Posted by: oldmedicine | January 18, 2010

Timeline: BS Degree, late 20’s – Part I

This is the first in a series of timelines for non-traditional students entering med school.  These timelines will cover various scenarios and present viable timelines for getting into med school. I use both personal experience and information from the web to construct them.  Please note that you should spend a good amount of time with a large calendar planning out your own path.  This is my timeline, changed to reflect choices that didn’t work out and if I could go back and change, I would.

If you would like to publish your own timeline, send me an email at oldmedicine@gmail.com

Background:

College: BS, competitive undergrad school, non-pre med. Coursework overview: 2 semesters of general chemistry, 2 semesters of physics, 4 semesters of Calculus (1-3 and Differential Equations), 3 semesters of English, a ton of engineering classes, and enough humanities. GPA: 3.3, 2.7 BCPM GPA – damn calculus)

Age: 27 when began pre-med courses, matriculate to med school at 29~30.

Job: College instructor, flexible schedule to about 40 hours per week. Full benefits.

Family: Married, no kids, dog.

Financial: Very little college debt, 2 car loans, moderate credit card debt, rental home, decent savings in IRA and mutual funds (non-accessible).

Comments:  I decided to pursue a medical degree earlier, but was finally able to begin taking courses towards that goal after finishing a very strenuous job which required a great deal of travel and long hours.  At a college, I knew a couple things – I would have a lot of time and would be able to take advantage of discounted or free courses, freeing myself from the need to enroll in an organized post-bacc course.

The First Steps:

The Basic Plan. October 2007, age 27: I decided to get on with my life and start doing something different.  Given a background in planning and operations, I immediately began to research and develop a plan. I only agree with Republican actors turned Senators every once in a while, but Fred Thompson was right on when he told Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October: “The Russians don’t take a dump son, without a plan.”  Well, oldmedicine does not try to get into medical school without a plan, and doesn’t recommend that you try, either.

I spent hundreds of hours on SDN formulating what I would do, and then time making elaborate calendars on google.  In the end, the research was helpful but the calendars were forgotten.

At this point, I was open to both DO and MD schools.  In fact, my original plan, based on comparing my GPA to others on SDN, was to attend a DO school in my home town.  I believed, at this time, that DO schools would be friendlier to my non-traditional status.  I also knew that I had to take enough credits to get my GPA up, and I had to maintain a 4.0 in all of the courses I took. I built a pretty snazzy excel spreadsheet and spent some time calculating my GPA. Unfortunately, using the AMCAS standard quickly revealed that it wouldn’t rise by much – a potentially devastating blow to my chances before I even began.  On the other hand, in the AACOMAS (DO) system, there would be a substantial increase because this system replaces the grades of courses you retake.

I am not embarrassed to say that I only considered DO schools because of my low GPA.  Once I felt with reasonable certainty that my grades and MCAT score would make me competitive at MD schools I quit pursuing this path.  Others feel differently of course, but I think that my opinion was reasonably well-developed and I had little experience and no special love for manual medicine.  For some, manual medicine is a major selling point, for me it was just extra work – work that didn’t interest me.

My plan was as follows:

  • Spring Semester, 2008: Biology I w/ Lab.  Begin volunteering at local emergency room to build up at least 200 hours of experience in both a clinical environment and as a volunteer for medical school applications.  If I couldn’t get into the ER, then I would volunteer at a local old folks home and work towards my Nurse Assistant qualification (easy in my state).
  • Summer Semester, 2008: Retake General Chemistry II w/ Lab.  I got a C way back in the day in this course and believed it would be beneficial for Organic (it was) and the MCAT to review. Continue to volunteer and set up shadowing for a long period (I was able to have time off work in the summer).  I also planned to visit a few medical schools and talk, face to face, with admissions staff – to both find out information and to put a face to the application they would be seeing in a year. Originally I had planned to retake a calculus course that I had got a D in, but ultimately decided that this was a waste of time and would not help me when it came to the MCAT or with admissions boards.
  • Fall Semester, 2008: Organic Chem I w/ Lab, Biology II, and Anatomy and Physiology.  This was my big academic semester.  Bad grades here would doom me, probably for all types of medical education.
  • Spring Semester, 2009: Organic Chem II w/ Lab.  I pushed Anatomy and Physiology into the fall so I would have more time to study for the MCAT – especially to review Physics and Gen Chem, which were aging in my brain like old cheese.  I toyed with taking a physics course this semester, but ultimately decided that I would just have to re-teach myself everything. I also planned to finish my volunteer work before this semester.  I originally planned to take the MCAT in April like all good pre-meds, but in the end took the test at the end of May due to work and family schedule conflicts.
  • Summer 2009: Applications, applications, applications.  Also, I planned to spend more time shadowing.
  • Fall Semester, 2009: Biochemistry and an Advanced Bio course.  Some of the schools that I planned on applying to required these courses.
  • Spring Semester, 2010: Chill out, play video games, maybe write a blog about all the great decisions I made that got me into med school (currently in progress).

All in all, this plan seemed to make sense.  I knew that I had time to work on the courses because I had a contract with the school where I was working.  I only had to take a maximum of 12 credits, and was usually only taking 4 to 8 credits per semester – which allowed me to spend time with my wife, take vacations, and enjoy myself without delaying the process too much.

Part II: Getting to Med School: Successes and Pitfalls, will come later this week.

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