pre-reqs for pre-reqs?

Hello everyone. I’m a non-traditional student that hasn’t taken math or chem. since high school which was about 14 years ago. As a freshman in my 2nd semester at a community college, I’ve already taken elementary algebra 1 1st semester and begining part 2 the fall of this year. I would like to start my science pre-reqs for med. school at a 4yr school, in my sophmore year and hopefully complete them by late junior year. An advisor from one of the two 4yr. colleges i’m applying to informed me that I had to be at a calculus level math before i can even begin to take the chem. and phyics pre-reqs. At the same time, another advisor from the other school i’m appling to told me all i would need to begin the chem. and the physics courses are some 2 week prep courses their school is offering. At this rate i do not know which advisor to listen to. I fear that because i am on such a low level in math that it would take me years to enter a calculus level math and as a result of that, not be able to complete my pre-reqs until my senior year if i am lucky. I’m also worried that if i don’t take the calculus level math that i might do horrible in the chem. and phys. courses. Is this a unique situation? Or has anyone shared a similar experience and is willing to offer some advice? Thank you.

In my experience, Calculus hasn’t been necessary for physics or chemistry. My school offered two different physics tracks, actually - one with calc (for engineers), and one without (for everyone else).

Calc may give you a better understanding of some of the physics concepts and how certain formulae are derived, but unless you’re required to take a Physics-for-Engineers-ali ke, I don’t think it’s necessary.

Chemistry will use a fair bit of algebra, but that’s about it, I think.

You seem to be in an interesting position for non-trads, in that you are starting from scratch to get a BS. Because of this, the “glide year” common among non-trads may or may not be an issue for you. When do you see yourself taking the MCAT?

I was thinking april, 2010 ( begining of senior year). What do you mean by a glide year?

I was thinking around april 2010 (begining of senior year. I thought that i was at an advantage because i am starting from scratch, with a clear focus on preparing myself for med. school. But with the advice from the advisor i’m not so sure. I thought that the science pre-reqs. for med. school were general and basic course work, not upper level. I don’t understand why i would need years of preparation for that. Btw, what is a glide year for non-trads.?

Ah, sorry for not being clear earlier. I think I can answer both of your questions by telling you a little bit about myself:

I got my BS degree in 2001, having scraped through school with a poor GPA that reflected my lack of motivation. I’m fortunate in that I didn’t take much science then, so at least my indiscretions didn’t torpedo my BCPM average (bio, chem, physics, math). You don’t have any of that to overcome, which puts in a better position than me.

Now that I’ve completed my pre-reqs through about 2 years of post-bacc coursework, I’m entering the application process. The process takes about a year, so my “glide year” will be 2007-08 - the year between when I finish my pre-reqs and when I finally (hopefully) matriculate.

Compare that to a traditional student, who might apply between Juinor and Senior year, allowing him to go straight from undergrad to med school.

Most medical schools require a year of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, with labs; many also require a year of calculus, or something similar. Some have further requirements, like Molec Cell Bio, Biochem, or Humanities courses.

Upper-level coursework isn’t generally required, but it’s often recommended. A lot of it’s really interesting stuff, too, and IMO worth looking into. It’s a long and demanding path to medicine, so you may as well enjoy it, right?

I definitely agree with that. It’s a long road. But there’s no gain without sacrifice.

Hm. I find it difficult to believe that calculus is an actual pre-req for the pre-med courses. Generally, a good level of algebra understanding is required for general chemistry and you need trigonometry for physics. Most universities offer different levels of physics. There is the physics for physics/engineering types which is calculus based and does require calculus pre-reqs, but you don’t need calculus based physics for med school. Algebra based physics should suffice. As Adam pointed out, there are a few med schools that require calculus as a pre-req, but this could be taken along with other pre-reqs or later.

Hm - in rereading your post . . . “An advisor from one of the two 4yr. colleges i’m applying to informed me that I had to be at a calculus level math before i can even begin to take the chem. and phyics pre-reqs.” To me, this does not read as you have to take calculus BEFORE taking chem and physics. It reads that you have to be eligible to TAKE calculus before taking chem and physics, which would mean that you need to have completed algebra and trig. You might ask for some clarification on this. Also, get a listing of what chemistry and physics courses are considered “pre-med” and look up the math pre-requisites for them on your own.

In any case . . . a solid math background will make life in gen chem and physics MUCH easier, so make sure you are learning those concepts well!!

I agree with the other posters. Chemistry doesn’t use calculus. There are usually two physics levels – engineers and others. Take the easier one.

I just had an amusing (in a twisted way) email from the local college. I’m trying to sign up for the non-calc physics class. The prerequisite is a college trig class. I had trig in high school and went directly into calculus in college (I’m an engineer). I also had a year of calc-based physics 20 years ago. But, since I did not have college trig, the registrar’s office won’t let me into non-calc physics. Odd, because I do qualify for the more advanced physics class (which happens to be full). So, I’m waiting for to see if the professor will waive the college-trig class for me, so I can take physics this fall. Sigh.

AKN - You might also check with an advisor and see if they can override that for you. An advisor should be able to see that you took calculus (for which trig is a pre-req) and put you in the course. I had similar issues when I first enrolled - my initial advisor suggested I retake college algebra/trig since it had been 15 years since I had taken any math. Since I had already taken it previously, though, I was allowed to enroll in gen chem at the same time, even though it was listed as a pre-req. A couple of weeks before courses started I got a call from a different advisor questioning how I was enrolled in gen chem and the math pre-req at the same time.

Good luck!

Definitely look into overrides or instructor permission, AKN. I’m not sure how they work at your school, but between two post-bacc colleges, I’ve had to get overrides for about 75% of my coursework. Surprisingly, it hasn’t been much of a problem - just a bit of a hassle.

Hi guys. The professor is going to override trig for me. I just thought it was pretty funny

The university here (UNLV) requires calc concurrent or as a prereq to get into physics. That little requirement has thrown me off a semester.

I only had to take one pre-calc class during my undergrad many years ago, so fortunately, they accepted that and I don’t have to start my way up the math food chain from the bottom.