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Hello fellow nontraditionals,

I'm a postbacc student at HES and did a semi one year track approach, meaning I took Bio, Physics and Organic this past semester (took general chemistry at another institution -> A-/B+).

I started well but suffered during finals for several reasons, not counting the intensity of the courses. I had an SO going through personal issues, not able to find a job, and stressed about his grad school applications. I could not work so we we had spent almost all our savings. I was also experiencing some personal issues I've struggled with for the last couple of years. I was also not getting enough sleep.

Excuses aside, I went in with Bs in bio and physics, and an A- in organic, but did poorly on my finals. I still got a B in bio and physics, but I got a C in organic. Organic was my last final, so I was physically and emotionally spent by then, and wasn't able to finish the exam. It is especially discouraging since I know and love the material, and had a decent average throughout the semester.

Unfortunately I don't have the option of taking Orgo or Bio II in the summer - summer school at Harvard only offers the full year and is twice as expensive, so I cannot afford it. Plus, I don't want another red flag on my application by taking it somewhere else. I might still take the three courses next semester, as I now know how to approach the material and organize my time. So, my plan is this: take courses in the spring, study for the MCAT in the summer and take it early fall, and repeat Organic in the fall while taking another science course (A&P most likely). I want to avoid the new MCAT, hence why I want to follow this plan.

Tomorrow I will meet with the pre-medical director to discuss my options, but I wanted to share my thoughts with you and get some perspective from fellow students. Any and all insight will be greatly appreciated.

And if it helps, this is my health-related experience thus far: 1 year Spanish interpreter/patient guide (vitals, med history) at free clinic, 1 year as EKG tech, two semester volunteer at CVICU, 1 year standardized patient work, no science research experience, ~20hrs shadowing experience (university where I took general chemistry had very strict shadowing requirements). Academic background in anthropology (BA and MA - 3.98 and 3.87 gpa, respectively). I'm also an URM.
 
Feb 14, 2013
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I don't have much in the way of advice, but I feel your pain (if you want a little sympathy) - I'm at HES and am feeling similarly discouraged after getting my grades.
 
Apr 23, 2013
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My only advice at this point is to listen to whatever Owen or Dr. Fixsen tells you. They know what they're doing. You took a really risky path and it didn't pay off.

Avoiding the new MCAT isn't helpful if it costs you the grades you need to prove you can handle med school coursework. You've got an anthro background--the new psych/socio sections of the MCAT might be easier than you're anticipating.
 
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entresuspiros
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204
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Tailor shop on the Promenade
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SN12357, thank you for your response. You are correct that this path did not pay off, and that taking the new sections will not be much of an issue for me. I think the prospect of additional courses and the extra expense left me uncertain as to the best path for me.

Did you already complete courses at HES? If so, how do you feel about the overall experience?
 
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SN12357, thank you for your response. Did you already complete courses at HES? If so, how do you feel about the overall experience?
I took several courses at HES and got the committee letter from them this year. I worked full time the entire time I was in the program, and did several semesters with two classes. I have almost nothing but good things to say about the program. I was very happy with the courses I took, which I felt were excellent preparation for the MCAT. My experience in getting the committee letter was also positive, and I've had great success this cycle, so something went right there. One of the things I appreciated the most about HES was that I felt for the most part that all the classes I took were very fair--straightforward expectations and unsurprising tests--very appreciated.

However, I have much more of a science background than most people in the program. I recognize that a lot of people in the program struggle with the transition to science classes. It is true that you could go to Northeastern or UMass Boston and high grades would be easier (I took classes at NEU, too, and have a very low opinion of their program), but ultimately the HES classes are the best preparation for the MCAT and medical school for nontrads in the Boston area. The risk of biting off more than you can chew, though, is very real.

I don't feel I have a strong handle on how the HES program is viewed by medical schools, so that's something you'll need to get from the advisors; I don't know how much the program is respected for itself, and therefore how much the Bs and C might be forgiven compared other places if you improve. We know it's the most rigorous program in Boston for non-trad premeds but who knows if adcoms recognize that, despite the name.
 
