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Graduating in 3 Years

TatinGTatinG Registered User Posts: 5,492 Senior Member
edited November 2012 in Pre-Med Topics
D is a 4.0 biology major at one of the big UC schools. She will be taking the MCAT in January and applying to med schools in June. She is currently a junior and could graduate at the end of this year. She has looked over med school requirements and believes she will have all the classes needed to apply.

She is thinking of graduating a year early and then using the year 'off' to do volunteer work.

What do med school admissions think of graduating in 3 years? Will it be a detriment or a help?
Post edited by TatinG on

Replies to: Graduating in 3 Years

  • somemomsomemom Registered User Posts: 10,472 Senior Member
    In general they don't seem to like it, they seem to give the impression of wanting to see the student be fully involved. But if your DD is not trying to begin med school right after her third year then she will have just as many classes on her transcript as other applicants.

    They don't technically like it so her entire application would need to show why this was right for her, how she used her time differently etc. Why is she able to graduate early? HS cc classes? AP credit? Summer school?

    She would need to do something medically related and interesting during that glide year so she can talk about it at interviews. For example, work in medical research for the year, do some really interesting medically related volunteer work, etc.

    What about LORs? Has she had a chance to get to know her profs well enough to get strong LORs?
  • TatinGTatinG Registered User Posts: 5,492 Senior Member
    She has worked in a research lab on campus for three years, two years with the same doctor on the same study. She can get a good LOR from him. The other LORs would come from professors.

    She has worked in a pain clinic also but its more research than patient care. She thinks she needs more time to volunteer at a clinic or something like that to round out her application.

    The other alternative would be to get a minor in cognitive science to add to the biology major. Or go for a Master's Degree.

    Somehow graduating early just seems like a mistake to me.

    Anyone have any experience graduating in three years and using the off year for something else?
  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon Registered User Posts: 12,128 Senior Member
    One way of looking at it would be to have her cake and eat it, too. Why not stay the extra year and fill it with mind and world view expanding courses (with well "vetted" professors ;)) and have the time to do the clinical exposure without what must have been a heavy science-laden/research driven schedule like she had the first 3 years?
  • TatinGTatinG Registered User Posts: 5,492 Senior Member
    That is what I am trying to tell her to do. It would also give her a chance to do a Senior Honors Thesis.

    Does anyone know if graduating in 3 years looks bad to the med school admissions people?
  • Bartleby007Bartleby007 Registered User Posts: 494 Member
    Med schools won't care that your daughter graduated from college in 3 years (if that's what she chooses to do). It's neither a "positive" nor a "minus" on her app.

    That being said, what's the rush? :-)

    Admissions committees do care about GPA (particularly in science courses), MCAT scores, community service/extracurricular involvement, enthusiasm/motivation, and maturity.

    It's worth noting that if she stuck around for a 4th year, she'd be able to take interesting upper-level courses with low faculty-to-student ratios -- something that most students look forward to, particularly at a large UC school. She might also be able to undertake a more independent, more "substantial" basic science research project. She may find that experience more fulfilling than what she has done in the lab so far.

    I would caution your daughter from embarking on a year of volunteer work just to increase the strength of her med school app. That's a significant time investment...and, if the primary drive isn't to help people, she may end up being rather unhappy.
  • limabeanslimabeans Registered User Posts: 4,751 Senior Member
    I'm glad that your DD is so very focused towards her goal. But what about getting involved in the school where she attends? Has she had a chance to get involved in any clubs or volunteering that's not med school related? Has she taken non-sciencey courses?
    Does anyone know if graduating in 3 years looks bad to the med school admissions people?
    I am no expert in this area, but I have heard that med schools are much more apt to accept someone who is older and nontraditional than a 20 year old.
  • i_wanna_be_Browni_wanna_be_Brown Registered User Posts: 7,837 Senior Member
    while graduating in 3 years might be a negative if one's goal is to go straight to med school, OP's daughter is planning on a gap year, so she would be the same age as someone who graduated in 4 and went straight through. I therefore think that in this case it won't make a difference, but my personal preference would be to do what was described above: take advantage of a 4th, more relaxed year. Once you get into medical school, all academic freedom is lost and you simply won't have time to learn/explore things that aren't related to medicine. College is the last chance to learn something cool just for the sake of learning something cool.
  • kristin5792kristin5792 Registered User Posts: 2,068 Senior Member
    I was in a similar position a few years ago in that had I busted my butt slightly more during junior year, I could have completed everything then and graduated a year early. I opted to stay for my senior year, and holy cow was it great.

    I'm going to assume she's a bright student and is happy at her school (meaning she has friends, a nice place to live, has enjoyed being involved, etc). There's something to be said for being a senior with your friends, for getting to take those random upper-level classes just for fun (eg my senior thesis was about the 1918 flu pandemic, and the 15-person class was taught by one of the most brilliant scientists on campus), for continuing to build relationships with professors and mentors who can go to bat for you on your LORs, for taking advantage of time-sucking things you couldn't do when you had lots of academic requirements (eg I had an internship at the state capitol, 30min away, working on health policy with a state rep), for taking that bartending class and working weekends at a college bar (a real class at my school!), for building up your leadership experience with various extracurriculars, for going to one more season of basketball games, etc etc etc.

