It’s a common question among nontrads—will my prereq courses still count when applying to med school? What about my MCAT scores? Let’s find out!
Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at premedforums.com. Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.
Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:57] OldPreMeds Question of the Week
“My brief backstory… I graduated in 2009 with a 3.88 GPA (around a 3.7 science GPA). I applied to med school and got on the waitlist before being rejected. I have since been traveling and working in other fields, but I am back in the US, and I want to give medical school another try.
Let me preface this by saying that I know I have a big uphill battle given my age of 33. I’ve noticed that my prerequisites and MCAT scores have “expired” according to everything that I have read.
Obviously, I need to prepare and retake the MCAT, as well as get involved in extracurriculars. But I’m really wrestling with what to do about the prereq situation. If I do not need to improve my GPA, what would be the better option between a postbac, a DIY postbac, or an SMP (or Master’s) for someone in my position?
I’ve seen the curriculum for various postbac programs, and the idea of retaking so many courses that I did well in is not something I am excited about. I’d like to “relearn” what I have to for the MCAT rather independently, get my extracurricular experiences, and then add a few higher-level premed classes to show AdComs that I can still excel academically.
Would this suffice or should I officially retake basically all of the prereqs as well? Also, I am open to international med schools even though I know that it is important to find one that is U.S. accredited and has good U.S. residency matching potential. I am open to DO, but I prefer the MD route if at all possible. I would truly appreciate any knowledgeable advice.”
[03:55] Should You Do a Full Postbac?
This is a common question and dilemma for many nontrad students out there, especially those who don’t need to fix their GPA. If this was a student who had a 2.8 GPA, then it’s very easy to go back and take the classes. But when you have a 3.8 GPA and 3.7 science GPA, why do you even need to do it again, right?
Although the far majority of schools out there don’t have any expiration dates, there are some schools that have preferences for more recent coursework. There are some schools that do have expiration dates on prereq. So it’s not across the board. They will want to see recent coursework, not necessarily unexpired prereqs but just recent coursework. This is to show that you still enjoy being in a classroom and that you still enjoy being a student.'It's a big myth out there in the premed world that most medical schools don't have expiration dates on prereqs.'Click To Tweet
And in this specific situation, there is no need to go back and do any sort of formal postbac or SMP. That being said, you could do some postbac classes, but not go back and repeat your prereqs. You can take some upper-division courses so you can dip your toes into genetics or a cell bio or something else that you didn’t take as an undergrad.
Be careful though because you haven’t been a student for a long time. So make sure that you’re stepping in ready to swim because it’s going to be different for you, especially not being a student for a long time.'The last thing that you want to do is come back and do poorly in your classes. That will hurt you more than anything else.'Click To Tweet
[06:17] MCAT and Extracurriculars
The other thing to think about is your MCAT. Your foundation may have been crumbling down or withering away because you haven’t been using that knowledge you learned even if you may have done well in undergrad. And so, retaking classes potentially will help for the MCAT. Again, you don’t necessarily have to take them because those classes are “unexpired.” But taking the classes will help you prepare for the MCAT. So this is just something to consider as well.
A physical therapist emailed me about a year ago and she applied to some of the Texas Medical Schools, got an interview, and was accepted. She hadn’t taken any classes since she graduated from physical therapy school 20 years ago. She took the MCAT, did well, and got into medical school with some 20-year-old classes. This then shows that it’s doable. From a prereqs standpoint, it’s not a problem.
Moreover, remember that the MCAT does expire. Most medical schools will tell you that the oldest MCAT they will accept is usually three years.“If you’re coming back into medicine, one of your biggest arguments is going to be why now.”Click To Tweet
Also, make sure you can formulate that story of why you came back to medicine just now. Check out my The Premed Playbook: Guide to The Medical School Personal Statement to formulate that story about why now.
The weakest argument that I see nontraditional students make is they want to be a physician before and they did all those stuff before. And then they now want to become a physician without even any sort of reflection or activity that shows they truly want to be a physician NOW, other than they got bored with what they were doing. So make sure you’re getting those activities that prove this is what you want to do.