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Given what you know now..which path would you follow?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by exilio, Apr 1, 2004.

  1. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Hello all,

    I wanted to pose this question to med students as you have already achieved acceptance and are now in the thick of things.

    I am a 30yo freshman trying to determine if I should take calc or not. This of course affects which med schools I can apply to.

    I already have to take stats, so that is a given.

    But here are the two paths to consider:

    Path A: The math route
    * Have to take trig as a pre-req to pre-calc (but I get ZERO xfer credit for it)
    * Take pre-calc
    * Take calc 1A
    * Take calc 1B

    This all allows me to apply to just about any medical school.

    This also means if a school I xfer to does not offer a non-calc based physics class I can take their calc-based series..not sureif that's a good thing

    Path B: The least resistance
    * Stats is all I need

    I can only apply to medical schools with NO math requirement (which is about 60% of them)

    And I would need to find a school to xfer to that offers a non-calc based physics series.

    Summary:
    Now before you all start telling me how easy calc is, you need to consider the following.

    * I have NEVER taken any kind of calc.

    * It means a substantial investment of school time other needed for satisfying my psych major

    * I take the chance on doing poorly and thus suffering a lower GPA

    On the upside of taking calc:

    * I get to apply to any medical school

    * I can apply to any 4 year for xfer (but I would still need to take a calc based physics class which is more challenging than a non-calc version)

    So...the basic question is this: Which path should I take?

    Thanks in advance for any insight.
     
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  3. powermd

    Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 15+ Year Member

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    Suck it up and take calculus. It's not THAT hard. I did it over a summer and got a B, and B+ for calc 1+2. Make sure to take it with someone who has a reputation for being a good teacher. Oh, one more thing.. you really need to ease up on the paranoia. The whole process of med school admissions, med school, and residency applications is very stressful, and will eat you alive if you sweat the little things.
     
  4. Gauss

    Gauss Damnit Jim!
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    well I used to be a mathematician (phd) so god help you if you got someone like me interviewing you and you didn't take calculus. I'd crucify you.
    I got crap from my one of my interviewers about my math background so you're screwed either way.

    you can't dodge classes in med school and do you think residencies look for candidates that followed the path of least resistance? you think med schools won't notice that?
    suck it up
    get used to devoting more time to studies, it only gets worse
     
  5. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Hey guys,
    don't sugar coat it..give it to me straight. :rolleyes:

    Anyways...

    Powerdmd,
    I don't see how you could conclude I was being paranoid. These concerns are valid. I don't consider this a little thing either. It is the difference between applying to 100% of the med schools or 60%. The difference between an extra 4 quarters of math (one of which doesnt count for credit) or taking no additional math allowing for more time to focus on other critical areas. I hardly consider these items to be of nominal consequence.

    As it's been said before, "discretion is the better part of valor." I am looking for the most appropriate path to take. And harder does not equal smarter.

    Gauss,
    Perhaps you could clarify what you mean. I don't see why I would get crucified by an adcom from a school with no math requirement on why I have no calculus.

    And I am not looking to "dodge" anything. Are you suggesting that taking 1 year each of bio, chem, physics, ochem and uper division bio as "dodging" the tough classes? In addition to pursuing a major in psychology? Perhaps you can point out the easiness of that curriculum.

    There are students accepted to a myriad of top notch medical schools that have no math beyond stats, trig and algebra. Does that make them less of a doctor? Or lazy? I wouldn't think so.

    If calculus was such a critical skill to have, why do the majority of med schools not require it? Why isn't it tested on the MCAT?

    Don't get me wrong, I am not looking for someone to tell me what I want to hear. I had a feeling posting this in a board with med students I would get the "suck it up" comments. However, what I was hoping for, was some objective, constructive feedback on what would be the best path for someone like myself.

    Anyone else?
     
  6. uhhuh

    uhhuh Member
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    I truly enjoyed calc (and got an A in it) so I wouldn't tell you not to take it.....but, I must say that as a MS1 I have never used calculus. I didn't have a single interviewer mention calc and I doubt if you will either (considering your 30yo, your interviewer will probably find some other aspect of your application more interesting than your calc grade).

    I wouldn't worry about the "path of least resistance" crap. I could walk to the library right now or get in my car. Both would get me there, one would take a significantly longer time. Which one is better? Probably the one that gets me studying sooner.

