My answer is yes and no.
The post bacc years are very much like college, but you definitely work really hard because your grades matter a lot for your medical school application. Hopefully you’ll be really excited about the coursework because you’re excited to get into the sciences. It can be hard to adjust to a student lifestyle again after whatever previous career you were in, but again, it should be a really positive thing for you if you’re excited about the idea of medical school.
Med school, however, is hard. It’s not necessarily the concepts that are difficult, but rather the speed at which they feed it to you. There is a lot to learn! Medical school is really fun and what we are learning is fascinating, but it’s a lot of work!
I usually don’t think too much about the fact that I took a different route to medical school than most of my classmates. Day to day it doesn’t affect anything. However, I do sometimes realize that these science courses just don’t come as easily to me. I did well in science in high school, but after that it was totally off my radar. Changing directions and deciding on medical school at age 25 meant diving into science courses after many years away and that can show up in my familiarity and ease with med school coursework.
The required premedical courses are (and this has changed since my post bacc due to the new MCAT):
- 2 semesters of physics + lab
- 2 semesters of general chemistry + lab
- At least 1 semester of organic chemistry (often 2) + lab
- At least 1 semester of biochemistry (new)
- 2 semesters of biology + lab
- Humanities courses (new)
- Often 2 semesters of math
- Often english/writing courses
However, people that are dedicated pre-medical majors in college usually end up taking far more sciences than that. It’s different for each person, and dependent on their specific major, but often medical students have taken previous higher level courses in:
- developmental biology
- human physiology
- bio statistics
In a post bacc program you only take the bare minimum requirements I listed first. So, compared to a premedical student that has taken more higher level science courses, the medical school material often just isn’t as familiar to me. I am as prepared as I need to be, but many things that are brand new to me are second or third time through for my classmates. That just means it takes more studying on my part to get it.
Some classes or intense lectures can be overwhelming to me, and I occasionally realize that other people probably aren’t as concerned about how much there is to learn. Sometimes my friends ask me about what I’ve learned before and mention the material must be more difficult for me. I just try to give myself a little grace when I’m feeling stressed and then focus and put in the work.
It doesn’t make a huge difference in general. Everyone studies for different amounts of time anyway, we are pass/fail during the classroom years (highly recommended when deciding on a med school!) and I do what I need to do. I’m fascinated by what I’m learning and I remind myself that I get to learn not have to learn when it starts to feel like a burden.
Don’t forget – there are a lot of positives to being a career change medical student too. Your previous “real world” experience will show up in how you handle the stress, interact with patients, participate in extracurricular activities, and more!
- Do sciences come easily to you?
- What was your favorite subject in school?