?'s on courses for the "very mature" student

After 2 years of delays in the soap opera existence that has been my life, I am finally on starting my “do it yourself” post-bacc this fall. I need some advice/opinions/answers on a few course items:
1. I got my BA over 20 years ago. Even though I took all the pre-med courses then, I am under the impression that anything over 7 years old should be repeated. I am designing my post-bacc on that concept of the “typical” pre-reqs.
2. Despite rumors to the contrary, I assume that still is a 1-year math requirement. Is there any advantage in taking 2 semesters Calculus sequence strongly recommended or would a 1 semester Calculus for Business/Economics and a 1-semester Probability & Statistics course be acceptable? Or is this school specific?
3. Would a non-calc “Life Sciences” Physics sequence be acceptable at schools or is a calc-based sequence needed?
4. Is a summer class or two a major disadvantage (other than having so much material crammed so quickly)? Logistically, I think I need to take Organic over the summer in order to take Biochem prior to MCAT

Enquiring minds want to know.

I really can’t answer #1.
#2 - Is school specific. Some schools don’t have much in the way of a math requirement, some require calculus.
#3 - For the vast majority of schools, the non-calc based physics will be fine. They will also accept the calc-based physics if you have a burning desire to take it, but it’s not necessary.
#4 - Are you talking about taking the ENTIRE organic sequence over the summer, or just the first part? Including or not including labs? I am taking the entire year w/ lab in an 8-week session right now. It is brutally time consuming and intense. One semester over the summer over a longer period of time might not be so bad. You don’t HAVE to have biochem prior to the MCAT, but it is considered a good idea.
Lots of people do take organic over the summer, so it can be done. Be prepared to devote your summer to it, though.

For sci/math, you need to take 2 semesters each of Bio, Physics, Chem and OChem - all with labs. Some but certainly not all med schools require Calc and/or an upper level sci such as Biochem or Genetics. For the schools that don’t require Calc, pre-calc is required insomuch as you must take that before Physics. I did not take Calc or Stats and had no trouble applying to and getting accepted to several med schools.
I don’t think any med schools require the Calc-based Physics course.
You really must look at the med school(s) you want to go to and see what they require. There are variations in the details and fine print you need to be aware of. Better yet, make an appointment with the nearest med school admissions office and talk to them face to face about how to make yourself the best possible candidate. You want to be well prepared, but you need not waste time and $$ taking classes that aren’t necessary.
For the MCAT, it is based on Bio, Chem, OChem and Physics. Biochem isn’t going to help you because it isn’t on there beyond what you get in those 4 classes. You are better off giving the full semester treatment to OChem, because it is. It doesn’t matter if you take summer versions of those classes as long as they are the full 4 (or 5) credit versions with labs. For most med schools, it doesn’t even matter where you take them. I did my post-bacc at the local community college. Does your school even offer OChem in summer?
If you don’t need Calc, but took pre-calc at some point in your life and are confident in your algebra skills (or will with self-review) you should be able to take your classes without enrolling in another math class. Call the Physics professor and ask about your preparedness.

Thanks for the insights. I am fairly confident of my preparedness and/or ability to do well in the course work. My concern is really what is the best path to take. Taking your suggestion, I looked at several of the New York Schools (where I would much prefer to stay) and see that several say something like:
“The Committee on Admissions looks favorably on a program of study that includes at least one year of college mathematics and advanced science subjects” (SUNY Downstate)
Or Even :
“What courses are required for admission? Is there a lab requirement? Students are required to have one year of college credit in each of the following areas: Biology, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and English. The mathematics requirement can be fulfilled by statistics or computer science courses. Biology and chemistry courses must be accompanied by laboratory experience.

