Truly starting from square one

Hi All,

I’m a new member and hoping to get some great advice. My passion is helping people and I’ve decided to become a physician.

An advisor at a local university filled me in on the requirements for medical school and I plan on starting next semester on my bachelors degree.

Yep, I’m starting at square one. The brief bio: I’m 40 and spent two years at a top notch university about 20 years ago (so those classes don’t seem to count for much now). Also, I was working on a career in journalism (which worked out very well and I don’t regret the tv and radio years) so I didn’t take any science courses. I work full time but have some flexibility in my schedule. My wife and daughter support me completely (I know, I’m a very lucky man).

Now, my question; what’s the best strategy? I’m trying to map out a plan. Should I apply to a school and take all the classes I can at night, then try to register for the late day science classes? I’m surrounded by schools in eastern North Carolina, but wonder if I should keep switching schools based on class availability and schedule? Will I still be judged on 25 year old SAT scores and prep school grades? Am I kidding myself about working full time and going to med school? I’m sure others have done this and I would love to know what path you took and what helpful hints you can give me.

Thanks in advance everyone and good luck with your own journeys.


Well I guess it’s a trade-off you have to consider. When you work full time, as you are currently doing, and go to school at the same time you have to continuously opt between getting good grades with a light load of classes and getting average grades with a heavy load of classes. The latter will reflect badly with adcoms, the previous will translate to a larger amount of time spent getting your bachelors.

At the end of the day it depends on how bad you want to pursue the bachelors/MD route and what timeline you have charted out for yourself.

Either way if you have made up your mind to embark on this ‘rocky road to perdition’ then you need to aim for doing well in your bachelors so that you don’t run afoul of the adcoms.

Of course I have not considered the fact that you may be a member of MENSA who can pick up a book and read it from cover to cover in a couple of hours and remember everything after 5 days. In which case I am not intelligent enough to comment on your situation. Sorry for wasting your 10 minutes reading this post!

Welcome, Derek -

  • drfrosty Said:
Now, my question; what's the best strategy? I'm trying to map out a plan. Should I apply to a school and take all the classes I can at night, then try to register for the late day science classes? I'm surrounded by schools in eastern North Carolina, but wonder if I should keep switching schools based on class availability and schedule?

It appears from your post that you don't currently have a Bachelor's degree? If that is the case, I don't think you are going to want to do a lot of switching from school to school, as you will have to mess with the hassle of transferring credits and the like at whatever school you are planning on getting a degree from. If you do already have a degree, it's probably not as big a deal to take the classes at a couple different schools based on schedule availability.

  • Quote:
Will I still be judged on 25 year old SAT scores and prep school grades?

You certainly won't be judged on those for medical school. I'm not sure what kind of policies your local schools have about admissions requirements for non-traditional students. It may vary from school to school, so you may want to check with the various schools you are considering attending and ask them what requirements you have to meet in order to enroll.

  • Quote:
Am I kidding myself about working full time and going to med school?

I'm not sure if you are referring to working full time while taking undergrad classes or working full time while actually in medical school. In the latter case, it is very difficult to work at all while in medical school, let alone work full time. There are some people who have worked part time (primarily on breaks or the occasional weekend) while in med school, but medical school is pretty much a full time job.

Thanks Dazed and Emergency :slight_smile:

I appreciate the info and it’s so good to know I’m not alone.

Also, I have some great news. I’ve talked with more admissions counselors and it turns out my credits should transfer (glad I went to Northwestern and managed to do a little more than just party way back then, lol). I’m hoping to start up again at, or close to, the junior class.

The scary thing is I know this is the easiest part of the plan.

Btw, I’m learning a lot from reading the other threads too.

Thanks again

Hi drfrosty -

Like many others here, you and I share much in common in regards to both our aspiration to become a doctor and the challenging road to get there from here.

I am 38, with a boy 6 and a girl 3, and also a wonderful wife that is supporting me all the way. It definitely is scary at times thinking about the sacrifices that we’ll need to make, but we are now convinced (most days!) that we can make this happen.