    However, if your heart's set on a specific school that requires calc then go ahead and take it - like I said some of us actually found it to be fun:eek:
     
  7. Gauss

    Gauss Damnit Jim!
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    1st of all I said I would crucify you, not an adcom. you will be interviewed by students, so you never know what you're gonna get. Just be aware.
    2nd I frankly don't give a rats ass what YOU consider to be a "tough" schedule. we could get into a lovely discussion about what you deem to be tough classes and difficult majors. I have a BS in math, a pHD in math, and a BS in Bio. And I'll be the first to say that it does not matter how many degrees you have or the breadth of them. So get over that song and dance.
    3rd math is not just calculus. It is a thought process that I use on a daily basis, so I find it useful. I never said it has anything to do with being a good doctor, or lazy. you inferred all that crap. others may think math is useless, I don't care what others think.
    If you limit yourself to med school requirements you're gonna look like most applicants and nothing will distinguish you. If you focus your studies on what the MCAT tests you're wasting your undergrad experience. TIme to explore and discover other things you like.

    NOw let's revisit the suck it up remarks. I've been on the receiving end of that remark a couple times. so don't think it won't happen.
     
  8. mlw03

    mlw03 Senior Member
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    my personal opinion is that calculus is a fairly important concept that any science person should at least understand the basics of. it'll make chemistry and physics make more sense later, even if the classes you take do not explicitly use calc.

    that said, your situation means a lot of extra math for not much credit. also, my guess is that most large schools offer both calc and non-calc physics, so that shouldn't be a problem.

    my recommendation for your specific situation is that unless there are particular schools requiring calc that you very much want to go to, it simply wouldn't be worth the time to take all the math. but understand that the overwhelming majority of applicants have taken at least one semester of calculus.
     
  9. SunnyS81

    SunnyS81 Senior Member
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    Math is very important. Suck it up, and enjoy the ride.

    -Former differential equations TA
     
  10. Drakensoul

    Drakensoul Senior Member
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    Very true, especially for Physics, and especially if you have professors that spend 20 minutes doing the derrivations for equations and then say "You don't need to know this, I just think it's helpful to try and understand where the equation came from, it's not magic..." :clap:
     
  11. madtowngirl

    madtowngirl Senior Member
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    that much math sucks, esp since its not technically required to get you into med school. The most competitive course load can only help you in school, if you have decent grades. But you can definitely get in without it, and perhaps your energy is better spent elsewhere.

    If you have access to any med school admissions staff, I'd ask them what they think about calc. Especially a school that doesn't require it. Do the schools that do not require it "recommend it?" That might change things.
     
  12. DrBravesgirl

    DrBravesgirl Surgeon for a year
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    aren't there only like, 3 or 4 schools in the country that require calc? harvard, washu, duke (i think), and maybe one more?
    imho, i don't think calc would make much of a difference in your success in getting into and doing well in medical school. having said that, i did take calc in college, but really don't see it being applied in any of my first-year classes to this point.
     
  13. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Gauss,
    You neck must really hurt with that big chip and big head weighing down on it.

    Everyone else,
    Thanks for the comments. Unfortunately many seem divided on the topic. But I think the bit of advice that may really help was o contact an adcom that does not require math and get their take on the situation.

    The point I want to make clear is that I am not trying to avoid work or take the easy way. I am trying attack this in the most intelligent way for me personally. Many of you have just come out of high school and have a wonderful foundation well suited to taking on calc; I do not.

    So my situation may warrant taking the alternate course of less math. Yes, this excludes me from several schools. But my application will be strengthened by the fact I have been in the military, been an EMT and am currently volunteering in a local ED. I think all of that carries more weight than calculus.

    Any other feedback is always appreciated.
     
  14. I was an engineering major. I needed calc. No choice there. :)
     
  15. bewitched1081

    bewitched1081 Senior Member
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    take at least 2 quarters of calc and one quarter of stats. i know that harv and wash st louis req' a full year of calc. at wash you may be able to get the last quarter waived.
     
  16. bewitched1081

    bewitched1081 Senior Member
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    if you learn to think they way that is needed to do calc it may help on mcats.
     
