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34-Year Old Dad Seeking Advice

Kool Dad

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Apr 20, 2010
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  1. Pre-Medical
Greetings SDN Community!

After some long talks with my wife and kids, we've collectively made the decision for me to take the plunge into the path of becoming a physician. I'm hoping you can help me by providing guidance to strengthen my application. I plan on applying in a year or two depending on what is needed to strengthen my application.

Below, I've organized the high-level status of my application as it stands now:

The Rationale for Medical School
Medical school has been something I've always wanted to pursue and I'm finally at a place of balance and maturity to take on this challenge.

Post-Bachelor Degree Overview
I graduated with my bachelor's degree in Biology when I was 27 back in 2013. I have 15 years of work experience and the relevant experience is broken down below. I also just finished my MBA from an online college, which does core competency-based education, so there is no GPA.

GPA
I graduated with a 2.6 GPA. I have all the course requirements for medical school, but it's been 7+ years since I have taken my courses.

My understanding is that I have four options to combat the low GPA and long gap:
1. Enroll in full Post-Bacc program
2. Retake selective classes
3. Take new higher-level science courses
4. Do nothing and rely on my MCAT scores and other parts of the application

MCAT
I did not take this yet so wish me luck!

Relevant Medical, Volunteer, and/or Research Experience
- Shadowed an internal medicine doctor (DO) in practice and in the hospital for 40 hours in 2007
- Shadowed a cardiologist for an Angioplasty procedure in 2007
- Worked as a direct care counselor with developmentally challenged adults for 3 years starting in 2009
- Worked as a telemetry tech in a telemetry unit in a hospital for a year starting in 2012
- Worked as a med tech in cancer diagnostics for a year starting in 2013
- Worked as a bench scientist in vaccine research for 1.5 years starting in 2014
- Worked as a consultant supporting the build of an electronic health record system collaborating with doctors and nurses for 6 months starting in 2016
- Currently working as a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry overseeing the development of early phase CNS and oncology compounds

To build upon my medical experience/interest, I plan on shadowing physicians in different specialties.

Strengths
- Maturity and skills that comes from life and work experience

Weakness
- Low GPA
- The long gap between relevant courses for medical school

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My next steps are as follows:
1. Make a decision on how to overcome the weak GPA
2. Shadow various physicians
3. Study and take MCAT
4. Apply to medical school when ready

Any help with identifying gaps in my application, feedback, criticism, and/or direction is greatly appreciated!

Regards,

A 34-year-old dad who hopes to make his beautiful wife and two wonderful kids proud by fulfilling his dream of becoming a physician.
 
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lumya

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You will definitely need to raise your science GPA to at least a 3.0 to prevent your application from being automatically screened out. Check out Goro's guide for reinvention. It's a great resource about your options to raise your GPA as well as what types of courses you should re-take vs leave alone. Keep in mind that some schools have a 5 year cut off for pre-requisites while others have 10 years so it will just depend on the school.

Your other next steps make sense and are things you should do. Shadowing more recent is necessary and so is volunteering (clinical and non-clinical). There's a lot of resources out there for studying the MCAT and people on SDN have drafted study plans. Best of luck!
 
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JanetSnakehole

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You’ll also need lots more nonclinical/community service experience - at least 150 hours by the time you apply, but preferably as many as possible. Find the cause nearest and dearest to your heart and start putting in those hours. For me, it was Best Buddies and homeless outreach. If your kids are old enough, get them involved too and then it becomes a fun way to spend a Saturday as a family.

It sounds like you know your GPA is your biggest hurdle, but your advantage is that many years have passed since your last academic struggles. Get all As in your retakes/grade repair postbac classes, do as well as you possibly can on the MCAT (508+ for DO, 510+ to add MD schools) and you should be competitive.

DO needs to be the primary focus with your GPA, but MD schools (especially your state program(s)) are not totally out of reach if you score highly on your MCAT.
 
