View Full Version : Bio and Orgo while working full time
02-28-2006, 03:51 PM
Now it's clear to me that i have to "ace" the MCAT in August and in the mean time complete some pre-reqs - namely, bio and orgo. The only difficulty is that most, if not all, schools require a lab component (which i think is fair). Any idea how I can complete this requirement while working full time? I know there is Athabasca U (I'm in Ottawa, so I have to fly over there for the labs!), and at OU or Carleton here. For that I have to skip work and attend classes and labs :\ , which is not impossible, but if there are better alternatives ...). UWaterloo offers those courses online; however, there is no lab component to it :eek
How ... how how ...
02-28-2006, 10:34 PM
I also had to spend some time doing those pesky bio and orgo prereqs while working full-time, and coincidentally, I was also in Ottawa. I had it a little easier, in a way, though because I was waitressing so although it was 40+ hours a week it was pretty workable around my schedule. Also, I did them during the academic year and had more times available, but I"m sure it's doable over the summer too. That said, there are some tricks I found useful...
I took my bio at ottawa and my orgo at Carleton because of the way the schedule worked out for me. You have to check to see if you're eligible to do classes (and how many) at each school because when I did it, I was told that if I hadn't been an Ottawa grad I wouldn't have been able to do the extra classes I did there. Just a heads-up. But if you can do one at one school and one at the other, it opens a lot of doors, scheduling-wise.
Secondly, while you can't really get away from the lab component with orgo, you sort of can with the bio. Depending on what kind of background you have and whether you're eligible for 200- and 300- level classes, you can actually get away from labs altogether...for instance, as one of my bio half-years I did 'ecology'. Boring as hell, but it fulfilled the prereq and no labs! That said, check with schools you're applying to to make sure that 'any bio' will do and that there are no conditions on that.
As for the orgo lab, you just can't get away from it. When I did a physics pre-req they had the three-hour lab at night, which was super-convenient, so if you can find a class at one of the two schools with that, you're good to go. If not, I"m afraid the best you'll be able to do is probably a 2-5 pm lab...not great, but short of flying to Athabasca I don't know another option.
I hope this helps a bit...sorry I can't help more. Oh, and one more thing, this time re:MCAT. If you don't have those pre-reqs (again, like I didn't when I was studying) everyone will tell you to take a course, like Kaplan or Princeton, which would definitely be a huge help. but it also eats up a lot of time and money, which I didn't have...now I don't know your situation, but what I did, and I would recommend it to anyone who needs a little help with the science MCAT stuff but is also willing to work on their own, is I got a tutor, once a week, for two hours. We went over everything I needed help with, and went through some tips and tricks, and then I practiced what we had done throughout the week. It worked great. If you go this route and if you can, the absolute best thing in the world is to get one of the Princeton or Kaplan people to tutor you....I was really lucky and I knew one through a mutual friend of a friend, and believe me they're more than happy to tutor you 'off the record' for a little less money that they get all for themselves...just a tip.
Hope this all helps! And sorry it was so long!
03-01-2006, 12:45 AM
Thanks a lot Gill for your detailed reply!! It helps a lot :D
I guess I have to juggle with work and class (probably at OU and Carleton).
I took the MCAT last August and ended up with 13PS, 9BS and 8VR. I spent 2 months studying the whole thing, and I wasn't surprised that I only get a 8 on VR and a 9 on BS. My background is electrical engineering, so the PS is something I can manage well (I only spent 2 weeks on both chem/phy and it was back in 1992 when I took those courses!). But ORGO! I haven't taken any courses in orgo, so it basically dragged down my BS section. Like you, i know of a friend's friend who is teaching MCAT stuff (and he is working for the government!). I haven't thought about the private tutoring until you've mentioned it. Come to think of it, i think it will suit me pretty well in terms of my needs (to + the VR and orgo) and my schedule.
Thanks again! :)
03-06-2006, 04:36 PM
I'm in a similar position as you in that I live in Ottawa and I am taking organic chemistry while working full time. However, due some conflicts that arose because of a trip that I had to reschedule, I have to finish both components of organic chemistry by the middle of May if I want them to be able to count as pre-requisites in the event that I get in next year (I have two interviews...fingers crossed!)
Anyway, I'm taking Athabasca and I find it really flexible, and the textbook is really good. As well, it allows me to schedule my exams whenever I want, and if for some reason you are not ready for an exam, you can reschedule it. I'm scheduled to do my labs in Edmonton from May 1 - May 7. Although initially this seemed like a really expensive way to do the lab component, I figured that it balances out in the sense that I'm not taking a condensed summer course that would cause me to lose out on work for two months, and I'm not having to schedule classes and labs around work time. I found some rooms at the University of Alberta residences that are only $35.00 a night and are on a bus route to the labs. For flights, there are a lot of airlines that offer cheap flights within Canada. As well, if you have to do biology labs you can always schedule them at the same time and get everything done in a couple weeks. Anyway, I recommend it for anyone who is working and trying to finish this course. If you have any questions, feel free to email me (email@example.com). Good luck on your courses and your mcats!
03-09-2006, 09:47 AM
I am seriously considering the Athabasca route now ... will email you for more details!
07-06-2006, 09:42 PM
I remember how overwhelming it was trying to study the Orgo stuff with no background in it. I had a couple of those comprehensive study guides (Kaplan, TPR) and when it came to the Orgo section, they basically said "Orgo is too complicated to teach here. Consult your orgo textbook or hire a tutor. Here are some formulae to memorize."
