Danielsanjay Gupta
February 19, 2009 1:29 PM   Subscribe

New career path (Med school) in sights, past the deadline to apply/register for (Fall '09) undergrad programs that offer classes necessary for MCATs, any way to get into universities this late in the game?

I got my BA in Communications 5 years ago. After a stint being an EMT, volunteering at hospitals, and getting the opportunity to shadow a surgeon, I'm hell-bent on pursuing a career in medicine. Problem is the culmination of all this processing didn't hit me until a couple weeks ago. I have a whole host of science courses (Bio, OChem, Physics, Lab, etc.) to catch up on and the MCATs to prepare for.

Ideally I could start up on those in the coming Fall, but most universities have been done with Fall '09 applications for quite some time. I was wondering if there's any ways to circumvent this, maybe by taking summer courses and seguing in, or if my graduate status grants me some sort of immunity/mulligan. :)

(California schools ideally, public or private.)

Anyone who knows a bit more about admissions please help.
posted by Christ, what an asshole to Education (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I took some classes as a post-baccalaureate student at a large state university back in the day. I don't think I decided exactly to do this until June or so of the year I did it and as I recall all I had to do was send them a copy of my undergrad transcript. I can't tell you about CA schools obviously, but googling suggests a wealth of opportunities in both the uc and cal state systems.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2009

Lots of advice here: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=71

Before you go there, you should know that people on that forum frequently use the term "post-bac" to mean two completely different things. Sometimes it refers to programs for students taking the pre-med requirements (like you'll be doing), and sometimes it refers to programs for students who have already completed the pre-med requirements and taken the MCAT, but want to take additional undergraduate science classes to improve their undergraduate GPA before applying to medical school.

As for application deadlines, the formal postbac program I did (at the University of Pennsylvania) does not have its deadline for starting in the fall until July 15 (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/lps/postbac/pre-health/application). I would guess several other formal programs are also still taking applications. If you decide not to do a formal program and just take the classes on your own, I think you should still have plenty of time as well.

I don't know really know anything about formal postbac programs in California, but I do know that people on the Student Doctor forum mention the programs at Mills College and Scripps College as being among the better programs around (and you don't have to be a woman to do these programs, even though they are at "women's colleges").
posted by ootsocsid at 1:50 PM on February 19, 2009

Posting for a friend:

As someone who has successfully made it in, in the current '08-'09 cycle, I can tell you the following:

0) Your BA degree is more than fine. Admissions committees specifically state that a science major is not required, nor at all advantageous, for admissions. That goes double for non-traditional applicants, who have life experience in other fields. You should, of course, play up your other experience to help yourself stand out, when application time comes.

1) you don't need a formal post-bacc, since you have a bachelor's degree already. Nor do you need a Special Master's Program. Both are extremely expensive, and only for the too-wealthy. Non-degree classes, either at a four year institution or even a reputable community college, are perfectly fine. Having some community college will *not* hurt your chances, if you have other coursework at a four-year school, as myself and others have shown.

2) high GPA is very useful -- it's crept up from 3.6 to 3.75ish on average (and the MCAT from 30 to 33 on average), and schools care more about the numbers than the "name" of your school. Plan on doing *well* in the classes you still need to take. People, especially non-traditional students, can make it into top-five schools with plenty of pre-requisite work done at community colleges, especially if they have all their other application ducks in a row.

3) You *are* going to need letters of recommendation. Plan on two to three from science professors, one or two from non-science (humanities or other) people. For letters, a formal structured postbacc may be more helpful, as the professors there write on a regular basis, and the better postbacc and their letter-writers are "known quantities" to the admissions committee. You are at a (very!) mild disadvantage if you go community college or non-matriculated, as you'll have less advising, and may find it mildly more difficult to obtain good letters. Keep in mind that you will not need either a composite or committee letter as a non-trad, so that is a non-issue.

4) Postbaccs have more advising structure than a D.I.Y. non-matriculated effort, which may be useful, depending on who you are. I am non-trad myself, and in a PhD-granting graduate program, and had no formal advising. Fortunately, I'm surrounded by med students and MDs, including residents and junior attendings, who are familiar with the process and have given me excellent advice w.r.t. critiquing my essays, doing mock interviews, telling me where to apply, and answering other questions. YMMV.

5) Your volunteering, shadowing, and EMT are all very useful, especially if you can construct a narrative for how your life experiences made you appreciate your desire to go into medicine. Take a look at MDapplicants.com -- if you think your statistics and other factors may put you within reach of a top ten program, and if such things matter to you, try to do some research during this year. You don't have to publish, or even generate much data: just show your interest in science, discovery, and original work.