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Kool Dad

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Apr 20, 2010
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You’ll also need lots more nonclinical/community service experience - at least 150 hours by the time you apply, but preferably as many as possible. Find the cause nearest and dearest to your heart and start putting in those hours. For me, it was Best Buddies and homeless outreach. If your kids are old enough, get them involved too and then it becomes a fun way to spend a Saturday as a family.

It sounds like you know your GPA is your biggest hurdle, but your advantage is that many years have passed since your last academic struggles. Get all As in your retakes/grade repair postbac classes, do as well as you possibly can on the MCAT (508+ for DO, 510+ to add MD schools) and you should be competitive.

DO needs to be the primary focus with your GPA, but MD schools (especially your state program(s)) are not totally out of reach if you score highly on your MCAT.
That's amazing, thank you! I already have ideas on what to focus on :)
 
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esob

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If you are really stuck on getting an MD vs a DO, you will need to consider something drastic like relocating to someplace that has an academic fresh start program (like TX) or taking a ton of classes to raise your GPA. With a 3.0 and a stellar MCAT you would probably have decent success with DO schools, but unless you are a URM or have some weird stellar fact in your background (Olympian, Secret Service, etc) then your GPA is toxic even for your state school. In the current environment where step I has become P/F, I think we are going to see a shift to an even stronger focus on GPA. No matter how good the idea of holistic review sounds on paper, at the end of the day when you have to rank 5K applications, you need something tangible to do that with.

That said, there is nothing wrong with going to DO school, as they are great physicians, but I do know that some of the older non trads can get really hung up on those two letters after their name.
 
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Kool Dad

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Apr 20, 2010
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  1. Pre-Medical
If you are really stuck on getting an MD vs a DO, you will need to consider something drastic like relocating to someplace that has an academic fresh start program (like TX) or taking a ton of classes to raise your GPA. With a 3.0 and a stellar MCAT you would probably have decent success with DO schools, but unless you are a URM or have some weird stellar fact in your background (Olympian, Secret Service, etc) then your GPA is toxic even for your state school. In the current environment where step I has become P/F, I think we are going to see a shift to an even stronger focus on GPA. No matter how good the idea of holistic review sounds on paper, at the end of the day when you have to rank 5K applications, you need something tangible to do that with.

That said, there is nothing wrong with going to DO school, as they are great physicians, but I do know that some of the older non trads can get really hung up on those two letters after their name.
Thank you for the input! When I stated, " I already have ideas on what to focus on", I was referring to nonclinical volunteer ideas and not with the DO vs. MD title.

I did the math and if I retake 2 courses and add 4 science classes with the assumption I get all As, it brings my sGPA to a 3.0 even. I'm hoping accomplishing that would help overcome the GPA issue.

Thank you again!
 
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lumya

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  1. Medical Student
Thank you for the input! When I stated, " I already have ideas on what to focus on", I was referring to nonclinical volunteer ideas and not with the DO vs. MD title.

I did the math and if I retake 2 courses and add 4 science classes with the assumption I get all As, it brings my sGPA to a 3.0 even. I'm hoping accomplishing that would help overcome the GPA issue.

Thank you again!
When you did your calculations, did you count re-takes as replacing the grades or averaging them? Medical schools no longer let you replace your grades which is why esob recommended somewhere with academic fresh start. Taking 6 classes might not be enough to show a strong trajectory.
 
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D

deleted1005514

Thank you for the input! When I stated, " I already have ideas on what to focus on", I was referring to nonclinical volunteer ideas and not with the DO vs. MD title.

I did the math and if I retake 2 courses and add 4 science classes with the assumption I get all As, it brings my sGPA to a 3.0 even. I'm hoping accomplishing that would help overcome the GPA issue.

Thank you again!

That would be a start, but as another poster said, make sure you’re averaging the grades with your old grades, not replacing them. That was phased out several years ago.

You should ideally be able to show a few semesters of upper level coursework with high grades. I believe 30 hrs is the current recommendation for reinventors.
 
