Ok, here we go…
So, I spend the last two years getting 8 hours of bio, 8 of both Gen and Organic Chem, got the physics from a while ago (20 years) and figure all I need is the MCAT and here we go…
Well, one of the schools I’m looking at requires 14 hours of biology, but say that they will let you finish it while you’re waiting to matriculate. No biggie.
I call today to find out if they will take the physics, yes, they will. But then the other shoe gets dropped…
I get told that most people find the MCAT very difficult without having taken the 14 hour biology minimum. So I call the Kaplan people and find out that the MCAT recommends you have : 1 year bio, 1 year of in/organic chemistry and 1 year of physics. So I’m ok there.
Then, by making a few phone calls, I get advised that it’s better to wait until you’ve got all the prereqs done and the MCAT taken before you apply. So what’s the point of saying that you can apply without them if, de facto, you don’t stand a reasonable chance of getting invited to interview without them. Someone even advised me to check into private D.O. schools if I really wanted to get in this year.
So now I’ve got to find full time work to sustain the family for two years (assuming I get in for the class starting in '06), get another 6 hours of biology out of the way and be ready to go in May when the apps open up again.
Advice anyone? Should I risk applying this year without the prereqs and taking the August MCAT or wait?
Ok, here we go…
It’s complicated, and we all have our opinions.
The ExamKrackers people do NOT advise you to take all kinds of extra classes before the MCAT. They advise you to use their review books and take a bunch of practice tests and shoot for the moon. I can’t say who’s right. You DO have the major prerequisites–you have ALL the prerequisites for most schools.
It is better, particularly for schools that use rolling admissions, to take the MCAT in April than August. But if you take it in August, you can be okay if you submit the rest of your application promptly in early June so you can get your secondaries completed the moment they get your MCAT scores in October.
Now, here are the flies in the ointment for you as I see them:
1. You’re not confident about the MCAT. Maybe taking a practice MCAT will give you enough of a taste to see if you think you can get a great score in August.
2. I haven’t followed your story closely, so I don’t know if you have volunteer work, experience shadowing docs, (preferably with some nice letters of recommendation) some sort of clinical exposure that shows you have explored this career thoroughly. Without that, your application raises a bit of a red flag. I think DO schools expect the same thing, and some insist on a letter of recommendation from a D.O.
If the rest of your application is good and solid, finishing the “extra” prereqs during glide year and taking the August MCAT won’t kill you. If it’s not good and solid, I’d say save your money (applying is expensive) and wait a year. Of course, I’m a stranger on the Internet, but that’s how I see it.
I think quite a few of us here (me included) have had to slow down our applications more than we hoped at first. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But I don’t know what else you’ve got going for you, and I’m not you, so you’ll have to make your own best call. Good luck with whatever you decide. We’ll be here for you either way.
I say go ahead and apply this year as long as you feel like you will do relatively well on the MCAT (should be studying now) can afford the application fees, and will be able to complete all medschool requirements prior to matriculation. Based on your other posts, it seems as if you are interested in osteo med, which is good, for the majority of these schools have rolling admissions all the way till late spring or early summer. I was successful in getting into 3 DO schools and waitlisted at another this year by using the Aug. MCAT, so it is possible and can be done.
I think I would also agree that you could take the MCAT and apply this year. DO schools are great but if you decide to do that route you will need a letter from a DO for some of the schools. My school, VCOM will not waive that request. I got mine by meeting with a local DO and having him talk to me for 45 minutes. I know you don’t need 14 hours of biology for most schools. Maybe that school was meaning they wanted to see something recent, but I do know lots of people that have gotten in with just the 8 hours of biology.
You need to figure out how well you can hope to do on the MCAT. That may be the deciding factor as to if you apply this year or wait until next year. I would suggest you take the free practice MCAT that the AAMC offers. I would also suggest you purchase the online subscription they offer. These are the people that handle the MCATs and the ones you can buy are actual, previously given MCATs. And for only $80 bucks it is worth it.
On this same web page you will alos see the link for the free practice test. I would suggest you take that and see where your weaknesses are so you can prepare correctly.
Good luck. We know what you are going through with being older, with family obligations and classes to study for and MCAT to conquer and med school to apply for. We are here to help.
Hi DaveinDallas, I definitely think while taking 12 hours of bio might help, I do not think that sticking with the required 8 hours will hurt you. Many times people taking the advanced bio and other science classes will take them while they are applying AFTER they’ve taken the MCAT. To echo others sentiment, I think the key question to be asking is how you feel right now with your 8 hours of bio. Take the practice MCAT and find out. As far as your particular schools requirement, I’d consider other schools, including both M.D. and D.O.
