Successfully working and retaking prereqs

Hi everyone
I am very early in the premed process, but it has been immensely helpful reading these forums. I plan to take the April 2005 MCAT and apply for the 2006 entering class. I live in Berkeley, CA. I have been beating my head against a wall trying to figure out how I can take my prereqs and still keep my job until I go to med school. I am beginning to think it is not possible. I am trying to have my cake and eat it too by keeping the income and finishing the coursework. Can anyone offer any anecdotal evidence that this can be done, and what you did? My current plan is to work full time as long as I can, volunteer to get my experience, and then take the courses where I have to show up in a lab. Any advice?
Melanie Hand
P.S. Good luck to everyone interviewing!! It’s so encouraging being able to follow along with you in the process. I feel like I have a lot of inside info! biggrin.gif

since most of the prereqs are lower division you can take them at night or weekends at one or more comm colleges.
if you need to take one or two at university - can you get flex time from your employer?
I managed to complete a BS in biology from a UC while working FT by using a combination of the above (plus, I had lots of general ed units from long long ago).

Hi Melanie. I’m working FT and taking 1 class. Other OPMers have worked FT and taken classes. It can be done! For myself, I can only handle the 1 class while working (it’s a night-time math class at a community college).
Depending on how demanding your job is and how comfortable you feel doing it, you may be able to work FT and take 2 classes (or even 3 ohmy.gif ?! although I think 3 classes would be really difficult–but I’m sure there are people here who have done just that). You will have to take night/weekend classes if you have a regular office job unless your employer is really flexible and you can take certain times/days off and then make them up on a different day and time. If you do something that has irregular hours (shift work), then you can schedule your classes around your job. Good luck!
Bottom line: You can do it.

Hi and greetings from Berkeley, too.
According to the premed advisors at several California medical schools with whom I spoke last Tuesday, for a person in my situation (a much older applicant, very old science courses, lots of significant volunteer work) doing well at academics is more important than volunteering or working.
Admissions committees will judge you on your academics and MCATs first, and your work and health-care experience second. Why? Because medical school is a . . . . school, and the
admissions committee wants some assurance that you can handle academic material on a high
Your situation may be different, and you should adjust your plans accordingly.
I managed to complete a BA (Anthropology, UC Berkeley 2001) while
working full time (in health care) and volunteering half-time. It wasn’t easy, and I probably would not recommend it, since I did
not get quite the grades I wanted (some A+s, but also a few cool.gif. In retrospect, I would have
taken out loans to put myself through school, and done better at my coursework.
But all that is in the past, and I cannot change what I did. For my future advanced premed work I plan to go to school full-time and NOT work (an unusual situation for me since I have always paid my way through school).
As for me, I’ve been working to save money to go back to school (not at Berkeley; I need a change from this place) I want some variety and will probably do my advanced premed either out of state or at another UC school). I am shooting for a Spring 2006 or Spring 2007 application.
Dave unsure.gif

Hi Melanie,
I am still trying to figure out the balance, myself, but it can be done. I've learned that organization is a key piece of making it all work. Right now I have a full-time job and am taking one class (which meets twice a week, once for lecture, once for discussion/lab). I have found that making a schedule is extremely helpful. And when I say scheduling, I'm referring to groceries, balancing the checkbook, laundry, etc. It may seem a little overkill to schedule that stuff, but I find it useful… that way I don't end up overwhelmed by all the nagging things I have to do because I have a game plan for accomplishing them. I also try to schedule in some down time. For example, I have lab on Monday night and class on Thursday. Tuesday I set aside for finishing homework and I will stay up until it's done so I can have Wednesday night free and clear to pursue other activities/interests or just to veg in front of the TV (Ed!). R&R is important, too!
Don't be afraid to start out slow, either. You might want to sign up for one class and see how it goes. If you feel like you can handle more, you can always add a second class the next semester.
Good luck, and keep us updated!

Hi Melanie,
In order to answer your question, you need to ask yourself what time frame you want to play in, and how many courses you need to take to fulfill all the requirements. Once you have those two pieces of information, you can play with the numbers.
Take my case for an example. I had none of the prereqs except physics, and that was so old (20+ years) that I had to take all the premed courses. Now I could have taken one course per semester, but that would mean that I could not take the MCAT, nor apply for at least 5 years. That amount of time was out of my range, so I decided to quit my job and go back to school full time - which allowed be to complete all my prereqs in just under 2 years.
Once you have a firm grasp of what course work you need to complete – only then can you can decide what time is right for you, which will be guided by your financial and other obligations. If you do not have many courses to take, perhaps picking away at them might work. If you have loads, and if you can do it, get it over with and show your commitment. But it does sound like you also want to get this done in two years - finish all your course work in 2004 - spring 2005, and take the MCAT in 2005. So you either do not have many courses to take or your going back full time. The course work is one year of biology, one year of genchem, one year of ochem, one year of physics. One course a semester and your 4 years out already - if you get a schedule that allows you to take them on after the other.
Whatever you do let this be in back of your mind - any medical school that you apply to will want to know if you can handle the course load. Can you demonstrate that by taken one course per semester? My state school recommended that I attend fulltime for that very reason.
What ever you do, good luck and keep us informed.

