Summer Prereqs Discouraged?

Dear Wise people,
Wow, I can’t believe this resource exists! From the little that I’ve gotten to read so far, it seems like you guys give such great advice! I just have one quick question for now that is more pressing than my others:
I am graduating on June 1, 2004 with a B.A. in Psychology and a GPA of approximately 3.45 so far. I am hoping to enter a full post-bac program this September at Rutgers, New Brunswick, and hope to complete all the core sciences in 1 year (e.g., Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics). I already have finished my English (2 college) and Math (from AP credit and 1 college multivariate calculus course) requirements.
I’m told that taking all 8 sciences in 1 year, while doable, is pretty tough. Although I think I might be able to pull it off and still get good grades, I was thinking of utilizing my summer to take 1 full science (probably Chemistry I & II) and leaving only 6 semesters (Bio, Orgo, and Physics) for the rest of the year. Chemistry is a prerequisite for Orgo anyway, so it’s another good reason to arrange things like this.
Here’s my problem: The pre-med advisor at Rutgers says that it is “strongly discouraged” to take anything over the summer. Is she right? I’ve heard all kinds of different things from other places, though. But if it is indeed going to hurt my application chances to take summer prerequisites, should I just go ahead and load up on all 8 semesters of science during the year? (I’d really like to get these all done by the Summer of 2005 if I can!)
Thanks for your time and advice!
P.S. Another motivation to take Chemistry in the summer is that pre-med friends of mine have been “highly highly recommending” that I also take 1 semester of Genetics during the year in addition to the core sciences.
P.P.S. Out of curiosity–is my AP Math credit going to count towards the Math requirement at most schools? Also, I have 1 semester of AP credit for both Chemistry and Physics, which I have been “strongly discouraged” to use, hence I’m planning to sign up for the full 8 sciences. But what perspectives do you guys have on AP credit for the core sciences anyway?
Man, I couldn’t stop myself from adding a few extra questions!

At most schools, General Chemistry is a pre-req for Organic Chemistry. The post-bacc program I attended had us take Gen Chem I&II over the summer with the biology, organic and physics classes over the next two semesters. We took the MCAT in April of the spring semester.
As for a math pre-req, some schools require them and others don’t. It is best to check the MSAR to see the schools’ specific requirements (i.e. some require a certain number of humanities credits).
Hope this helps. Good Luck.

If you had been out of college for awhile, I would agree that jumping back in by doing chemistry over the summer would be a bad idea. Given that you’re in “student mode” already with a good GPA, I don’t think it’s so awful. It IS tough and you will need to be extra-vigilant about staying on top of things - you don’t ever want to fall behind in summer school. But I agree that it would be a good idea to get this one out of the way.
Genetics - yes, genetics is part of the biological sciences on the MCAT, so taking it is a good idea. But whether you NEED to may depend on what your biology core courses cover; I’d look into that more before deciding (e.g. my 1st semester core course in bio was cell biology and it covered a LOT of genetics).
AP credit - I would discourage anyone from counting it for a few reasons. First of all, there’s no grade attached to it so you can’t show that you did well. Then, despite the concept that AP is equivalent to a college course, most folks find that the college course is, in fact, more in depth and certainly much more comprehensive from a lab point of view. Finally, I don’t know whether those AP credits reflect sufficient knowledge for the MCAT. “Better safe than sorry” is the way I look at it.
Good luck, Dave!

Dear Mary & Tara,
Thanks for such lightning-fast and informative replies! I will certainly take your cautions to heart, Mary.
And Tara, it sounds like you did exactly the same thing that I plan to by cramming the post-bac into 1 year with Gen. Chemistry over the summer. Did you find the year with Orgo, Physics, and Bio on top of each other very difficult? Did you feel well-prepared for the April MCAT at that time? Did medical school admissions departments give you any trouble about having taken a core science over the summer?
Thanks so much,

Also, at least one med school (Medical College of Wisconsin) will not accept AP credits, to double-check with your schools of choice.
I did second semester general chemistry over the summer while working 80% of full time. It was tough, but doable. I think if you take the vast majority of your prereqs during the school year, it won’t really hurt your application.