I would seriously seriously recommend acquiring the ExamKrackers Orgo chem guide (I forget whether it was its own guide or integrated into the chem or bio guides) - but I found it to be very useful to a non Org-head. They too acknowledged that they wouldn't be able to cover the bases, but that series is very useful at teaching you how to break down questions without needing to know everything about them. The books are a little more expensive than the other study guides, but if you can get them used or discounted on Amazon they're worth it - the colour copy really helped keep my attention, if you're the kind of person who likes a "fun" learning environment over a "just the facts" atmosphere. It won't help you meet the course requirement (for which I agree Athabasca or finding a night lab section are basically your options) but it certainly helps for the MCAT - especially if you're writing in August.
07-07-2006, 12:59 PM
Buy the text for the Organic Chem class you need as a prereq. Read the relevant sections ( buy Kaplan guide to know what is relevant) and do the problems. Simple. It's hard work but it works. Trying to learn Organic Chem without the in depth explanations of the principles offered in the text is crazy.
07-07-2006, 01:12 PM
As an alternative suggestion, I would try doing a sample bio section without studying organic at all, and see how you do. Depending on which schools you apply to, if you can get at least a 10 or so on the section that might be good enough, and you don't really need to know any organic chemistry to do that, if you can do well on the other sections and are a reasonably good test-taker. I hadn't taken an organic chemistry course, and didn't study the material at all, and ended up with an 11 in bio. And I had been doing substantially better than that in practice tests.
Imho, it's worth figuring out exactly what you would gain from learning organic (is it likely that your score would go up a lot? does that matter for the schools you want to apply to?) before investing a significant amount of time in learning the material. It may not be worth it.
Not sure if you know this, but the Athabasca Orgo course also offers the condensed lab component at McMaster University (Hamilton), which is obviously much closer than Edmonton. I'm considering going this route...
07-09-2006, 11:53 AM
I just wrote my MCAT in April and about 70% of the Bio Passages were Organic Chem. You'd be rolling the dice rather than doing the work by hoping you get a test with less organic on it. Not to mention the OP states they need organic as a prereq........
07-10-2006, 10:35 AM
I just wrote my MCAT in April and about 70% of the Bio Passages were Organic Chem. You'd be rolling the dice rather than doing the work by hoping you get a test with less organic on it.I agree, hoping for a specific distribution of MCAT passages is not a particularly good idea. But that's not at all what I suggested. There are a lot of people for whom learning organic chemistry will only result in a bump of a point or two in their scores, which may not matter at all in the context of their application. Spending the 100 hours (say) that it would take to learn organic may be better spent, in this case, improving other aspects of your application, or just having more time for other aspects of your life. Because the organic chemistry questions are largely passage-based, many of them can be answered without prior organic chemistry knowledge. For me, this was the case. I was consistently scoring above what I needed on practice tests, and taking the time to learn organic chemistry start to finish would have been a poor use of time. I'm sure that there are other people who have similar test-taking styles to me who also don't need to waste their time doing organic chemistry, just as I am sure that there are people who have dissimilar test-taking styles for whom studying organic would be an excellent use of time. All I am suggesting is that it is advantageous to take a couple hours to identify which type of person you are prior to investing a massive amount of time learning organic chemistry.
That isn't "rolling the dice rather than doing the work", it's being smart about how you use your time.
08-12-2006, 07:02 PM
It's been almost 4.x months since I last checked the forum!! With less than a week to go for the MCAT, I'm trying to "cool myself down" by reading what other people have to say here :D
I agree with Peachy ... the MCAT is as much about test-taking skills as knowledge (or maybe even more so). I guess that's what makes the exam so unique and challenging. If it's comprehension and analytical skills that they are after, then studying orgo to death is not as efficient as it may seem. Anyway, it's the last pencil and paper MCAT, and I am glad that there is no more spending my summer vacation days studying (I would choose one of the other 21 test dates for the Computer-based exam if I have to do it again :( )! My coworkers are all thinking that I am taking the coming week off relaxing and travelling :eek:
08-13-2006, 04:06 PM
I tried Athabasca Orgo, it didn't work for me. I had this useless phone tutor who was on a seemingly permanent vacation, and besides, explaining 3-D isomer structures over the phone is a pointless undertaking. I ended up deciding that a better grade is more important to me than the $3200 in student loans I'd have to repay after withdrawing from the course, and withdrew from it. I started my full-time job in mid-June (got my degree in May) and at the interview I did mention that my long-term plan is to go to med....luckily, my boss is very supportive of my goals. I work from 7 AM to 3 PM (with occasional overtime), and I found the perfect orgo class that runs from 10:50 to 11:50 - so basically during my lunch time. And then the lab starts at 4 - so technically, my boss doesn't even have to know that I'm taking a class. I told him anyway, and he approved it - but I think if there's more than one session offered at your local university, you should be able to find something that would work well with your work schedule. As far as labs go, at times you can find labs that are in the evening, like the one I got. Other times, I suggest that you contact the lab instructors and ask whether they'd be interested in replacing one of their day sessions with an evening session. A lot of times they are pretty open to suggestions, especially if several people express the same wishes. If you have some means of contact with people who are going to be in your lecture class, try asking them if they'd be interested in attending an evening lab. More likely than not, you will find a number of people large enough for the university to agree to switch one of their day sessions to evening.
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