Taking my time with pre-reqs?

Hi all,

Haven’t visited the site or posted in quite awhile. Quick update: Took my first pre-req Spring '11 semester (well, it was actually a retake from undergrad in 2001). I did very well, A in both lab and lecture. I really enjoyed being back in the classroom. I do admit though, that it was initially very intimidating.

I’m going to register for Chem II and lab for this fall. I’m eager to take another course as well, but my job is quite demanding right now. I am looking for advice as to whether I should stick to what I know works for me right now and just focus on Chem II or take a chance with taking two classes and work.

My husband will be starting his fellowship next July 2012 in our hometown of Rochester, NY and I’ll be leaving my current job then. So, one of the ideas that is in the works is to focus more on my pre-reqs and maybe only work part-time then. For now, however, I have a very busy clinical job and an evergrowing caseload which requires my attention.

After all this rambling, I suppose the question I really should ask is: How long is too long to finish pre-reqs? Am I doing myself a disservice by taking a few years to complete them?

Thanks all. So glad to be back to the site.

Fair warning: It’s not uncommon for schools to not offer Chem II in the fall (since most people take Chem I in the fall the demand often isn’t there for Chem II at the same time). Make sure you confirm that your school does before you rely on it being available.

As for how long is too long, I usually hear than pre-reqs older than 5 years are, at the least, frowned upon if not outright rejected. As long as you keep it under that rather nebulous cut-off I would think you should be OK, though it wouldn’t hurt to call your top choice schools (if you know which those are now) and get their input.

Interesting that you would bring this up. I had a similar conversation the other day with a colleague who is a voting member on the adcom at the school where I teach. There’s a lot of reading between the lines that goes on when applications from non-trads are reviewed. A slower pace to get through the pre-reqs is not necessarily viewed as lack of committment, because you have other priorities (job, family, etc). Along the same lines, when you DO have time (i.e. you stop working full time), stepping up the pace with classes and volunteer experience will go a long way to prove that you know what you’re getting into.

Regardless of age, background or whatever, adcoms want to populate their entering classes with students who can focus and manage their time effectively. Taking things at a slower pace and doing well while you’re working full-time is probably going to speak to this idea better than overloading yourself and not doing well.

I was just chatting with my adviser and giving him a progress report from the spring semester, what I’m taking this summer and plans for the fall.

He mentioned the state med school wants to see a full course load (12 credit hours) for at least one semester. Apparently, working full-time, family, etc. does not count. I relayed this question to him: The med school is taking 12 credit hours with no full-time job is harder than working 40+ hours, taking a 4-credit class and raising a family? Hell, if I could afford it, I’d love to JUST have a 12-credit course load.

As an aside, early on I was taking 8+ hours and working full time. Now, with my lower division courses completed, I can’t get the upper division courses in the evening, so the pace has slowed.

He replied that was the way this particular school viewed the situation.

I’m in a similar bind. I worked 40+ hours while taking two classes at a time, but they were lower division courses and I could fit them into my schedule so it worked. I did well, too. 4.0 my first two semesters while working, being a mom (going through a divorce and dealing with some major turmoil there, too). Now that I am in more heavy sciences, I just cannot do it. I have been taking one science class per semester with maybe one non-science class thrown in to qualify for financial aid and I have been able to cut back on work just enough to live, still have a job and still qualify for co. benefits. It looks like Fall semester is not going to work so well, though. I need to step things up because I’m really anxious to get through this premed work and the clock is ticking away, but I cannot conceivably work even 30 hours a week with 10 science credits in Fall. The classes require much more time on campus in lab, lecture, & discussion and they are spread apart and over 4 weekdays so trying to fit work into this school schedule is going to take some major acrobatics. I have not even approached work with the possibility of officially going part time, so that may be an issue, too. My job is demanding, I have a good amount of experience there, and have worked myself into a niche that would be great if that is where I wanted to be. It’s not. So, I’m heavily relied on there and asking for part time may not fly. Not to mention the money and benefits issue. Looks like I’ll be living on loans for awhile which isn’t great, either, but I’m willing to deal with that. I’m working on scholarships, too, but that is a part time job in itself.

