time. If you are in school with 3 sciences classes and labs to boot, I think that is your full-time. I think it gets a little risky when you have outside employment or even when you are solely responsible for family organization/duties. Not saying it can’t be done, but you might consider scaling back on classes to keep your sanity.

I think you are shooting yourself in the foot academcially.
Man that’s heavy load. I took Botany, Calculus II and Physics one term and did well, but it wasn’t easy. Two lab courses and math. There is the added pressure with the premed OPMer to hurry up and get in, what’s the rush? 2 or 3 courses done well beats 4 so-so grades. If it takes an extra semester or so, in the grand scheme does it really matter? I think you should cut yourself some slack.

I have read through all these posts and I started to wonder, How many credits per semester do most OPMers take?
12 to 15 per semester was my normal load. But I wasn’t working so for people who work, that might be hard. I did teach an Organic Chemistry Lab section, volunteered at the free health clinic and cancer center and was the president of the pre-med society and was a mother and a wife while taking that many classes so it did seem like I didn’t have many spare moments.
Is claudette planning on taking the labs with those classes? The labs might make it too many credits, but without them, it is possible to take that load. Just don’t get behind or you will be sunk.


TTraub,I should probably add that while I don’t think 3 course with labs is too much. I definitely think it might be too much if you work full-time or even part-time. If you are in school with 3 sciences classes and labs to boot, I think that is your full-time. I think it gets a little risky when you have outside employment or even when you are solely responsible for family organization/duties. Not saying it can’t be done, but you might consider scaling back on classes to keep your sanity.

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. 3 science classes plus labs isn’t impossible so long as you aren’t doing anything else. If you need to work at all or have other obligations definitely consider stretching things out a bit more. I overloaded myself on the science for the past year…full loads all science (16 credits) and while not all of them had labs I was definitely trying to do too much in addition to attempting to work (that went out the window after the first 3 weeks lol), and dealing with some personal stresses. Partially due to financial reasons, and partially simply because I’ll burn out before I graduate undergrad from now on I’ll be limiting myself to 2 hard sciences/semester…and maybe a 3rd not so hard one at times. I need the break since I find for my undergrad classes that practicing problems and reading chapters for each of my science classes is really important. There just aren’t enough hours in the day lol.
I also wanted to make a comment about something one of the other posters said about getting used to taking all science all the time. While I agree that yes we will be surrounded by science in med school the type of learning is very different compared to undergrad/post bacc classes. Things tend to integrate more easily between your various classes (especially in PBL ), and it’s more straight memorization compared to working math type problems, and insanely worded short answer questions. Or at least that is my understanding . So I don’t think loading up on science in undergrad/postbacc really prepares you for what med school is like. I’ve often been told that med school is actually easier than undergrad because you are given all the info that is needed…you just have to integrate it. Undergrads, on the other hand, will often go out of the way to “make things difficult” for you.
To compare…my schedule this spring was Orgo I lecture, Physics II lecture and lab, genetics and lab, and biomechanics. It was simply too much for me with everything else that was going on in my life. I reduced it to Orgo lecture, genetics lecture, and biomechanics and things are going much more smoothly lol. Next fall, on the other hand, I’ll be taking a major break from prereqs by taking analytical chem + lab, calculus I, us history 1865-1920, and critical thinking. Two semi-hard classes with two relatively easy classes, and plenty of time to work part time plus do clubs and volunteering. Then come spring I’ll have all science again, but only two of the classes will be “hard” - bacteriology + lab and physics II…my “easy” ones will be health and fitness and injury prevention. After that I’ll have at least 2 humanities classes to offset my sciences until I graduate.
I do know plenty of people who can handle a schedule like I had this spring, but I simply wasn’t one of them. Only you can say for sure if you are one who can handle 3 hard science + labs. The fact that you are questioning it at all though leads me to believe you “may” be better served by stretching things out.
Good luck!
–Jessica, UCCS

I think 3 classes is doable as a full-time (no job) schedule; but four intense classes is not for any but the most intrepid.

The idea that you need to slam yourself in preparation for medical school is definitely not right. I find medical school much easier than I found my post-bac because post-bac requires a much bigger emotional risk every day, and because it is often about things that have little connection to your overall goal. When you start medical school, you’re not really in school anymore. Because the overwhelming majority of people graduate and become doctors if they want to, it is really the beginning of your work life. That means a very different emotional context, which also really changes the nature of the workload. Also, the difference between life lived in pass-fail vs. life lived in gotta-get-an-A mode is huge.

