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English Master's Student Interested in Medicine

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by EnglishDoctor, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. EnglishDoctor


    Feb 16, 2013
    Hi SDN,

    tl;dr summary at the bottom!

    I am currently a first year MA in an English program. My concentration is rhetoric/composition, and my research focus is rhetoric of science and technology.

    Long story short, I grew up a math and science kid and in college decided to pursue English and became an English teacher. I taught high school English for six years, and not too long after starting, I began feeling the draw back to math and science. A friend of mine was entering medical school at the time, and I sat in on a few classes and shadowed a few doctors. I got the itch to go to medical school.

    But in the mean time, I took the GRE because being a teacher without master's pay is very low earnings. I expected to do well on the GRE, and I scored in the upper percentile. When I applied to a few graduate schools, I was awarded with fellowship offers.

    I made the same mistake again though. Instead of rejecting the fellowship offers and pursuing medicine, I accepted it because who wouldn't want a degree for free?

    I'm two months into the program, and I'm still very much interested in medicine. I still need to take the sciences for premed requisites. I can take an extra class each semester outside of my program and can take others in the summers. So, my future schedule will look like this:

    Spring 15 - Chem I
    Summer 15 - Bio I, Chem II
    Fall 15 - Orgo I
    Spring 16 - Orgo II, Physics I (I'll have an open spot since I will only be teaching 1 composition course)
    Summer 16 - Bio II, Physics II
    Fall 16 - Micro, Anatomy (Apply)

    I know this is a long winded post, but I wanted to provide enough details to not be confusing.

    So my tl;dr questions - If I'm truly interested in medicine, is it worth dropping out of graduate school to focus solely on the premed courses? Would completing an MA in English at the same time as taking premed courses boost my application for interviews? Has anyone ever attempted such a thing?

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  3. Apollo1

    Apollo1 Deciding between MD/DO and PA 2+ Year Member

    Sep 3, 2013
    Plenty of folks have completed prereqs while enrolled in graduate programs. However, you have several things to address:

    1. You'll need Biochem for the new MCAT, along with Intro to Psych./Intro to Soc. (if you haven't taken these already); upper-level science courses may be needed as well (ex. Cell Bio).
    2. You'll need EC's - volunteering in a capacity where you have patient contact is the primary one people go for, but you can also have volunteering outside of medicine to augment your application. Shadowing a few more docs & documenting it might be helpful.
    3. You'll have to thoroughly explain why you've switched careers, especially after entering graduate school for another career. @Law2Doc seems to have the most succinct explanation(s) for this, so I'll leave it to him.
    4. LOR's - The stronger, the better. If you do follow through on completing prereqs, it's a fair bet that you can't rely on any of your current teachers to provide them.
    5. Research - From what I've seen on the forums, this is not required; however, with more & more students volunteering in a lab/clinical study, the notion is shifting towards mandatory. If you can find a spot under a teacher that you've had classes with, all the better for an LOR.

    *Disclaimer* - I'm a DIY post-bac.
  4. EnglishDoctor


    Feb 16, 2013
    Hi Apollo,

    Thanks for the response. I think I meant to put biochem instead of micro. I did take a sociology course, but that was quite some time ago. I still remember some general concepts and key terms from the class, but I would definitely need to brush up on it.

    I'm already lining up the EC's. Volunteering may be difficult in a clinical setting unless something opens up. I have access to tutoring and enrichment for low income students in an after school care setting.

    The switching careers aspect does scare me. I was an English teacher, then a graduate student, then a doctor? I can see how that may make an adcom uneasy. Any way to get in touch with Law2Doc? I'm inexperienced with this site, so if there's a way to directly message him, I'll look for it.

    Would rec letters from my graduate school professors be worth anything? I am a research assistant, but it's not scientific by any means. Hopefully my interest in rhetoric of science would come into play at some point.

    Thanks again!
  5. mlo154


    Oct 1, 2014
    Hey, I've been lurking on this site for a while but decided to sign up as this post was so relevant to my experience. I started an MA English program a few years ago and dropped out after the first semester to start taking sciences for med school. It's been a long couple years but I have applications in now and at least one interview coming up. I would strongly advise you to stop your MA program if you are sure you want to apply for med school. In my experience so far, I have had to repeatedly explain why I stopped pursuing English and decided to become a doctor. I've talked about this with my advisor, in my AMCAS application, in my personal statement, and will likely have to explain it during interviews.

    It seems like people are a bit wary about applicants switching interests often, I think you would have a very hard time crafting a convincing story if you were taking your prereqs while your primary area of study was English. Admissions people seem to be searching for a "well rounded" applicant but they sure don't want any f%^#ing renaissance man. You may come off as someone who just did it to show that you could, or that were afraid to commit to any one path. I think you would be best off putting your effort into something more related to medicine.

    That would be the downside, I imagine the upside would be that it would be cheaper to just take extra classes during your fellowship. Anyways, don't take my opinion too seriously, best of luck whatever you decide.
  6. EnglishDoctor


    Feb 16, 2013
    Hi Mlo,

    Very cool to hear someone else was in my position! How far behind were you in your premed courses before you dropped out of the MA program? I have to take all of the sciences, so I'm seeing at least four semesters of coursework just for chemistry. Five-six if I want to take a few advanced science courses like biochem or molecular biology.

