Non-traditional pre-med student

My name is Joshua, and I am a non-traditional pre-med student (in that I have been working through a regionally accredited distance education college - TESC) and have no pre-health advisor (other than my dad who is an osteopathic physician in the Air Force - ATSU/KCOM grad), so I have some major questions as to if I’m doing this right!!!

A little background of my education, first.

I started off as a business major and took 72 credits worth of CLEP and DANTES tests, which include 6+ credits in English and 6 in Social Sciences along with 3 credits of Precalc and 3 of Stats. This is only a very small portion of the 72 credits, but the ones med schools tend to emphasize out of gen ed courses. First question would be, will the exams hurt me at all? I passed them all and did quite well, in fact, on each of them.

I switched majors to Biology after I found I REALLY enjoyed studying the subject and wanted to look at medicine as a career. I’ve been working almost entirely on my own to prepare for med school and it’s been tough, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Currently, I’ve taken a full year of General Biology (w/lab) at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA and a full year of General Chemistry (w/lab) online (which was a tough course) through Oklahoma University. Grades: Gen Bio - 1st sem A, 2nd sem A; Gen Chem - 1st sem A, 2nd sem B. I intend to take the first semester of Physics in the spring of '09 (most likely at a CC just because they’re the only ones offering it), second in the fall (hopefully at a better college), and also Organic Chem in the summer (killer, I know, but I have a doctor friend who did it!).

I’ve applied and am preparing to begin volunteer work with a hospital nearby. I’m supposed to volunteer for 25 hours and then have a chance to compete for an Emergency Room scribe position. I’ve shadowed one doc for a day, other than my dad, so far.

Basically, I need to know what I need to do if I’m to be an attractive/competitive med school candidate (particularly for DO schools). I’d like to apply for 2010 but I’ll be finishing Physics in the fall of '09, so I may be really pushing the application deadline to get my MCAT’s done. I really could use some solid help. It’s been kind of nerve-racking trying to put this together when I’m really not sure if I’m doing this stuff right.

Also, please tell me if you have any questions about my schooling or anything like that. I tried to include everything applicable, but I may have missed something. Thank you!


it sounds like a good plan. I think fall '09 physics should be OK, if your other coursework is good and you have done well on the MCAT by then (including physical science section). Interviews begin in the early fall so you might be at a disadvantage to other applicants who have already completed their prerequisites. Applying for fall '11 may be more realistic, and would give you a chance to bulk up on higher level bio courses like biochemistry, A&P, genetics, neuro, etc., all of which are really good to have studied prior to start of med school.

Just bear in mind that some medical schools may not like online courses, so check with the schools you are interested in to make sure they accept them.

In general they are looking for people who will succeed in a full time classroom environment and if you have not been in such a setting for most of your schooling, you will need to definitely do very well on the MCAT. Probably you should take the last 2-3 courses in a traditional classroom setting at a local college if possible, and get the usual couple of letters of rec from profs you have gotten to know.

The volunteering sounds good. I suggest doing it for the knowledge and experience, not the credential. Your military and family background should make for a compelling personal statement; you should start writing it now. Best of luck,

It sounds over all like you are on the right track. I am curious about why your emphasis on DO schools. (As a DO myself I cannot disapprove - I am just curious about peoples perceptions and choices at the stage you are at)

Thank you SO much for your help (and I appreciate any continued advice from you or others on this).

In answer to the question on emphasizing DO schools. First of all, my dad is a DO, as well, and really liked his training. The preparation the DO’s receive seems to have really “rounded” him well as a doc.

Also, I like that most DO schools are smaller and not in big cities! I prefer the more family-like atmosphere as well as the slower pace of suburban/country life. I studied Bio at ODU and, even though it’s in a smaller city, it’s traffic and bustle aren’t conducive to study (especially when you have to travel 45 minutes back and forth to your house).

Anyway, I may try to take Physics II in the summer so that I’d have completed all my courses by the Fall and could take the MCAT then, rather than the Spring of '10. That way, if med schools didn’t like my Chem online course, I could retake it Fall '09 - Spring '10, but have already taken the MCAT.


I was taking the second semester in the spring, and preparing for the MCAT at the same time! In fact I took the MCAT before I was done with my physics course. MCAT mostly tests the physic concepts introduced in the first semester. I know multiple people who did the same thing and it worked for them. I guess you might want to consider this option. See how your classes go, and if you’ll be able to review for the MCAT and do well in your physics course. It would be really hard to take physics at the same time as organic chemistry (especially in the summer!).


Thanks, Kasia! A question for you. Did you take the MCAT the Spring of the year you were applying for med school or the Spring before? I was just curious what the application process is like (i.e. were you still taking courses and the MCAT after submitting your application or not)



I took the MCAT in April ( I was also taking physics II + and 2 other science classes at that time - not the prerequisites for med school but classes required for my degree). I applied to med school in June, and during my ‘interview’ year I was still finishing my degree.

If you are a first-time applicant, it’s OK to take the MCAT in the spring of the same year… When I took the MCAT it was only offered in April and August. Right now you have more options. Whenever you take it, just make sure that you’ll get your scores back at some point during the summer… preferably before you submit your application; unless you’re absolutely sure that you did great, then you can submit your application regardless of when your MCAT scores are going to be reported. (I wasn’t sure how I did, that’s why I had my application ready at the beginning of June, but I didn’t submit it until I got my scores! I didn’t want to spend money for the application process, if my MCAT score was not going to get me far!). But many people who took August MCAT had their application in long time before the test date, not to mention the scores! Whatever you decide, you have to apply early! It’s going to give you a definitive advantage… the earlier the admission committees get to your application, the fewer people you will compete against and the less competitive the whole process is going to be.

Hope it all makes sense.


oops, the same post twice!