New here, and Juggling vs. Grades?

Hi everyone, apologies in advance because this is fairly lengthy!

I found OPM about 6months ago, and I’ve been reading the forums and just absorbing what people have to say and considering it against my own life. I’m really motivated by everyone’s stories, and I am so glad that I found this place

About a year ago my husband & I had a serious discussion about “what’s next” for us. I had been thinking to myself (for about a year at that point) about trying to get into med school, but was afraid of failing. We sat down and talked about why I wanted to do it.

Basically, we reviewed every thing that I had done in life up until that point and one thing stood out - I was always helping people (lifeguard, swim instructor, First Responder, hospital volunteer, etc). At one point I did try to take EMT training. I was halfway through (acing all of my exams) and my ex-husband forced me to quit. Currently, I am about to finish up my dive training (3 years later I will finally be PADI certified this summer thanks 2 interruptions), and my first goal after that is to do the Rescue Diver training.

I am fairly well versed in basic medicine (ailments, symptoms, medicines). I’m one of the ones that always drives the doctor nuts because I want to know the names of the tests they are doing, why they are doing them (and then usually question why they are running X instead of Y). Without fail, almost every doctor/nurse that I’ve run into has always asked me “do you have a medical background?” No, not really – I just read a lot, and I really listen when they explain things to me. I’ve always wanted to know the details… I didn’t want to hear “we’re running your bloodwork because you’re tired”, I wanted to hear “You’re tired, and we’re concerned about anemia (which means X), Vitamin B12 deficiency (which means Y)” etc. I had gastric bypass surgery in 2001 and spent a year preparing for the surgery by reading up on everything my surgeon could put his hands on for me and grilling him on the things I didn’t understand. My blog of my experiences was ranked #3 on Google and Yahoo until I finally took it down in 2003.

My husband whole-heartedly agreed with me that it was something that I should try to do. He said that I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I didn’t give it a shot, which brings me to where I am today. After a year of hemming & hawing (and lots of personal issues that had to be dealt with first), I am ready to begin – at the beginning

I am turning 38 in 2 weeks. I have an 18 year old daughter (pregnant, and due in October!), a 16 year old daughter, an 18month old son, and a 4month old daughter (the little ones are the reason it has taken so long to finish my dive certification – I kept getting pregnant!). I have exactly 12 college credits. I am starting from scratch, and I am working full-time for a major HMO on an IT project. I’ve got a really long road head of me.

My question: When med school admissions officers look at my package, will I get “credit” (so-to-speak) for juggling so much at once while doing full-time course-work? Ie, if I do well on the MCATs will they be willing to accept a B average (3.0) instead of a 3.5? Or will I really need to hit that 3.5 to have a chance?

The reason I am asking is that if I can do a 3.0, I can finish in 4 years (maybe 5). I can juggle a full-time course load and everything else and still maintain that GPA. I’ll do well on the MCATs, and I am fairly sure that my references from professors will indicate my ability to juggle school, work, and home and still do “well”. But if I absolutely have to hit that 3.5, I will have to slow down and take at least 6 years (maybe even 8) to get the undergrad done.

I committed myself to ChemI and BioI for September. I will also be taking Pre-Calc (maybe calc if I can test into it… prep’ing for my placement test on 8/22). If I come out of those classes with a B, is that ok (the 3.0 question)? If I come out with anything less than a B, I will know that I need to slow down… so when I move on to ChemII and BioII, I would plan to take them separately. Question2: Will 2nd year classes hold more weight than 1st? If I end up taking them separately and I bring a hypothetical C up to a B or higher will that be ok? Or am I going to screw myself by getting the initial low grade?

I am also going to be doing the EMT training finally! I plan to use my training to volunteer locally – hopefully ride with the local fire department EMTs a couple of times a month, or at the nearest ED.

When I go to med school I will be devoted to my studies. The little ones will be in school, and my husband will be returning to work full-time so that I don’t have to work (currently he’s Mr. Mom). I guess it’s my hope that “well-rounded” means more than “academic excellence”.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me! I would love to hear everyone’s recommendations. I guess in the grand scheme of things, it really won’t matter if I start med school at 44 or 46 or even 48 instead of 43… what would matter is not getting in at all.



Hi Stacy,

Well you definitely have been doing a lot of juggling! That’s a pretty full plate you are dealing with.

In the case of your grades, I assume that you haven’t taken any science classes yet? If that is true, I would suggest that you do the best you can in each and every class. Shoot for the A (not B). I believe that this will carry more weight than your overall (although you will want to keep this in the competitive range). Major in an area of interest to you, don’t automatically go for biology unless it is an intense interest. Biology majors applying for med school are a dime a dozen.

I’m 43 now and if all goes well, I plan on applying for admission when I’m about 47.

My biggest advice at this point is to just take it one day at a time…don’t worry about the future, it’ll come soon enough. For each and every course, do the very best that you can, learn and ENJOY the process.

Best of luck to you!


Agree with Kris.

