Pre-Reqs in One Year?

I just met with my Advisor and wanted to get the group’s view on the following: I would like to take the MCAT in April 2006, but to do so I would have to take Chemistry I & II this summer and Bio, O-Chem, and Physics all at the same time during Fall & Spring Semester. She told me that this was doable, but would be very difficult for someone with a non-science background (my undergrad was in Economics in 1992).
To give you a little more background on my situation: I’ll be 35 in a few months, my undergrad was at a Top 5 school (GPA just under 3.0), I have a MBA (1996) in Finance and Project/Process management (GPA 3.87), have a 3 1/2 year old daughter, soon to be divorced, and will be going to school full time and maybe working part time.
Is it worth it to try to cram all of the classes into one year, or should I do it in 2? Of course, being a OPM, I would rather do it in one.
Any advice or feedback would be appreciated.

I think Bio, O-Chem and Physics all at the same time could be a challenge…especially since (as you stated) you have a non-science background. That isn’t to say you couldn’t do it and do it well, but doing it well is the key. Perhaps you should look at the texts used in these 3 classes and see what you think of the material (ie how challenging it would be for you). Your age shouldn’t be the ultimate deciding factor.

I would not do this…here is why. You are now going to school after X years and taking hard sciences…this will be an adjustment period and you will be working and have a family. Adcoms will expect nothing but the best from a returning non-trad so do not give them any excuse to not accept you the first time. Summer courses are challenging to those that have been in school for some time so they will more challenging if you have been out of the loop for some time. I would take it slower and focus on doing well, this will also give you more time to get your volunteering and clinical exposure.

My opinion: don’t try to finish the courses in one year given all of the transitions that are occurring in your life right now. Based on your post, sounds like you could handle the academic load and do well (top 5 school, 3.8 GPA); but the personal life circumstances are a big unknown that might affect your performance. You might fare well through your divorce but it’s very likely that your daughter will need more of your time and attention. Start slow, with one class or two at most. If the family transition goes well for you and your daughter, then add courses or volunteer work or anything else.
Just my opinion.

The absolute worst thing you could is to rush through this. There is no gain nor brownie points for doing it quickly & you can very easily shoot yourself in the foot. As pointed out above, being a nontrad applicant can bring a higher degree of scrutiny to your app & they expect academic excellence from all applicants. Sure, it can be done in a year, but odds are, you will underperform. At best, that will mean slowing down to repeat/repair the damage. Worst case, it could potentially preclude you ever getting in - tangent upon the ‘big picture’ and the rest of your application.
Even more importantly, if you are thinking the becoming a physician is something you can put your head down & rush through - you are barkin up the wrong tree. I returned to Ugrad in 1996, grad from med school in 2003 & will be a resident/fellow until 2009 - that is a total of 13 years. THIS IS NOT A QUICK PROCESS! And, if you try to make it so, you will only make yourself & those around you miserable.
Get used to thinking of this as a lifelong journey that will never end.

Thanks for all the great advice everyone! I definately agree that 2 years would be a wiser approach. I also forgot to say that I am currently volunteering in the County Hospital 4 hours a week. I may up that experience.

that’s the spirit - look at this as a period of time where you can pursue a variety of enriching opportunities rather than “longer than is absolutely necessary to do the prereqs.”
I actually DID do o-chem, physics and bio together but only after I’d eased in by taking gen-chem the prior year. While it is technically possible to do what’s been proposed to you, it’s not the way to maximize your performance which is key in this endeavour.

Yeah, I’d agree with all the people who are saying you should ease into this and take your time. It’s not just that you want to do really well in each of those classes, but I just can’t see the logic to rushing through the pre-med process. I mean, you don’t want it to take forever, but you should get as much as you can out of the experience, and that requires that you really devote yourself to the classes and volunteering. You might want to take some electives too.
I can say from having just interviewed at med schools that as a non-trad, you need more than JUST having completed the required prerequisites. You need to be able to talk about your pre-med experience with enthusiasm and depth. (And this seems important just in general to me, not merely as an interviewing strategy.) So rushing through it would not be very advantageous in my view. Or much fun, either. And your personal life would be crazy!

I’ll also agree with just about everyone here that it is the best policy to ease into it. But, I will give you a different slant on things.
I did it all in one year. 4 science classes with labs a semester. Started in August, done in April. Add on one big 4-letter, 8 hour test right in the middle of my spring finals. Now, I had a couple things going for me:
1. NO social connections in new city. Easy to be a hermit, suck it up, and just study. Also, not married, and I just broke up with my gf before I started (NOT reason we broke up).
2. Big time math background. Chem and Physics were re-takes b/c my original coursework was 15 years old.
3. No job. Lived off savings and loans. hahaha just realized I made a pun.
4. In a twisted sort of way, taking all the classes together was actually a bit easier than all separate. I know it sounds wierd, but they reinforced each other in a way where I got some deep understanding in the classes. Plus, MCAT studying was basically going to class every day.
I’m very glad I did it this way, but that’s just me. I would be banging my head against the wall right now if I had spread classes over 2 years. I’m going crazy right now waiting for August as it is. (I actually do have patience, it’s just been a bad couple of weeks :slight_smile: ) I did lots of soul searching before I started (took me about 2 years to make the jump), so I was able to easily verbalize this during interviews. I dont’ know what I would have done had that first semester been a bust grade wise. Now THAT would have been a good interview question for me. hmmmm
Luckily, I was successful. But, if I played the odds, I probably did an ‘unwise’ thing. If I had other commitments (job, family, whatever) or I started struggling in a class, I know that my house of cards could have quickly tumbled down. Once again, my advice is still to spread it out. But, you gotta know your self, your abilities and limitations. And know that it is POSSIBLE to do it in a year.