Hi Seto! Welcome…it really is a great bunch here. Anyhow, I’ll be starting my post-bacc this May. It’s a post-bacc that’s been around for over 20 years and been pretty successful at getting people into medical school. As a general rule, the post-bacc is set up with taking Gen Chem 1 during the first term of summer, and Gen Chem 2 the second term of the summer. Then they take Org. Chem 1., Bio 1, and Physics 1 in the Fall; Org. Chem. 2, Bio. 2, and Physics 2 in the Spring. So it definitely is doable and with hard work you can get good grades. But this is only one way to do it, for example, the Columbia post-bacc which is pretty reputable as well really discourages or may even prohibit students from taking classes over the summer and spreads out the requirements over 2 years. Frankly, I think taking 8 sciences with labs between Fall and Spring will be just as tough, if not tougher. You really need to determine what kind of person you are and what settings do you need to excel. For example, most people really need time to absorb things and can crumble if under too much stress. Others find they are more productive and do better when they have almost too many things go on - they are like in machine mood. What kind of person are you? You know yourself better than the advisor and better than we do, so you have to answer that question. Hard work is what will make you successful, but it helps to set yourself up for success.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the AP credits…Ditto what everyone else. From what I’ve heard, a weak mathematical base is what can make physics really difficult. You might consider taking the maths over again, particularly if it’s been a long time. I definitely have to agree that just bc they are AP credits does not mean that they truly are college-level math. You might really be hurting yourself if you are short-changing your math skills for speed. Finally, the program I’m in really advises you do a math review, and get a college-level math textbook and work on your areas of weakness as refresher. So even if you don’t retake the courses, make a commitment to strengthening your math skills.
And, I definitely don’t think medical schools will look negatively upon taking 6-8 sciences courses in one year. I think they would be impressed ifyou took that many and did well. But make sure you can do well, bc they’ll still be impressed if you took 2-3 sciences and did well. But they won’t be impressed at all if you take 6-8 and get bad-to-mediocre grades.

Thanks for the tips. I’m definitely the type that works better in a “machine mode” when it comes to grueling work, so 6 core sciences with labs during the Fall & Spring sounds like it should probably be an optimal workload for me. (8 might be too much, though)
As for the Math review, I will definitely look into doing it. I had good experiences with Calculus BC in high school and some so-so experiences with 1 semester of Multivariable in college, although it has been a long while since I’ve done either.
What is the level of Math that is required for the MCAT? Several medical schools (e.g., UCLA, UMDNJ) say that they only require experience with things like “Introductory Calculus” and “Statistics”. Oh, and I did check up on the med schools to find out which ones reject AP credit–thanks for the idea!

Hi Dave and welcome to OPM,
I did a number of classes in the summer. Nothing was ever said about the summer classes in any of my interviews. I took intro chem, genetics, biology I and lab, bacteriology and art. That said… keep in mind, summer classes move very fast. The studying you do during summer may be different then what you do during a full semester. Sometimes you can find yourself studying only for the test rather than long term retention. That becomes a problem when the summer classes are the ones that are tested on the MCAT. It will really depend on you and how you study and retain long term. I enjoyed summer classes.
As to the math and AP. I would take the math in college. One year of math is all you need to apply to med school. Algebra, trig and precal are all you really need. SOme schools require calculus. I took it by accident because my pre-med advisor miscounted my credits and transfer credits. But I do think you should take the math to show the med schools you are able to do it and your math is current.
Good luck. It will be over before you know it.

Dave, I’m gonna disagree with the opinions in favor of taking more math… if you took calc BC in high school and multivariable in college, and did well in them, the math you use in gen-chem and physics will come right back to you - quite honestly I doubt you’ll even need to review much. I am one of those weirdos who liked math in high school (tho’ I did NOT like calculus) … it came right back to me when I did my post-bacc over twenty YEARS later. Everyone’s different on the math thing… I know I am sort of an odd (wo)man out here, saying the math in gen-chem and physics is no big deal, but really, if you readily understood and mastered calc BC, the gen-chem and physics math will be a piece o’cake by comparison.

Do AP credits expire? I assumed he took them in high school long time ago and would have since needed to be updated to show the med schools his math was fresh.
OOps, I did miss the part about multivariable in college. I thought he hadn’t taken any math in college. My bad
That does change my advice and tends to make me agree with Mary. If the med schools will take your math and if you are good with algebra/trig, then I wouldn’t take anymore as a post bac.

Thanks Mary and Amy,
I am with you, Mary, about loving Math back in the day. It probably will come back to me fairly quickly–although at the same time, I think that some review using a Calculus or MCAT preparation textbook won’t hurt to help me get the rusty gears turning again quicker.