So, all that being said, I get it! I think most of us old premeds on these boards with families and jobs get it, too. When I explained my situation to a Bio prof (granted she is not a premed advisor) she told me to keep doing what I’m doing, keep my grades up like I have, and I will be a “shoe in” for any med school. I’d like to think it’s that easy, but for now I try not to worry about it too much. Just bust your tail and I think any med school will read between the lines and see that a focused non trad premed, jumping through hoops to make their education work is a great candidate for med school and will make a fantastic doctor.

I never believed I’d be as busy as I was when I started medical school.

I would say medical school is like having a 60 hour a week job while taking 18 credits and taking care of a kid.

Ok, I slightly exaggerate. But my point is, your responsibility to your children won’t change when you enter medical school. You will have to find time for them no matter what.

I have had a brief experience helping to raise kids while working and studying. I was working a 50+ hour week, while studying for the MCAT, and cooking, cleaning, making sure kids had clothes in the morning, etc. I got FAR less studying done then when I didn’t have those commitments.

Medical school has me busier than when I was taking 21 credit hours of hard science pre-reqs (all at the same time, and some of the classes were needed for others).

By comparison when I was working 45+ hours a week, and taking a 4 credit Gen Bio at a top school is a breeze. Even though I was studying until midnight on Friday and getting up on Saturday to start studying again at 8AM so I could have some free time that night. (And this was easier than taking the 21 credit hours)

One of the big differences is how well I am doing. Before med school, by studying all the time, I could spend the time to master the information. Now, it flys at me so quick, I just try to grab what I can, and go.

So yes, medical school is THAT much more than a 40+ job, with a 4 credit hour intense class, and kids. The kid factor doesn’t change, it just complicates.

I would ask your adviser what they feel taking 12 credit hours shows. If it is just to ‘prove’ you know how to manage a academic work load with your other commitments, then see if your family will put up with you taking 12 credit hours. How you would make that work while still paying the bills is a tough one. Use lots of vacation time, get a caffeine IV, who knows.

I have heard that many non-trads have a ‘hard time’ with the transition. Which I don’t quite understand. I have a feeling that is most often just the culture shock, and many other changes. Moving, adjusting to classmates, Gross Anatomy and etc. more so then the work load. Most students who see studying as a ‘job’ and punch in and out do very well.

So, even if your adviser pushes you to take the 12 credit hour semester, if you find there is absolutely no way to pull it, while continuing to pay the bills. Then don’t, but be prepared to address it in your interview.

Where you may say something along the lines of “Yeah, I know more will be expected of me in medical school. My family has adjusted to my 40+ hour schedule with the time that was required for my schooling. I am prepared to put in at least that amount of time, and me and my family have discussed ways I may be able to devote more of my time.”

Sorry for the long rambling reply, and I hope this helps!

I guess my response to that issue would be, how many “traditional” student take 12 hours and work full time. Most of the ones I have been around barely go to class, much less work 40 hours. And some of the complaining I hear about “work” is the time they spend in the lad that they get credit for.

Also I would much rather have to explain why I never took 12 hours than why I got a C in something in postbacc.

  • hakado Said:
He mentioned the state med school wants to see a full course load (12 credit hours) for at least one semester. Apparently, working full-time, family, etc. does not count.

This is why it took me five years to finish. I tried to always take 2 hard classes (any pre-reqs, and later any UD bio classes) with one non-science class and one random online course to get the 12 credits each semester. It was expensive, it was slow, but I had to get a degree anyways, so it was easier to justify.

I still drastically cut my work hours last January, even more so while I studied for the MCAT and then spent the last 6 months I was there training my replacements. Why? Being over-committed to work totally affected my grades (C in both semesters of organic) so I *had* to take Biochem and do well to show I wasn't an idiot.

There's no easy answer, but if you ever start to feel your grades are slipping you know it's time to change "the plan" and squeeze more study hours into the week.