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Science? never heard of it

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by 6730b, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. 6730b

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    I am from a non science, non math background and I am considering trying to take the prereq's. I'm not the brightest bulb(reason why I didn't take science or math in the first place) but I did ace school (at a very high level, top 10% of my class) when I did put in 100% effort.

    I am wondering, will I be blown away if I try to take a 1st year university chem, physics, bio course? Anyone have any suggestions on how to succeed? Or do you know of anyone, like a lawyer, that has NO science background that went in and got A's in the prereq's? I will be working full time (50 hrs a week) until med school is actually a reality. Sorry if this is a repeat of previous post of mine, but I'm really lacking self confidence right now.

    Any input would be great...
     
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  3. NightGod

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    Watch the Khan Academy lectures on your choice of one of the four topics. See how well you understand it by doing the practice questions on the site. That should give you a pretty solid idea of your ability to synthesize the information, as he does a bang-up job of covering the core topics.
     
  4. yankswin2011

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    Like anything in life, if you're willing to put in the time, you will succeed. The one problem I see with you is the 50+ hours week -- it takes a lot of energy to learn dense science material so practically speaking, you will likely burn-out unless you're super-human. As you said, you're not the sharpest knife in the kitchen so you will need to succeed by hard work and if your 50 hours are intense lawyer hours, you need to quit your day time job if you're going to have any shot at being a competitive medical school applicant. Those are my thoughts.
     
  5. wavewheel

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    Honestly, the only real way to discover your aptitude for something is to give it a try. A reasonable first step would be to sign up for one of the easier prereq classes (like Intro Bio or Chem 1) at your local university or community college and see how it goes. Maybe you'll find that you're terrible at it, in which case medicine might not be for you. But I'd say it's a lot more likely that Science will turn out to be less intimidating than it first appears.
     
  6. hitchhiker

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    don't sweat it, i know a self proclaimed "intelligent" science guy who scored a 12 on his MCAT.

    Sit down, review the notes, do practice problems, re-read material and patch up holes before exams. Most of the work has been done already, it's printed on the pages of science textbooks.
     
  7. calimeds

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    If you don't have a photographic memory AND an IQ of 180 + then it will take real time invested for you to get A's in science classes at a typical university. It can be done - and you don't have to be a genius (I'm not), but so far in my experience the people I have encountered who are trying to have a life in addition to doing a post-bacc, and who also have not yet done university level science classes are all getting their asses kicked.

    They're not failing, but they're not doing what it takes to get A's - they're getting B's and C's.

    My formula for the number one ranking in my class of over 40 people in my accelerated g-chem class (the equivalent of a 16 unit load during the school year of all science classes) that I'm taking right now:

    -40 hours a week studying OUTSIDE of class (this includes time writing labs), divided pretty evenly 7 days a week. There is no such thing as a day off of studying - too much information is coming too quickly to procrastinate.

    -I started studying a week before the class began - I had put in at least 40 hours on rapiduniversity.com's chemistry in 24 hours online class so that I would be able to hit the ground running.

    -Hyper organization - I have thick three ring binders for every two chapters - in these binders are dividing tabs that keep my lecture notes, textbook chapter outlines (I create these myself by hand as I read the chapters), homework problems, lists of questions to ask the professor, and all coursework and exams handed back to me for quick reference. This saves massive time when reviewing for exams - you know where everything is. I am also personally convinced that it actually helps you learn - the physical organizing of the information helps organize it mentally (no I don't have data to prove this - it's a hunch and I could be wrong).

    -I study all day every day - no this doesn't mean every waking minute. It means to hit an effective 6 hour day of studying I have to divide it up - I prefer to use 30-60 minute blocks. Then you take a break for half an hour or an hour - then hit it again. This is MUCH less fatiguing than trying to go at it 3 hours in a row. notice that this kind of study schedule is a kind of luxury - if you have worked all day you don't have the choice to divide up your studying.

    -Effective study strategy (my idiot classmates won't follow my example - but I don't try to push it on them) - this means reading the chapters and doing at least one of each problem type the weekend BEFORE we cover them in class. That way you are already on your way to partial mastery before lecture hits. Lecture is then the second time you've heard the material.

