Mario Rojas

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Hi folks,

I am a 24-year-old Amherst College graduate (3.4 GPA) and after two years of working as an editorial assistant at Random House, I have decided to go to medical school. Of course, I am not completely sure, but it seems to me that, being a Panamanian immigrant with fluency in Spanish and with a desire to both give back to the community and learn as much as I can about medicine and the human body, it would be unfair to myself to not at least begin taking premed courses.

I envision myself working for some years in an urban, underserved, Spanish-speaking community as a primary care physician, so I believe I should stay in New York City. Out of the myriad of postbacc options here, I've boiled it down to Columbia and City College.

I recently began going to a family practitioner in Brooklyn Heights who went to SUNY Downstate, one of the schools Columbia has a linkage program with. He is fantastic, a great listener, and the student doing her rotation there was also very positive about Downstate, particularly about its diversity and focus on patient care. I have also spoken several times with an EM resident at Jacobi who told me he really benefited from the hands-on experience he got while at Downstate. And since Brooklyn is my home borough, it would be a privilege to be able to study here and do rotations in our local hospitals. Plus, it’s cheap!

For all of these reasons, Columbia seems to make the most sense, since I could skip the lag year and be on my way to an M.D. In fact, there are several other of its linkage schools that I would be happy at (though I know I have to choose only one to apply to). However, at $926 a credit (as of 2004), plus my current living expenses of about $25,000 a year, I am afraid saving one year (and the arduous application process) may not be worth it when City College would be exponentially cheaper.

But what I hope someone can tell me is: Does this matter in the long run? Many of the Columbia postbaccs tell me they don’t think the additional loans are that significant and that with the advising and support that you get at Columbia, it’s worth it. I have noticed that it’s been very difficult to get in touch with admissions folks at the City College office, while I was very impressed by both the information session and my personal interview with the Columbia admissions dean. And Columbia offers a pre-chem course over the summer that I would like to take part-time while working full time, which I think will ease my transition back to school.

Does anyone out there know a good place to research alternative means of funding for postbacc programs? I know the Stafford only covers part of one year (considered a fifth undergraduate year) but not the second. But I’ve heard from friends that there might even be scholarships out there for Latinos and for naturalized citizens.

Thanks for reading this far! :)

Cheers,

Mario
 

Lindyhopper

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Unfortunately, I really don't know anything about CCNY's program. Columbia, of course, is a well established, very well respected, & very expense program.
But I wanted to point out, that CUNY Hunter also has a link to Downstate.
 
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Mario Rojas

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Oh wow, thank you! I actually tried meeting with the adviser at Hunter, but had very little luck. I will try to get a hold of him again. Thanks.
 

stoleyerscrubz

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Which advisor are you trying to meet with?

Mario Rojas said:
Oh wow, thank you! I actually tried meeting with the adviser at Hunter, but had very little luck. I will try to get a hold of him again. Thanks.
 
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Mario Rojas

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Howard Krukofsky, but his office hours conflict with my work schedule. If I can get in touch with him to set up an appointment, I will take the day off. This is so important and could save me tons of dough!
 

Lindyhopper

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You may have better luck posting Hunter related questions in this thread.
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=143206&page=1&pp=20
The general sentiments are that the education is highquality, but the administration is over stretched. It is best to be self directed & assertive in planning & getting into courses, collecting LOR, etc.

People seem to prefer just going to the premed office during walk in hours. You want to make sure you confirm that there are walk-in hours any particular day.
I don't know anything about the Downstate linkage. I believe it is new (which may be good for you). There are also linkages to Cornell & Stony Brook.
http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/arts_sci/schedule.shtml
There is also a useful yahoo group for Hunter post-bacc pre-meds.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PreHealthPostBacc/

Good Luck & be a kind, & great physician.
 

Aladdin Sane

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columbia may have an established program but i regret my decision every single day, PM me if you want more info on columbia and why i am dissatisfied with the postbacc program but all i can say is seriously look into other NYC premed programs.
 

pedronavaja2005

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Mario Rojas said:
Howard Krukofsky, but his office hours conflict with my work schedule. If I can get in touch with him to set up an appointment, I will take the day off. This is so important and could save me tons of dough!
Hello!!

