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College Freshman Seeking Guidance

bionaturebionature Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
Hi, first of all I apologize if this is the wrong forum.. It felt somewhat appropriate in my predicament however, any advice helps...

I'm currently a freshman in college and plan on majoring in Biology and I want to go to Medical school for Neurology.
My current class setup is of the following:
Biology 160 lec/lab
English 101
Math 121 (I'm not the best at math)
Psychology 101
and i'm on the edge about adding Chemistry 130 lec/lab to the mix as well. (18 credit hours, 14 without chem)

Are there any Medical students or Biology majors out there that can tell me whether or not these courses are a good idea or if I should major in something else for what I plan to do in Medical school? I'm considering the option to fulfill 18 credit hours because these are relatively basic courses as a freshman.. But I don't see myself taking more than 14 or 15 in my later years.

Anything helps, thank you.

Replies to: College Freshman Seeking Guidance

  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,630 Senior Member
    Until you get a good feel for the amount of work college courses take, do not add any additional courses to your current schedule. You have 2 time intensive classes already (bio, calc), one of which you admit that you may have difficulty with. It's all too easy to dig yourself into a GPA hole that will take years to get out of by overdoing your first semester.

    However, I would check the bio department's webpage to see if gen chem is a pre-req for any upper level bio classes you'll be taking next year. (I know at both D1's and D2's colleges, things like genetics, immunology and molecular biology require completing gen chem first.) If it is, then you'll need to reconsider your schedule.

    Your major doesn't matter w/r/t med schools admission. Really. Truly it doesn't. Pick a major you like and, more importantly, one that you will do well in. Also consider if your major will offer you a Plan B career should you not gain an acceptance to med school.

  • bionaturebionature Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    edited July 2016

    Well the thing is I'm working very minimally..only weekends if possible. So I believe I can achieve this 18 credit hour schedule's demands. I was planning on trying to knock out math as fast as possible by completing the first year, and then knocking out a summer course to ease my load next year.

    Prior to going to my current institute, I was at a CC where I completed a semester of Psych 101 and ENG 101 already and passed with flying colors.. So those don't worry me a single bit (unfortunately the credits didn't transfer) and also, I have a lot of extra time to dedicate to my studies.

    I'm sorry for the 'newbie' questions, but this I feel like this is the best place to ask and find credible answers to things I'm still learning about this path.. Does med school require clinical experience? If so, where would be a good place to start (and how many hours)? Especially with me having no certificates or experience. Also I read through the threads and saw something pertaining to research. Does research come with coursework or is it something done independently? If so, how do you recommend I go about starting that and what general area would be a good candidate for my research?

    Also, I've been back and forth between Biology and Neurobiology, so we'll see which area seems best as time progresses.

    Thank you so much for the information you provided by the way, greatly appreciated.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,630 Senior Member
    edited July 2016
    Does med school require clinical experience?
    Absolutely. Not everyone is cut out to work with the sick, injured, dying, the elderly demented, the mentally ill, the chronically ill, the physically disabled and their families. Med school adcomms want evidence that you understand what you're signing up for.
    If so, where would be a good place to start (and how many hours)?
    There are so many places you can volunteer: hospital, stand alone clinic (free public clinic, Planned Parenthood, Healthcare for the Homeless, etc), nursing home, group home for the mentally ill or physically disabled, rehab hospital, hospice, cancer treatment center.... There's even some valuable experience to be gained by working on crisis (suicide prevention, rape) hotlines--though you'll still need direct, hands-on patient experience.

    The number of hours is less important than what you learn from the experience of working there. But you should have enough hours to demonstrate that you're serious about working with vulnerable populations.

    Most volunteer jobs require no certification or prior experience, but may require a background check, a TB test and proof of current vaccinations.

    You can also gain clinical experience through paid employment. CNA and EMT both require certification, but dietary aide and home healthcare assistant do not.
    Does research come with coursework or is it something done independently? If so, how do you recommend I go about starting that and what general area would be a good candidate for my research?

    Research can be clinical or laboratory. It's done outside of class requirements so in that sense it's done independently, but you will be working under the direct supervision of members of your research group. Typically you'll start out doing basic, repetitive tasks--like caring for animals or doing inventories or taking one measurement over and over and over. Once you gain more experience within the lab and you've demonstrated your reliability & commitment, you'll be trained to take on more complex tasks. Depending on your level interest in research, you may even eventually develop your own independent project.

    Your research can be in any area. It doesn't necessarily have to relate directly to medicine. (My older daughter was a physics major who did research in medium energy particle physics. It didn't prevent her from getting into med school.....)

