USCStudent

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Hello everyone,

I'm new to these forums, so if my post is in the wrong place, I apologize. For starters, here is a slight background (nothing too personal :) ):

Undergraduate - Undeclared - Sophmore

I'm considering medicine, but have no prior experience or exposure to this field

I haven't selected a specific path, other than general medicine, so any field is a possibility

I go to USC (hence the username), and that's the University of Southern California, not South Carolina

I have not taken any biology/chemistry/physics classes, though I have taken a writing class (equivalent to English), a calculus class (though it may not count for sciences, although I am cleared to take calc 2 from the engineering school)

I have approximately one month before I return to school to begin my sophmore year

... and so on

The first thing I was interested in is YOU, to be honest. I was wondering how all of you knew that you wanted to go for a degree in medicine? I'm sure some of you have experience through family members, but what about those who didn't? Did you do an internship at a hospital, or just volunteer and get to know the ropes? Anything you wish to comment on here would be very helpful.

Then, my dilemma - As I mentioned, I am undeclared and have spent a year without any real science classes. I've taken some GEs, but due to the fact that I also took some business classes, it may be nearly impossible for me to graduate in four years if I ended up in something like biochem. Having said this, I'm trying to find out how I should get an intro into the field. Would it make sense to volunteer/intern at a hospital during the remainder of my summer, or maybe once I'm back in school (I would quit my job to try it)? What would be the best classes to take, along with some GEs, next semester - something like OChem?

Basically, I'm interested in medicine/health, but have no exposure to it other than my trips to the doctor and being a huge fan of House. Since many of the majors or classes required would take up a good amount of my remaining three years here, I'd like to decide soon so that I can make the most out of my time, and concentrate sooner rather than later.

Any help, again, is welcome and is appreciated.

Cheers!
 

jackieMD2007

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Hi there,

You don't have to major in biology or biochem to go to medical school. All you need is a year of biology (with lab), a year of gen chem (with lab), a year of physics (with lab) and a year of organic chem (with lab). There are a few other things like English, Psych, etc that you will need but you might have them out of the way already with your GE's. You could probably get your pre-med stuff done in two years (take gen chem and biology 1st year along with whatever else, and take physics and ochem 2nd year)...and then finish up your majors work third year. You could major in English, Psych, History, whatever you want.

You should go see your school's premed advising office, they will give you the list of classes that fulfill your premed requirements.

For the rest of the summer, see if you can't start volunteering at a clinic or in a hospital. If you go to USC's Career and Counseling services they may have a list of internships for students, and also help you hook up with doctors to shadow. When you're there, find out about fall enrollment for Biology and Chemistry (the basics) and any math pre-reqs you may need to take biology/chemistry. You shouldn't need calculus, or they might have a calculus for biological/social science majors or whatever.
 
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USCStudent

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Thanks very much jackieMD!

I've been thinking about doing something like a PoliSci major with pre-med (or a medical emphasis, whatever the term is). I don't know if I would have time to do all that, but that's something I'd have to discuss with an advisor. Speaking of which, I contacted USC about speaking with someone in a phone advisement session, but it is orientation week for upcoming freshmen, so I'll probably have to wait a week.

I have the list of pre-med classes I need to take, and they're basically what you listed, along with some of the GEs you mentioned. You mentioned doing gen chem and bio the first year, is it best to do these two subjects before ochem and physics?

I wouldn't be volunteering at USC's hospital until the fall, but I'll definitely contact the hospital in the town where I live (about 8,000 people, so I might need to try the nearest city).

Thanks again for all of your help!
 

jackieMD2007

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Hey.
At UCSB you had to take gchem before you could take the biology sequence, so freshman year I did:
G. Chem + Lab /Math/French (12 units)
Sophomore year:
Biology+ Lab/Ochem+Lab/Physics (12 units)
Sophomore year, summer session:
English. Anthro. Psych.
I completed the rest of my major as usual Junior/Senior years, and took a second summer session between Junior/Senior year in order to get my GE's in, so I wouldn't have to do so much during the school year, but focus on getting good grades in my pre-med classes. :)
 
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Hmm, it appears that UCSB is a bit more lenient, especially with summer classes. I have to take all of my GEs at USC, so the most I could would be to take a placement test and try and get out of Spanish I or II, and then take II/III during summer. I may be able to pull it off, though it may be hard to fit everything in. For example, I take four classes every semester (not the quarter system here), and so it'd be:

1 year worth of classes dedicated purely to the sciences (2 semesters per class x 4 classes)
1 year (and one extra class) dedicated to a major in the School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences - I'm basing this off the polisci information.
The remaining classes would be divided among GEs, Writing, Language, and Math, if I needed it.