    -Use tutors and learning centers - even though I have the highest exam scores in my class I use the free tutors and the professors' office hours all the time. Never get cocky. See the pattern? The weekend before the material is covered in class I read it, outline the chapters by hand, learn the equations and vocab and do problems - that's the first pass. Then you hear it in class - that's the second pass. Then you practice it with tutors and professors after class - that's the third pass. Then you do problems every day at home - that's the fourth pass. Unless you are a true one in a million you will need multiple passes at material to get A's in science classes at most universities. By the time you are tested you can't be spending mental energy to try to figure out how to to problems - they have to be so automatic that you don't think. That way you can perform under the pressure of a clock and work fast enough that you have time to go back, double check your work for mistakes, and have a little extra time to ponder any problems that you are having trouble on.

    And laugh all you like - but facetime with a professor who sees you in her/his office every week and sees that you are working your ass off can mean the difference between an A or a B when it comes time to assign grades - grading can be subjective whether professors admit it or not.
     
  8. calimeds

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    Learning strategies:

    -Do problems. Do problems. Do problems. OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Taking Bio or A&P? OUTLINE CHAPTERS. MAKE DRAWINGS - OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

    -Self test - I write my own practice exams with questions on the left hand side and answers on the right hand side. Cover it up with paper, then test yourself - anything you don't know gets written again on a new sheet of paper that is specifically written to condense what you DON'T know on one easy sheet for quick reference - and it lets you know what to focus on.

    -I can't stress enough the importance of self testing - the act of questioning yourself and making yourself recall information actually helps burn the neural pathways (there is data on this) - it's very effective. And the act of writing outlines and creating self exams is a very effective learning tool.

    So far these strategies have gotten me the highest grades in a my classes over the last year: physics, a semester of A&P, the g-chem class I'm taking, and the highest grade in a class of 120 people of art history. I'm not bragging - when I was a youngster my grades were abysmal - the difference was that my study strategies sucked.

    My method is a mash-up of tools and techniques gleaned from reading books and talking with A students I met along the way.

    You can do it. Okay i'm clearly procrastinating now. :p Back to ideal gas law problems for next Friday's exam, and drawing organic structures for the lab test on Monday . . .

    Just got a text from a classmate wanting me to come out and do Jagermeister shots with her. She gets B's. We both paid the same tuition - one of us will have the grades we want, one of us won't . . .
     
    #7 calimeds, Jul 23, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2011
  9. calimeds

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    Stream of consciousness study tip - I read aloud to myself. This helps, I find, keep up a pace getting through dense material - you'll find that often textbooks obfuscate needlessly (spending a paragraph describing a stupid line graph, for instance - "As we observe in figure 12.145827b, as the number of particles on the x axis increases, the number of doodads on the y axis decreases. Thus we have a line with a negative slope. Recall that rise over run is the definition of slope. . . blah blah blah").

    So reading aloud keeps me from drifting off, and it also aids in comprehension, I find. Obviously this strategy can't be pulled off at Starbucks unless you are willing to receive strange looks.

    Reading aloud also helps me keep going when I'm fatigued.
     
  10. calimeds

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    If you have the luxury of devoting an entire room to be your studying headquarters, "central command room" etc. - I highly recommend it.

    Just for kicks take out a stop watch and track for a week how many minutes you spend "setting up and tearing down." By this I mean, track how many minutes you spend taking books out of your backpack, tracking down notes, taking out pads of paper, looking for an equation, etc. etc. - it adds up and it uses up precious daily energy that could be spent learning.

    I have several desks set up - each with their own purpose.

    1 - Lab desk. This holds my lab reports and current lab assignments.
    2 - Lecture desk number 1 - This holds outlines, homework problems, calculator, pens and pencils for one lecture topic.
    3 - Lecture desk number 2 - Same thing, but for a different chapter - this way if I get fatigued/burned out on one chapter I can painlessly hop to banging away at another chapter without using up time.

    This sounds extreme but over the course of a 40 hour study week it can save hours of wasted time shuffling paper around.
     
  11. calimeds

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    Study partners - choose them wisely.