    I completely understand your "renaissance man" point. I'm afraid of coming off as pompous, but my undergrad GPA (2003-2007) was not very good. I'm hoping to meet with an advisor soon to discuss my GPA and to see if the MA would help show that I have matured since undergrad. Though I could just spend two-three years getting a major in science.

    Then there's the money as you brought up. I do have a family - wife, one son, planning on having a second. My wife works, but the $1300 I deposit each month is a huge help in addition to the waived tuition. I would be giving up a lot of money in the short term for a hopefully nice payout in the long term.

    Thanks for the response!
  7. Apollo1

    Apollo1 Deciding between MD/DO and PA 2+ Year Member

    Sep 3, 2013
    I pinged him in my initial post. He'll get a notification about this thread, but I can't guarantee he'll reply.

    Goro has mentioned many times that the subject of your research experience doesn't matter, as the exposure to the scientific method is what's desired. I'm not aware of this being utilized in the social sciences, and isn't English not even considered a social science? Also, I don't know how a letter of rec from a graduate professor would be received, as the subject of your study isn't encompassed by premed/medical education; perhaps your teacher(s) could talk about your work ethic/certain circumstances where you stood out, but again I don't know if this would be of the best benefit.
  8. EnglishDoctor


    Feb 16, 2013
    From what I've been reading, it seems like my best course of action is to drop the MA program and pursue medicine directly. It seems like my English recommendations would be worth MAYBE a little whereas pursuing some kind of major in biology or chemistry would garner more respectful recommendation letters. Further, research is important and finding the time to complete pre med reqs and graduate school and teaching composition classes while also finding time to work in a lab in a manner that achieves a recommendation letter from a supervisor...yeah the idea is so convoluted that the grammar is falling apart.

    Well what felt like a really busy choice is now feeling like the most difficult choice in my life. Drop a free degree that provides an avenue for college teaching to go into debt taking undergraduate courses prior to going into debt to spend 8 years in med school and residency? Or stay the course, wonder what could have been, and try to make the best of something I feel isn't really for me.

    Thanks for the help everyone. This site has been great to peruse over the past few years.
  9. mlo154


    Oct 1, 2014
    When I started I was starting from scratch, no previous science classes, it took 7 semesters. I did some extra coursework, anatomy and physiology and med-ethics, and also was a TA a few times. So I could probably have done it faster, but I was going part time while working nights and I also have a wife and a couple children. Also I think it would be difficult to develop a strong application by just doing the minimum courses as quickly as you can, I wanted to know my professors a bit before asking for a rec letter.

    In my experience if you want to make it happen you need to really commit. Even though I was making OK money I still had to take out a significant amount of loans. The whole process has taken a lot of faith.

    It sounds like you wish you were in the sciences anyways so it may be worth looking into a biochem degree, that way if you decide against med school you still have a marketable degree. Or maybe it's not worth switching careers, there's something to be said for a decent paying, low stress, interesting job that affords you a bit of free time, which I imagine teaching does...

    Sorry got a bit wordy there, I was probably doing a bit of self counseling...
  10. gyngyn

    gyngyn Professor Moderator Physician Faculty Lifetime Donor Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

    Nov 4, 2011
    Alta California
    Admissions officers will mainly look at MCAT scores, undergrad grades and general fitness for the practice of medicine.
    You have given a meandering path that might be reasonable, but without the other data points it's hard to give a prognosis. No particular area of study precludes a successful application. English and teaching are at least as good as any other path.

    Master's grades don't count for much btw (unless they are bad!).
    Goro likes this.
  11. operaman

    operaman Physician 7+ Year Member

    Jun 7, 2010
    The elephant in the room is your cumulative undergrad GPA. Truthfully, you can do medicine with any degree background IF (big if) your GPA and MCAT are solid and you've taken the pre-reqs for whatever school(s) you like. MA grades won't be figured in to the undergrad GPA so they are basically worthless as far as medicine admissions.

    To be honest, I don't think we can give decent advice without knowing the extent of the GPA damage. Apologies if you said it, but I didn't notice it anywhere in the thread.

    I hate that admission has come to this, but it has. Get the numbers in line and anything is possible. Without them, it's a longshot.
  12. crazy87

    crazy87 Mr. McGibblets 5+ Year Member

    Dec 15, 2010
    I was one year into a non-science grad program when I decided to pursue the medical school path. I did take community college science pre-reqs while still doing my masters classes and working in a health care related field. I finished my masters but only because I was so far in. I guess I'm glad I finished it for the sake of getting jobs before med school. But I really don't think the masters helped me at all. And it was a struggle, personally. As others have posted here, getting your undergrad GPA up (i also had a pretty low one) and acing the MCAT is really what the admissions care most about (and i guess all the other stuff). I wasn't asked about my grad degree and as I'm sure you'll see others post about, sometimes things like MPH or whatever is supposedly viewed as just another extracurricular. I can't speak to English specifically. But anyway. If you do well, grades in this program will look good too, so it's a personal choice. I would try to find other people's experiences with this on this site as well, as it sounds like you might have already done. What helped me was getting my GPA up, A LOT of health care work, and the mcat. good luck deciding.

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