My view on older students (having been one) is that they should show greater maturity and determination because they should know what they are shooting for. It is easy for me to shrug off my C in first semester gen-chem when I was a college freshman, not yet 18 years old. I had no idea what I needed to do.

But if you are in your 30s or 40s, you DO know what you have to do. And you need to do it. I would caution you about setting out with the expectation of anything but excellence. You should expect As and want to work hard enough to get them - not just because you want the grade, but because you want the knowledge. You want to become one of the shining stars of every class you’re in, not just because it impresses the professor and gets you a good LOR, but because you learned the material and KNOW it cold.

Honestly, I found that with my goal so clear, there was no way that I could do anything less than my very best in any of my prerequisite classes. Given that you will be taking classes that don’t directly pertain to the MCAT or med school, this level of determination is likely to be hard to sustain at all times. But I have a feeling that you, too, will find it hard to figure out where you could cut corners or slack off. A mature level of goal-driven determination is a wonderful thing



Congratulations on your decision to get into medicine! I am a 29 y/o senior at The University of Arizona, who will be entering medical school in the Fall of 2010. I spent 12 years in the restaurant business prior to deciding to pursue medicine and have picked up a few bits of info along the way. I hope these can be of help to you.

There are a few things that make non-traditional students (such as us) more appealing to schools. First, schools like to see that you have had a variety of life experiences, especially outside of medicine. They typically look a well-rounded individual, the more experiences the better, especially emphasizing how those experiences have affected you as a person.

That being said, they also want to understand how you know that medicine is what you want to do (i.e. have you tried it). It is recommended that you get some time, either volunteer or paid, in a hospital or other healthcare setting, as well as in some type of research. How much time you spend at either varies widely depending on the position and whom you work for. Typically, most principal investigators for research positions like a one year commitment and time in the lab simply depends on the PI. I DON’T recommend applying for the same research positions that everyone else is applying for or that you see advertised around campus.

I lived in Chicago for the last few years and was lucky enough to snag a great research opportunity at Northwestern University in transplant surgery. I did this by searching the websites of nearby medical research facilities (Northwestern, University of Chicago, etc.) looking for projects that sounded interesting to me. I then emailed the PIs of those projects offering to work for free and briefly explaining why I was interested in their topic. I got quite a few responses from people who weren’t looking but you will always find someone who needs extra help. They even began paying me after a month or so, enabling me to spend more time with them.

There is one catch to this. Get AT LEAST your basic science courses finished before attempting to obtain a research position. Go after the volunteer or job in a patient-care setting first.

Finally, grades still do matter, but the other experiences give do you a little more cushion. Ideally, you still want to have over a 3.2 GPA, but with the shortage of doctors, if you have a very strong background, MCAT score, personal statement, and interview, I have seen osteopathic schools admit some students with just above a 2.5. Those, however, are few and far between.

As far as studying, it is extremely tough, even without kids. YOU MUST MAKE IT A PRIORITY. It’s either all or nothing. Obviously, family comes first, but your two oldest should be pretty much taking care of themselves by now, of course they all will need your help and guidance from time to time, but it has to be a family effort and understanding. And finally, learn to study anywhere. Take your books wherever you go and pull them out whenever you get the chance. It’s going to take everything you have x2 to make it all come together, but it will come together if you put in the work. I’m beginning to see it all come together and it definitely is worth it.

Again, I hope this helps, and wish you luck in your future endeavors. Don’t give up.


  • Moonmaeven Said:
...I committed myself to ChemI and BioI for September. I will also be taking Pre-Calc (maybe calc if I can test into it… prep’ing for my placement test on 8/22).

Hi Stacy,

If this is your first semester after a leave of a year or more from academics, perhaps you might think about easing into the rigors. Maybe just pre-calc/calc and either BioI or ChemI. The reason I say so is because if I am not wrong, both BioI and ChemI have labs with the lectures and labs are not difficult but usually a lot of busy work - reports, projects, essays etc.

Also, as others have mentioned always shoot for an A and the B's that may fall through the cracks won't look that bad. If you shoot for B's I can guarantee that a few C's will rear their ugly heads. That, my dear, will not look good on a transcript.

Finally, as I learned the hard way, keep reminding yourself not to fall into the Carrolish mentality of "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late".

Accept the fact that this is a long journey and as all long journeys, trying to get to the destination faster may leave you wrecked on the side of the road!

Thank you everyone for the feedback, it is greatly appreciated

I am meeting with an advisor on Friday to have a discussion about what I should take for classes this semester. I definitely don’t want to overload myself and get poor grades. It’s funny - at work, they’re trying to beat the “80/20 rule” into me: “if it’s 80% good, then it’s done and the other 20% will sort itself out”. Ugh! It drives me up the wall!

I have to keep reminding myself that it took me 20 years to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up, and if it takes me an extra 2 years to do it right, it won’t matter. It’s the fact that I am doing it that counts. Like I tell my older girls, “baby steps”. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I just need to remember to take my own advice.