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What Should I Focus on with Old Prereqs and ECs?

Session 62

Session 62

My name is Dr. Ryan Gray and I am the Director of the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students, also known as OldPreMeds.

Taken directly from the forums at OldPreMeds.org, our question this week comes from a nontraditional student who took a lot of classes many years ago and is wondering what’s the best route to take to get back into the premed game.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

“I’m new here and so glad to have found this site. I graduated with a science degree in 2000 at a competitive school, and while I was interested in medicine and took all the premed required courses and had around a 3.5 GPA, I wasn’t sure about my passion for it, and frankly not mature enough for that commitment. Instead, I got an MPH in Health Management and have been in the field ever since working in health IT, management consulting, and currently working at a hospital managing a department.

But after seventeen years of working in healthcare, I want to move from being in the support services and management to being a care provider, and looking to explore getting an MD or a DO. I should also mention that I’m married and have two young kids, so certainly this is a decision that would disrupt all our lives. I know my coursework is outdated but what options should I pursue?

I contacted one postbac program near me and they said I would qualify for their two-year-career changer program and would have to retake all my old courses, and that a lot of schools want to see all course requirements done within the last five years. I really don’t want to take two years to retake coursework and have been reading about do-it-yourself postbacs, but I am unclear on how many courses to take and what courses to take for that matter to make me a more attractive candidate.

I’m looking at the websites of schools near me, I live in southern California, but it seems unclear. Also would I need to take any extracurriculars? I work in healthcare, and while I’m not a provider, I know a lot of the ins and outs, sacrifices and dedication needed. It’s been a long while but in the past, pre-marriage and pre-kids, I volunteered for hospice and enjoyed it. Extracurriculars would be tough with kids so I’m hoping to avoid it if possible. I’m just starting this process so any advice is welcome.”

Here are my insights:

This is an example of someone who has been having that itch of getting into medical school that has never really gone away, which is common to a lot of nontraditional premed students.

[3:40] Taking Postbacs & Working Full-Time or Part-Time

Now that you have your wife and kids, the question is, can you afford to stop working to take classes full-time?

When I recently attended University of Central Florida’s Medical School Admissions Symposium, I had dinner with a bunch of premeds and nontrad premeds and talked with Cain (listen to his journey on The Premed Years Podcast Session 174). Now a first year medical student, Cain was also a nontrad premed who was working full time. At dinner, he mentioned that he wished he would have been more intentional and that he should have pulled that trigger a little bit sooner to stop working full time and jump back into his courses.

So this is something you need to think about whether you really want to commit and reduce your workload and go part time (if you can), or quit altogether and rely on your spouse’s income (if possible).

[05:45] Retaking Coursework

The fact that your prereqs are 17 years old, that can and will play a role in many schools accepting you. While I agree that schools like to see coursework done within five years, I don’t know if I would say “a lot of schools.” I’d say, there are some schools out there that would want to see newer coursework.

Newer coursework is going to help prepare for the MCAT as this is going to be the big hurdle. Hence, retaking the coursework to prepare for the MCAT is something you might want to think about.

[06: 25] Extracurriculars

If location is an issue and you can only go to a handful medical schools then start to get to know them and reach out to them. Explain to medical schools your situation and ask them.

I’ve talked with the Dean of Admissions at UCF when I was there for the symposium and he mentioned that they love nontraditional students because they add so much to the class. He also said that when they’re looking at an application, they do look at what your responsibilities are as you’re going through these process. So if you have a family and a job, they’re not going to assume you have all extra time to go and do all these crazy extracurriculars.

So think about how much time have you got for all of this stuff. Are you able to quit your job? Or call these schools to see what they say. Medical schools have different ways of looking at students so reach out to them and find out.

Even if you have healthcare work experience, it doesn’t mean you fully understand what it’s like to be a physician. So you need to shadow some physicians to get that experience of what it’s like to be one. As a healthcare administrator, you’re probably not around with patients a lot so you need to put yourself in clinical situations. Try to put yourself around as many patients as you can and get that experience of being around sick people again to make sure you enjoy it.

[08:45] Retaking Classes to Prepare for the MCAT

You have a couple options to take. You can go to a formal do-it-yourself postbac which can be very costly and can take you a year or two to do it. You can also take a do-it-yourself postbac and pick and choose the classes you want to retake.

But do this only after making sure that it’s okay with them that you’re not retaking all of your prereqs (because maybe they just want to see whether you’ve still got science under your belt and prove to them that you can handle the load and coursework.)

As I’ve already mentioned, the first step is to reach out to the schools you’re interested in applying to and ask them. Tell them your situation and go from there.

Links:

MedEd Media Network

University of Central Florida – Medical School Admissions Symposium

The Premed Years Podcast Session 174: Academically Dismissed to Medical Acceptance (My interview with Cain)

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast is part of the Med Ed Media network at www.MedEdMedia.com.
This is the Old Premeds Podcast, session number 62.
You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.

Welcome to the Old Premeds Podcast, my name is Dr. Ryan, and I am the director of the National Society for Nontraditional Premedical and Medical Students, also known as Old Premeds. You can find out everything that we do at Old Premeds at www.OldPremeds.org. This podcast is all about taking your questions directly from the forums at www.OldPremeds.org and answering them here on the podcast, and today I have a good one.