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entresuspiros
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I took several courses at HES and got the committee letter from them this year. I worked full time the entire time I was in the program, and did several semesters with two classes. I have almost nothing but good things to say about the program. I was very happy with the courses I took, which I felt were excellent preparation for the MCAT. My experience in getting the committee letter was also positive, and I've had great success this cycle, so something went right there. One of the things I appreciated the most about HES was that I felt for the most part that all the classes I took were very fair--straightforward expectations and unsurprising tests--very appreciated.

However, I have much more of a science background than most people in the program. I recognize that a lot of people in the program struggle with the transition to science classes. It is true that you could go to Northeastern or UMass Boston and high grades would be easier (I took classes at NEU, too, and have a very low opinion of their program), but ultimately the HES classes are the best preparation for the MCAT and medical school for nontrads in the Boston area. The risk of biting off more than you can chew, though, is very real.
I decided to attend HES for that same reason - they prepare their students well for the MCAT and med school. And I have to say that despite my grades I think the classes were engaging and will definitely help me do well for the MCAT. It is true that having a science background would make the transition easier, but I think coming in with a lot of confidence in one's abilities is also necessary. I studied and knew the material, but wasn't confident in my ability to put aside everything else going on in my life and make sure I got the grades I needed. It may be hard to accept, but that's the reality of my situation.

Do you by any chance know any HCP student who had to repeat courses and still managed to get sponsorship? I wanted to apply for the program this week and sent Dr. Fixsen some application materials in preparation for our meeting, but I fear I may not get accepted after he learns of my performance this semester.
 
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Apr 23, 2013
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Do you by any chance know any HCP student who had to repeat courses and still managed to get sponsorship? I wanted to apply for the program this week and sent Dr. Fixsen some application materials but I fear I may not get accepted after he learns of my performance this semester.
Sorry, I have no idea how they make decisions about that.
 

Goro

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Very sorry to hear this; it's not a good sign. Can you retake the course at a CC? if so, ace it.

What worries me is your lack of coping skills. An Adcom's concern is that in med school, which is vastly harder and stressful than your post-bac, any life issue might clobber you.

Don't give up yet, but it would be prudent to have backup plans. That's not an admission of defeat, just maturity.

Hello fellow nontraditionals,

I'm a postbacc student at HES and did a semi one year track approach, meaning I took Bio, Physics and Organic this past semester (took general chemistry at another institution -> A-/B+).

I started well but suffered during finals for several reasons, not counting the intensity of the courses. I had an SO going through personal issues, not able to find a job, and stressed about his grad school applications. I could not work so we we had spent almost all our savings. I was also experiencing some personal issues I've struggled with for the last couple of years. I was also not getting enough sleep.

Excuses aside, I went in with Bs in bio and physics, and an A- in organic, but did poorly on my finals. I still got a B in bio and physics, but I got a C in organic. Organic was my last final, so I was physically and emotionally spent by then, and wasn't able to finish the exam. It is especially discouraging since I know and love the material, and had a decent average throughout the semester.

Unfortunately I don't have the option of taking Orgo or Bio II in the summer - summer school at Harvard only offers the full year and is twice as expensive, so I cannot afford it. Plus, I don't want another red flag on my application by taking it somewhere else. I might still take the three courses next semester, as I now know how to approach the material and organize my time. So, my plan is this: take courses in the spring, study for the MCAT in the summer and take it early fall, and repeat Organic in the fall while taking another science course (A&P most likely). I want to avoid the new MCAT, hence why I want to follow this plan.

Tomorrow I will meet with the pre-medical director to discuss my options, but I wanted to share my thoughts with you and get some perspective from fellow students. Any and all insight will be greatly appreciated.