I’ll need to also maintain my full time job to support the family while finishing one year of Org Chem and Biology, along with the MCAT before applying to schools. The admission advisers that I’ve spoken with say that having community college science credits (some 7-10 years old) should not be detrimental, given that I am working full time and can put in some meaningful volunteering.

I plan to take Bio 1 and Org Chem at night/weekends in the Spring.

I’ve really gotten alot of inspiration from these OldPreMeds and the forums …hope you will as well.

Hope to see more of your posts…Wish you all best


Hi Neil,

Thanks. I wish you all the best too.

I hope all is well with you and your family.

Here’s another question that I’m sure many of the oldpremeds have to deal with; what about that mortgage?

During med school, how much is the mortgage taken into account when getting student loans? Are the loans just for school costs or do they take into account the living expenses older students may have (like the mortgage, daycare, etc)? Is losing your home part of the sacrifice for med school? I know there are financial rewards to practicing medicine and many doctors receive offers to pay off student loans. We’ll be fine financially during two years of undergrad and once I get to the residency stage, but those four years of med school are a concern.

Any and all help is appreciated.



It is assumed that you will be unable to work during medical school, so you are able to borrow for living expenses. Schools must prepare a budget of living expenses, and students are eligible to borrow via federal moneys tuition and budgeted living expenses up to a certain cap (I think it was around $40,500 this year). Living expenses are usually budgeted in the neighborhood of $16 - $18K, depending on your locale.

Unfortunately, the budget prepared by the financial aid office is usually in excess of the amount you can borrow of federal loans, especially if you are at a private school (where tuition and fees themselves are often in excess of $30k) or an out-of-state student. If you have good credit, you can borrow money beyond the federal limit from private lenders. The inability to borrow from private lenders can be a serious roadblock for some potential medical students.

Hope that helps.

PS - Most schools post their budget on their webpages, if you would like to get a feel for how much money you may need to borrow to cover expenses.

The “budgeted living expenses” thing is something that took some getting used to, as a concept. The med school will set this budget and it is meant to be for the typical med student. Expenses like a mortgage, child care, and such are not part of their universe, and the living expenses budget isn’t something you “negotiate” or “take into consideration.”

It is EASY to qualify for the initial $40K or so in yearly FEDERAL student loan money; as Amy says, the private loans that some students need beyond that $40K will be dependent on your credit. Future doctors are pretty good credit risks and so it is frankly pretty easy to borrow privately as well.

When it comes time to enter med school (well, several months ahead of time), you might also want to talk to the company that holds your mortgage and see if there is a way to renegotiate some of the terms. I have NO idea if this is do-able, but I do know that as I approached graduating from residency this past year, every bank in the world seemed to know it and assumed that I would be moving, that I’d be buying a house, and that I’d be earning money but wouldn’t have a down payment. And their literature assured me that they would be happy to help me - they had special loans for doctors! (who knew??)

So you’ll want to think creatively about how you might approach this on your end… and I bet there will be ways to do it. (your financial aid office at the school you ultimately attend will also – hopefully – be helpful. I know at GWU they were awesome.)


Hi Mary and Everyone,

Once again, I’m so glad an advisor recommended I check out this website! You’re all providing great info and sending me in the right direction for more answers.

Lucky for me, I’m in NC and surrounded by universities. Now, I’ll just have to get into one of the three state run med schools near me since I qualify as in-state. We’ve been going through major changes in education here. I was shocked that now they will even consider half of child care expenses. I have to talk to them, but I’m hoping they’ll consider half the mortgage since I have to live somewhere, lol. Also, my own room and board is about half what they expect for traditional students. And, guess what? Their totals fall just under $40k. I could borrow more if needed (would rather not), but if the online budgets are the norm, I shouldn’t have to.

Also, it’s good to know that there are special housing loans for doctors. There are a lot of underserved areas here in NC, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we do move in the next six to nine years.

Thanks again everyone.


Hi All,

I hope everyone is well and living the dream.

It’s been awhile since I posted and I wish I had a happy question or comment. But, to be honest, I’m wondering (again) if my dream is going to work out. Maybe, just wanting something isn’t enough.