I wanted to reply to your post since I found it so interesting that our backgrounds are very similar. I am Panamanian (grew up there), moved to Brooklyn 9 years ago, went to City College for undergrad and now I'm finishing up my 4th year at Einstein.
I can tell you from my personal experience that City College is very strong in the sciences and that even though many of the big gun professors that taught during my time have retired, there are many great professors around. The pre-med program at City College is very well established and organized. The adviser is Lolita Wood-Hill and she really knows her work. You also get a lot of guidance from other organizations like CCAPP which is run by Dr. Millicent Roth. There are plenty oportunities to hook up with someone and do research..opportunities are vast and many students get funded while doing research. I know for a fact that City College has the most resources and funding for research than any other CUNY school and most people who apply to med school are involved in one way or another. IN my year alone people went to Einstein, Downstate, Mt. Sinai, Penn State, UCSF, Stanford, Syracuse, Drexel and MDPhD at Einstein and Rochester from the ones I can remember. The program is relatively small (usually less than 30 students apply each year). Each year Einstein accepts an average of 3 students.
Many of the people who do postbac have gone to private undergrads then come to City College and do well, get involved in various research activities, bond really well with Lolita (She is "THE" premedical adviser) and get into really great places year after year after year. It is not one of those programs in which people get accepted to medical schools once in a while.
You mentioned that you are interested in going to Downstate and coming from City is a really big plus. Lolita knows really well the admission people at Downstate and every year many people get accepted there (in my year 5 or 6 people went to downstate).
Well, hopefully this helps. Send me a message if you have any other questions.
Good Luck!!
 

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Columbia is a pretty good program, but if I had to do it over again, I might consider going somewhere else. My reasons:

DRAWBACKS
(1) Columbia education is fantastic, but it's ruthlessly hard, you have to study 24-7 to compete with the other vociferous postbaccs and undergrads. The curve is not generous; it's very very hard to do well, and you "flunk" out if you get a C in a class and don't bring your overall GPA up to a 3.0 by the next semester (hard to do with only 2-3 classes)

(2) Many of the other postbaccs are jerks; this place reminds me of "The Paper Chase" sometimes. Atomosphere is ridiculously comptitive. CC and SEAS Undergrads are cool though, Barnard undergrads think they're better than the postbaccs (inferiority complex?).

(3) You have to be extremely self-motivated. The textbooks we use for chem and physics are awful; be prepared to seek out another textbook and help yourself.

(4) Some professors are downright awful, borderline sadistic--particularly a certain physics professor. By registering for the wrong class, you can begin your postbacc experience a hundred miles behind your classmates who chose the right professor.

(5) Very expensive.

(6) Expensive to live in the city.

(7) Columbia just doesn't care about it's undergrads at all (either Columbia College undergrads or postbaccs; in general a lousy undergradate program)

(8) TA's often don't speak English. Some don't care at all about their recitation. Be prepared to answer your own questions.

(9) Inflexible program which requires you to take physics and chemistry before bio. They should change this (and allow you to take chem and bio together)

(10) Hard to stand out in a huge lecture class full of other brilliant students and get a letter of recommendation. You require three letters to get committee support.

(11) Committee ranks postbaccs relative to each other (i.e. "Out of 175 postbacc graduates this year, there were 27 outstanding students, 34 excellent students, 49 good students, 57 fair students, and 10 poor students. Crake was a "fair" student)

(12) Transcripts show grade distribution for each course, making it hard to account for a poor grade (i.e. student Crake recieved a C. In this course, 10% recieved A's, 60% recieved B+, 20% recieved B, 10% recieved C.)

(13) Getting committee support seems really hard. Plus, you have to face a firing squad type interview where the committee tries to break you (from what I have heard, perhaps this is unfair, I wouldn't know. . . yet)



PLUSSES
(1) Medschools like Columbia postbaccs because they know it's a hard program.

(2) At a recent medschool fair, an admissions officer commented that that they waive their biochem requirement for columbia applicants because the undergraduate biology course already contains so much biochem.

(3) Columbia is awe-inspiring sometimes. Step inside Butler library and prepare to be wowed. 24 hour library + multiple libraries everywhere is a bigger plus than it sounds like.

(4) You will find out what you are made of. Finishing this program will give you the confidence to do anything; I honestly believe that.

(5) You get to compete with the best and the brightest--everyone is a gunner, when you do well it's a big accomplishment.

(6) You will ace the MCAT if you learn everything you are taught here.

(7) The opportunities for research are fantastic. Faculty and residents at Columbia P&S and Cornell Weill seek out postbaccs to work with. Numerous volunteer opportunities are available as well, and the program does a good job making them available to you.

(8) If you do really well here, you can go ANYWHERE, including a top ranked school.