And if it helps, this is my health-related experience thus far: 1 year Spanish interpreter/patient guide (vitals, med history) at free clinic, 1 year as EKG tech, two semester volunteer at CVICU, 1 year standardized patient work, no science research experience, ~20hrs shadowing experience (university where I took general chemistry had very strict shadowing requirements). Academic background in anthropology (BA and MA - 3.98 and 3.87 gpa, respectively). I'm also an URM.
 
OP
entresuspiros
Mar 5, 2013
204
348
Tailor shop on the Promenade
Status
Medical Student (Accepted)
Very sorry to hear this; it's not a good sign. Can you retake the course at a CC? if so, ace it.

What worries me is your lack of coping skills. An Adcom's concern is that in med school, which is vastly harder and stressful than your post-bac, any life issue might clobber you.

Don't give up yet, but it would be prudent to have backup plans. That's not an admission of defeat, just maturity.
I can retake the course next fall and I expect to do well; its not the material, it was my inability to focus and push through that led to this terrible performance.

By backup plans, do you mean prepare for the possibility I will not even considered as a worthy applicant? Has this semester doomed me?
 
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Goro

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By backup plans I means in case you continue to do poorly. A post-bac is a your chance to shine and show us you can handle the rigors of medical school.

Suggest you seek out your school's counseling center and get help with coping skills.

I don't think a single C is going to get you auto-rejected, if that's what you're worried about.


I can retake the course next fall and I expect to do well; its not the material, it was my inability to focus and push through that led to this terrible performance.

By backup plans, do you mean prepare for the possibility I will not even considered as a worthy applicant? Has this semester doomed me?
 

Jewels86

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It sounds like you are incredibly overwhelmed! You, like others to include myself at this moment (I'm suffering with round two of the flu yet I get the flu shot each year), are going through a lot of decision making choices and possibly underlying regrets for not doing medical school earlier in life.

First, let me tell you, your grades are okay so far. Harvard...enough said. Can you improve...who couldn't!! I work and went to nursing school that had straight A's and if they were my nurse, I'd sign out AMA. Book smart, absolutely. Common sense...none, nada. My puppy has more common sense than they do. They're great computer charters!! P.E.A. looks like the pt is alive...from a computer.

Two, due to a job change, I have to put off my chem and other core courses. But I'm filling it in with precal, Spanish and a nutrition course (all online). That's just life. The new MCAT may be better with the other "stuff" added in. My plans are in the dirt too.

Three, I got a C in cruddy algebra-based physics. My plans are to take calc-cased physics after calc. I hardly think an adcom is going to question my awful C as long as I pull out of the others. If not, I'm either going NP, house sup of at my new facility or Wally World greeting.

Finally, if you're regretting not tackling this earlier in life, I should already be in a nursing home, sent to the ER every time the staff doesn't want to deal with me. We can be doc's until 95 and beyond.

Stay healthy, press on towards the mark and you'll eventually get there. It's a hilly marathon!!
 
OP
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Update:

Thanks to everyone who responded. My professor recently informed me of an error made when calculating my final grade, so I ended up with a B+ in the course! While it's a great relief I'm not satisfied with my grades so I will work doubly hard this semester and own Organic and Biology.
 
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DocWinter

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Plus, I don't want another red flag on my application by taking it somewhere else.

I might still take the three courses next semester, as I now know how to approach the material and organize my time. So, my plan is this: take courses in the spring, study for the MCAT in the summer and take it early fall, and repeat Organic in the fall while taking another science course (A&P most likely). I want to avoid the new MCAT, hence why I want to follow this plan.

.
OP,

I feel your pain, and I had a costly semester many years back where I got a C in chem 1 and F in algebra while undergoing a failed relationship. It sucked and put me a solid semester behind. This is a bump in your path, if you can get things together.
I suggest NOT taking 3 courses this semester. I live in boston, as I assume you do also, and I know the many colleges available to you. I disagree that it will hurt you by taking the credits somewhere other than Harvard where you are. I took courses simultainiously at a state school and CC, for costs and other reasons, and it was no problem in my application. Unless you are attempting to get in at a top tier university, you can have some "dirt" on your transcripts and still be easily accepted. Most people have a retake or several, an F, or a bad semester at some point. You got 1 C, which is bad, but your B's didn't sink you. It could be worse.