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Kool Dad

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When you did your calculations, did you count re-takes as replacing the grades or averaging them? Medical schools no longer let you replace your grades which is why esob recommended somewhere with academic fresh start. Taking 6 classes might not be enough to show a strong trajectory.
Good thing you told me that; I was going off of old knowledge with that calculation. Recalculating based on no replacement, I'd have to take 10-12 classes and get all A's to touch a 3.0s GPA, assuming that is my goal.

I may need to consider completing a full program in order to overcome this GPA issue...

Relocating to Texas is your best guaranteed shot of gaining admission because by law, they shield your classes that are 10 years old or older.
Thank you for the feedback. I wish that was an option, but family obligations prevent me from leaving the New Jersey area, which is another constraint I need to around.

That would be a start, but as another poster said, make sure you’re averaging the grades with your old grades, not replacing them. That was phased out several years ago.

You should ideally be able to show a few semesters of upper level coursework with high grades. I believe 30 hrs is the current recommendation for reinventors.
Thanks again. Looks like I have my work cut out for me! I've already started evaluating courses and I'm planning on taking them at the state college I graduated at, which is connected to a medical school.
 
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esob

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Good thing you told me that; I was going off of old knowledge with that calculation. Recalculating based on no replacement, I'd have to take 10-12 classes and get all A's to touch a 3.0s GPA, assuming that is my goal.

I may need to consider completing a full program in order to overcome this GPA issue...


Thank you for the feedback. I wish that was an option, but family obligations prevent me from leaving the New Jersey area, which is another constraint I need to around.


Thanks again. Looks like I have my work cut out for me! I've already started evaluating courses and I'm planning on taking them at the state college I graduated at, which is connected to a medical school.

Don't worry too much if it extends your timeline. Most non-trads come into the process thinking it will be 1 or 2 years before they start medical school but the reality is much longer for most of us due to technical hurdles. I was counting on one year and it ended up being 3, but I still got here.
 
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Dave1980

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I don't really know you but I think you need to seriously consider if this long road is right for you and your family. If (and that's a big if) you get into med school you have 6 years of negative income, followed by 3-6 years of making what you do now until you make an Attending salary. It's a big risk medium reward scenario you are in from my perspective.
 
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QueenAudrey

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Just posting to wish you luck! If you are mentally prepared and have a strict pre-planned budget (and maybe a partner or sibling who is a "crazy coupon lady/man"), you can get through it. Plenty of people take out student loans. Why should it be any different if you're a parent? If anything, your years of financial maturity and hopefully awesome credit score would be an advantage to you. I believe you'll be setting a great example for your kids, who will watch you work hard to achieve your dreams in real-time.
 
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NonTradVince

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Another nontrad career-changer dad here. The collective wisdom I've gathered over the past three years since starting out on the switch is highly simplified below. It all comes down to one, simple question that your application must answer definitively:

Are you committed to and capable of being successful as a physician?

The following is the short list, descending by weight, for what I believe will prove the point beyond reasonable doubt and get you acceptances:

1) MCAT. Tear it up, the first time. Take it only when you're ready and score your best. Aim for > 510.
2) GPA. You may be auto-screened out by computers at < 3.0. Nail A's on everything you need to take/re-take and raise your GPA above the screen-out threshold.
3) Volunteer. Everyone needs something that stands out on their application. I've chosen this category for myself. By application time, I will have > 400 hrs. Again, that number of hours is unusually high but it's where I'm putting the few chips I can control at this point.
4) Shadow. The more, and more diversified, the better. Aim for > 60 hrs.
5) Letters of recommendation. These are highly underrated. Pony up with your undergrad/post-bacc university and absolutely use their graduate school Committee Letter option. This means all your letters of recommendation will go to that Committee, who will review them all and select the strongest bunch, sending off a composite package on your behalf to medical schools when you finally apply. Work on building up your sources for those letters of recommendation ASAP. You'll need a few from doctors, from professors at your university, and anyone else in-between. Build a big list then let your university's committee design your best hand. Beyond handling the composite recommendation package, your committee will be a valuable resource for all things medical school from now to acceptance. Further, most if not all committee's must offer their services for free to alumni.