(9) I have personally known many postbaccs who have gotten interviews at fantastic schools. The reason Columbia doesn't post the statistics is because so few of the people begin the program actually finish it. The rate of attrition is incredible, because the work load is so hard and the committee so demanding.

(10) It's ivy league, so you can impress the fairer sex with all those Columbia sweatshirts. Of course, if you happen to be the fairer sex, you will scare away most guys who will automatically assume that you are smarter than they are, even if you aren't. ::sarcasm::

anyway, if I had to do it all over again, maybe I wouldn't come here. I'm not really sure. Since I may "fail" out this semester (because I got a C last semester and now need all B+s and As) I may end up incredibly bitter. So look around here next year for me to be dumping all over the program.

Overall, if you're a genius, like masochistic studying, like ruthless gunners (I actually don't mind the gunners), and love that feeling that you are the dumbest person to ever sit in Havemeyer Hall, then Columbia may be right for you.

I'm curious Alladin Sane, what was your experience that was so bad with the program? Perhaps it's similar to mine?
 

Crake

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Oh nevermind Alladin, I just read one of your previous posts.

Since I don't know what second year is like, I suppose I shouldn't really comment on the program overall. I haven't done so hot this year, so if first year is cake, I'm really screwed. But I have heard that Moshowitz is a monster from the undergrads I've talked to. Is Orgo as bad a g-chem? What is PBL?

Oh, one thing I will disagree with is the notion that undergrads hate postbaccs. I haven't found this yet among CC undergrads--but it may be because I look so young that they all think I'm an undergrad. The BC undergrads that I've had lab with have been absolute monsters though. I agree that this school, with its 4 undergraduate colleges, is somewhat disfunctional. Of course, I imagine in bio they hate us more because the curve is so ruthless.
 

Aladdin Sane

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Crake said:
Oh nevermind Alladin, I just read one of your previous posts.

Since I don't know what second year is like, I suppose I shouldn't really comment on the program overall. I haven't done so hot this year, so if first year is cake, I'm really screwed. But I have heard that Moshowitz is a monster from the undergrads I've talked to. Is Orgo as bad a g-chem? What is PBL?

Oh, one thing I will disagree with is the notion that undergrads hate postbaccs. I haven't found this yet among CC undergrads--but it may be because I look so young that they all think I'm an undergrad. The BC undergrads that I've had lab with have been absolute monsters though. I agree that this school, with its 4 undergraduate colleges, is somewhat disfunctional. Of course, I imagine in bio they hate us more because the curve is so ruthless.
Crake,

You're pretty much right on the money when it comes to the cons of Columbia and for me, what makes or breaks a program is the quality of the people and postbaccs are overall assholes at Columbia. There are maybe oh about 5 people I actually like and care about amongst the second years, everyone else is just a tool who would sell their souls just to get into Columbia Med. In fact, people are so obsessed with getting into top 10 schools that I think they lose sight of the whole reason they decided to become doctors and are just a dull group of people. And maybe your year is slightly better but a lot of second years are not brilliant people, but the play the game as dirty as they can by cheating, kissing TA's asses etc. And that's what I hate about second year, it rips you apart and destroys your self esteem and confidence because you're constantly measuring yourself against other postbaccs and tearing yourself up if you don't nail that one Orgo quiz or whatever. needless to say, all the people i care about are finding themselves in this deep depression right now and I can honestly tell you I have thought about quitting the whole program more than once this year because the person i have become is far from the person I once was, so seriously dude, if you "flunk" out, it may be the best thing that happens to you because you can pick yourself up and go to a better program where you are more of a person and less of statistic/cash cow.

Orgo is actually worse that G Chem, not because it is hard but because the curve sucks. In Katz, the mean grade was a B-, and our means were 76, 84, 67 and 46 and Katz readjusted the means as people dropped the exams so you pretty much had to be perfect to get a good grade and believe me, a lot of people were pissed off when they got their final grade last semester since we all thought the mean was about a B+. I would recommend not taking Katz because he's a crappy teacher, the curve sucks and he does not tolerate anyone asking him about grading. From what I hear about Cornish, she sucks too, but her grades were much lower, with means I believe in the 50s, so your chances of doing well in her class are probably better. But if you can, take Doubleday, from what I hear he is boring but fair and I haven't heard a bad thing about him from the couple of people i talked to.