Can I take my courses at a Community College, or must I take them at a 4-year college or university? We have no requirement, however, the Admissions Committee considers not only what courses an applicant takes, but where the courses are taken.” (Mount Sinai)
NYU suggests, “Committee on Admissions recommends that if two or more introductory courses are offered by the undergraduate science departments, the student take the more rigorous course.”
Yale has “Advanced courses may be substituted for introductory-level courses in each of these subjects”. And Einstein has “Applicants whose undergraduate record is weak might consider taking advanced level course work in the basic sciences.”
So now I am dazed and confused again. With a 20±year-old BA with weak science grades (but lots of ambulance and ER experience both volunteer and paid), a 15-year-old MA (in sociology) with great grades, and extensive computer and business job experience (VP at a major financial firm), what is the best path to take?
What courses at what level at what school?
Fortunately, I live between several schools with the “better” ones being the more expensive. I will have to take a closer look at what they offer and what I can take. I will also contact the med schools though at this late date it may be unlikely that I will get answer prior to the fall term starting.

Hopefully, you will be able to get in to the med school office soon to develop your full plan of action. But you should have no trouble talking with individual science professors who should be able to help you determine your immediate course selection for this semester.
What you need is the info on the MCAT working fresh in your mind and some recent science A’s to prove your abilities, and the absolutely required courses somewhere on your transcript.
Every applicant has strengths and weaknesses and they weigh and juggle it all to decide. A good MCAT score can shore up a grade deficit. A’s can shore up a less prestigious educational route. There are formulas out there that account for where you took that OChem to equalize the value of the grades. (Hence one of the lines you quoted.) Every ad com I talked to understood not wanting to incur more edu debt taking the cheaper route with more scheduling choices.
The most expedient and pertinent Q is what do you need to nail the MCAT? This is roughly equivalent to: could you pass a final in those classes? Enroll in one or more of those this fall. (Bio, Chem, OChem, Physics) Take Pre-Calc if you need to to handle the math in Chem and Physics. (Physics is really a fancy algebra class, you need to be confident in your higher Alg. skills.)
My guess (worth it’s full $.02) is that they will tell you to take those 4 classes (due to age and score) and then get a decent MCAT score (Check the average scores for successful applicants at those schools, generally shoot for
+28). They may consider your MA class scores as indication enough of your ability to handle the acedemics, which may mean you do not need to take higher sciences like biochem or genetics (which you will do anyway in med school) to prove yourself.
If you are a real genius and can get a 35+ on the MCAT without re-taking those classes, they might accept that too!
Finally, right now today, you can get an MCAT prep book and look through it. Try the practice questions. It will help solidify in your mind whether or which sci to re-take!

Hey there,
As far as physics, yes it’s true you needn’t take the calc-based version. But beware of some “life sci” physics classes. They aren’t all the same. Before you enroll make sure the class is ok for premeds. Most premeds don’t take calc based so they have special algebra versions just for them.
As far as graduate work in sociology–well, I don’t have the exact same experience as you do but I don’t think people with humanities/social sci backgrounds necessarily get too much mileage out of those programs, even when they have good gpa’s and so forth. I did well as a humanities major in college but from what I’ve heard from med schools they will still scrutinize my post-bacc grades and locale like everyone else. The MA won’t hurt you of course, and maybe it will help by casting a good light on your earlier stuff–just don’t assume beforehand that it will be a major factor.
Good luck!

As others have said - I think you need to take your transcript and make an appointment with an admissions counselor at a medical school. Maybe a couple of medical schools. They are in a far better position to evaluate the whole picture of your coursework and recommend retaking the basics or taking advanced courses.
My gut feeling is, that with the age of your science course work, you should probably retake some of it. The advice about checking out a MCAT prep book is good, as well. If you don’t remember much from those courses, you may want to retake them. Advanced level courses are going to assume that you learned most of that stuff the first time and not repeat most of it.
You don’t specify how bad your grades were in your pre-med classes the first time around. Anything lower than a C should probalby be repeated.