One of the ways that may be helpful in going to school and working is the flexibility of the job.
While most jobs tend to have rather rigid hours, there are jobs that have flexible hours
that would allow you to work around a school schedule. Try for part-time jobs offerred through such services as,, or The stability and pay may be less,
but doing well in your coursework is paramount. After all, you are basically stuck with the
grades you get – whether bad or good – , and admissions committees will see all your grades, despite retaking courses – a lesson that I’m learning the hard way.
Medical jobs are nice because they expose you to the healthcare field, but they usually require skills and training that most of us premeds don’t have. One such job that is accessible is an ER technician position. It usually requires an EMT certification plus a medical assistant background. You basically do grunt work in the ER; however, the hours and pay are great for those desiring to go back to school. For example, where I live, ER technicians make about $20.00 per hour, and can work on weekends and evenings, allowing them to take weekday classes.
Another job is as a medical assistant; the pay is not as high, the hours are more rigid, and it is not as glamorous. But you spend more time building relationships with patients than you will as an ER tech. (Working as a medical assistant paid my entire way through UC Berkeley.)
Jobs on the weekend free-up more time during the week. (I worked Saturdays to allow a few
more free hours for daytime weekday classes.)
Lastly, there is the option of simply working lots of hours and socking away money, while taking premed classes one or two at a time at night. For some this is a great option and it may
be the right choice for you (and for me at this time in my premed work).
Above all, if you are diligent about your schoolwork and don’t let your job
prospects interfere with your scholastic achievements, you’ll do fine. (I fell into the trap
of letting my work and volunteer activities take over and it damaged my GPA. Never again.)
Good luck! Keep us posted on your successes!
Dave unsure.gif

Dear Melanie,
I'm looking at the same time frame as you are. MCAT April 2005, matriculation 2006. I'm also following a similar plan of course work as you are because I go to school for another degree full time and I also work full time. I have to meet all the premed requirements except maybe biology because I'm getting an advanced degree in biology. Try doing one course a semester (including summer semesters) for the next year and then jack up the course work to 2 next fall and 05 spring. I think with that you should be in pretty good shape for MCAT 05.
In my humble opinion, it's difficult but very doable. I agree with the others about scheduling. I schedule all my chores, groceries, cooking, everything. That actually gives me quite a bit of time to do other things.
Good luck, keep us posted with how things go.

Thanks so much Lisa and Stacy!! I had forgotten about community college to be honest and am still a little wary only because I too have heard,like many others, that med schools do not like comm. college courses. i could probably manage two courses at a time-the scheduling to me is the most difficult aspect. of course i haven’t taken bio since 8th grade so i could be delusional smile.gif i checked comm college and their schedule is amazing for me!! i have decided that i will take the labs at CC because unfortunately the only class that offers the lab(in the form of a lab kit you purchase designed for home use by a biotech supply company in North Carolina) is bio I. oh well, still have to iron out some kinks, but i am no longer frustrated.
thanks again! and good luck on your bio test lisa!

To Priya, Dave,arciedee, and BAC:
Sorry guys-perhaps i should read ALL the replies first tongue.gif I thought about going full-time, I have just been working so long that I feel guilty about not having an income. As for scheduling for maximum grade performance, I have taken all but bio before, i just did Bs and Cs when I took them and I took them in '93-'95 so they’re old. so i am not terribly worried(except for physics-had trouble with that one in school but it was the calc-based version, not that it makes a difference). i know that med schools will be looking at all of my grades, and actually since you guys are such good resources I can ask you another question: my UG GPA was 2.6 in chem engineering. not great. but my grad GPA in chem eng was 3.1. and any subsequent classes i too while working i either challenged and passed(i was considering a computer science degree) or got an A. Do I fall in the “visible,positive upward trend” category so far, assuming I(as I intend to) do very well on retaking my prereqs?
thanks for everyone’s help so far!!!i plan to go to denver so hopefully i will meet some(or all?) of you!

Melanie, to help answer your question: my UG GPA was 2.9 (in physics) and my grad GPA, like yours, was also a 3.1 (but in computer science).
Needless to say, there was not one who was impressed with my grades, and when I talked to the dean at my state medical school, his advice was for me to pursue course work full time in order to see if I could handle the load. There was no way I could have pursued full time course work while working full time as well - I did that during my UG years - worked from 7pm to 7am, then headed off to classes - not fun. I was a rag within a couple of years. Also, it was stressed that I take the course at the University, not at a CC, and also not at the University’s branch campuses. From that meeting it became clear to me that medical schools not only look at your grades, but where you take them, the level of the courses, and the load your taking. Even a full load with only one hard science course is going to be looked at differently than another full load where two or more hard courses are taken concurrently.
If you do have access to a medical school in your state, make an appointment with the dean and discuss what s/he would like to see in a candidate such as yourself. Find out what classes you would need to be take over - most likely all of them given the years that have gone by, but you never know. Even though I majored in physics, I had to retake the basic one year of physics - the only thing I was allowed to skip was calculus. What was another nice outcome was a list of course I should take and when.
Your at the start game right now - learn first what courses are required for you, put it all together and see just how long it would take you under different scenarios. If you had to take all 8 courses over (bioI&II, genchemI&II,ochemI&II,physicsI&II), and you took one course per semester, including the summer session, then you can complete all the prereqs one semester short of 3 years. Does this fit your timeline? If you do not need to take all of them, then you have more room to play. However, when you look into the schools you want to apply to, you may see some ‘strongly recommended’ course, like genetics, biochemistry and anatomy and physiology.
I wanted to get just the repreqs done within a year, but it still took me 2 years due to scheduling conflicts. A plan is great, but soon the realities of life kick-in, but with a plan at least you have something to shoot for, and I got a chance to get some of the strongly recommended course out of the way.
You never said if you could afford to leave work to go back to school, but I'll assume you can since you are entertaining the idea. My advice is: if you really can afford to leave work, then do it. This has multiple advantages to someone who wants to get into medicine; it shows your commitment, you can concentrate on your new future, you can devote the time to ensure that you succeed, it proves without a doubt to the admissions committee that you can handle the load with difficult classes, you finish the premed sooner and can get on with going to medical school, and all but not least, it gives you the opportunity to see if all this studying is something you really want to do for the next four years.
Sorry for being so long winded, but I hope this helps.