I did my pre-reqs in 5 quarters. Unlike rsmit, I did NOT have the math background and had to take three quarters of math - . Also, since I took courses at a branch, I was unable to start taking the physics series the first quarter (the prof was doing research, so the series started winter quarter)
Winter and spring quarters I took chem, bio and physics (with labs) and pre-calc and calc. 20 credit hours a quarter. I took the entire year of ochem in an 8 week summer session. Finished ochem on monday, took the MCAT on Saturday. I actually only needed to take the last physics fall quarter, but I took micro and biochem to buff up on sciences before med school and to give myself a full time load.
Like rsmit, I didn’t work much. I also found there was a lot of overlap in my classes that made it a little easier. And, I also felt that every day of class was like MCAT prep. The only downside - my schedule did not allow me much time to take full length practice tests.
Some schools do allow you to take gen chem and organic simultaneously. Mine didn’t. If you haven’t already taken gen chem once, though, I would have to think that taking both chems at the same time would be very difficult.
You will have to decide what is best for you. I did very well with this speed pre-med schedule. However, a friend of mine who was taking the same pre-reqs (sans math) for dental school, really struggled with taking three sciences with labs at the same time.
If you can afford to, you might want to take more time. You will also have to consider financial aid. I enrolled as a continuing ed student which only made me eligible for 12 months of financial aid. In order to get more financial aid, you have to enroll as a degree seeking student.
Good luck with your decisions!

Wow, I wonder what kind of schools y’all went to. I’m at Harvard Extension and really struggling to do well in two science courses. The pace is breakneck, the students are sharp, and the exams are brutal. I’m starting to wonder whether I should have taken my post-bacc courses at a less competitive school where, I hear, it’s easier to get an A. I know of people taking 3 courses, plus the April MCAT, but I have never heard of anyone taking four science courses. At HES, it would be impossible, in fact, because gen chem meets at the same time as orgo.


Wow, I wonder what kind of schools y’all went to. I’m at Harvard Extension and really struggling to do well in two science courses. The pace is breakneck, the students are sharp, and the exams are brutal. I’m starting to wonder whether I should have taken my post-bacc courses at a less competitive school where, I hear, it’s easier to get an A. I know of people taking 3 courses, plus the April MCAT, but I have never heard of anyone taking four science courses. At HES, it would be impossible, in fact, because gen chem meets at the same time as orgo.

I can’t comment on the relative difficulty of the courses, but my courses were do-able. Difficult, but do-able. I’m sure that somewhere more rigourous, and things might have been different. I do know that no one else has tried my crazy stunt at my school before or since I did. :slight_smile:
I believe for those of us needing to ‘prove’ ourselves, you go farther in a place where you can SHINE. Especially if you need to absolutely kick butt. Maybe it is an ‘easier’ school. If you get all A’s, and smack the MCAT - I think peoples tendencies is to give you the benefit of the doubt. And you can’t argue with “4.0 post bacc, mid 30 MCAT” Also, Big Fish/Small Pond thing. Much easier to stand out. I’d rather get a glowing LOR from a professor than a ‘just another great student’ from a top institution where everyone is a superstar.
I didn’t even know anything about the Harvard extension when I started this. Actually sounds like an interesting program! I do know that if any place had told me I couldn’t do it in a year, I would not have considered them. That was a deal breaker for me.
I think in the end it was blind luck that I ended up at a program that was the perfect match for me.

I don’t question that your courses are difficult. I certainly didn’t think that mine were easy. The ability to do well in these situations is an individual thing. There were other students in my classes, taking two or three of the same courses who were really struggling to do well - and these were very motivated students.

You have to decide your limits, and how many courses you can take at one time and do well. There are probably more cons to the breakneck schedule than pros, but it worked out well for me. As a matter of fact, questions about my ability to succeed in medical school (based on my undergrad GPA) quickly faded when my interviewers looked at the grades I received while taking 20 credits of math and science simultaneously. However, had I not done so well, it might have given them doubt about my ability.

P.S. - In looking back at the original post, I just want to add that I don’t think having a science background makes the difference or not in ability to do well. Granted that it would be easier, but not necessary. Prior to starting this journal, my only college level sciences were 100 level geology and astronomy.