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> Date: Fri, 29 Mar 2002 04:29:15 -0800 (PST)

> Hi Rich,
> I sent you an email about two months ago regarding the challenges facing
> learning disabled students in gaining admission to medical school. I greatly
> appreciated your taking the time to answer my questions. I would like your
> advice on one more matter if possible. I took an introductory calculus course
> in the fall of 1998 and received a B. I will be enrolling in a post-bac
> pre-med program in the fall of 2002. The program I am entering requires that
> I take two semesters of calculus, in addition to two semesters of calculus
> based physics. I have truly forgotten nearly everything I learned in both
> calculus and trigonometry. I would like to know if auditing a trigonometry
> course this summer and auditing calculus in the fall would reflect poorly on
> my academic record? Would it be better if I were to re-take calculus for a
> grade? thanks a lot,
> Mike

Hi Mike,

Since you plan to auditing these courses AFTER you have already taken them,
I see no problem.


Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 14:53:06 EST

Hello Rich, my name is Sam. I am currently a freshman. Med school is my
one and only dream and is what I could ever ask for out of my life, so
getting is means a lot to me. I am am chemistry major, with a premed
option. So I complete some of my chem core requirements and also some
premed requirements. My concern is that my junior year, I will be applying
to medical school and taking the MCAT, but it is also that year that I will
be taking physical chemistry. From what I have heard, pchem is extremely
hard and takes a lot of time to get down. If this is true, do you think I
should change my major to biology, even though I have a better chance
statistically with chemistry?

Also, I was planning, or am planning to take a Kaplan course to help me
prepare. I heard some mixed feelings about them. What is your opinion?

One more thing, did you say that it is better to work for pay than to
volunteer? I always thought it was the other way around, which is what I am
doing right now.

Ok, thanks a lot Rich. I really appreciate this.


Hi Sam,

As far as your first question regarding physical chemistry goes, it
generally is hard, but some of the difficulty depends on your teacher. If
you feel good about being a chem major and you can avoid taking a lot of
time intensive classes during the Spring of your junior year (for example)
deferring some labs (if possible) and biochemistry, etc. for your Senior
year then sticking with the chem major might be fine. If on the other hand,
you believe your chem major will most probably result in a lower MCAT score,
then you might want to consider a change in your major. There is no "right"
answer from my end, but you should explore this issue more with the above
considerations in mind.

I am not very happy with the "corporate culture" of Kaplan, they are not
generally very "user friendly", but do have some advantages over their
competition. For more info do a "SEARCH THIS SITE" Goggle search of using "Kaplan" as a search item.

From what I have heard there is a general misconception that "volunteer" is
the key word in work experience. In fact I have heard from admissions
officers at med schools that clinical experience i.e. people not paper is
most important. Usually volunteer work is all that is available, but if you
are able to get paid work (but not from a relative!) that is even more
respected, because it typically involves a position requiring more
responsibility and experience. I know of no "points" going to those who work
for free unless those areas are unrelated (in any direct way) to med school
admissions. Since paid clinical experience is hard to come by, volunteer
work experience is an acceptable option.



Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 00:02:27 EST
Hey Rich, what do you think about the practice tests and items on aamc? I
believe there are six of them. Should I get all six of them? Does each
practice test just have one test? What is the practice items? It's a good
idea to get them now, since I will be taking ochem next year and have them
handy right?

If I am taking the april mcat in 2004, should I enroll in kaplan in jan 2004
and when I do, will I be getting the practice tests or are those only
available on aamc?

Thanks again Rich. I really appreciate it.


Hey Sam,

You sure have a lot of questions ;-).

I'll get back to you on that longer email you just sent, but as to the aamc
tests see: MCAT Combination Study Pack (paper)   ($ 130.00) at

This is the best "bang" for your buck. When you go to the aamc site you
should know that only the order online options are currently up to date. You
will find more info on PT 1 and II and III at a site
search. PT 1 and PT II are old tests--they are dated but still good
practice. PT III-VI are "modern" tests. I have not look at VI yet. The
practice items are two MCATs worth of stuff--its very good practice--but the
material is just a collection of ~30 VR, ~30 PS and ~30 BS passages, i.e.,
its not in the form of an MCAT tests.

By the way the new online practice MCATs are really "phat", they offer lots
of stuff, but I'd advise sticking to the paper versions.

If you are going to enroll in Kaplan to prepare for the April 2004 MCAT you
may want to enroll in November of 2003--in some locations Kaplan offers an
"early bird" option.

Kaplan makes the aamc practice tests available in their "library" but you
can't take em home.

Later Sam,


> Hey again Rich, it's me Sam. I have some more questions for you... (oh and by
> the way, I never said this last time, but I absolutely love your site...keep
> up the good work)

Thanks Sam.

> First, After hearing what you said and some deep thinking, I believe I will
> decide to change majors because obviously it will be hard and considering that
> the same prof that will teach 1st/3rd term is the same prof that taught my 2nd
> term of chem that I just finished. I absolutely do not like the guy. He does
> not explain things well...and makes very hard exams...and this is only general
> chem... Do you think as a biology major, I have a good chance--it's usually
> only 40% of bio majors that get in right? I think it is the only thing I am
> interested in outside of chemistry that I will do well in...