I feel very strongly that being a competitive applicant is not about getting As in your post-bacs; that is just the beginning. It’s the other stuff you do that really makes a big difference assuming your grades are good. And therefore, I have to emphasize very strongly that it is important to think about stuff other than your classes. All applicants to medical school have taken those classes; what’s going to make you special? And what’s going to be special to you? I think these are very important considerations when making a schedule that too many OPMs neglect.



Thank you all for responding at length to my important question-you all are wonderful! I also did some thinking and decided to take 3 classes instead of the 4. The 3 classes will be Organic, Physics, and Biology. All have labs. I don’t work, so school will be my fulltime job, along with volunteering a few hours a week at Cook County Hospital.(Cook County-I’m so excited, that’s where ER is based!But I digress…)

I was under the mistaken impression that to set myself apart from many others and to show my ability to the adcom, I had to take 4 or 5 classes, and try to take elective science classes in addition to the core. But I realize that my goal is to take what’s REQUIRED first, see what happens, THEN come back for more if necessary.Someone else said here that all premeds basically take the same science classes anyway, but I was just thinking I should go “above and beyond” and take more. That would have been a disaster!

I feel at peace with my schedule now, but worry that since I’m taking them at 3 different schools, it will not look good…? They’ll have to look at all these different transcripts to try and figure out when I took what and where…anyone else going to 3 different schools? Also, has anyone taken a science class in the evenings, like from 6-9pm once or twice a week? How was it?

Don’t do it. Drop calculus- many programs do not require it and if one that you want to go to does, you just need to get it in before matriculation.
I did Bio 2, Chem 1 and Physics 1 last semester and Chem 2, Orgo 1 and Physics 2 this semester but mixing Orgo and Physics is particularly difficult.

I guess I shuld clarify my earlier statement. For me, taking 6 classes per semester (4-5 science for 18 credits) plus juggling all the extra-curricular stuff that the Academy required in undergrad wasn’t terribly tough. But for some it was. I saw some great people struggle under those demands. I think the same principle applies here. For some people, putting in the hours that a post-bacc program requires (which personally I didn’t find difficult compared to undergrad) is difficult and managed to wash them out, noting that this was a program that required a minimum undergrad GPA of 3.4.
For some who haven’t been in school for a while, just getting back into the swing of studying and processing a lot of new information may be difficult. It truly depends on the person. As a post-bacc I had a lot more free time than I had while working, but again, that depends on the nature of each individual person’s previous work and life experience.
And as for med school, again, I think it depends on the person and the program. We are on a block schedule and are fully graded. We go to class for 4 hours each day. This is great if you want to have “free time.” However, know that if you get behind and don’t master that material that day, good luck, because the next load is coming the next day. And by the way, you get full lectures of new material up to the day of the exam. And the questions on the new material are just as difficult and detailed as on the material you learned on the first day of the block. Each block is 3-4 weeks long and I fill a 2-3 inch notebook with course notes and such. My husband jokes that we do a whole semester in one block and he knows how hard I will be studying for each exam based solely on the size of the notebook. So, yes, learning in undergrad is definitely different. But the principle of having to learn large volumes of science material (and in a short time in med school) stays the same.
Personally. I think that if you didn’t have a heavy science load as an undergrad and can take the time off to do it, a one-year post-bacc is a great way to show adcoms that you are up to the task of doing a lot of science at once, regardless of how “different” it may/may not be from med school. But not everyone has this opportunity. Each person on this board has their strengths, weaknesses and personal situation, ultimately tailoring their schedules to set themselves up for success.
Just my two cents,

I took Physics w/lab, Gen Chem w/lab, Bio w/lab, and pre-calc winter quarter. This quarter is the same, except I am taking Calc. I got all A’s, but it certainly wasn’t easy. I work weekends, and fortunately for me, a lot of times we aren’t busy, and I can study when we aren’t busy.
Calculus has been very tough for me so far this quarter. I seriously considered dropping it and taking it next fall. Gen Chem this quarter has lab two days a week, so I have four labs a week. It definitely chews up a lot of time.
I would vote for the three classes and volunteering. Ever since I moved and started school, I haven’t been volunteering (Although I still work for a private ambulance service). I really MISS volunteering, but I just don’t have time with my course load and work.
Good Luck!

I agree that four heavy duty science classes is just too much–glad to see you’ll probably be doing 3. Seriously, even if anyone could do well in 4 classes plus labs all at once, it could very well make them insane. I know if that was me trying to do all that at once, I’d lose sight of everything else in my life.
I don’t know whether this would work considering your plan to take the MCAT next year, but if you’re definitely going to be taking calculus at some point or another, then maybe you want to think about taking calc before physics? Then you could take calc-based physics. That would also postpone a physics lab for awhile.
I know calc-based physics isn’t really required anywhere. But if it’s something you’re interested in, then it might be worth considering.