  17. mlw03

    mlw03 Senior Member
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    i think there are only a few schools that require a full YEAR of calculus. there are a lot that just require one semester.

    to exilio: you can contact the adcoms, but they're going to tell you the same thing you'll find out if you go the the school's website and check their requirements. plus, "contacting the adcom" is rather ambiguous - it's not like there's a big giant head (3rd Rock from the Sun reference gotta be worth some points right?) you can call. you'll probably end up talking to an administrator in the admissions office. so like you've said, you need to weigh the effort versus the benefit. the entire med school application process is full of tough choices (where to apply, how to study for the mcat, what to wear on the interview, and a zillion others). you eventually learn to trust yourself, and that's the best advice i think you can get.



     
  18. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    If the school doesn't require it, nobody is going to look or care. Just a fact of life. Adcoms don't peer over schedules to see what people took, what their course load was like, etc... Unless there's something seriously weird about that. Even then, most of the stories I hear they get tipped off by a LOR or by the applicant who's expecting to be quizzed about it. Why is this so? Adcoms don't have the time to sort through the schedules of 34978524098752093750294875 pre-meds. If you got a degree from an accredited University, your GPA and BCPM GPA is what counts.
     
  19. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Thanks again for the responses. And it still seems many are divided on just how to approach this situation.

    Everyone has made a very valid point for cases against and for taking the calc classes. And the decision I need to make remains unclear. Too bad my crystal ball is broken. ;)

    Thanks again for the help. :D
     
  20. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    What you see here is what you see when you ask alot of questions related to coursework. You see alot of people who invested alot of time into something (like math) who are spouting YES, IT'S NECESSARY! Because they need to justify to themselves that it was worth all of their hard work to do it. I am working on a bioengineering PhD, I think calculus is important, but unless the med school requires it, it is not important for your application. Most of the arguments posted to the contrary here are just plain ridiculous or false. The point is to do what's right for you.

    The same goes for the importance of orgo chem and other med school prerequisites. You'll never use 95% of it--it's just hurdles to jump over. Don't make yourself unncessary ones.
     
  21. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Neuronix,

    I think you make a very astute observation, and I was thinking the same thing. I have ran into something similar at my local JC where a few students took an unnecessary breadth course for Biology. While I would never refute the usefulness of such a class, they swore up and down that you NEEDED to take it, but, that was simply not the case. They just needed to rationalize the investment of time and effort.

    I think a similar sentiment applies here. There are probably two reasons why someone recommends to take calc: one, as you said, they must rationalize their own path choice, and two, they honestly feel it would be helpful. I believe the former to be the dominant reason.

    My only concern, is that by not taking calc courses I am limiting which 4 year schools I can xfer to AND which med schools I can apply to. And therein lies the rub.
     
  22. FinallyOnMyWay

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    Here's a different perspective...

    Before making a decision about Calc based on what med schools require - you might want to check out the pre-reqs for physics at your own school... At my undergrad, I needed Calc 1 to take Physics I and Calc II to take Physics II. So even if med schools didn't require calc, I still needed it to take a course that they (and the mcats!) definitely require!

    Just my 2 cents. Good luck!
     
  23. quideam

    quideam Too tired to complain
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    Exilio,

    I really think that this is not the time to be limiting your choices. Calc isn't that horrible, and you can probably find a calc for bio majors, which won't be as intense as the one filled with engineers, etc. Honestly, I really think that you should take it. Even a B in calc isn't going to hurt you as much as not having it and then not being able to apply to a bunch of schools because of it. You're in CA, and if you've checked out the threads in the pre-allo section, you'll see that CA people typically apply to 30+ schools. You need to be able to maximize your options - how many schools is not taking calc going to cut out? Is it worth it?
     
  24. Drakensoul

    Drakensoul Senior Member
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    The MCATS do not require calculus-based physics. Trig/Algebra-based is more than sufficient. You won't see calculus on the MCAT.
     
  25. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    I could not agree more. And that is what preciptated my concern about calc. I am currently enrolled at my local JC. I am hoping to transfer to UCLA. However, UCLA only offers calc-based physics classes. So that means if I wanted to attend there, I would need to take calc.

    This is why, if I decide not to take calc, not only does it affect which 4 years schools I can apply to, it also affects which med schools I ulitmately can apply to.
     
  26. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Thanks for the flip side of the argument. You are, of course, right on. And it is this fact that is in the back of my mind. Since I am 30yo, since I am in CA I have to bear in mind it is very competetive when I go to apply in a couple years.

    From the list i have compiled, not taking calc emininates 30 medical schools; about 25%.