Best of luck, take your time, and enjoy the journey!
 
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Jun 11, 2010
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Greetings SDN Community!

After some long talks with my wife and kids, we've collectively made the decision for me to take the plunge into the path of becoming a physician. I'm hoping you can help me by providing guidance to strengthen my application. I plan on applying in a year or two depending on what is needed to strengthen my application.

Below, I've organized the high-level status of my application as it stands now:

The Rationale for Medical School
Medical school has been something I've always wanted to pursue and I'm finally at a place of balance and maturity to take on this challenge.

Post-Bachelor Degree Overview
I graduated with my bachelor's degree in Biology when I was 27 back in 2013. I have 15 years of work experience and the relevant experience is broken down below. I also just finished my MBA from an online college, which does core competency-based education, so there is no GPA.

GPA
I graduated with a 2.6 GPA. I have all the course requirements for medical school, but it's been 7+ years since I have taken my courses.

My understanding is that I have four options to combat the low GPA and long gap:
1. Enroll in full Post-Bacc program
2. Retake selective classes
3. Take new higher-level science courses
4. Do nothing and rely on my MCAT scores and other parts of the application

MCAT
I did not take this yet so wish me luck!

Relevant Medical, Volunteer, and/or Research Experience
- Shadowed an internal medicine doctor (DO) in practice and in the hospital for 40 hours in 2007
- Shadowed a cardiologist for an Angioplasty procedure in 2007
- Worked as a direct care counselor with developmentally challenged adults for 3 years starting in 2009
- Worked as a telemetry tech in a telemetry unit in a hospital for a year starting in 2012
- Worked as a med tech in cancer diagnostics for a year starting in 2013
- Worked as a bench scientist in vaccine research for 1.5 years starting in 2014
- Worked as a consultant supporting the build of an electronic health record system collaborating with doctors and nurses for 6 months starting in 2016
- Currently working as a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry overseeing the development of early phase CNS and oncology compounds

To build upon my medical experience/interest, I plan on shadowing physicians in different specialties.

Strengths
- Maturity and skills that comes from life and work experience

Weakness
- Low GPA
- The long gap between relevant courses for medical school

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My next steps are as follows:
1. Make a decision on how to overcome the weak GPA
2. Shadow various physicians
3. Study and take MCAT
4. Apply to medical school when ready

Any help with identifying gaps in my application, feedback, criticism, and/or direction is greatly appreciated!

Regards,

A 34-year-old dad who hopes to make his beautiful wife and two wonderful kids proud by fulfilling his dream of becoming a physician.
I suggest the post-bac program. You'll get guidance and they should offer MCAT prep as well.

Read this as well:
Med School Rx: Getting In, Getting Through, and Getting On with Doctoring Original Edition by Walter Hartwig
ISBN-13: 978-1607140627
ISBN-10: 1607140624
 
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Kool Dad

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Apr 20, 2010
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*Edited to include one more response.

Don't worry too much if it extends your timeline. Most non-trads come into the process thinking it will be 1 or 2 years before they start medical school but the reality is much longer for most of us due to technical hurdles. I was counting on one year and it ended up being 3, but I still got here.
Thank you for the feedback! I'm currently prepared for 3 years, but my planning is targeting 2 years. To be honest, 3 years would be ideal to get enough courses to bring my GPA into the competitive range especially after finding out about the non-grade replacement.

I don't really know you but I think you need to seriously consider if this long road is right for you and your family. If (and that's a big if) you get into med school you have 6 years of negative income, followed by 3-6 years of making what you do now until you make an Attending salary. It's a big risk medium reward scenario you are in from my perspective.

Thank you for your response! I truly appreciate the candidness and I believe it’s really important for everyone pursuing medicine to really understand and be prepared for the financial impact, time commitment, and risks involved. I'm still learning more as I research and talk with people and continue to build on my understanding of the overall commitment.