    I enjoy studying with a partner if the chemistry is right. That means someone who keeps their mouth shut and respects my time. Then once an hour or so we take a five minute break and answer each other's questions, etc.

    The downside is that you usually have to go meet them somewhere, and this uses up energy and time.

    I avoid at all costs studying with people who just can't shut up - there is nothing worse for learning than getting mentally pulled out of "the zone" by a chatty partner.

    Interestingly, I don't really care how much my partner knows about the subject matter as long as they shut up. Sitting with them helps motivate me to keep going. And if they need help, then briefly teaching them once an hour or so helps drill concepts into my brain - yet another way to build those neural pathways.
     
  12. calimeds

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    Shut off the damn telephone.

    Maybe this should be my most important tip - in today's world if you have anything resembling a life you are probably getting multiple text messages/e-mails/phone calls per hour.

    YOU CAN'T LEARN THIS WAY. Even if your phone is on silent, if it is near you it's hard to resist the urge to check it.

    "So what?" you say - "I'll put it in my backpack and only check it once an hour."

    Bad move - when you check it in an hour you find you have 6 texts, 10 e-mails, 3 missed calls, etc. - there goes your focus.

    You will discover that the world will not fall apart if you phone is physically turned off for several hours at a time.

    Helps me tremendously.
     
  13. calimeds

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    Even after optimizing and tweaking and maximizing efficiency in every way possible there is still the occasional Professor Who Ate New York.

    Gather all the intel you can before you choose your classes - ratemyprofessors.com is one good source.

    But beware - there are a lot of disgruntled lazy/moronic B students posting on ratemyprofessors.com

    Nevertheless it's good intel.

    For example - the first quarter of my g-chem class I had a professor who is obsessed with significant digits - I found this out by talking to previous students. I was rusty on sig dig ops so part of my 40 hour pre-prep for this class was doing a remedial math review of significant digits.

    That way come time for the first exam the sig digit stuff was automatic. While classmates were burning precious exam time trying to get sig figs right, I was actually doing the problems.
     
  14. calimeds

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    Specific answers for you:

    -What do you mean by "non math" background? None of the pre-med classes require calculus. I had calculus (a year of single variable) in high school. Not a math major, but a decent "background."

    Here's my take on math for physics and chem - you should be proficient in basic algebra, reading x/y graphs, simple trig concepts (sine, cosine) BEFORE you set foot in your science classroom.

    If this means taking college algebra, pre-calc or whatever before you take a science class then do so.

    Why?

    Again - don't be trying to learn math at the same time you're trying to learn chemistry or physics. That's almost like trying to learn the alphabet while trying to learn a foreign language.

    Not saying you won't pass - but A's? You'll only make it harder to pull off because you'll be using up limited mental energy to learn math when what you NEED to be doing is learning chemistry and USING your existing math skills to solve problems without wasting time trying to remember how to do algebra.
     
  15. calimeds

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    Learn how to take tests - this is an art in itself.

    Tests are a game - the goal? Maximum points. Different profs test differently but here are some basic tips:

    1 - The prof who gives multiple choice exams. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how they are written. But regardless the basic strategy is always the same, assuming problems are weighted equally and you are not penalized for guessing:

    -Do the easy ones first. I don't even bother doing a problem requiring any computation until I have done all the ones that don't. I use a small portion of the exam sheet or scratch paper to write the number of each problem that I did not do so I don't forget to go back and do them. This has several advantages:

    a - You get maximum points in minimum time with NO risk of getting hung up early in the exam on a problem you can't solve and burning precious seconds and minutes when you could be racking up points on easier questions.

    b - You build a time cushion to go back and work on time consuming problems without the stress of knowing that you still have a lot of questions unanswered. This is a big stress reliever for me.

    c - Getting hung up early in a test on a problem you can't do can induce panic and reduce your performance, even cause you to "lock up" mentally. So skip them and move on.

    d - I have gotten perfect scores on some exams even though at first I did not know how to solve several problems. How? I set them aside after I realized I didn't see the answer - then after a few minutes of thinking about something else (the other questions on the test), a fresh pass at the question revealed new information, or my subconscious had worked on the problem, or I saw the stupid math mistake I had made the first time (6 + 8 = 12, for example - you wouldn't believe how we all can get when under pressure).
     