Yes its about 40%. If Bio is what interests you, then that is probably what you should major in.
> Second, I wanted to ask you for advice concerning me taking ochem and physics
> next year. I think you will probably say that you don't recommend this... I
> will be taking the higher level of ochem and lower level (non calculus based)
> physics. I have never taken physics ever, not even in HS. Do you think it
> would be a good idea to take the crammed course of physics this summer at a
> community college to get a head start and just not transfer the credits?

Well you're not suppose to do that, of course, but it would help.

> Third, I have heard two sides to studying for the mcat verbal... I feel very
> confident in the PS/BS, but not the verbal. I got somewhat higher than
> average on the SAT for that section. I think you recommend studying by going
> over and over it again and again to get familar with the types of questions
> and develop a strategy. Also, I have heard you say to take classes that
> require a lot of reading/critical thinking such as philosophy or history...(I
> might go the history route, since I found out I just can't do philosophy).
> Which should I choose or which is more important in getting a high score?
> Read a lot or just get familar with the questions?

Taking lots and lots of VR practice passages under timed conditions seems to
be the bet.
> Fourth, I took AP math--first two terms of calculus in HS and got credit thru
> a community college--is this OK?

As far as I know, yes, but you better confirm this--individual results may vary ;-)
> Fifth, the personal statement is only 1 page right? I have an advisor at OHSU
> school of medicine (where I want to go) and want to there...and he said it
> should be 4000-4500 words--was he talking about something else?

Right. I hope so!
> Sixth, I currently go to Oregon State University, where do you think a 3.8-4.0
> here would mean as compared to other schools?

That's a good GPA just about anywhere. On a scale of 1-5 (5 = best) Oregon State
University is about a 3.

> Seventh, what is the best way to get VERY good letters of recs from profs?

SINCERELY get to know your professors, and let them get to know you over an
EXTENDED period of time--do not be a brown nose &/or pest! If they like you
and you do well in their class you should get a good letter. To add the
"VERY" to good...Express an interest in the course, and in the Prof AS A
HUMAN BEING. As you become more familiar with the Prof reveal more about
yourself to him/her and keep the door open should they wish reciprocate.
Find times to see your Prof. when there will be as few distractions as
possible. Stay away from questions about your grade!!!! & Keep to a minimum,
questions like "Will this be on the test?". Ask about the course material,
and when you find something of interesting to you, talk about it with your
Prof--especially if the material is also of interest to the Prof (FIND OUT

> And finally, eighth, my cousin graduated from OHSU school of medicine. Would
> this give me an advantage over other applicants or not? Should I mention it
> sometime?

It could give you an edge, but you want to mention it in passing only.
> I'm sorry for so many questions this time, but greatly appreciated your input
> last time.
> Thanks again Rich.
> Sam

Take care Sam,


> Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 15:00:02 EDT

> I have a Bachelors in Computer Science. What should I do know about Medical
> School? Do you or should you apply BEFORE you take the MCAT or don't even
> bother until you've taken it.
> Thanks,
> Jennifer Haskins

You can apply, but for the vast majorities of schools that require the MCAT,
your application will not be complete until your MCAT score is received. So,
if you do not plan to take the MCAT shortly after you apply, you really have
no reason to apply.


> Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 11:19:44 -0700 (PDT)

> i have a question, i have gotten my GED and i need to know if i have to take
> any other classes before i go to premed?

No, but high school level biology, chemistry and physics would help.


> Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 22:44:15 -0400
> Subject: Age maximums
> Can you give me a realistic outlook on acceptance into medical school at the
> age of 43? I am a career Naval Officer with my last (current assignment) as
> Commanding Officer of a naval combatant. I have a BSBA in Finance and an MBA
> in Financial Management. I am completing requisite courses in biology,
> chemistry (org/inorg) and physics. I recently taught 13 semesters at the
> University level in management here in Florida. I retire soon and strongly
> desire a career in medicine, specifically neurosurgery. I have had numerous
> complex jobs in the past including flying as a weapons operator on jets off of
> carriers, repairing advanced electronics including radars, navigation and
> communication systems. I have obtained high scores on MCAT practice exams and
> am confident of achieving excellent scores when I take it for real. My concern
> is my age. I asked a prominent neurosurgeon the same question and he stated
> that most medical schools weigh the age of the applicant and the potential
> years of public good the applicant can provide given the years of training and
> education involved. I understand the age aspect but feel that since I am in
> top shape both mentally and physically, time is a wasting. What is your
> opinion? Today the news was talking about the two grandfathers on the space
> shuttle performing extended periods of extra-vehicular activity, so I guess
> not all is lost due to age!