Poster’s Question about Being Nontraditional

This one is from a poster that’s saying, ‘Exploring an MD/DO…help!’ And I think this hits home for nontraditional students. They’re all saying, ‘Please help me try to figure out this path.’ So this poster said, ‘I’m new here and so glad to have found this site. I graduated with a science degree in 2000 at a competitive school, and while I was interested in medicine and took all the premed required courses and had around a 3.5 GPA, I wasn’t sure about my passion for it, and frankly not mature enough for that commitment. Instead I got an MPH in Health Management and have been in the field ever since working in health IT, management consulting, and currently working at a hospital managing a department. But after seventeen years of working in healthcare, I want to move from being in the support services and management to being a care provider, and looking to explore getting an MD or a DO. I should also mention that I’m married and have two young kids, so certainly this is a decision that would disrupt all our lives. I know my coursework is outdated but what options should I pursue? I contacted one postbac program near me and they said I would qualify for their two year career changer program and would have to retake all my old courses, and that a lot of schools want to see all course requirements done within the last five years. I really don’t want to take two years to retake coursework and have been reading about do-it-yourself postbacs, but I am unclear on how many courses to take and what courses to take for that matter to make me a more attractive candidate. I’m looking at the websites of schools near me, I live in southern California, but it seems unclear. Also would I need to take any extracurriculars? I work in healthcare, and while I’m not a provider, I know a lot of the ins and outs, sacrifices and dedication needed. It’s been a long while but in the past, pre-marriage and pre-kids, I volunteered for hospice and enjoyed it. Extracurriculars would be tough with kids, so I’m hoping to avoid it if possible. I’m just starting this process so any advice is welcome.’

Dr. Gray’s Advice

Alright so this is a standard nontraditional question, right? Somebody that- I guess it’s really not super standard because this is somebody that was interested in medicine to begin with, went to undergrad, it sounds like they were premed in undergrad and then didn’t pull the trigger at the last minute to actually apply to medical school. So this student has been out working and had that itch come back, or it never really went away, and now he’s wanting to scratch it and pursue going to medical school. It sounds like a lot of nontraditional premeds that I know of. So here are some things to think about. Obviously he’s working full time and has a wife and kids. So having a wife and kids, the question would be is your income going to- or lack of income if you go back and do a do-it-yourself postbac, or you do a formal postbac full time, can you afford to stop working to take classes full time? Now I’m recording this after coming back from the University of Central Florida’s Medical School Admission Symposium and going out to dinner with a bunch of premeds, a lot of nontraditional premeds, and we had Kane who is a first year medical school join us at dinner. I had Kane on The Premed Years Podcast awhile ago talking about his journey, and he’s a nontrad, and was working full time, and one thing that he mentioned at dinner was that he wished he would have been more intentional and kind of pulled that trigger a little bit sooner to stop working full time, and jump back into his courses. So it’s something to think about, to just commit and try to reduce your workload and go part time if you can, or quit altogether and rely on your spouse’s income if that is possible. So that’s one thing to think about.

The fact that your pre-req’s are twenty years old, or seventeen years old, that can and will play a role in many schools accepting you. And while I agree that schools like to see coursework done within five years, I don’t know if I would say ‘a lot’ of schools. There are some schools out there that will want to see newer coursework. The one thing that wasn’t mentioned in this post is that newer coursework is going to help prepare for the MCAT which is going to be the big hurdle. So retaking the coursework to prepare for the MCAT might be something you want to think about. If location is an issue, having a family, if location is an issue where you go to medical school and you can only go to a handful of medical schools, start to get to know them. Reach out to them, ask these questions to that medical school and say, ‘Look here’s my situation. I’m a full time dad, a full time husband, a full time employee, and this is what I have time for.’ I was talking to the Dean of Admissions at UCF when I was down at the Symposium, and he mentioned that they love nontraditional, that they add so much to the class, and when they’re looking at an application they look at that. They look at what your responsibilities are as you’re going through this process; so if you have a family, if you have a job, they’re not going to assume that you have all this extra time to go and do all these other crazy extracurriculars. So that’s something to think about as you go through this process, is how much time you have for all of this stuff. And that’s why maybe quitting your job, maybe calling these schools and seeing what they say. So the reason I brought up the Dean of Admissions at UCF was because he and his team there have a specific way of looking at students, but the schools in southern California may have a completely different way of looking at students. So reach out to them and find out.

The question about extracurriculars, you work in healthcare, or this poster works in healthcare, but that doesn’t mean that he or she fully understands what it’s like to be a physician. So yes you need to shadow some physicians, get that experience. As a healthcare administrator you’re not around patients a lot I’m assuming, so you need to put yourself in clinical situations kind of like you did before volunteering at hospice and being around patients. Try to put yourself around as many patients as you can, get that experience of being around sick people again to make sure that you enjoy it. That’s going to be a huge part of this. And obviously the big thing I kind of mentioned before is the MCAT, retaking some of those classes to help prepare you for the MCAT. So there are a couple options with classes. You could go do a formal do-it-yourself postbac, it’s going to be a lot of money and can be a year or two to do it. You can do a do-it-yourself postbac and kind of pick and choose the classes that you want to retake to help prepare for the MCAT after talking to schools and making sure it’s okay with them that you’re not retaking all of your pre-req’s. Maybe they just want to see that you have some recent science under your belt and can prove that you can still handle the course load and coursework. So I really think the first step is to reach out to these schools and ask them. Tell them your situation, and go from there. I think that is it. Long journey ahead and I wish you the best.

Final Thoughts

If you have a question that you would like answered here on the Old Premeds Podcast, go to www.OldPremeds.org, sign up for an account if you don’t already have one, and leave a question there, and hopefully I will pick it to answer on the podcast. I thank you for listening to this podcast today and every week if you do that. If this is your first time joining us- joining me, I would love for you to subscribe to this podcast. Open up your favorite podcast app. If you don’t have a favorite one on iOS, use The Podcast App. On an Android, Podcast Addict is the- seems to be the favorite one of choice and it’s free, and then search for Old Premeds in there and subscribe.

Have a great week and I hope to chat with you next week here at the Old Premeds Podcast.

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