    About 41% of schools stipulate some form of mathematics, but since I am taking stats this quarter I will meet some med schools reqs.
     
  27. doc05

    doc05 2K Member
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    I can't imagine that a school the size of UCLA offers just 1 physics track.

    if you are considering calculus, take it at the JC where the teaching is probably better than at UCLA.

    keep things in perspective. there isn't a damn thing you learn in college that is relevant to clinical medicine. and take stats because it helps in research.
     
  28. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    UCLA offers 2 physics series, both are calc based. One is for engineers, the other is for life science majors. They do offer ONE non-calc based class..but that is not a years worth.
     
  29. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Okay, I created this chart to help me decide. Please let me know if you think I am forgetting anything.
     

    Attached Files:

  30. DarkChild

    DarkChild Senior Member
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    to a significant extent, grades are all that matter.
    nuff said.
     
  31. quideam

    quideam Too tired to complain
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    One more thought - from your "graph" it looks like you still need to take trig and pre-calc. At my university, psych majors had to take pre-calc or place into calculus. Additionally, the chem classes all required at least pre-calc as well. Have you made sure that the psych major plus the pre-med requirements at UCLA and the other cali schools don't require this as well?? You might have to take more math than you think...
     
  32. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    It really depends ont he school..I was considering Davis and UCLA, and bith require stats, not calc. However, UCLA has no non-calc based physics, so if I don't take calc, I may focus on Davis or other UC schools with non-calc based physics.
     
  33. quideam

    quideam Too tired to complain
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    Right, but are you sure that in order to major in psych you don't need pre-calc? And are you sure that chem doesn't require at least pre-calc? At my school they do.
     
  34. UCSBMed1

    UCSBMed1 SoCal Hater
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    exilio, I find it really hard to believe that UCLA's Life Sciences Physics series required Calculus.

    I graduated from a UC with a degree in Microbiology, and the Physics class I took req'd calculus, but we never used it at all. Although you won't use 98% of the material after taking the class, you do use a lot of the "principles" in your other classes.

    For example, Physiology uses a fair amount of Physics in Cardiovascular phys. In order to understand some of the concepts, you kinda have to understand what a differential is (like rate of change stuff, d/dx) but not ever do one.

    Calculus benefits you for little things like that, but not much else. I'd take it anyway, just because as was mentioned, California school's are notoriously hard to get into. If you want to maximize your chances of admission, you need to apply to lots of schools...and to do that, you need Calc to keep all your options open. Think about it. Don't take the easy way out, you sure as h*ll won't be able to do that in med school...
     
  35. UCLAMAN

    UCLAMAN Air Jordan Collector
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    the physics 6 series(they may have changed the series number but i am referring to the physics for bio majors) is not that difficult. they say it is calulus based but there is very little calculus involved. actually i dont remember ever using calculus. in any event it wasnt anything difficult that someone who never had calculus couldnt handle.
     
  36. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Nope.

    Psych prefers the math course you take to be stats. You don't need calc or pre-calc.

    And I am taking chem at my JC where the pre-req was a breadth course only, which I completed.

    Some schools are math crazy, like UCSD.
     
  37. UCSBMed1

    UCSBMed1 SoCal Hater
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    I hope you take Pre-Calc/Trig, cause I KNOW you will need that stuff...

    Even if you don't use the stuff directly, many of the principles and equations you will use will expect at least a basic understanding of some of that stuff.
     
  38. exilio

    exilio Jocular Junior
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    Doubtful.

    If I take those, I might as well do the entire series. In for a dime, in for a dollar, I always say.
     
  39. somebody

    somebody Junior Member
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    I can't tell you what to do in your own case, but I'll tell you what I did. I was good in math, but my undergrad major required only stats, and no calc, so I didn't take calc.

    I have not had any trouble understanding any of the concepts in my physics class (non-cal based, good enough for med school), or in my med school physiology classes. I'm not saying calc can't help with these things, but I really don't think it is essential.

    I'm just about done with my 2nd year of med school, and don't think I'm at any disadvantage compared with the rest of my class for not having taken calc. There was maybe one school that I would have applied to but couldn't because of calc, but honestly I wouldn't have gotten in there anyway.

    Of course, in your situation, it sounds a little more complicated--if you want to go to UCLA and you need to take calc to do that, you should probably do it.

    Just wanted you to know that you can be a very sucessful med student without (gasp!) taking calc.