  16. calimeds

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    More test tips:

    -Once you have scored the easy points and are doing the hard problems, if you don't see a solution anywhere in sight - just start writing anyway.

    Write the equations you know, write down the given quantities. Write down the units. Many times the act of starting to write information jogs my CPU and the strategy comes out. Writing also makes you stop sitting there staring at your paper filled with anxiety.
     
  17. calimeds

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    Does your professor offer practice exams?

    AWESOME.

    DO THEM.

    Do them early - do NOT wait until the day before the exam to do a practice exam. This is foolishness.

    Do them early so that if you find you can't solve a problem or answer a question you can go to your prof/tutor/classmates and work on them.

    ****LISTEN UP***** - Practice exams are also mucho important because often the questions will not be worded the same way as your lecture example problems or the same as the homework from your textbooks. You do NOT want to wait until your ass is sitting in the chair in the exam room and the clock is counting down to discover that you don't understand the wording of the exam questions.
     
  18. calimeds

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    Do not listen to advice on how to study from anyone not getting A's. This should be obvious but I can't count the number of study groups in my class made up of morons getting B's.

    That's the blind leading the blind - you won't learn that way. And you won't learn how to study.

    Gather your intel - I saw my professor say "congratulations on the exam" to a classmate after the first test. I had gotten a high A myself but the friends I had made in class were all B students, so while they were cool people, they were useless for help with chemistry.

    So I found this kid in the parking lot and introduced myself - being sure to show him my own score so he would not think I was someone trying to leech off him. Then we exchanged numbers. Now we each have a trusted source to go to when we are stuck or need info at night when studying.
     
  19. calimeds

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    How to maximize the utility of professor facetime:

    -Don't be a moron. This means don't ask the professor stupid questions that indicate your head is stuck up your ass instead of reading the book and listening to lectures. Profs don't expect you to be a genius - they expect you to get stuck (that's why we're learning, right?). But they want you to put in your own effort. When I go to my profs' office hours I have already read the material, studied the class notes, etc. etc. It is obvious from my questions that I may not know something, but at least I have done my research and made an honest attempt at learning.

    Then the professor is happy to help you because they feel fulfilled - a student has taken their class seriously and now has a question which makes use of their professorial expertise.

    Contrast this with the dumbf*ck who zoned out for 45 minutes in lecture and then asks stupid questions. Or the fool who didn't go to the free campus learning center and try to learn with the tutors first - instead asking someone with a PhD whether "ammonium" means NH3 or NH4+.

    The done-their-homework student creates a good impression. The dumbf*ck annoys the professor.

    Who do you think gets the benefit of the doubt come grading time when they are on the line of the B+/A- grade?
     
  20. calimeds

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    Pick your priorities in life.

    A good college buddy with his wife and two young daughters (neither of whom I had met before) was in town last weekend. I haven't seen him in two years. I love the guy.

    But I cancelled on our evening beer meet-up because I realized by 10:00 a.m. that there was just too much to be done, there was an exam on Monday, and I had a choice to make.

    My buddy would forgive me for not seeing him that day. The energy I saved by not driving 90 minutes each way to meet up with him in the city, and then consuming alcohol which would dull my brain the next morning quite possibly made the difference on the exam on Monday.

    Lesson? Make your choices.

    Today I went to another buddy's 3-year-old daughter's birthday party at 1:00 p.m. That meant that come Saturday night I did not go out with friends.

    Make your choices.

    If you are working 50 hour weeks you will have time for nothing else in life but studying if you are taking more than one science class at a time and you want A's.
     
  21. da Vincis World

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    The only thing that I see that may stop you from succeeding is your lack of confidence. With your previous academic prowess you should just walk into the classroom on the first morning, take a good long look around the room, and then slap a big smile on your face while knowing that you are the smartest person in the room.
     
  22. calimeds

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    When you are panicked over an upcoming exam, when you are depressed over a bad quiz score, when you are overwhelmed with the workload and think you're going to crack - stop thinking and start studying.