My pursuit of this path is deeply personal and not for financial reasons.

Just posting to wish you luck! If you are mentally prepared and have a strict pre-planned budget (and maybe a partner or sibling who is a "crazy coupon lady/man"), you can get through it. Plenty of people take out student loans. Why should it be any different if you're a parent? If anything, your years of financial maturity and hopefully awesome credit score would be an advantage to you. I believe you'll be setting a great example for your kids, who will watch you work hard to achieve your dreams in real-time.

Thank you for your support! My wife and I spent the past few months going over and over the finances again and again. We’ve gone through God only knows how many scenarios regarding the financials and the time I will invest. This is a big commitment for the entire family and I'm so lucky that they're all on board after our many discussions.

Another nontrad career-changer dad here. The collective wisdom I've gathered over the past three years since starting out on the switch is highly simplified below. It all comes down to one, simple question that your application must answer definitively:



Are you committed to and capable of being successful as a physician?



The following is the short list, descending by weight, for what I believe will prove the point beyond reasonable doubt and get you acceptances:



1) MCAT. Tear it up, the first time. Take it only when you're ready and score your best. Aim for > 510.

2) GPA. You may be auto-screened out by computers at < 3.0. Nail A's on everything you need to take/re-take and raise your GPA above the screen-out threshold.

3) Volunteer. Everyone needs something that stands out on their application. I've chosen this category for myself. By application time, I will have > 400 hrs. Again, that number of hours is unusually high but it's where I'm putting the few chips I can control at this point.

4) Shadow. The more, and more diversified, the better. Aim for > 60 hrs.

5) Letters of recommendation. These are highly underrated. Pony up with your undergrad/post-bacc university and absolutely use their graduate school Committee Letter option. This means all your letters of recommendation will go to that Committee, who will review them all and select the strongest bunch, sending off a composite package on your behalf to medical schools when you finally apply. Work on building up your sources for those letters of recommendation ASAP. You'll need a few from doctors, from professors at your university, and anyone else in-between. Build a big list then let your university's committee design your best hand. Beyond handling the composite recommendation package, your committee will be a valuable resource for all things medical school from now to acceptance. Further, most if not all committee's must offer their services for free to alumni.



Best of luck, take your time, and enjoy the journey!

Thank you, fellow dad! I really appreciate the breakdown and it lines up with my current understanding.

What scares me the most is my GPA. I'm hoping my overall application can dominate that and I do plan to tackle as many courses as I can handle over the next 2 to 3 years.

I've already started to look into volunteer experience and my family is excited to join me! I'm so excited for the journey!

I suggest the post-bac program. You'll get guidance and they should offer MCAT prep as well.



Read this as well:

Med School Rx: Getting In, Getting Through, and Getting On with Doctoring Original Edition by Walter Hartwig

ISBN-13: 978-1607140627

ISBN-10: 1607140624

Thanks, @Goro! I’ve read a bunch of your posts and appreciate what you do for the community! I'll definitely take a look at the book.

At least for the next year, I plan on taking classes online at Harvard extension school before committing full-time in face-to-face classes. I am worried about the online classes, but I'm more worried about what is going on in the world now and it seems the medical schools are at least forgiving Spring and Summer online courses. For now, my wife and I decided that I should work for another year to build in some extra financial cushion, although we're still in the planning phase and working out the best action plan.
 
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*Edited to include one more response.


Thank you for the feedback! I'm currently prepared for 3 years, but my planning is targeting 2 years. To be honest, 3 years would be ideal to get enough courses to bring my GPA into the competitive range especially after finding out about the non-grade replacement.



Thank you for your response! I truly appreciate the candidness and I believe it’s really important for everyone pursuing medicine to really understand and be prepared for the financial impact, time commitment, and risks involved. I'm still learning more as I research and talk with people and continue to build on my understanding of the overall commitment.