Now lovely bio...PBL is problem based learning, which is what a lot of med schools use these days. Basically you are taught biology, and then mowshowitz expects you to apply the little bit of bio she teaches you and apply it to a situation you have never studied before and expects you to use the examples you are given in class to solve a problem. So the tests do not test you on basic bio and whether you understand how things work, the exams are pretty random and apparently dr. M writes them the morning of (you take all bio exams at night so you're completely burnt out by 6pm) so the type of test you get all depends on her mood for the day, how lovely (this is what i've heard from some lag year students so take it with a grain of salt :) ) The curve is ruthless because there is no curve practically, second semester is based on a straight percentage and first semester is based on a weird total point scale but anything above a B is a straight percentage. Bio is a monster because it's a full time job and with orgo it's impossible to do the work for both unless you never sleep or take drugs to function, which I am sure plenty do.

Hey I hate postbaccs so I can't imagine how undergrads could like us :) Some do but from the reviews i've read on CULPA (www.culpa.info), some undergrads hate postbaccs because they view us as ass kissing tools who would definitely sell their souls for an acceptance to Harvard, and since you know the types of people at columbia, you know this is definitely true in the case of many post baccs. Anyway hang in there :)
 

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Crake,

I forgot, what you heard about the committee interview is true, they do rip you apart during them and will attack your GPA etc. Only one dean does that though, PM me for the name if you're curious. Also, beware that you can have a GPA above 3.0 but be on probation for one semester since the deans look at the semester GPA for probation and not the cumulative GPA. Two semesters on probation and they revoke your committee letter, isn't that nice?

Columbia may have a good reputation and it's supposedly ivy league but i guess for me all the negatives you listed far out weight the couple of plusses being a postbacc at columbia.

again, good luck to you!
 
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Mario Rojas

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Wow, thank you so much for this. So great to hear from a fellow Panameño! This has definitely been helpful as far as making me think harder about City College, which seems to be better for than Columbia, from what the other posts are saying. And it would actually be a smaller financial risk to go to City as well.

Thank you to everyone for your input. This has been an incredible resource, and you guys were all really kind to write in such detail. Hopefully one day, we'll be colleagues.

Good luck, everyone.
 

Aladdin Sane

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Mario Rojas said:
Wow, thank you so much for this. So great to hear from a fellow Panameño! This has definitely been helpful as far as making me think harder about City College, which seems to be better for than Columbia, from what the other posts are saying. And it would actually be a smaller financial risk to go to City as well.

Thank you to everyone for your input. This has been an incredible resource, and you guys were all really kind to write in such detail. Hopefully one day, we'll be colleagues.

Good luck, everyone.
your welcome!

have you considered nyu's postbacc program? it looks like they completely revamped their postbacc program so it may be worth a shot. but city college is a bargain and the campus is really beautiful, just make sure you go somewhere you will be happy and where the students are happy, otherwise you'll be miserable.
 

Crake

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Yeah, I've been thinking about what Aladdin Sane said about Columbia. I basically agree with her on everything. I think I'm in denial about it and that's why I stand up for it. Basically, come here if you will sell your soul to go to a top ten. Don't come here if you want to maintain your humanity and/or sanity.
That is all.
 
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Mario Rojas

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yeah, I can't stress enough how helpful you all have been in shaping my decision. Last week, I was convinced Columbia was for me. But since my objective is to be a primary care physician and want to work in underserved communities, my goal is not a big name school but a school that with a program that fits my ideas and my financial and geographic situation.

Thanks all! And good luck!
 

Lindyhopper

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Just a caution. When I was new to these boards, I had a tendency to read too much into a couple of people's well written posts & confuse that with a broad censensus. While usefull these threads aren't scientific surveys.
I remember a thread where the OP was just ripping into UMDNJ's grad school/med school level post-bacc. A couple of months later he was back saying that he had gotten into their Med School & all was forgiven.
Best
 

Aladdin Sane

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Lindyhopper said:
Just a caution. When I was new to these boards, I had a tendency to read too much into a couple of people's well written posts & confuse that with a broad censensus. While usefull these threads aren't scientific surveys.
I remember a thread where the OP was just ripping into UMDNJ's grad school/med school level post-bacc. A couple of months later he was back saying that he had gotten into their Med School & all was forgiven.
Best
point taken, but we all know that when universities are trying to sell you a program they will tell you everything and anything to get your money. it's only when you talk to students that you get the full picture. but look, columbia starts with about 250 postbaccs and barely 100 will graduate, so what does that tell you? yeah some are just trying out the sciences, but others who were really dedicated left because they couldn't take the atmosphere anymore.

besides, it seems like he really wants to serve the community and seems like a real down to earth guy, i'm just giving advice based on my experience and what i have learned.
 