    Do what you can. Do one problem. Read one paragraph. Write down one new equation on your outline.

    Take 5 minutes and meditate then go at it again.

    Science classes are about taking a thousand tiny steps - breaking down a huge work load into bite size chunks that you can digest.

    The best stress reliever for me when I am overwhelmed is to just keep going and stop thinking.
     
  23. calimeds

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    da Vinci - good points you make, but I went off on my long winded post-a-thon because in my experience, success in the humanities does not guarantee success in science classes.

    Not because science classes are intellectually more challenging (I was a philosophy major - in my opinion literature, art and philosophy are far more of a real mental challenge than basic level science classes) but because the work load is different and so are the study strategies.

    In addition this guy is working 50 hours a week - I've seen a lot of working people in my post-bacc classes realllllllyyy struggling - not because they are idiots but because they are just too drained from work to put in the effort needed to get A's in science classes.

    In my opinion a 50 hour work week is a big red flag.
     
  24. calimeds

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    Know where your grade stands at all times so you know where to focus your resources.

    This takes 30 seconds a day - a simple Google spreadsheet that you update with your latest quiz/lab report/exam/extra credit assignment/whatever.

    It's not anal retentive time wasting.

    Why? It saved my lab grade last quarter. I realized, thanks to my spreadsheet, that my lab exam score put me right on the border of an A vs a B in lab going into the lab final. It was my fault - I had slacked a bit in lab. But this spreadsheet gave me the intel to skip the final 2 hour lecture (I left my iphone in class to record it and listen to it later) in favor of some last minute studying for the lab final. It payed off and I saved the A in lab.

    Without the spreadsheet I would not have known that the A was in danger because we had so many lab reports and quiz scores that I couldn't track them in my head.
     
  25. calimeds

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    NEVER SKIP A LECTURE.

    Did your mother die? Skip the lecture to go to her funeral - but make sure someone records it for you.

    Are you sicker than a dog? Have a friend wheel you into class on a stretcher.

    Why? I have yet to encounter the prof (I'm sure he exists somewhere of course) who tests material they did not discuss in lecture. This is a rule of thumb that will help ensure a high gpa - 99% of professors will not test concepts they did not explain in class, or at least mention in class that you need to know.

    There is so much information in textbooks that you can't learn it all - and much of it is unnecessary.

    Don't learn 50 polyatomic anion names and charges when your professor only wants you to memorize 25 of them. Use your time wisely.
     
  26. calimeds

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    Even if you have a professor who can't teach his way out of a wet paper bag. The professor who can't explain simple, obvious concepts.

    Even if you have this professor never skip a lecture and pay close attention (and if you can't, video or audio record the lectures and listen later) - they will often say "And this xyz is likely to show up on a test."

    That's free information - free gold for the taking. You'd be surprised how many morons with their asses in chairs but their heads somewhere else miss these little diamonds and thus help make the curve easier for you - Mr. A+.
     
  27. calimeds

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    Strategies for taking notes:

    I, for one, can't scribble down equations neatly and also listen to a professor and make sense of what she's saying. Nevertheless I get high A's.

    How?

    Simple - sit in the front row and use your camera to take photos of the blackboard or whiteboard as the prof writes some mammoth derivation or stoichiometry problem or life cycle on the board.

    When s/he's done take photos of it - then stitch them together, making one big panorama (easy on the iphone or android) and e-mail it to yourself. Make a pdf file and print it out.

    Voila - instant, perfect notes.

    Anatomy & physiology? My prof spoke 90 miles per hour, blazing through powerpoints and expecting us to decipher his thick asian accent.

    Strategy? Record all lectures, then listen to them later, taking detailed notes and pausing the recording as I wrote the outline. Every minute or so he would say "Test question? Highly likely" Of course a star would go on my notes and then I made a list called "TQ" that contained every item he mentioned might go on a test - I paid extra attention to this list. His lectures were actually quite entertaining and enlightening when I could listen to them at a relaxed pace, pausing them to write my outline as he went.

    Guess how many other people recorded the lectures and listened to them later?

    1 other person out of 25 or 30 in the class.

    Guess how many people bothered to make a comprehensive list of every "TQ" this guy mentioned in class?