    Now don't get me wrong, I love med school. It is a dream come true for a smart kid who wants to be a doctor. I love learning the things that I do, the environment is incredible, my friends are awesome, etc. But it is a ton of WORK. It sucks all of your time up. There is very little time to do things that aren't med school. There's very little time to hang out with people who aren't med students. You can't really take classes that sound cool or learn how to rock climb or go to all the football games or pick up a health policy internship because it might be interesting.

    She's in a great position to craft a senior year that will be fun, interesting, and useful now that all the required junk is out of the way. I completely agree with the above posters about taking the year and just enjoying it--plus, I imagine living up your senior year at school will be a helluva lot more fun than moving back in with mom and pop to go volunteer full time somewhere ;)

    Would adcoms care? Who knows. You'd go crazy if you were trying to live your life so adcoms approved of it. Heck some of the most exciting parts of my college career had absolutely nothing to do with premed requirements and instead were things that I thought sounded cool so I gave it a shot.

    She worked hard for an easy year! Time to reap the benefits.
  • TatinGTatinG Registered User Posts: 5,492 Senior Member
    She has taken non-science classes to complete her graduation requirements. She has to take another quarter of English (which she dreads). She would rather take an advanced honors chemistry class than an 'easy' humanities class. To her OChem is a much more interesting class than English literature. So branching out into other areas really doesn't interest her.

    I'm still trying to talk her out of it. The campus offers some clinical volunteer programs through the university. She can do more research as a senior for a senior thesis. She does love the campus and has lots of friends.

    (She didn't take rock climbing, but she did take surfing, ha).
  • somemomsomemom Registered User Posts: 10,472 Senior Member
    Does her campus offer any internships- working with the local homeless or perhaps working with a doctor who helps the sports teams etc?
  • i_wanna_be_Browni_wanna_be_Brown Registered User Posts: 7,837 Senior Member
    well you can't take advanced Ochem in med school either...
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,569 Senior Member
    Note that she has other choices, in that she can finish in 3+1/3 or 3+2/3 years, as well as 3 or 4 years (assuming a quarter system school). She could spend the "extra time" taking whatever free elective courses she wants (advanced chemistry?) or courses which may prove to be useful in a medical career (statistics, social studies, courses about language and culture of immigrant ethnic groups, economics and business, physical education academics, etc.).
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    As an input if it is helpful at all, my D. was in combined program. Her program specifically did not allow them to take les than 4 years in UG and less than 5 years in case of engineering major (they did not care what major at all). So, instead of graduating earlier, D. had 2 minors, no single summer classs and she did all of her EC's during school year, so basically she had relaxing summers with her HS firends with very few EC's that she was able to get into in a summer.

    On the other hand, there are plenty of combined programs that are 3+4 or even 2+4, but it is different as they go straight to Med. School (my D. applied out). Accelerated combined programs as they are called usually reguire to take up to 21 hrs and no summers off. It is all very different.
    I would contact adcoms of potential Med. Schools with this question and do what they say.
  • Bartleby007Bartleby007 Registered User Posts: 494 Member
    I'm not sure what med schools some of the posters in this thread have attended.

    I found that I had ample time, during my first 2 years of med school (preclinical at my school), to pursue non-medical interests. I learned how to rock climb, took up scuba diving, and trained for a marathon. In contrast, the 3rd year of med school (clinical rotations) took 100% dedication in terms of mental and physical effort to do well. The 4th year of med school (clinical electives) was a return to regular hours, for the most part.

    Certain med schools have different approaches to the preclinical curriculum. Last I checked, Duke, for example, crams the 2 preclinical years into 1 year. This frees up students to do an MPH or a significant research project...and still graduate with an M.D. in 4 years.

    Once med school starts it's not the end of your life. :-)

    Your daughter can certainly graduate from college in 3 years, go straight to med school, and have a successful medical career. In fact, if she wants to have a family someday, it might be advantageous to take the fast-track through medical training.

    For what it's worth, I've never heard of a med school admissions committee being impressed by a student who graduated from college in 3 years. Bear in mind that the vast majority of "smart" kids enter college with enough AP credits to approximate "sophomore" standing.
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    "I found that I had ample time, during my first 2 years of med school (preclinical at my school), to pursue non-medical interests. "
    -Not the case with my D. at all. No time whatsoever. it does not mean that she does not participate, she does in more than most others. But she has no time to even call us while walking home from classes. She usually goes over material in hear while walking. Her good breaks are doing dishes (no dish washer) and doing laundry. She participates in musical, tutoring of HS kids in her area, interviews Med. School applicants, president of religious organization, she went abroad after first year, she visits her UG and us back home, but it is nowhere near what she was doing during school year at UG.
This discussion has been closed.