My pursuit of this path is deeply personal and not for financial reasons.



Thank you for your support! My wife and I spent the past few months going over and over the finances again and again. We’ve gone through God only knows how many scenarios regarding the financials and the time I will invest. This is a big commitment for the entire family and I'm so lucky that they're all on board after our many discussions.



Thank you, fellow dad! I really appreciate the breakdown and it lines up with my current understanding.

What scares me the most is my GPA. I'm hoping my overall application can dominate that and I do plan to tackle as many courses as I can handle over the next 2 to 3 years.

I've already started to look into volunteer experience and my family is excited to join me! I'm so excited for the journey!



Thanks, @Goro! I’ve read a bunch of your posts and appreciate what you do for the community! I'll definitely take a look at the book.

At least for the next year, I plan on taking classes online at Harvard extension school before committing full-time in face-to-face classes. I am worried about the online classes, but I'm more worried about what is going on in the world now and it seems the medical schools are at least forgiving Spring and Summer online courses. For now, my wife and I decided that I should work for another year to build in some extra financial cushion, although we're still in the planning phase and working out the best action plan.
With the COVID crisis, you'll get some slack for going online
 
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Kool Dad

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You will need a VERY strong MCAT to knock out that GPA. People like you have succeeded with a GPA that low--it has been done and will be done again, but don't count on it.

/honest $.02.

Thank you for the feedback and the candidness. I really believe it is needed for anyone in my situation.

I used to give up when I heard this kind of feedback. I used to get angry at the people who gave me that feedback. I had a weak mental constitution and it led to the failures of my past. It took me years of failures to finally analyze the real meaning behind certain feedback and advice. In this case, only the stoic can conquer the arduous path.

I understand that I've dug myself into a deep hole. I don't intend to use my past as an excuse. I plan to use my past to drive my future.
 
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jhmmd

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Kool Dad said:
Thank you for the feedback and the candidness. I really believe it is needed for anyone in my situation.

I used to give up when I heard this kind of feedback. I used to get angry at the people who gave me that feedback. I had a weak mental constitution and it led to the failures of my past. It took me years of failures to finally analyze the real meaning behind certain feedback and advice. In this case, only the stoic can conquer the arduous path.

I understand that I've dug myself into a deep hole. I don't intend to use my past as an excuse. I plan to use my past to drive my future.
Best of luck :luck:
 
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Shotapp

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Thank you for the feedback and the candidness. I really believe it is needed for anyone in my situation.

I used to give up when I heard this kind of feedback. I used to get angry at the people who gave me that feedback. I had a weak mental constitution and it led to the failures of my past. It took me years of failures to finally analyze the real meaning behind certain feedback and advice. In this case, only the stoic can conquer the arduous path.

I understand that I've dug myself into a deep hole. I don't intend to use my past as an excuse. I plan to use my past to drive my future.
You got this man. There're a lot of us underdogs on here. Check out this thread for additional support.
 
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8YearsLate

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-I chose a DIY post-bacc over a formal post-bacc in the interest of being able to secure loans. However, as Goro mentioned, the formal post-bacc will be able to give you more specified support.
-How much you are able to raise your GPA will depend on how many credit hours you already have. To give you an idea, I started my pre-reqs with a bachelor's at 3.73, got a 3.8 all through the pre-reqs (14 A's and 3 B's) and now my GPA is a 3.75. So....REALLY do the math first. You do NOT want to get to that point and realize you're still below the threshold you need.
-Did your Master's help your GPA?
-You have a lot of awesome relevant experience. You may want to look into PA school, and I say that as a compliment - I did not have the long run of clinical hours / exposure that you did, nor did I feel confident in completing them in a timely manner. It is very competitive, and you will still need to bolster that GPA, it is a faster path to practicing medicine, with fewer prerequisites, no MCAT, and high quality-of-life, from what I understand. Not deterring you from the MD/DO route, but do the math on that one, too, and see if the cost-benefit analysis reveals a good option.
-Good luck!!
 
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