Even though I'd spread the classes out in a different manner.

So, it may be possible, but it doesn't look great
 

jackieMD2007

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I took all of my classes at UCSB. We have a quarter system (Fall, Winter, Spring) with two summer sessions. :)
 

jackieMD2007

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Also I wouldn't try to do all four of your required sciences together. You probably have to take G.Chem before they will let you do O.Chem, etc.
 
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That's what I figured. Perhaps there is a way I would be able to take one or two of the science classes during one of the UC summer sessions. I was planning to take Calc II during the "A" session at UCSB, but ended up just doing Macroecon (zzz) at Ventura College.
 

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If you like political science, definitely choose that over the run-of-the-mill biology major. You'll stand out from the crowd and be much more motivated to study if you find it interesting. You'll also be set for all those "How would you fix our nation's health care system?" questions for which admission committees are so fond. The flip side is that you will need to do better on the pre-req science courses Jackie mentioned. If a biology major gets a C in Bio 101, they will likely have more chances to redeem themselves with upper level science courses than you will.
 

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Agree with the above. No offense to the field of Chemistry, but if I had to do it all over again, I would have been a journalism or English major. I found myself enjoying those classes more. There's no disadvantage to majoring in political science. Even if you don't well in the pre-reqs, you can still take an upper-level class to make up for it.
 
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Thanks for the advice Dr Durden and ADeadLois (nice names by the way),

Yeah, I seriously am considering PoliSci, even though medicine interests me, it's still something I'm very interested in. The only problem I can see is not having enough room in my schedule to do both pre-med and polisci, and still finish in the four recommended years (something my parents would be very happy with). I mean, I know an extra semester or even a year of studying undergrad wouldn't hurt, but it's not my money, yet.

How hard would it be to pull off a B or an A in those classes (bio/chem/phys)? It's relative to the school, but there's probably a general consensus on such things. It seems to me that harder classes motivate me more, since my only two As have been in Calculus (not exactly hard for me, but challenging and time consuming) and law, whereas my easier classes tend to run in the B/B- range. Hopefully that'll help me, though with 2-3 hard classes each semester, it may hurt instead.
 

sentrosi

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Aye. If your school offers "pre-med" as a major, don't do it. It'll probably be filled with grade-concerned gunners anyway. Do something you like and take the med school requirements in addition (if they aren't already covered or partially covered by your chosen major). I was a Bio major because I liked biology (still do), not because I was pre-med (I decided definitely to go into medicine near the end of sophomore year).


I any case, I was always somewhat interested in medicine. The best way to find out if you really want to do it is to shadow a doctor or multiple doctors (possibly in different medical settings).

If you do decide to go to med school and plan to go right after undergrad, then try to take med school requirements that will show up on the MCAT early. OChem is a good choice.
 

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USCStudent said:
Thanks for the advice Dr Durden and ADeadLois (nice names by the way),

Yeah, I seriously am considering PoliSci, even though medicine interests me, it's still something I'm very interested in. The only problem I can see is not having enough room in my schedule to do both pre-med and polisci, and still finish in the four recommended years (something my parents would be very happy with). I mean, I know an extra semester or even a year of studying undergrad wouldn't hurt, but it's not my money, yet.

How hard would it be to pull off a B or an A in those classes (bio/chem/phys)? It's relative to the school, but there's probably a general consensus on such things. It seems to me that harder classes motivate me more, since my only two As have been in Calculus (not exactly hard for me, but challenging and time consuming) and law, whereas my easier classes tend to run in the B/B- range. Hopefully that'll help me, though with 2-3 hard classes each semester, it may hurt instead.

I know some people who ended up taking physics or bio over the summer. That could be a possibility in your case. However, since you have three years to finish everything up, you definitely have the time. You'd have to double up on the sciences, but that's very common. I finished all of my pre-reqs in 3 years (like Jackie, I'm on the quarter system). I ended up doubling Orgo and Bio for 2 quarters (not recommended) and Orgo and Physics for one (wasn't too bad). Another disadvantage would be that you might not have all of your pre-reqs completed by the time you take the MCAT. However, taking a pre-req over the summer could fix that.
 