You really need to get some good sleep, figure out a path for you and your SO, and determine what to do when you and he/she start to freak out. You sound overwhelmed, and taking on 3 courses probably won't help that. Take it slow.
 
OP
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OP,

I feel your pain, and I had a costly semester many years back where I got a C in chem 1 and F in algebra while undergoing a failed relationship. It sucked and put me a solid semester behind. This is a bump in your path, if you can get things together.
I suggest NOT taking 3 courses this semester. I live in boston, as I assume you do also, and I know the many colleges available to you. I disagree that it will hurt you by taking the credits somewhere other than Harvard where you are. I took courses simultainiously at a state school and CC, for costs and other reasons, and it was no problem in my application. Unless you are attempting to get in at a top tier university, you can have some "dirt" on your transcripts and still be easily accepted. Most people have a retake or several, an F, or a bad semester at some point. You got 1 C, which is bad, but your B's didn't sink you. It could be worse.

You really need to get some good sleep, figure out a path for you and your SO, and determine what to do when you and he/she start to freak out. You sound overwhelmed, and taking on 3 courses probably won't help that. Take it slow.
Doc, see my last post. Turns out the grade was an error, so there won't be a C on my transcript! Still, thank you for your words, I appreciate it. I decided to focus on two courses this semester, and leave second semester physics for the summer. I've reached out to several sources and they all agree it won't count against me, like you said. I am interested in applying to a few more selective schools so I want to do well in my courses, but I want to have fun while doing so, and I think I am now in a better position to do that.

If I may ask, where did you take your courses? I am leaning toward UMass as its the most inexpensive option.
 

DocWinter

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If I may ask, where did you take your courses? I am leaning toward UMass as its the most inexpensive option.[/quote]

Good for you with the B+ ! That's a huge deal.

I'm not from here - took my courses in NY.

But from what I hear, no education here is cheap :p I could see Umass being one of the least expensive
 
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Doc, see my last post. Turns out the grade was an error, so there won't be a C on my transcript! Still, thank you for your words, I appreciate it. I decided to focus on two courses this semester, and leave second semester physics for the summer. I've reached out to several sources and they all agree it won't count against me, like you said. I am interested in applying to a few more selective schools so I want to do well in my courses, but I want to have fun while doing so, and I think I am now in a better position to do that.

If I may ask, where did you take your courses? I am leaning toward UMass as its the most inexpensive option.
In my experience and the experience of my friends:

1. Harvard Extension for cheap + quality; definitely harder classes and not available in the summer.
2. UMass Boston for cheap + variable quality, definitely easier grading than HES.
3. Bunker Hill CC for cheap + not great quality again. Don't know about their basic sciences but a friend of mine took a psych class there in which the prof was clearly not qualified (in actuality--probably was qualified on paper). Regardless several concepts were taught incorrectly.
4. Northeastern for very expensive + low quality classes but very easy grading.

There are other options (I know BU also has classes) but I haven't taken classes there or know people who have had direct experience with them and so can't really weigh in on other places.

In your position I'd advise UMass Boston as a supplement to Harvard Extension if the schedules work for you and you can get the classes (I've heard they sometimes fill up). I had to go with Northeastern for scheduling and convenience reasons and mostly ended up irritated I had to spend that much money to not be taught anything useful.

Congrats on the B+!
 
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Quizlet04

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I did a mix of HES and UMass - Boston. I took the hardest class, i.e. organic chemistry, at HES. I took everything else at UMass during the summer. I was informed this would not be a problem gradewise. However, if you want the HES letter, you need to take everything at HES.