A little more on my story…
Undergrad: BSEET ('85) 3.3 GPA
Post Bacc: 2002 - 2004 - 4.0 GPA (Bio I, A&P I, Gen Chem 1 and 2, O Chem 1 and 2)
Due to some bonehead manuevers as a young man–overall gpa 3.3, science 3.58.
Clinical: 3 months as a chiropractic assitant. Did some patient therapy and was learning new patient exam stuff (ROM, orthopedic/neurological tests, taking BP, developing XRays, marking Xrays for the DC to examine…).
Volunteer: 3 years as a youth director for a local church
ECs/Other stuff: lived 3 years in Libya before Quadaffi, 10 years in the Philippines (got to see substandard healthcare and it’s impacts, meet different people and different cultures).
Martial arts instructor - selected from the ranks of students to be an assistant instructor, later on becoming the senior student due to leadership abilities.
Currently looking at volunteering for Medical City Dallas.
Former S/W engineer with 18 years of experience.
Both Gen. Chem Prof (Ph.D) and A&P Prof (former pediatrician from Brazil) have said that I have what it takes to make a great doctor (their words, not mine). Both strongly encouraging me. Same-same for family pediatrician.
So, what to do?
It’s good you have had A&P, that is a plus to have before the MCAT, especially the Physiology part of it. I had 8 hours bio, cellular/molecular bio, micro and physiology before I took it.
I still think whether you apply this time is going to boil down to the MCAT performance. You can get a slightly lower MCAT and still have a good chance at the DO schools. Your GPA would would work for DO or MD as well. Lacking , I think is more clinical volunteer time with direct patient contact. I would encourage you to pursue the Medical City Dallas thing. What would you do there, do you know?
Let’s see if we can nest this one 3 deep…whoops, slipped into software jargon…
anyway, I’m starting my Kaplan course tonight. The first thing we do is take a diagnostic ‘mini-MCAT’ and then a science diagnostic. The person in charge of the center said that once the scores came back, we could probably get together and map out a game plan…
When I have the time, I’ll do the AAMC one, probably going to have to do it over several sessions as getting an 8 hour block of time is a nonstarter.
BTW- Does this mean anything?:
At one time, a friend told me about the free 3R test on the AAMC website. Without studying and prior to Orgo Chem, I sat down and just looked over the questions and without really thinking about it, just a ‘2 minute glance over’ answered them and I was getting about 50% correct.
A few weeks ago, I went to Barnes and Noble and got the Kaplan practice book to look it over (the 3 inch thick one with practice exams). Went to the bio section and decided to apply myself to a question. It was a passage covering NGH - something I hadn’t covered. I got all the answers correct, according to their key.
Good, sounds like you are right where you should be. See how you are doing in a month and if you are feeling comfortable, then I would say apply this year.
Don’t wait till August though. Get you application in early. You will click on the spot saying you are taking the August MCAT and then schools will generally put your application on hold till those scores come in. But they may send you their secondaries so they will have everything and then once your scores come in to them in October they will be set to look at your overall application.
Get all your letter’s of reference ready early also. And make sure you have your personal statement done and have it be great.
My first Kaplan diagnostic test stunk!!! They make their tests harder than what they need to be.
Dave, sounds like you’re a good test-taker, which is definitely to your advantage. But for the MCAT it’s not enough. You may not have time for a full-length practice test just yet but you MUST make the time soon. You absolutely, positively have to do several full-length practice tests prior to taking the real thing, because you WILL need to learn to pace yourself and not get impatient over the course of a full day of testing.
I consider myself a good, thorough test-taker and yet when I started doing practice MCATs, by the afternoon sections if there had been a choice (e) for “WTF I do not care,” I would’ve chosen it over and over.
The MCAT is not like any other test you have ever taken, and just getting used to its format and timing is a big part of improving your performance. Good luck!
Don’t forget about letters of rec as Amy mentioned above. I didn’t notice you list any shadowing time with a doc or rec. letters setup. Getting these can be a timely and challenging experience and you’re already limited on time for this app. cycle. You don’t need the extra stress and strain while trying to study for the MCAT and upholding your volunteer obligations at Medical City. If you are applying to D.O. schools, then a lot of them require a D.O. letter. In my opinion, shadowing a D.O. and getting a letter goes along way with these schools in proving to them that you are truly interested in osteopathy and not just trying to get into a medschool. Have you got some recommendations already setup?
I posted my reply a littler earlier today, but for some reason, don’t see it.
I have or can get the following LORs:
Gen. Chem Prof (Ph.D), Orgo Chem Prof, A&P Prof (M.D. from Brazil), Kid’s pediatrician (M.D.).
I may be able to get one from a D.O. that I’m trying to set up a shadowing arrangement with. He’s a preceptor for the allopathic/osteopathic schools here in Texas.