    On a side note--Stats has served me well--I did very well in my epidemiology class w/ very little effort because I had a good stats background--and that stuff IS on the boards (a little...).
     
  40. roady

    roady Senior Member
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    Hi Exilio!

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Where did you get that quip about the big head and chip hurting Gauss' neck--or was that your own wit!? Right on!! How did you make that chart for the attachment??

    Well, I hope you're still reading these posts. Here's my 2 bits:
    I'm finishing up year 2 of med school &my "hindsight hopefully 20/20" view on course selection and grades goes a little like this: the MCAT is to the adcom what your GPA is. Interestingly, you could bust your hump in classrooms for years building that GPA--but if you pull a 22 on the MCAT, that would be hard/nearly impossible to overcome. Point being to focus your energy on the MCAT and course grades. It's true they'll just wholesale scan your application from among 100s/1000s, and if the grades/MCATs aren't there, they hardly look further on the trajectory of your folder to waste basket.

    An important third force in your application, you being 30yo (I was 27)--is EVERYTHING ELSE/CAREER/INTANGIBLES (ex: you were an olympic hopeful by night, teacher by day, and now you're moving on to this, your truest calling, etc). This frames your application into a different arena than the 22yo-straight-outa-college: they expect to see that you've done something interesting or at least have a good reason for wanting to be a doctor (ex: you had cancer; someone you love got sick; you were a missionary; etc). Your essay is your chance to explain/mesh/paint the picture of the bare facts of employment/education/history filled into the application blanks.
    Do a good job on the essay--it will be read next once your grades/MCATs have gotten you through the "1st pass" through the huge pile on their desk.

    Finally, there's the interview, but you'll cross that bridge when you get there.

    So in sum, IMHO they care about MCAT & GPA, background/essay/reason you're trying to become a doc, &if you make decent impressions on interview.
    And sadly, it can be a bit random, especially with the impressions part--because they all have their own ideas of what "good doctors" should look like (reflecting back upon them as the deans/teachers/etc of the school). So make them look good by making yourself look good--first and foremost with grades, then with "top gun" type stuff like having been the best this or getting the award that--they love that stuff--and then go for the heart strings factor if it's there (my mom died of breast cancer; I've always wanted to be a doctor, etc.). You're looking at 4-8 of 100 odds or something I think I once counted at the point of applying to any 1 given school--goes up with multiple applications, so apply generously.

    I know I haven't addressed math. There's a reason for that I know you are clever enough to figure out.

    My own math background was that I took calc during my original undergrad degree by chance, stats too--needed it for my major then, not planning for medical school. Years later (5?), the premed program was a 1 year mad-sprint of taking orgo, bio, physics, chem, MCAT, etc to meet the application requirements. I opted not to take a calculus based physics class b/c I wanted to make sure I got the highest GPA possible. Practical as possible taking all those courses that made my head spin. Yes, my head was spinning.

    If you still need/insist on math, here are some hopefully helpful ideas: if you're not sure about your abilities, do what I saw a lot of monkeys I took undergrad courses do: take the course somewhere during the summer or whenever and never report the grade to the medical school if it's not what you like. Or take the course by showing up, taking tests, etc at UCLA--often the lecture halls are vast enough to offer anonimity--100s of students, teacher doesn't remember you, etc. Or go to UC Davis or anywhere for just the physics without the calculus. If they ever ask, say you were on a tight schedule and had to get the physics in without the math which would've taken additional time. You could almost definitely take the first test and drop the course with no blemish on your record at a lot of schools, that have an add/drop deadline after the 1st test. So if you find after those dry runs you're managing, then you'll know you can go through with this dreaded math assignment (or at least it seems like you're really not looking forward to it).

    Enough. Back to bed. Sincerely, good luck with this incredibly demanding process.

    P.S. I never really thought much of math if you're wondering; had some good moments and some bad with it; found that doing problems over and over after watching a teacher do them, until I could solve them, was the best preparation for tests. Tutors (often free at colleges) can be a great help; teacher office hours (depending on how excited about helping the teacher is) can also be a great boost. GOOD LUCK (and p.p.s. Some jokers in undergrad once told me the hardest part was getting accepted into medical school--well, they were some bad liars I can tell you--do it if you burn with the desire; you'll need the energy/commitment and that's another thing you'll want them to feel when they read your essay/interview you).
     

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