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Good advice, thanks sentrosi.

I don't think it's an actual major here, just an emphasis, and typically the pre-med people do bio/chem/biochem, or something along those lines.

I think (from what an alumni of my school just said) that it would be hard for me to take Ochem right away, maybe in the spring semester of this year though.

EDIT: Thanks ADL, I'll have to find out if I can even take any pre-reqs over summer, hopefully I'll be able to. What classes, other than Ochem, are pretty vital to doing well on the MCAT? Also, other than classes, what programs that prep you for the MCAT are good, and how soon should I get on them?
 

sentrosi

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Yeah. Just take them sometime before you take the MCAT because studying them on your own is probably not going to cover it as well (you just don't have the time and will have to take it sometime anyway). I took the MCAT in the summer before junior year. But you could also take the one during your junior year if you are planning to apply right away. I wouldn't recommend using the one in the summer that you are applying as well (ie. summer before senior year) as it delays your application to some degree since you have to wait for scores to come out.

You'll have a better chance to study if you do the one in the summer.
 

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Organic is generally considered the ultimate "weed out" because it will likely be a completely new field for everyone involved. It also is the most "upper level" of the pre-reqs as you should have taken general chemistry before it. However, the two courses differ in that organic is more based upon memorization and application of concepts, while general chemistry is more analytical and based upon problem solving.

The hard thing about biology is that virtually everyone in there is a premed and that the curve invariably ends up crushing a few aspirations. It's much more about studying hard and regurgitating details than solving problems. If you have an interest in medicine though, it should prove to be interesting material though.

The most despised class seems to be physics largely because many don't see it as applicable to their future careers. It's pretty math intensive, has the most challenging problems to solve, and the professors are good at twisting theories on exams to confuse you. Even though I'm an engineer, I found it to be the most difficult.
 
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Well, if I took it next summer (before Junior year), I could probably have taken at least 3 science classes, maybe four (that would probably be pushing it though). Is there some kind of reason not to take it multiple times, or is it just very expensive, or why do people limit how often they take it?
 
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Dr Durden said:
Organic is generally considered the ultimate "weed out" because it will likely be a completely new field for everyone involved and is the most "upper level" of the pre-reqs as you should have taken general chemistry before it. However, the two courses differ in that organic is more based upon memorization and application of concepts, while general chemistry is more analytical and based upon problem solving.

The hard thing about biology is that virtually everyone in there is a premed and that the curve invariably ends up crushing a few aspirations. It's much more about studying hard and regurgitating details than solving problems. If you have an interest in medicine though, it should prove to be interesting material though.

The most despised class seems to be physics largely because many don't see it as applicable to their future careers. It's pretty math intensive, has the most challenging problems to solve, and the professors are good at twisting theories on exams to confuse you. Even though I'm an engineer, I found it to be the most difficult.
Yeah, I've heard that about Ochem, which could be problematic for me. Then again, I'm pretty good at memorizing things. For example: In my law class we had to memorize numerous cases and their subtleties, and then apply them on each test we took. However, the same may not be true for a science class.

If I can take Ochem before regular chem, would you recommend it?
 

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Right now, it costs ~$200 for the MCAT. It's a grueling, all-day affair that requires months of prep and most don't want to have to repeat this. Preferably, you want to nail it on the first try to impress admission committess. If you do try to take it more than three times though, the test administration starts demanding proof that you do indeed intend to apply to med school and aren't a stooge stealing answers for a test prep company.
 

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USCStudent said:
If I can take Ochem before regular chem, would you recommend it?
Unless you have an unusually strong background from high school--I mean one that would have let you breeze through the national AP exam--and you've retained nearly everything, definitely not.
 

sentrosi

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I don't understand why people have a problem with Physics...but then again I did got to MIT.

Anyway, different schools look at multiple MCATs different ways (average the scores, take the highest of each category, upward/downward trends). I personally think its best to just have one good one on the record. Meaning you should be well prepared before you take it and not take it at all if you aren't feeling well (someone was on this forum saying they were 3-4 months pregnant when they took it...possibly not a good idea seeing as she got a 20).

