Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Non-Trad Path

This is not going to be sugar coated which some want it to be. Roses and wine and butterflies all over the fields of green with lilac smells and lightly wafting warm breezes.

Under normal conditions, the pre-med path is strife with speed bumps, less than stellar exam grades, nervous tension, back stabbing counterparts, competitive juices flowing, and FUD.

Under the non-trad path - whether due to age, bad u-grad GPA, former career, family, or whatever - the path is that much harder, that much more out of reach.

An admission committee member looks individually at each application and wonders how that individual will fit not only in the class they are looking to fill but in the overall scheme of medicine post graduation. They are looking to see how the candidate will succeed in that particular medical school, and in the general population as a whole.

They are not looking for nice people who say flowery things and are generally decent speaking. It is expected physicians are nice people who know how to phrase things appropriately while being honest (yes, we all know docs who have serious bed side manner issues and are less than honest).

Adcoms want to see success not only from the normal application but even more so with the non-trad.

So those grades from 20 years ago? The ones in English, humanities, philosophy, arts are probably okay to let stay as is. But the hard sciences? Retake them.

Retake not only so you can show you still have the aptitude for the sciences (medical school is science, not Cumbaya guitar strumming by the campfire). Retake so you can be more ready for the MCAT which is likewise, science based. Retake so the building blocks of the science you will get in medical school is recent and not lost in the cloudy haze of yesterdecade.

Yes, retaking those courses means a longer journey toward application.

I know. I'm one year post where I should have applied and when I finally do, I will be two years post application should-have-been, and almost 48.

A good non-trad path?

G-chem 1 - fall '11
Physics 1 - fall '11

G-chem 2 - spring '12
Physics 2 - fall '12

Biology - summer '12

O-chem 1 - fall '12
Biology xx - fall '12

O-chem 2 - spring '13
biochem - spring '13

MCAT - June '13

Apply - July '13

Ideally, you would scrunch up the application cycle into June so that your application is at front end of cycle rather than middling.

And somewhere in there, you've volunteered a lot, shadowed a lot, worked in a bit of research in a lab with a PhD, and lived your life with your hobbies.

Premed as a non-trad is not like waking up one day and thinking, "Oiy, I should be a lawyer" where you immediately buy the LSAT books, take the LSAT and send in applications.

It's harder, longer, and I think, more rewarding.


Beth said...

Thanks, D2B!

BTW -- I just registered for my first semester in premed. Right now: Chem I, PreCal I, Genetics (don't have it's lab yet as all are full) and Medical Ethics (may drop if it means getting the genetics lab or leaves more time to volunteer/shadow/work, etc.).

A Doc 2 Be said...

That looks like a GREAT semester!

Did you already take biology? Generally, that is required for genetics and I remember my genetics class being hard as heck.

Sounds like you have a good plan - good luck!!

Slamdunk said...

I like your plan. The tough journey will mean an even bigger reward at the end.

A Doc 2 Be said...

Thank you, SD. Thankfully, I'm halfway through that plan but others, just beginning, might gain insight...

Beth said...

@D2B I took Biology I and II at a community college before transferring to a 4-year school wen I got my bachelor's many years ago. I also took a chemistry, but it didn't transfer over as a Chemistry I. So, that's why I'm "ahead" in biology but need to play catch up in chemistry.

A Doc 2 Be said...

Hi Beth,

Define "many years ago" related to your biology courses.

Have you talked to any medical school admissions directors about the age of your coursework? (Which may be why you are taking upper level bio course aka genetics instead of repeating g-bio 1 & 2; to show you can handle the rigors of adv bio)

Also, have you bought an MCAT prep books yet? I like ExamKrackers (EK).

The reason I ask is two-fold:

1) trying to help make sure you don't short change yourself during application process and find out the courses are too old for applications at some med schools

2) trying to make sure your general biology knowledge is strong enough for MCAT exam as that is one entire section

Not poking holes in your plans, just trying to help :)

Beth said...

Years ago = 10-11 years. I'm reviewing biology now before classes start in August. So hopefully I'll be back up to speed.

I've talked with pre-med advisors, a doc (who recommended I get a master's instead to be more competitive) and one admissions counselor.

I've been told the age of the courses (and the fact they were at a community college) will depend on which schools I apply to. My current advisor said I may be fine as long as I take at least two higher level biology courses.

He recommended this after he verified that I did well in both courses and labs - A for both. Chemistry was an A also, but did not transfer over as a Chemistry I, but a much lower level course. That's why I have to take Chem I.

I have not begun MCAT review. I expect I will not be finished with premed until next fall, so have this fall to get back into the habit of school, volunteer/work and, hopefully, shadowing before starting on application statements, letters, MCAT study, etc., soon after Christmas.

Thanks for the suggestions!

A Doc 2 Be said...

@ Beth

Sounds like you have a good set of advisors for this journey!

MC said...

Good luck and the class schedule looks great. I'm a fellow non-trad and have a slightly different path because I started during the spring cycle. Also, I'll be adding Genetics to my list and maybe another upper Bio course like Physiology.

@Beth, this may sound weird but sometimes a doctor might not have the best med school admissions advice depending on when they applied. I requested some shadowing experience through a friend of a friend of a doctor, and the doctor (in his 50s) said shadowing wasn't necessary for med school applicants. I guess technically he's correct but I would find it unwise of me to follow his advice in this regard.


A Doc 2 Be said...

@ MC

I'm already 1/2 way through that schedule or thereabout - it is just my recommendation for those just starting out.

I have o-chem to complete, then MCAT and away I goooooo.... :D

Beth said...

@MC No, I get what you're saying. Thanks for sharing! :)

b_ra said...

Good luck with all your courses!
I just wanted to ask you if you considered going to any of the Caribbean schools for pre-med? I know of a school that has pre-med for only 8 months and then you would immediately begin med school. I understand the road is a little bit tougher, but these schools do produce great doctors..
Just a suggestion.. :D

A Doc 2 Be said...

@ B_RA...

Thank you for the suggestion! I never considered Caribbean for the pre-med as I'm carrying a 3.9 here in the States at a major top 50 university.

My path may lead me to the Caribbean for medical school but more likely, if not accepted in U.S. based medical school, I will chase a PhD in biochemistry or neurology specifically focusing on NMDs or ALS.