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Need Advice on Prereq Classes (NYC)

NYR56

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Nov 16, 2008
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    I recently graduated from Johns Hopkins as a Biomedical Engineer this past May and I'm currently working at a hospital for a biomedical company. As I've been standing in the OR watching surgeons I've realized that being a surgeon is what I really want to do with my life. I wasn't motivated in college and graduated with a 3.2. Unfortunately I didn't take most premed reqs, like organic chem lab. I live in NYC and have looked at the various colleges such as Hunter but they have all said that it is very unlikely I'll be able to get into a lab as a post bac student. I'm not entirely sure which classes I'll need for med school but I don't need enough to take the prehealth program they have (I will as a last resort though). I've filled the bio requirements with Physiological Foundations with lab (2 sems) and Physics w/ lab but I AP'ed out of Chem. I've gotten mixed signals on that, should I go and take 2 more nonorganic chem classes with labs or are the AP credits fine? I've only taken orgo 1 but no lab. I know I need the first lab, but do I need orgo 2 w/ lab? I've heard something about Biochem replacing orgo 2.

    Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to get into these classes? Any other general advice, perhaps on what I need to take, is appreciated as well. I'm really psyched to go to med school and have started studying for the MCATs but the logistics of the premed reqs are quite frustrating. Thanks all.
     

    student1799

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      I recently graduated from Johns Hopkins as a Biomedical Engineer this past May and I'm currently working at a hospital for a biomedical company. As I've been standing in the OR watching surgeons I've realized that being a surgeon is what I really want to do with my life. I wasn't motivated in college and graduated with a 3.2. Unfortunately I didn't take most premed reqs, like organic chem lab. I live in NYC and have looked at the various colleges such as Hunter but they have all said that it is very unlikely I'll be able to get into a lab as a post bac student. I'm not entirely sure which classes I'll need for med school but I don't need enough to take the prehealth program they have (I will as a last resort though). I've filled the bio requirements with Physiological Foundations with lab (2 sems) and Physics w/ lab but I AP'ed out of Chem. I've gotten mixed signals on that, should I go and take 2 more nonorganic chem classes with labs or are the AP credits fine? I've only taken orgo 1 but no lab. I know I need the first lab, but do I need orgo 2 w/ lab? I've heard something about Biochem replacing orgo 2.

      Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to get into these classes? Any other general advice, perhaps on what I need to take, is appreciated as well. I'm really psyched to go to med school and have started studying for the MCATs but the logistics of the premed reqs are quite frustrating. Thanks all.

      It sounds to me like you should go for the full-fledged prehealth program. For starters, you do need to take a fair number of classes: 2 semesters of inorganic with lab [trust me, AP chem is NOTHING like the real thing--I took it too], plus orgo 2 and its lab. I've never heard about biochem replacing orgo 2, and I wouldn't recommend it anyway, since many med schools look at orgo as a bellwether premed course. At Columbia [where I did postbacc], this would add up to 16.5 credits, which is close to the course load the postbaccs take (18 credits per year).

      If the class availability for a non-degree student at Hunter is as bad as they told you, there's NO WAY you'd be able to get all those classes done in a year, so you'd be much better off in the prehealth program, even if you have to take a couple of extra classes to meet their requirements. Plus, if you enrolled in the prehealth program, you'd get a committee letter from Hunter, which is quite a big deal in the med school admissions process. (This is a recommendation that the premed committee writes on your behalf, which quotes from your other LORs and gives med schools additional color on who you are and how you did in the program.)

      Your other option would be a private school like Columbia. If you plan to take at least 15 credits, you'd be eligible for their postbacc program, which would also net you a committee letter. But it would cost a fortune (about $20K if you took the classes I mentioned above), and the classes you'd be taking are notorious meat grinders, especially orgo II and G Chem lab. I frankly suspect you'd be better off at Hunter, which is a well-respected postbacc program and may be a bit less sadistic in the grading in these classes.