MCATs are only valid for 3 years, so take that into consideration too.
 

silkworm

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Seems to me it's definitely doable in two years:

Junior: Bio, Chem
Summer: Organic
Senior: Physics

I took the organic chem sequence in a summer at USC. It was pretty stressful but you can definitely do well if you put the work in it.
 
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Dr Durden said:
Right now, it costs ~$200 for the MCAT. It's a grueling, all-day affair that requires months of prep and most don't want to have to repeat this. Preferably, you want to nail it on the first try to impress admission committess. If you do try to take it more than three times though, the test administration starts demanding proof that you do indeed intend to apply to med school and aren't a stooge stealing answers for a test prep company.
sentrosi said:
I don't understand why people have a problem with Physics...but then again I did got to MIT.

Anyway, different schools look at multiple MCATs different ways (average the scores, take the highest of each category, upward/downward trends). I personally think its best to just have one good one on the record. Meaning you should be well prepared before you take it and not take it at all if you aren't feeling well (someone was on this forum saying they were 3-4 months pregnant when they took it...possibly not a good idea seeing as she got a 20).

MCATs are only valid for 3 years, so take that into consideration too.

Oh, wow. Well, I'll definitely look into being as ready as possible before taking it. I actually don't mind the price or time commitment (and I'm pretty good at standardized tests, though I haven't experienced one of this size/scale yet), but the idea of a committee seeing a low score is always something I dread. I'll probably try and get into a basic Chem class, and hopefully be ready for OChem by the following semester. Maybe I can even fit a bio class in as well, or else do one over the summer.
 
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silkworm said:
Seems to me it's definitely doable in two years:

Junior: Bio, Chem
Summer: Organic
Senior: Physics

I took the organic chem sequence in a summer at USC. It was pretty stressful but you can definitely do well if you put the work in it.
Well, it's not so much that I couldn't handle the science classes, it's in addition to my GEs and my other (possible) major. I'd have to speak to an advisor though.
 

Zoom-Zoom

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Hi, I'm at USC too, yay. First thing, you'll have to take a year of general chem before you take O.Chem, there's no way around that. We don't have a pre-med major, but there is a "natural science" minor that covers all the pre-med rec's: A year of Bio, Chem, O.Chem and Physics. You could do that with the Poli Sci major, which requires nine courses. It's definitely do-able but squeezing in your GE's might be tricky, especially with the language requirement. Also, if you need to take two semesters of a class during the summer you'll be forced to take them here because all the UC and CSU schedules end a couple weeks after we start school in the Fall...so get ready to shell out $1000 per unit :eek:

It might be easier to go with a Bio major which would require only 5 more classes (in addition to the 8 total semesters of Bio, Chem, O.Chem and Physics mentioned above), although our Poli Sci school is notoriously easy and a lot of their classes meet like once a week, no labs or discussion.

We also have a web site that helps students find research positions, which is hard to find and nobody knows about, so PM me if you ever decide to do that at a later date, I'll be around.

Be carefull following advice from our advisers, I have yet to meet a helpful one and I've been screwed twice now because I followed bum advice...also, there are tons of Bio majors so finding advisement through that department can be impossible at times. Intro Bio is super competitive and is our big "weedout" class, so be careful, it took more work to earn an A there than in O.Chem. Lastly, make sure to register for those science classes right away! The labs are filling up as we speak and it can be hard to put together a reasonable schedule.

PM me if you have any specific questions about our classes or professors, what GE's to take, etc. It helps to know people who have taken the course and know how to study, how the proffs tend to test, ahem* what databases they pull all their questions from *ahem*, etc.

Fight On and good luck!
 

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One more thing, I forgot to mention that we also have a Pre-Health advisement office (across from THH, next to the "Finger" fountain) They are pretty good but, again, if you spend enough time around there you'll find that for the most part most people on SDN really can give you better advice than they can, although they obviously can help with specific school-related stuff.

Definetely do sign up for their "Listserve". It will put you on an email list that notifies you about guest speakers (we've had really really good ones lately), special events, research and volunteering opportunities, etc.

p.s. I didn't start any of my sciences until my junior year, and I'm double-majoring, so it's not too late.
 