I agree with Mary on math issue. I had not had a math class in twenty years when I took Gen Chem (which is really just algebra word problems dressed up in a chemistry costume). And I did NOT do well in calculus in high school and didn’t take more than a trig class in college. As long as you hit the homework hard, it comes right back to you.

I don’t know ANYTHING about the acceptability of AP credits for getting into med school, but I do know how to obtain a proper AP transcript from the College Board many years after you took them-- I called them a couple of months ago and wrote down everything they told me. Here’s the info:
Send a check for $24 to
AP Exams
PO Box 6671
Princeton, NJ 08541-6671
In your note to them, you should include the following information:
Social Security Number
Your high school
The tests you took
The years you took the tests

Dave, hi…
I took the second semester of general chemistry over the summer when I was doing my post-bacc. My reasoning was that it set me up to take the year of o-chem right on schedule. I did well (and studied everywhere I could), enjoyed it & no one on the interview trail ever questioned this chemistry-in-8-weeks course. Helps if you’ve got a great prof!
I also took a genetics and a biochem course, but that’s me. My 2 cents here: get your hands on an up-to-date MCAT manual, preferably with practice exams and topic checklists. Look it over real well for the genetics topics and compare that to whatever is in your biology courses. It might be that you don’t need to take the course, just study on your own from a good biology text and MCAT review book. On the other hand, if having the course helps you, do it! The MCAT changed right after I took it in Aug of 2002; the “new” MCAT has less orgo and more genetics.
Welcome & good luck!

All this “don’t take anymore math again” is making me feel great. To be honest, I don’t have any math scheduled into my post-bacc and I’m a bit nervous about that. I’ve always been pretty good and enjoyed math, but, again, I was going be a lawyer fighting for people’s rights so who needed those numbers anyway. It wasn’t my focus. I took statistics and finite math in college and got A, but I’ve never taken calculus (even in high school). I know some schools require it, but frankly I’m too early in the game to start narrowing down where I want to be going. As the months progress, I’ll get a better idea and tag on calculus if necessary. But I’m really scared how this will affect my sciences, but people tell it’s really the algebra/trig. And I do love Algebra. As I mentioned, I am already reviewing/refreshing my math skills by reviewing a college textbook. Is it really bad that I’m not taking calculus before going in? Please keep telling me that math is like "riding a bike."
P.S. Don’t ask me what finite math is…It’s a lot of word problems and probabilities.

If the algebra is coming back to you, you’ll do fine in the chemistry, and I imagine you’ll do fine in the physics. It’s partly like riding a bike, and partly like playing the piano. You get rusty, but when you start practicing again it comes back to you. You do not need to take calculus-based sciences for your prereqs, and there is no calculus on the MCAT.
So if the algebra is there and you have time to do the homework, you’ll be fine.

Hey Dave
Goodluck with your postbacc, IF you feel like you can be focused taking one summer class, then by all means do it. But that is just my two cents. I have decided to do an informal postbacc at my own pace. I figure that my grades will be better, and I can take more classes and have time to volunteer and do the things that intersts me.
Taking one science class might not be a bad idea, since it will help ease you into the rigors of your postbacc schedule. Goodluck

I took calculus and don’t have a clue as to what I learned, somehow got a B and have NEVER EVER used it in any class I had as an undergrad. You don’t need it unless you go to a school that requires it (Harvard, etc) OR unless your major requires it. A friend of mine was a chemistry major and had to take 1 full year of calculus for her major.
So for anyone looking into majors… choose wisely!!!


I took calculus and don’t have a clue as to what I learned, somehow got a B and have NEVER EVER used it in any class I had as an undergrad. You don’t need it unless you go to a school that requires it (Harvard, etc) OR unless your major requires it. A friend of mine was a chemistry major and had to take 1 full year of calculus for her major.
So for anyone looking into majors… choose wisely!!!

Thanks Amy and Denise. I feel better. I thought about if I wanted to attend a school that requires calculus, but my post-bacc is really great at accomodating that…they said that if I link to a school that requires calculus or biochemistry (Brown, Dartmouth, etc.) then they make sure to take the class/receive a grade before the start of school. Sometimes this might have to be a super small class in the summer just to accomodate 3 or 4 of us, but they do it. And I figure if I don’t the linkages, I’ll have the whole glide year to pick up those courses. It’s just a little too early in the game to start thinking about which school I want to go to - right now, I know I want to go to medical school, period. Thanks. I feel better now.