6) Although you didn't ask specifically about this: California schools, with the exception of Loma Linda, are all exceptionally competitive. UCLA, UCSF, and Stanford are top ten, and UCSD is top fifteen. You'll probably have to apply elsewhere, too.

7) Apply early. This /cannot/ be emphasized enough. You can start working on your AMCAS essay now. Have your AMCAS filled out by May, and be ready to submit the day AMCAS opens. Get your transcripts early -- that might take a while, depending on your undergraduate institution, and then submit the secondaries as early as possible (without compromising quality, of course.) Early birds are at a very significant advantage -- people with similar applications who are later in the cycle might get nixed, while the earlier applicants might be admitted.

8) Read SDN, but don't get hung up on it. It's full of type-A over-achievers who started planning for medical school the moment mommy's water broke. Also, some of the people are flat-out lying, just to psych others out. Bottom line: read it with a boulder of salt. You can, and *will* do fine even if you don't have a 4.0 GPA, 45 MCAT, published original manuscripts, won two Nobel prizes, saved an entire African country from cholera, became a Rhodes scholar, all after donating several buildings to a given med school's campus.
posted by whuuuu at 2:21 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I took all those classes through New College in San Francisco. It was every weekend for eight months for all of chem, ochem, physics, and bio. Everybody in there was pre-med. However I can't tell from the website if New College is still doing the science curriculum.

When I was searching for programs to get science pre-reqs outside of school, "post-bacc" was the right term to use, even if it's not exactly accurate.
posted by olecranon at 3:17 PM on February 19, 2009

From Mrs. Advicepig:

"I was in your position a couple of years ago, with a non-science undergrad degree and a need for lots of science pre-reqs before I could even think about applying to med school. My advice: don't bother applying to a formal undergrad program--having a second degree isn't going to help your chances for getting into med school, it only matters whether you've taken the necessary classes and how well you've done in them. Public universities tend to have some way for non-degree-seeking students to take classes, although you'll likely end up being last in line to register every semester! Generally you don't have to go through any sort of application process or anything, you just have to pay for the classes you take. You won't end up with a degree when you're done, but it's actually better in some ways than being admitted to a degree program, since you don't have to take any "extra" classes to fulfill the degree requirements--you only have to take the ones that you need as med school pre-reqs.

I don't know what your job/income/etc. situation is like--if you're able to do school full-time, you'll obviously finish faster, but it sounds like you have at least 2+ semesters of full-time classes ahead of you.

I'd recommend spending the next couple of months doing some review of things that will be helpful background for whatever summer class(es) you decide to take (inorganic chem concepts before ochem, maybe some college algebra, etc.). Take a class or two over the summer--recognizing that summer courses tend to be more condensed and intense than a normal semester--and really get down to business in the fall.

If you're at a point where you can get all of your pre-reqs taken care of during the '09-10 school year, then make sure you take your MCAT and get your applications started by Sept. 2009 at the latest. (You may also need to consider the possibility that you won't have had all the class-based preparation that you need for the MCATs in time for this fall's med school application cycle. For me, I took the MCAT two days after starting my Physiology class, and I actually used things that I learned in those two days on the MCAT! I would have done better if on the MCAT if I'd taken it after finishing Physiology.) If it'll take you longer than that for the pre-reqs, then you can put off both the MCATs and med school apps until summer of 2010, and work on finishing up the pre-reqs and applications during the '10-11 school year. Good luck!"
posted by advicepig at 5:21 PM on February 19, 2009

I also ended up in medicine somewhat late, and via a (formal) post-bac program (I didn't have any of the science pre-reqs). One thing I don't think was mentioned above: a benefit of the more established programs is the "linkage" programs they have-- the program I was in had about a dozen-- that allow you to apply to certain schools during the year you work on pre-reqs, before taking your MCATs, etc. The caveat is that if a school admits you early, you will have to meet certain grade/MCAT numbers to formally get in. Anyway, good luck, I've found going through med school "late" pretty outstanding.
posted by BundleOfHers at 6:01 PM on February 19, 2009

Is there a reason you can't take a lot of these classes at a Community College? My Organic Chemistry II class is full of people finishing prereq's for med school and pharmacy school and trying to get the knowledge before heading off to take the mcats and pcats. There isn't an application process like at a University you pretty much just tell them you want to go and then sign up for classes.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2009

Community college is a great idea, if it offers the classes you need. When I went to take grad school prereqs, the local community college offered only 1 semester "Introduction to Organic Chemistry", not the 2 semester sequence I needed. I also wanted to take upper level bio electives, which community colleges generally don't offer since they're aiming at the first 2 years of college for most people.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:30 AM on February 20, 2009

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