Since my last post, before spring semester started, some things have changed. I’m in a continuing education program and taking Biology 101 and the lab. The big worry is that I’m not going to get an A. Working hard now just to try to pull out a B! If this happens in 101, is it just time to stick a fork in me from the AdCom viewpoint.

Another problem is that I likely won’t be able to go full time at the major university I’m attending until Fall 2009 (and I’m already 41)! That part of the story is complicated as scheduling classes with the full time job became more difficult when my wife decided to return to school full time too (we agreed as she should finish before I start med school for the sake of the mortgage and caring for our daughter).

But, besides that, I just can’t find a balance. It’s very difficult to get quality study time and the doubt monster becomes a beast every time I don’t do as well as expected on a test. I start to wonder if I’m doing the right thing or if I can even do it.

Are these feelings and worries normal or a big sign that I’m heading the wrong way? Should I have doubts so soon?!? Does any of that matter if I’m struggling for a B in 101?

Thanks for listening (reading)


You’ll want to address your concerns and doubts. Just keep in mind that you will have doubts, and you won’t be perfect. That’s true for all of us.

pi1304, you weren’t talking to me but thank you for such a profound statement. It is easy to think that all docs are confident and strong from the very beginning. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a doctor BUT I must say that with every test I take and with every person I speak too, my confidence is growing. I let my plans of Med school become public, while at Church last week…Boy were people excited. They actually believed in me. I all of a sudden had people asking me medical questions…LOL I laughed and said that I am PRE-med…then I explained that meant PRE knowing anything about medicine. Good grief! But the moral of this story is that people who know me best believe in me the most, that has got to mean something!


I’m glad to hear it, Gwen! As others have said, the most important thing is that you believe in yourself - but if your friends and family and church believe in you, too, that’s gotta be a good thing :).

Gwen and Pi,

Awesome stuff! I had a very similar experience on Easter when I revealed to a man at my church (my Sunday School teacher in High School and physician from Africa) my intentions…and my reservations…he welled up and said, “I always told your parents that if anyone would make a great physician, you would and I never understood why you picked business! Finally you came to your senses!”

I was shocked and totally uplifted by the support of someone whom I haven’t spoken with for 7 years. Sometimes it’s those little things that keep the trail a’blazin!

I know what you mean. I was sure that people at church thought I was silly or goofy or just nt that smart BUT they didn’t. They said that they think I would make a wonderful doc because I’m strong and sure of myself and because ia m SO smart…LOL Boy do I have them fooled. ne lady even said that she thinks that me becming a doctor would be a Blessing to all my future patients… I think I will have that etched in gold and hung on my wall…ya know, just as a reminder when things get hairy! SO! Off I go…to claim my future as a healer! To serve God first!


Hmmmmm, maybe I need a new perspective, lol.

Thanks for all the comments. They’re excellent as usual here.

I say maybe I need a new perspective because when it comes up in conversation and I tell people about what I’m trying to do, they’ve been very positive. Almost too positive in that they act like it’s a done deal. Sometimes it feels like more pressure to get it done and get it done quickly.

And, I’ve already had a successful broadcasting career that’s now become like an old girlfriend (speaking as if still in my single days of course, lol)that keeps wandering back into my mind.

But, in the end, it’s what I want to do and it’s better than anything I’m doing now, so I might as well keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks again,


I don’t know, Derek, that sounds like a sort of half-hearted commitment. If people around you are convinced that your pursuit is a good fit for you, that’s good - but YOU are the one who must be convinced, and your earlier note about struggling to find the time for your studies left me with the sense that you are just not sure if this is what you should be doing.

When you are sure, you MAKE the time. I don’t know that there is anyone on here who can infuse that sort of certainty in you. Yes, you’ll have doubts and wonder if you are making a big mistake, but you won’t let those reservations get in the way of truly Herculean effort, if necessary, in your coursework… and forgive me if I’m getting the wrong impression, because of course the two-dimension nature of bulletin boards can lose a lot of nuance, but I just don’t get that feeling that you are tackling your coursework as if you are convinced.

Am I really off base?