    You get started in research by asking your professors--or other professors at your college whose work interests you-- if they will take you on as a volunteer. Treat finding a research position like finding a job--research what projects various professors are working on, read about their work, contact them in person or via email in professional manner and have a CV that highlights any special skills/training, your academic achievements/coursework and any prior work history ready to give to them.

    It can sometimes difficult for freshmen to find lab positions because they lack any useful lab skills, even the most basic lab safety skills. Many professors prefer students who have completed a semester or two of basic science labs. So don't feel that you must find lab position right away.

  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 38,272 Senior Member
    edited July 2016
    Stick to the 14 credit schedule. If your school requires a 'kinesiology'(physical activity) credit take it if you wish.
    Keep in mind it's not rare for your first grade in the bio class to be in the 70's, 60's, or even 50's. Yes, I'm talking about straight A student in high school. You have to up your game considerably. Serious premeds can shoot their GPA irrevocably by taking on too much their first semester. Take bio 2 and chemistry 1 in the spring. You'll be ahead compared to other premeds who took on too much and
    Remember it's not a matter of rushing through things. You can't accelerate college for med school. Your schedule is already assumed to be most rigorous. What they want is you being top 10-15% in every class you take, when only the top 10-20% students attend. You can calculate how much more difficult than high school hat is. The rules have changed compared to high school. You 'know'it, but you won't actually 'know' until you're steeped in.
    If you find yourself with time on our hands, invest that time in your research lab.
    The reason your dual enrollment credits weren't transferred is likely because your college's classes are significantly more difficult than our community college 's, so don't assume it'll be a piece of cake.
    If it's easy, enjoy - you won't have too many easy semesters. Take advantage of that opportunity to work on emt certification, to give your lab more and more hours so that you can get more responsibility faster, etc.
  • Jugulator20Jugulator20 Registered User Posts: 1,412 Senior Member
    If neurology is your goal, nothing wrong with your goal. S started college with neurology goal (which by the way I think involves 4 years residency training post med school to reach your goal). S changed his mind in second year of med school. As you really only want to apply to med school one time, you should think more short term with focus on actually getting into med school as opposed to what pathway you’ll go down post med school. In other words do you plan on applying to med school at end of third or fourth year of college? Depending on when you plan to apply you need to produce a competitive app by that point in time which will include the usual suspects (eg competitive GPAs, MCATs, ECs, etc). Do you plan on having a college life?

    As to 18 hours: a lot of premeds see their med school plans fade away in rear view mirror by biting off too much their first year, ending up discouraged with low GPAs. I think there is something to be said for tapping on the brakes freshman year and just end up year having done well GPA wise. IMO I’d skip the lab. Good luck.
  • bionaturebionature Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    You are all amazingly helpful. I decided to drop Biology for my first year because I feel having Chemistry done atleast a year in first, it'd in a way help me with Bio a bit more..and also I would rather take Bio 181 than 160.

    Thank you @WayOutWestMom you really did clear up a lot of fuzzy information for me.
    @Jugulator20 I'm planning on applying after my fourth year.

    As a final question, the reason I didn't mention it in the beginning is because I personally don't think it's an issue or will be an issue when the time comes for applying for med school..But for my first two years I'm attending a good community college where I live, this won't deter my chances in a sense of schools looking for competitiveness will it?

    Thanks again for the great comments.
  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 9,630 Senior Member
    edited July 2016
    Good plan. The required chem sequence is longer than the required bio sequence for med school admission (5 vs. 2 semesters)

    RE: community college. There are a handful medical schools that will not accept CC credits for pre-reqs. (VCU, Creighton, right off the top of my head. Maybe a few others.) Adcoms understand financial realities that some applicants face puts a 4 year college out of reach for the first 2 years.

    Note, however, that many med school expect to see/require additional upper level coursework in bio & chem after you transfer to your 4 year college in order to accept the CC pre-reqs.

    After you transfer to your 4 year college, the onus is on you to reinforce your CC grades by earning those As in your upper level sciences. Having a great GPA at the CC, then having your GPA drop at the 4 year will cause adcom members to question the rigor of your CC classes and will make you a less competitive applicant.

  • icuinNmicuinNm Registered User Posts: 125 Junior Member
    My D had lots of the same questions two years ago when she was starting college. I am by no means an expert, but maybe this info will help you. Here are some things she did:

    * Started out taking Chem first. The first Chem class was a requirement for the first Bio class

    * She took 16 credit hours (including calculus and chemistry her first semester and got all A's. I'm not suggesting that you do that because you want to protect your GPA, but for some people it's doable. Her scholarship requires a minimum of 15 hours a semester which is what you'll need in order to graduate in 4 years, but you always have the option of taking classes in the summer to catch up. I do think that 18 credits is a lot though.