Physics at UMass is terrible, FYI. You should be prepared to do a lot of work on your own.
 
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I did a mix of HES and UMass - Boston. I took the hardest class, i.e. organic chemistry, at HES. I took everything else at UMass during the summer. I was informed this would not be a problem gradewise. However, if you want the HES letter, you need to take everything at HES.

Physics at UMass is terrible, FYI. You should be prepared to do a lot of work on your own.
You don't necessarily have to take everything at HES to get the letter. You just have to take the number of credits they mandate for your specific situation there, which depends on you undergrad gpa and background. I took some things elsewhere and still got the letter. My requirements were in my HCP acceptance letter.
 
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I did a mix of HES and UMass - Boston. I took the hardest class, i.e. organic chemistry, at HES. I took everything else at UMass during the summer. I was informed this would not be a problem gradewise. However, if you want the HES letter, you need to take everything at HES.

Physics at UMass is terrible, FYI. You should be prepared to do a lot of work on your own.
When you say terrible, are you referring to anything in particular, like no student support, extremely difficult and/or poorly worded tests, etc.? I did not attend lecture for Physics E-1a as it was not helpful for me at all (great professor and demonstrations, not so much problem solving), so I mostly studied on my own and went to a weekly supplementary lecture. I also plan on studying before the course begins, using both a textbook and HES study material, so hopefully that will be enough to see me through UMass physics.

You don't necessarily have to take everything at HES to get the letter. You just have to take the number of credits they mandate for your specific situation there, which depends on you undergrad gpa and background. I took some things elsewhere and still got the letter. My requirements were in my HCP acceptance letter.
Did you by any change take Biochemistry at HES? I looked through the 2013 thread and found only one endorsement for the summer course with Viel, but I want to take it during the fall while studying for the MCAT.
 
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Did you by any change take Biochemistry at HES? I looked through the 2013 thread and found only one endorsement for the summer course with Viel, but I want to take it during the fall while studying for the MCAT.
I did take biochem at HES in the normal fall semester. It was with Prof. Haynes. At the time I didn't enjoy the class very much--she's a so-so lecturer and I often wasn't even able to make the lectures. The tests are not too difficult or unfair, but they were short. This is actually what made me nervous sometimes because there was so little room for error in the grading, even though the material wasn't particularly hard (I may be a weirdo here for wanting longer tests). You'll want (possibly need) a study group for the psets. She would make a lot of errors in the questions, so that clarification or correction was frequently needed. My group would meet to puzzle things out and then divvy up who would send her questions. Also the TAs in the class were extremely variable in how much they knew and how much they could help; she didn't seem to communicate clear expectations to them. Some of these problems may have been smoothed over as I'm not sure how long she'd been teaching the class when I took it.

My opinion of the class actually improved after taking the MCAT, though. It was definitely useful for that; the material was aimed well. Overall my rating is that it was an ok class. The workload is not too bad (particularly since it's not a lab class) and it would definitely be a good thing to take while prepping for the MCAT.
 

Quizlet04

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When you say terrible, are you referring to anything in particular, like no student support, extremely difficult and/or poorly worded tests, etc.? I did not attend lecture for Physics E-1a as it was not helpful for me at all (great professor and demonstrations, not so much problem solving), so I mostly studied on my own and went to a weekly supplementary lecture. I also plan on studying before the course begins, using both a textbook and HES study material, so hopefully that will be enough to see me through UMass physics.
I took E-1a and E-1b with two different professors. In both cases, I didn't feel the material was covered well or in-depth. The TAs were terrible. In fact, one was so bad at grading that the professor changed the whole course structure so the professor could grade the final instead of the test. It sounds like you have a good attitude and are taking the steps to do well in spite of the staff.
 

DocWinter

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To the point that physics was taught poorly at Umass (or any school), don't forgo a school just because you hear a rumor that someone had a bad experience. Too, too many variables (certain proff, TA, poor student, etc) to make one internet rumor a valid reason.