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I'm gonna recommend a slightly different course for your pre-reqs than what I've been hearing thus far. If I were you, I'd take Gen. Chem and Physics together for a year, then take O. Chem and Bio together the 2nd year. The reason for this sequence is that the gen chem background will help you understand the chemistry in 1st semester bio, and the physics may be useful in both o. chem and 2nd semester bio, depending on how much physiology is covered in bio 2. Now, this is assuming your goal is to really learn and understand the material. A lot of people recommend taking physics last because a.) it's heavily emphasized on the MCAT and they want it to be fresh and b.) they don't care about the class and want to rely on short term memory for the MCAT. I actually think that first semester ochem would be good to have before starting bio, if you wanted to stretch your basic sciences out to 5 semesters. None of this is NECESSARY, gen chem isn't even really necessary before ochem if you're willing to review a few basic concepts on your own. The sequence really just depends on your preference, but I think the sequence I gave above would be the best for true understanding. Just my two cents!
 
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Zoom-Zoom said:
Hi, I'm at USC too, yay. First thing, you'll have to take a year of general chem before you take O.Chem, there's no way around that. We don't have a pre-med major, but there is a "natural science" minor that covers all the pre-med rec's: A year of Bio, Chem, O.Chem and Physics. You could do that with the Poli Sci major, which requires nine courses. It's definitely do-able but squeezing in your GE's might be tricky, especially with the language requirement. Also, if you need to take two semesters of a class during the summer you'll be forced to take them here because all the UC and CSU schedules end a couple weeks after we start school in the Fall...so get ready to shell out $1000 per unit :eek:

It might be easier to go with a Bio major which would require only 5 more classes (in addition to the 8 total semesters of Bio, Chem, O.Chem and Physics mentioned above), although our Poli Sci school is notoriously easy and a lot of their classes meet like once a week, no labs or discussion.

We also have a web site that helps students find research positions, which is hard to find and nobody knows about, so PM me if you ever decide to do that at a later date, I'll be around.

Be carefull following advice from our advisers, I have yet to meet a helpful one and I've been screwed twice now because I followed bum advice...also, there are tons of Bio majors so finding advisement through that department can be impossible at times. Intro Bio is super competitive and is our big "weedout" class, so be careful, it took more work to earn an A there than in O.Chem. Lastly, make sure to register for those science classes right away! The labs are filling up as we speak and it can be hard to put together a reasonable schedule.

PM me if you have any specific questions about our classes or professors, what GE's to take, etc. It helps to know people who have taken the course and know how to study, how the proffs tend to test, ahem* what databases they pull all their questions from *ahem*, etc.

Fight On and good luck!
Awesome, great to meet a fellow Trojan who knows the ropes.

I'll send you a PM (once I figure out how).

Thanks.
 

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Search this site.:) It is really helpful.

As long as your dedicated from now on, it won't matter if your a little behind.....ACE your pre-reqs and you should be set.

Good luck and I wish you the best.
 

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sentrosi said:
Yeah. Just take them sometime before you take the MCAT because studying them on your own is probably not going to cover it as well (you just don't have the time and will have to take it sometime anyway). I took the MCAT in the summer before junior year. But you could also take the one during your junior year if you are planning to apply right away. I wouldn't recommend using the one in the summer that you are applying as well (ie. summer before senior year) as it delays your application to some degree since you have to wait for scores to come out.

You'll have a better chance to study if you do the one in the summer.

Keep in mind that they're chaning the MCAT to the CBT format. Not only will it not be written anymore, but it will be offered more often than just April & August. The plan is to offer it multiple times a year, and they'll be processed a lot quicker (1 month as opposed to 2). So if you schedule accordingly, and have all (or almost all) of the courses done by your Junior year, and don't plan to do much at the beginning of your summer, you might be ready to take your MCATs late June/early July. That way, you'll have most of the prereqs done, won't have to study as much during the school year, most of the studying will be review especially if you just took the class, and you won't be too delayed in sending your applications to schools.
 

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Here's my secret formula. First, I am a senior in Chemical Engineer and have founded a society for engineering premeds. Engineering is perhaps the most difficult premed as we already require more credit hours than any other degree.

But back to your case. I would recommend getting into bio and chem asap, and start volunteering somewhere you can get some exposure to doctors/nurses. Keep any degree track you are on now and don't jump on any 'premed' major simply because it is easy. Yes it may take a little longer, but at least you can enjoy your degree track more.

After a year of volunteering and premed courses, you will know if this is the right place for you. Also be sure to get involved with the premed society on campus this fall. This may not always be the most exciting society, but you would regret if someone interviewed you and asked why you never joined.

Everything will fall into place if you work at it.