Yeah, looks like I should take most, if not all, of it over. Besides having a DISMAL undergraduate record, the courses are 20 years old (refer to how old pre-reqs). I should point, in my own defense, my undergrad grades have almost nothing to do with my ability…I was one of those crazys who actually LIKED OChem! I just didn’t want to be in school. Funny that 20 years later, I can’t imagine any I’d rather be but school.

Rich, my calculus credits were 25 years old by the time I applied and neither school to which I applied batted an eye. As you’ve learned, this is school-specific, and there may be other reasons to take some math courses, but do not assume that you MUST take your math.
Even 25 years ago, 2+2=4. Calculus is still calculus. But biology is COMPLETELY different and even general chemistry has changed a lot - dang, even the periodic table was different when I repeated it!!!
You definitely need to talk to some individual schools.
Oh, and that line about taking the “more rigorous” of two courses when both are offered - I agree with that EXCEPT for physics. As several others have noted, you do NOT need to take calc-based physics unless you want to.
For biology and chemistry classes, you should take courses that would count toward a major in those fields.
Good luck!


Thanks for comment on how Biology and Chem have changed signficantly in 25 years; that makes alot of sense to me. (my freshman bio was via AP credits and taken when leisure suits were in style). I have decided to take those as well as the non-calc based physics. I may take a 1 semester calc (for business/ economics) anyway as I am still employed in the bank & may find it useful. I will also probably take a statistics course, though I have graduate level social stats anyway. My undergraduate grades were dismal and I will need to raise them. (My impatience, immaturity, and rebelliousness lead to my bad grades; I am confident of my ability to do the work and get the grades I need to now.

My last dilemma is where to take the classes. I am leaning towards a 4 year state school but it has a mediocore reputation. Cost, location, schedule, course offerings at this school do fit my needs. I am between several decent schools, some with organized Pre-Bacc programs. However, most are private schools with their cost at 3-4 times a state school and I all but out of work. In my corporate job I have lived thru yet another merger, another outsource, another downsize but will likely soon be RIFed (reduction in force) and little prospect of similar employment elsewhere anytime soon. Will the reputation of the school be a factor to greatly help or hurt my goals? Probably not nearly as much as my grades and MCATs.

What’s your feeling on this?


Leisure suits are never out of style. Long live polyester is my view on things.

The leisure suit does live forever; it is what I am wearing in my High School year book picture. And my prom picture has me in a 3 piece “powder” blue, bell bottom suit with a pink shirt and…wait for it…velet burgandy bow tie. Maybe I just want to go to med school so I can have a picture in a white coat and scrubs and my 4 older silblings can stop giggling at the aforementioned photos.

On school reputation:
It might matter, depending on which med school you want to get into. A prestigious big-name research med school may balk because they like to advertise their students prestigious backgrounds. I think my decidedly un-prestigious edu background bought me a rejection from one such school, which rejected me without an interview.
That said, I didn’t have any trouble getting accepted to several medical schools, both MD and DO. Some of those schools asked me in interviews why I went where I did for my pre-reqs. My answer of cost, scheduling and family concerns brought knowing nods of understanding - and evidently glowing assessments to the admissions committees.
The same schools also told me at interview it was my grades and MCAT scores that brought me to the interview - and in no uncertain terms - I was absolutely on par.
Looking at USNews 2005 Med School Rankings for Primary Care, MSUCOM ranks 15. It ranks ABOVE the more “prestigious” schools that rejected me, and the others that accepted me. But, it doesn’t rank on the top 50
Research med schools list.
url=http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/med/brief/mdprank_brief.php]USNews [/url]
Another consideration is available research opportunities. Having significant research experience will work in your favor, esp. at prestigious research-oriented med schools.
In short, if med school is your goal: Ace your pre-meds and get a decent MCAT score.
If big-name-research-oriented-prestigious-world-renowned med school is your goal, be safe and do it at a big-name-research-oriented-prestigious-world-renowned undergrad school.
On leisure suits and destroying evidence:
The med school graduation picture is a looooong time off. Perhaps you should plan a little “accident”…