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> Dear Rich,
> Thank you for providing such a wonderful resource on the Web. Your
> advice seems excellent, so I'm hoping that you could send some of it
> my way.
> I graduated from a small, competitive second-tier liberal arts college
> in upstate New York in 1998 with a B.A. in Biology-Psychology and a
> minor in computer science. My overall GPA was a 3.59 and my science
> GPA was about 3.65.
> After graduating, I moved to Boston and worked in an immunology lab at
> Harvard Medical School for 1 year. My intentions were to get some
> valuable experience while applying to graduate programs in the
> neurosciences. I spoke with numerous PhD's in the lab, and, after
> listening to scads of sob stories (not enough grant money, poor career
> opportunities, low ceilings, long hours with low pay, etc.) I realized
> that the PhD route might not be for me.
> So, I recouped and decided to complete my pre-med requirements and
> apply to medical school. I'm currently enrolled in Organic Chem and
> Physics at the Harvard Extension School and hope to pull a B+/A- in
> both.
> Now, my concern is this: I feel as though I am embarking upon this
> route with only a vague notion of where I want to take it. Compounding
> my insecurities is the fact that I don't know if/where I might be able
> to get in. Presupposing that I score well on the MCATs (say 11s or
> 12s) do I have a decent shot? And might my cloudy notions of my future
> path preclude me from admission?
> Sorry to lay all of this on you, but your advice seems helpful so I
> thought I'd give it a try.
> Thanks,
> Ellio

------ reply 12/22/99

Elliot, if you were to score 11s and 12s on your MCAT, you would have a
better than even chance, which these days is considered pretty good odds. As
far as your uncertainty, at this point all you need to be certain of is that
you do wish to pursue a career in medicine. If you are not sure of this you
probably want to spend some more time learning about the profession and
thinking about whether you really wish to proceed. Even though you could
bluff your way through it, it may not be in your best interest to do so. I'd
advise that you talk it over with numerous MD's, just as you did with the
PhD's in the lab.

Good luck,


PS The problem that many individuals eventually come up against in their
professional lives is that in almost all careers there are considerable
amounts of undesirable baggage. A decade or two down the line only a
minority of those in a profession are consistently having strongly rewarding
work experiences. To be fair, there is also a minority that truly hate what
they do; most folks end up in the middle. Generally those lucky few who get
the most out of their professional lives have a strong passion for some
aspect of their work that allows them to skate over negatives that drain
much of the momentum from their less well motivated peers.



> Hi Rich,
> I'm a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, and my pre-med advisor
> recently suggested to me that it would be to my benefit to take a year off
> before going to medical school. I currently have a 3.2 GPA and am hoping to
> get at least a 30 on the MCAT. Do you think that I should take the MCAT in
> August and apply my senior year instead of my junior year? My advisor told
> me that the average age in med school was 25 so obviously people are either
> applying later or applying multiple times. What do you think?
> Thanks,
> jaya

------ reply 12/27/99

Hi Jaya,

In applying to most any other graduate program a 3.2 GPA would be just fine,
but with medicine a 3.2 puts you at a disadvantage. Waiting a year alone
probably will not help, but using the year to raise your GPA, and to
solidify your record may.

What I am not clear about is what was the rational for waiting a year that
your advisor had in mind. If it was along the lines of improving your
record, or jumping into the rolling admission cycle earlier, then I'd agree
that it could be to your benefit, but because there are other aspects of
your background that I am not aware of, I am unable to give definitive

Good luck,




> Hi Rich, Love the site, just a quick question for you. I attend Keene State
> College in Keene, NH. It's a relatively small New England teaching college.
> Although they do not actually posess a "Premed" major, I am majoring in
> Bio, with a minor in Psyc. I am also actively involved in my school's
> student government, and have been a medic in the US ARMY for 5
> years and counting. My question is how much weight is carried by the
> undergraduate school, and whether or not my extracurricular activities,
> and GPA (3.6), will make up for the school's lack of size and reputation.
> Thanks for you help!

------ reply 01/12/00

Thanks for your comment about the site.

Grades are evaluated based on the school from which they were obtained to
prevent "grade inflation". In many cases this is not a significant variable,
but it can be. GPA evaluation data for large schools is usually not
necessary, but for smaller colleges most medical schools independently
create documents which help them to evaluate the relative significance of a
student's academic record.

Your extracurricular activities will be evaluated as part of the over all
picture presented in your application. If not much is known about Keene,
they could help make you a more attractive candidate.

Good Luck,



Hi Rich,

I am Pranay -------. I am a junior in high school, and I want to become a
cardiologist when I grow older. I have no family/friends who are doctors,
but I want to be one. I want to know what the "path" is to becoming a
doctor. What type of college to go to? What courses to take? What
extra-curriculars to choose?, etc. Also, please include what type of SAT
Scores are needed, and class ranks, etc.

Your FAQ on Pre-med is very helpful, but no college application has a
program "premed". I am confused, and need help.

Thank you.

Sincerely, Pranay.

------ rely 01/12/00

Hi Pranay,

First off, their is no premed major. Second, high school class rank, or SAT
scores are not very important for those students that apply to medical
school via normal channels -- see early acceptance programs for exceptions
to this: < >

What you need to do is be accepted into a college or university which has a
strong program in the premedical sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), and
a good pre-health advising committee. You may elect to major in any
subject(s) as long as you complete the core premed requirements which
include one year of biology, two years in chemistry, and one year of
physics. You can find out more about this process at,
and once you enter college, from your premed advisor, as well as though
premedical organizations that you may which to join.