      The whole Hunter-vs.-Columbia question was discussed in more detail in this thread.

      Good luck with your plans.
       

      NYR56

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        Thanks for the reply. Are you suggesting I retake chem for my own benefit or for a better application to med school? I actually was enrolled to retake it in college but I quickly realized I knew all of what they were covering so I decided it wasn't worth it. I had enjoyed AP Chem a great deal so I learned it quite well. I was thinking about retaking it to improve my applications but that would strictly be the reason - after looking at the MCAT review I don't think I would actually get a significant personal benefit from it.

        As for the program, you bring up a good point. I actually still need a year of English as well since I never took any real English class in college. I was hoping to accelerate the already lengthy process as much as possible. If I didn't do a program, I was considering applying before taking all the prereqs, atlhough I'm not sure how that would look. A quick call to one school made it sound acceptable but I don't know how universal that answer is.
         
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        student1799

        "Señora” to you, hombre
        10+ Year Member
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        Jul 8, 2008
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        1. Medical Student
          Thanks for the reply. Are you suggesting I retake chem for my own benefit or for a better application to med school? I actually was enrolled to retake it in college but I quickly realized I knew all of what they were covering so I decided it wasn't worth it. I had enjoyed AP Chem a great deal so I learned it quite well. I was thinking about retaking it to improve my applications but that would strictly be the reason - after looking at the MCAT review I don't think I would actually get a significant personal benefit from it.

          Use common sense: If you know the material already, you should get A's, which will raise your GPA!! GPA is EVERYTHING in this process--especially if your undergrad GPA was on the low end as yours is--so you should NEVER turn your back on an attainable A. Also, there are a number of schools which don't take AP credit for prereqs, so you don't want to limit your options. Finally, with all due respect, you may find that G Chem and lab don't seem like such a slam dunk as the semester wears on, and trust me, you really want to have this material down cold.

          As for the program, you bring up a good point. I actually still need a year of English as well since I never took any real English class in college. I was hoping to accelerate the already lengthy process as much as possible. If I didn't do a program, I was considering applying before taking all the prereqs, atlhough I'm not sure how that would look. A quick call to one school made it sound acceptable but I don't know how universal that answer is.
          As with my first comment, there are a number of schools that don't allow this, at least for the number of courses that you'd be talking about. Most schools WILL allow you to apply if you're missing, say, one course, but if admitted, you have to take it in the spring or summer before matriculating. But I very much doubt they'd want to see you do this for multiple courses.

          Besides, as I said above, you should use the prereqs to demonstrate to the schools that you can get high grades in science classes. You need to show this clearly, because your uGPA as is will raise questions with adcoms about whether you can handle med school. If you rack up a bunch of A's before applying, it will give you a nice BCPM and raise your uGPA, which is a very good thing.

          Bottom line: don't try to rush this process, or you could end up with a weak application and have to reapply. Take your time on the front end and do this right the first time.

          I'd recommend putting in an application at Hunter ASAP, so you can start next semester. You should find it easier to take orgo II then anyway, because it's normally a spring course.

          P.S. Additional reason for doing postbacc program: access to good volunteer opportunities (essential for admissions), which bring the potential for valuable LORs! DON'T STINT ON THE VOLUNTEER TIME--start doing it as soon as you start school, and keep it up the whole time. Med schools will see this as a very important sign of your commitment to medicine.
           
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          NYR56

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            Thanks a lot, I really appreciate it. After reading what you've said and looking at the various requirements I have decided Hunter (or a similar program if this doesn't work out) is the way to go, as is redoing chem. I have to wait until next academic year anyway since I'm working in a hospital and would like to have a full year of experience under my belt. Plus I'm starting to meet with a surgeon to do some research which he claims will get me published (and if now at least he'll be a good LOR).

            As for volunteering, I assume volunteering at a hospital is best. I think I'd like it the most anyway so I'm going to look into that. There's obviously a lot going on so I want to figure out how to plan the volunteering. Is there a certain number of hours I should aim for?
             
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