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Aladdin Sane said:
Crake,

I forgot, what you heard about the committee interview is true, they do rip you apart during them and will attack your GPA etc. Only one dean does that though, PM me for the name if you're curious. Also, beware that you can have a GPA above 3.0 but be on probation for one semester since the deans look at the semester GPA for probation and not the cumulative GPA. Two semesters on probation and they revoke your committee letter, isn't that nice?

Columbia may have a good reputation and it's supposedly ivy league but i guess for me all the negatives you listed far out weight the couple of plusses being a postbacc at columbia.

again, good luck to you!
I don't mean to be "that guy," but I have to add some input - I completed Columbia's program last year, and while it's NOT perfect, it does prepare you - and it is viewed as one of the most rigorous programs, which helps during the medical school admission process.

But, Aladdin is right - if you don't want to go to a top 20 medical school, and don't really care to specialize, you're better off saving your money and going elsewhere.

Honestly, the postbacc environment at Columbia is, for lack of a better word, INTENSE. All of my classmates are ending up with wonderful acceptances from Columbia, Harvard, WashU, Cornell, Duke - great medical schools, yes, but for the most part, it takes a certain type of RIDICULOUSLY dedicated and type-A student to gain admission into them. So, needless to say, the students aren't that easy to befriend - a few are great, but most suck.

In my experience, the mock interview at Columbia isn't all that bad - yes, they're going to point out and even grill you on your weaknesses - but that's the point. Because, it SUCKS when it happens during ACTUAL medical school interviews - and it does. Better you flub it up with the premed deans than screw it up at one of your top choices for medical school (this totally happened to me at my dream school - Yale Med - and I was well prepared!)

So, bottom line: if you're a name ***** and want to prove that you can hack it with the other diehard premeds (and you know who you are), and you want to end up at Harvard, WashU, Yale, Columbia, Duke, UPenn, etc., then Columbia's for you!
 

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Hey guys,

Just keep in mind that the name and reputation of a school is just part of the overall packet. Going to Columbia and doing mediocre in your science classes and MCAT will not help you get into medical schools. Whererever you are, you have to do well in science and do as best as you can on the MCAT. Just make sure that you go to a post-back program that has a strong record of getting people into medical schools and supports your decision about going to medical school. Some schools have great records (i.e. 97% 1st time acceptance) because they in a way pre-select and support the students who are more likely to get accepted and discourage the not so hot students (who might still have a resonably change of acceptance) from applying. Another thing I would like to add is that being a 4th year now (match is tomorrow!!!) I did not find any correlation between where you go to undergrad or post-bac and future desire to specialize and go into a competitive residency. A large number of people that go into so called "primary care" specialties (Internal Medicine and Pediatrics) end up doing fellowships.
 

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If you can bear to leave NYC (I had trouble doing it, but now I'm back), apply to the Harvard Extension post-bacc program. It's cheap, the classes are top-notch, the facilities are great, and it's cheap. It's cheap. Why blow $30,000 on another program when you can do it for under $7000? Columbia is certainly a quality program, with linkage and such, but man, the cost!

I had a blast at Harvard, had a great standard of living, and got accepted to lots of great places. So think about it.
 

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hey goldie, is that $7000 for out of state residents too?




goldie said:
If you can bear to leave NYC (I had trouble doing it, but now I'm back), apply to the Harvard Extension post-bacc program. It's cheap, the classes are top-notch, the facilities are great, and it's cheap. It's cheap. Why blow $30,000 on another program when you can do it for under $7000? Columbia is certainly a quality program, with linkage and such, but man, the cost!

I had a blast at Harvard, had a great standard of living, and got accepted to lots of great places. So think about it.
 

goldie

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It's for anyone...Harvard Extension is part of Harvard University and funded by an old subsidy. So everyone pays the same amount. You should check the website...I paid $660 per class, but this was between 99-01. Whatever the case, it'll be about the same as city college and definitely cheaper than Columbia, Gaucher, Bryn Mawr, or any of the other postbacc programs.
 

pedronavaja2005

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Full time tuition at City College was 1600 (12-18 credits) back in 2001 when I graduated...it can't be that much different nowadays.
 

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come to hunter!! (see my thread: "hunter hunter HUNTER!!")


:love: <----- that's me in love with hunter