Neurosurgery is certainly an ambitious path, but it sounds like a good fit
considering your background. In 2001 four individuals over 55 where accepted
to medical school (real grandfathers) and the average percentage accepted
for those 38 and above was around 20%. I agree with the assessment that the
neurosurgeon you spoke with made, but given your background, if you do in
fact score well on the MCAT I'd bet you would have better than even odds of


> Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 10:14:24 -0500

> Rich,
> I am a lieutenant in the navy (submarine line with a strong background in
> nuclear engineering). I am 31 yrs old and I am seriously considering
> resigning my commission in order to spend the next two years in an attempt to
> gain acceptance to medical school. (If accepted I will reenter the navy and
> let them pay for it.) I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a 2.97 GPA
> (B.S. Systems Engineering requiring 151 hours in only four years). The academy
> is academically rigorous (there's no such thing as grade inflation) and the
> classroom is only one part of the entire program. I mention this to qualify
> my less than stellar grades. I also need to take Organic Chemistry and
> Biology. I received a 'B' and a 'C' in General Chemistry. My questions are:
> 1. First and foremost, is there any hope for me? Assuming I take the
> required courses as well as the MCAT and perform adequately, what are my
> chances of matriculating somewhere? (It is a big risk to take two years off
> at my age without knowing my odds.)
> If the answer is YES:
> 2. Should I retake general chemistry as a refresher and as an attempt to
> boost those poor grades?
> 3. What else can I do to improve my chances? Any other advice?
> Thank you and keep up the good work.
> Sincerely,
> Rich


IF you do WELL in Organic (and Bio) on the MCAT and get clinical experience
you have a good chance of acceptance (A's or A and B in Orgo, 30 or better
on the MCAT). Yes retake General Chem.


> Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002 11:23:41 -0400

> Hello Rich,
> If one's objective is to get into an Ivy League/top med school, how important
> is the choice of a post bac premed program? I'm considering Columbia, NYU and
> Rutgers. I'm leaning towards Rutgers because it's the most affordable. Will
> the top schools look more favorably at Columbia/NYU post bac med graduates
> than Rutgers'? How much of a difference will it make? (Columbia/NYU programs
> cost twice as much as Rutgers).
> Thanks.
> Max

Hi Max,

While admission committees do evaluate your GPA in terms of the school you
attend, usually the most important factor is how well you do, not which
school you attend. For the schools you mention the difference is probably no
more than 5%.



> Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 05:41:21 -0700

> Hi Rich,
> I'm not sure if you're still answering emails asking for advice, but i'll give
> it a shot.
> I'm a senior at the Unvirsity of Maryland, College Park majoring in
> Biochemistry. Unfortuntely, i haven't done very well the past 4 years. My GPA
> is a 3.2, and I've recieved D's in P.Chem 1 and P.Chem 2. I'll be repeating
> those during the summer and next semester. However, my MCAT score is 38 (13P
> 13B 12V). Do you think I can be admissible to one of the better Carribean
> schools (like St. Georges), or do the D's completely destroy my application.
> Do student's with D's ever get into MEdical School?
> Thanks for you site, it was very helpful and informative!
> Arun


A 38 on the MCAT is like having a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card! If you clean up
your GPA either undergrad or postgrad you can get into med schools in the
Carribean or in the USA. If you did very well in a medically related masters
program your undergrad grades would not matter much at all. With a 38 on the
MCAT you could choose which med school to attend.


Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002 18:35:28 -0400

Thanks-alot for the website. Your responses to those with questions are
great. I am wondering if i have a shot for medical school or DO school. I
am graduating with undergrad with a gpa of 3.15 in biology at age 21. I
recently took the mcat last week and felt pretty good about it. I don't
believe that i have a realistic shot at med schl, but i feel that I have a
realistic shot at DO school. What do i have to do to have a realistic shot
at DO school? If my scores are 27-30, do i have a shot at med school or DO
school. However, the fact that I want to be a family physician makes DO
school a realistic option. I am graduating from relatively unknown school
in VA but am from CT. Does this affect my chances of getting in to a
northeastern osteopathic school? Also, what do I need to be doing on my off
year (i have taken the mcat during my sr yr because i expected to take a yr
or two off before going back to school)? Exactly what kind of vol. work
should i do, hospital work, clinical work, medical missions? Should I take
some extra courses (such as biochem. which i elected not to take) this
summer or in the fall? Finally, what about foreign med schools? How do u
become a md or do in the states after going to a foreign med school ( i have
heard off many sets of exams and the difficulty of obtaining residencies in
the states)? Thanks alot for considering my questions. Michael

Hi Michael,

Since your GPA is low a 27-30 on the MCAT would give you a shot at a DO
school, but not a good chance for admission to a US MD school. Since you
graduated from a lesser known school (with a low GPA) this does hurt your
chances, but a good MCAT score can help to make up for this. If what you do
during your year off does not become part of your application or interview
than taking additional courses like biochem can make your life easier. On
the other hand if you are lacking clinical experience and can get a firm
commitment to work at a specific location, than this information can go into
your personal statement and be worked into your interviews.

As far as foreign med school if and when you check them out, find out about
the rate of passing for the USMLE. If you pass the USMLE you get your
license to practice medicine in the US, and you can continue your education
in a residency program. Generally speaking you will be at a disadvantage,
especially when competing for the more sought after residencies.



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