    * Regarding clinical experience, D volunteered at a clinic for the underserved and was able to answer questions about filling out flu shot forms, provide water and magazines for those waiting to see a doctor, and was able to schedule some doctor shadowing time (also a requirement for med school) outside of her volunteer hours. She now volunteers at a hospital in the children's area where she sits with kids and plays games with them and holds/rocks the babies. You want to look for volunteer work that gives you patient contact in order for it to count as clinical experience, which was a bit of a challenge to find at first.

    *Regarding research -- you might want to wait a year or so before doing research so that you have time to get some chemistry, biology and perhaps statistics credits with a basic understanding of concepts. D was accepted into a paid summer research program this summer, but hit dead ends trying to find a research position as a freshman. Her work will be published and she'll be doing a poster presentation in August. The summer research program opened more doors for her where she'll have a paid research position during the school year, and hopefully she will get funded to attend a conference out of state to present her research poster again. These programs don't typically accept freshman. D was lucky to get in as a sophomore as most spots are given to juniors and seniors. There are literally hundreds of paid summer research programs across the country that you can apply to later on. They are very competitive, but D was accepted with no prior research experience (and she's not URM), so the possibility is there. Just apply broadly when the time comes, keep your grades up, and try to get a volunteer research position your sophomore or junior year. Having research isn't a requirement for med school, but it does help you learn about research which you will be doing in med school. Having research experience would help you be a more competitive applicant.

    Is Math 121 College Algebra or is it Calculus? If it's College Algebra, you might have to finish that class first before you can take the first chemistry class required for pre-med. So make sure you will be taking a Chem or Bio class at your cc that will count for pre-med. Lower level Chem and Bio won't count towards pre-med requirements.
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    Talk to pre-med advisor at your college. They are the most familiar with specifics of the classes at your UG and how students handle them.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 83,930 Forum Champion
    want to go to Medical school for Neurology.

    are a good idea or if I should major in something else for what I plan to do in Medical school

    You don't focus on a specialty in med school. That will happen after med school.

    Your major in college has nothing to do with what goes on in med school.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 83,930 Forum Champion
    o fulfill 18 credit hours because these are relatively basic courses as a freshman.. But I don't see myself taking more than 14 or 15 in my later years

    Taking 18 credits as a fall frosh is asking for trouble.

    However, you need to take a full load 15+ credits each semester during later years to demonstrate to med schools that you can handle a full load.
  • MiamiDAPMiamiDAP Registered User Posts: 16,184 Senior Member
    My D. was taking 18 - 19 credits in the first 2 years. You will need a lighter schedule in Junior year - for MCAT preparation. You also will need a lighter schedule in senior year - for medical schools interviews. Also, you may need to be prepared for medical schools' changing requirements. One of D's medical schools added 2 required classes after D. applied and registered for her fall semester. As a result, she had to drop one of her minors and completely change her fall registration. She had some room for this, because her schedule was on a lighter side in senior year.
    However, if you are engineering major, 18 hours may be too much. It also depends on the amount of the ECs that you are engaged during school year.
    D. had a rule though. No matter how many credits she took, she would have only 2 very hard classes / semester with the balance of her schedule being easier classes. Only you can categorize your classes on hard - easy scale. And pre-med advisory can help you with this. From what I see, the only hard class is Bio. You may think differently though. English is very time consuming though. It is not hard, but you will be spending lots of time reading novels. Again, if you are a fast reader, than it is nothing for you.
    However, D. never had 14 hours, the lowest was either 15 or 16, I do not remember. She graduated with the Music minor and was 2 classes short of completing the Neurosciences minor.
  • artloversplusartloversplus Registered User Posts: 8,393 Senior Member
    My D was involved in UG bio research for two full years before she changed her course to prepare for med school application. Here is my input on research:

    As WOWM said, research is an activity outside of classroom and its like a part time job aside from classes/lab work. My D was paid for her involvement in research, but it could be volunteering. Most likely you find research opportunities in your college and if your college has an teaching hospital, there will be more opportunities than a LAC or a vocational focused college. For example, Williams will have less bio research opportunities than Harvard. Outside research opportunities are VERY difficult to get even in the summer, because teaching hospitals prefer students from their own school who may continue their contributions after the summer is over.

    All in all, research is less important in Med School application, unless you are applying for MD/PHD programs. High GPA and MCAT, Shadowing and clinical experiences are FAR more important for med school applicants. So, do not spend a lot of efforts to seek for research positions, perhaps a summer or a summer plus a semester is enough.

    When looking for research opportunities, look for independent small subject with an opportunity to publish a paper on your own. Don't get in a lab with 5 PHDs in charge of 15 staff members, as an UG student, you will become a clerical staff or a lab technician and you will get less accomplishments.
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