BTW- you guys were right. The MCAT is a doozy. I took a ‘miniMCAT’ from Kaplan tonight. My head hurts and it’s not just from the fact that I was starving and tired.
This is going to be interesting. What makes me wonder is I had the easiest time with the verbal reasoning…
Oh, well, I’m not going to start stressing until I get those results back.
Cheers and g’night…
Dave, your comment about VR being easier confirms my sense that you probably are a good test-taker. If in fact you did well on VR, be very grateful! It’s the hardest score to raise because either you think like the MCAT folks or you don’t. You can make a lot of improvement in a short time on the science sections, so don’t fret regardless of your scores.
on LOR’s: unless you actually worked in a collegial way with your kid’s pediatrician, I would not suggest getting an LOR from him/her. AdComs look to LORs to “flesh out” your academic qualifications as outlined in your application, and your personal qualifications that you’ve described in your PS. But even the personal qualifications are of a professional nature… so be sure you’re clear with your request.
you can start asking these folks for LORs NOW, in fact you should. Will you be using a pre-med committee or a letter-forwarding service, or are letters going to be sent individually to schools? Regardless, you can make the approach now, and then provide them with the stamped envelopes for sending their letters to wherever. This is something that should be done sooner rather than later - these are busy people, they set things aside and forget to do them, you’re going to have to follow up a LOT and maybe even nag them to get it done. So you want a head start.
There is lots of advice elsewhere here in the forums about LOR approach strategies - I’m pretty sure a keyword search “LOR” will find them. Good luck!
Well, here we go…
I just received my Kaplan diagnostic scores back. Remember that these scores are without any studying ( I goofed off the last two weeks), my first time taking a 4 hour test (mini MCAT PS/VR/BS of about 39 questions each - 10 minute break - followed by 120 questions for a science diagnostic in physics, bio,gen chem, orgo chem). Is this good or bad?
PS - 5
VR - 8 (the kaplan person said I got almost everyone right that I answered - had to leave a few open due to time constraints)
BS - 5
for a total of 18.
The science diag was:
Physics - 27% (as I expected, it’s been 20 years)
Gen Chem - 57%
Bio - 43%
Orgo Chem - 53%
I asked her how that was in relation to the other people. She said there were a couple of people who did better on it and some that did worse, but I was right in there with the rest of them. This means a lot since I was wondering about taking my prereqs at a community college. Some of these people were from SMU/UTD/TCU/TWU, so I feel pretty good.
If I can pick up 10 points (the general Kaplan promise) that’ll give me a 28 which I think is competitive for DO schools.
Am I looking at this correctly or through rose colored glasses? Reality/gut check time.
Guys/gals - I’m having a pretty bad day right now. The only full time work I can find is as a night stocker at Wal-Mart for all of $8 an hour. I’m glad to have it since it keeps the roof over our head, but I’m having to tell myself that I was a pretty good engineer and worked on some things that really meant something (defense, internet backbone, etc). After the way I felt coming out of that diag last night, I wasn’t really sure of myself. Seeing this made me a little chipper. Deflate me easy if you must…
An 18 is probably not as bad as you might think, however you need to gain alot of ground in both PS and BS. Study hard and pay close attention during Kaplan. You seem to be set with VR, but you’ll need to work on your timing so that you have a shot at answering all the questions. I think you have a good shot for a decent score on the Aug. MCAT…at least a decent enough score for DO schools to take a look at you. FWIW, I started with an 18 diag and only finished with a 24 on the real deal. I struggled severly with VR!! But…those days are behind me as MS-1 looms around the quickly approaching corner. Sorry about the Walmart job. Keep your head up and keep striving for that dream…you’ll get there soon enough.
You did better on that first diagnoistic than I did when I took it. I got a 3 in VS. How I did that, who knows.
Since you haven’t studied, then I would say go for it. Start studying every day and on weekends and you should be able to raise those scores. After you have studied for 3 weeks, take another test, preferably the AAMC MCATs and see if you are improving.
Thanks for the encouragement. I will say on some of the questions I knew that I had gone over the right answer, just couldn’t remember it at the time. In other words, with a little bit of study, it would have improved (i.e. genetics, some of the gen chem stuff - boyle’s law, limiting reagent equations and some ochem stuff). On some of the biology, I was lost and on the physics, I expected it and actually did better than I thought.
I looked at the reqs to even be considered at some schools and realized I’m within the 8 point improvement spread that Kaplan says most of their students accomplish.
I’m getting kinda jazzed on all this. This is really a chance to grab it with both hands and master the material. Maybe it’s the caffeine kicking in, but I’m getting into a studying mood. This is gonna be a wild ride…