    ZERO.

    Guess how many perfect scores there were other than mine?

    ZERO.

    Genius? No. Follow a basic strategy - yes.
     
    #26 calimeds, Jul 24, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2011
  28. mmdp

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    wow, this is some awesome advice. i had high grades/gpa in undergrad but when i started my post-bac things went down hill with summer chem & phys course. i dropped it (kept the B- for chem lab). this fall i will be attempting chem lecture and phys with lab again but i'm going into things more prepared: i got a tutor, and additional study material. i will use a lot of the advice on this page (so thank you)!

    biggest issue for me as a post-bac was my full time job (the commute to school is close to 2hrs one way for me and it was difficult to study every day after sitting in the car for 4hrs and coming back from work- the audio lectures did nothing for me). i'm giving study my full attention and i would recommend this to those not accustomed to studying the sciences as well (i'll really have to explain myself now for the "w" grades and low chem lab grade).
     
  29. 6730b

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    calimeds,

    bookmarked. thanks
     
  30. calimeds

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    You're quite welcome guys - sorry I was a little wordy. Was more fun telling someone else what to do than doing it myself late on a Saturday night. :D

    Seriously though 6730 - if you don't need to work then don't. I went from pulling down 6 figures in an "unlimited income opportunity" (i.e. my own business) to scraping by now as a student. I still own my business but I don't have time to deal with clients - I sacrifice a lot of business so that I can study.

    If you are supporting people - parents/spouse/children - then your situation is different - you have more obligations to people than to yourself.

    But if you can downsize your lifestyle (as much as possible - roof over your head/healthy food to eat/enough $ for health insurance, etc.) to free up the time to go to school as a premed - think seriously about doing it.

    A bunch of B's will get you nowhere if you are trying to overcome a bad gpa earlier in life - except perhaps the Caribbean.

    Consider starting this fall with only one class - better to learn how to be a student again and rock that A to build your confidence than to earn two B's (or God forbid a C) while trying to keep up your six figure income so that you can drive your M5 to school and walk into class wearing $300 Rock & Republic jeans as you take your B's and C's.

    Again - if your need to work 50 hours a week is driven by real obligations, and is not a luxury lifestyle choice - then I mean no disrespect by my comments above.

    But give it some thought.

    One of my classmates is married with two kids - he cashed in his meager $30,000 retirement savings to pay for his post-bacc - and he's pulling B's because he prioritizes family time and going to church on the weekends over studying. I feel really bad for the guy because I don't think his apps are going to turn out well. . .
     
  31. NightGod

    2+ Year Member

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    This guy is going to be in even more trouble if he DOES make it into med school, especially once clinicals start. I'd start to wonder if the guy really knows what he's getting into...
     
  32. shawn2000

    Removed

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    Is it possible to do the prereqs for science and chem online somehow?
     
  33. 6730b

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    without giving out to many details I feel as though I need to keep working because to give up this job right now would be a HUGE risk for a couple reasons. 1) very tough to get into med school and this is a "safe and stable" career 2) I need to shadow to ensure this is 100% what I want. I've tried calling a few doctors and they have all said they would love to allow me to shadow but it's impossible due to hospital restrictions.
     
  34. dmf2682

    Removed Rocket Scientist 2+ Year Member

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    Try a free clinic or one in an underserved area, they're less likely to have such restrictions
     
  35. Beandog

    Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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  36. sapalee

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    I went from being an art teacher and lacking any confidence in math and science to now two years later being a competitve applicant. Don't let the non science and math background discourage you. True, it's different but if you are good at reading comprehension you can learn almost anything. You are the only person that knows how dedicated you will be to putting in the hard work.

    Like the others stated, the 50+ hour workweek would be the deal killer for me I think. I went to school full-time and worked barely part-time, partly because my school offered almost no night classes, partly to give myself the time to do it right. It sucks financially now but you need to decide what sacrifices are worth it to you.

    Check out the study advice thread on the pre-med allo site too.

    Good luck!
     
  37. sapalee

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    P.S.

    I had 13 credits in BCPM category for my whole undergraduate. 51 credits in the last two years and a better GPA.
     

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