Good Luck!



Dear Sir,

I am a Physical Therapist practicing the profession for 11 years and hoping
to become a physician someday. I am licensed in 5 states namely NY,CA,TN,FL
and ME and have extensive experience in the medical field as per my
profession. I graduated from the Philippines. My question is how do I apply
to take this MCAT exam, and the procedures to follow.


Thank you very much.


Ariel ------

------reply 01/12/00


What you need to do is to get a free copy of the 2000 MCAT Registration Kit
that should be available in early February at most colleges and
universities. It contains all the information you probably will require. If
when you call a school, the individual helping you is not sure how to direct
your call ask for pre-health advising or for the testing center.

Good luck,




> Rick,
> I am finishing my second year of college, and I am planning to attend
> medical school. : ) Is it ever too early to take the MCAT? Can I take it as
> many times as I would like? What is the cost of the test? If I take it a few
> times and my scores keep improving would it be wise to post all scores from
> the beginning or to wait till I have taken a few? Your site has really helped
> me a lot!!! It answered so many of my questions. Also, I am currently a
> phlebotomist at a top hospital in the Houston Medical Center, and graduated
> from high school a year early.....will this help make me a "keeper" along
> with my high MCAT score which I hope to make? Thank you for your time!!
> Becky : )

> Is it ever too early to take the MCAT?
------reply 01/12/00
You want to take the MCAT when you are ready for it and expect to do well.
You do not want to take the test more than once if you can avoid it.

> Can I take it as many times as I would like?

Yes but you must ask special permission to do so after your third time.

> What is the cost of the test?

$165 on Sat. $175 on Sun.

> If I take it a few times and my scores keep improving would it be wise to post
> all scores from the beginning or to wait till I have taken a few?

There are too many variables here for me to give you a short answer. But
taking the MCAT repeatedly is not a good idea unless you are forced to do it
by low scores. The competitive advantage goes to the student who makes the
highest score while taking the test once or twice.

> Also, I am currently a phlebotomist at a top hospital in the Houston Medical
> Center, and graduated from high school a year early.....will this help make me
> a "keeper" along with my high MCAT score which I hope to make?

Yes! GOOD LUCK [:-)]



> Hi there Rich, I have quite a situation here that I need some advice about. I
> recently graduated from New College ( a small liberal arts college affiliated
> with the Univeristy of South Florida) with a major in neurobiology. I feel
> that a career in medicine would be ideal for me but I have a few things
> stacked against myself. Number one is that New College does not assign letter
> grades but rather evaluates students on a Pass/Fail system where the
> professors give written evaluations concerning the student's performance. I
> know grades are of top priority so does this mean I have to perform
> exceptionally well on the MCAT even to be considered? Would letters of
> recommendation/ research experiences be weighted more in light of this? Number
> two is that I did not complete all the med school requirements and was
> wondering if it would be disadvantageous if I took these courses at a
> community college rather than a four year institution. In addition, I am
> currently taking a year off from studies before I continue with my education.
> How do med schools view students who decide to take some time off before
> continuing their studies? I know this is a lot to chew on but I would
> sincerely appreciate any advice on my conundrum, thanks. Keith T

------ reply 01/20/00

Hi, I'm a bit familiar with New College because a
friend of mine went there. Yes letters of recommendation, etc., and your
MCAT scores will take on an even greater importance, but an above average,
but less than exceptional MCAT score, may do the trick.

As far as scores from community colleges they are typically not held in as
high regard as grades from four year schools.

Taking time off is no real problem, but is a likely issue to come up during
an interview.

Good luck,



> I am currently attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City
> and I am a junior majoring in Forensic Psychology. However, recently I have
> been very much interested in becoming a doctor of Medicine. My question to
> you is can you offer some insights as to what I should do before and after I
> graduate from college. Is it too late to become a doctor? What can I do now
> even though I will have a degree in Forensic Psychology? Any help or advice
> is greatly appreciated. I look forward to your reply.
> Thank you, Mel.

------ reply 01/20/00

Hi Mel,

What you need to do is to learn as much about the admission process as
possible. is a good place to start. Make
sure to get a copy of MSAR. You also should look at the on-line links at . Also the email archive may help.

It is certainly not too late to become a doctor, and there are many things
you can do, but educating yourself about the whole process makes the most
sense as a first step.

Good luck,



> To whom it may concern,
> I have taken the MCAT once and plan on taking it again in April. I took the
> Kaplan prep course and I want to try something else. What other choices do I
> have and what do you recommend.
> Thank you,

------ reply 01/20/00

Some other choices are another commercial MCAT course, a private tutor, or
studying on your own. I usually recommend the latter, but without more
information concerning your abilities and personality, I really can't say.

See for tips.

Good luck,



> i need to know if you can help me. i am looking to go back to school in the
> fall. i want to start a pre med program but i want to pick the best school i
> can. i don't know where to begin. if you could be of some assistance i would
> really appreciate it. thank you sincerely, Liz

------ reply 01/20/00

You could try going to the reference desk of a large library and ask for
publications that provide comparative information concerning different
schools. (It is important that these sources are independent of the

Looking at brochures and web sites will be of some help, but you also might
try emailing the officers of premed clubs at the schools you are most
interested in to try and get some inside information.

Hope that helps.



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