Advice please! Raise uGPA or work/experience (clinical research)?

Nov 21, 2011
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Hi everyone! I just received my MCAT score and am now deciding what to do.

My question is: Should I do an informal post-bacc by taking classes at a 4-year university (I could get 2 quarters of good grades in before I submit my AMCAS application next June 2015) or should I continue my clinical research experience during my gap year?

My GPA definitely worries me. If I do an informal post-bacc and get A's in all classes (I believe I can definitely do this), it'll show the adcoms that I can handle a heavy workload. So far I have only taken CC classes since graduating due to $$. Classes at a university would be very expensive and I wouldn't be able to work a full time job due to class schedules, so I most likely won't find a great job.

Note: I do plan on applying to SMP's but those don't start until August/September of next year, so I'm afraid medical schools may reject me before seeing how I do in those SMP's.

Any advice would be HUGELY appreciated! Thank you for your time!!

Also, any advice on what I can do from now until next cycle to strengthen my application would be greatly appreciated :)
 
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BurghMed

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I think doing a SMP might be worthwhile considering your gpa. However, it definitely depends on the strength of your mcat score. California schools are tough (assuming that's you're state of residency). I'm guessing it will be a real struggle to get an interview from them unless you have maybe 33+ strictly based on the weakness of your gpa. Also depends if URM or not
 
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OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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Yes, I'm a CA resident and not URM. I'm hoping to get into any MD school (doesn't have to be in CA; I've already accepted that I can't get into a CA school).
 

Goro

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You're fine for any DO school, but your GPA is 0.2 points below the national avg, and I'm afraid that you won't be very competitive. If you're boning for the MD, aim for the low tiers and the newest schools. forget the UCs; they don't need your donation.
 
OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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go ahead and apply DO/MD, don't waste a year salary
I'm afraid it's too late to apply this cycle. I don't even have my personal statement ready. So from now until next cycle opens up in June 2015, what do you think I can do to improve my chances at MD schools? Should I take university-level classes to show adcoms I'm academically prepared or work as a clinical research coordinator?

Thanks everyone for your replies!!
 

mehc012

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Both! Look into the UC Extension classes...those are typically compatible with holding down fulltime work alongside!
 
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BurghMed

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Even in the low-tier private MD schools your gpa is a real sore spot. It's hard to judge without having mcat info (I understand the desire to remain unidentifiable). I'd say it would be a huge risk though to apply with an MCAT below or even at 30 (assuming relatively balanced subsections) and your ECs. Not to say it couldn't happen, but it seems unlikely
 
OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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Both! Look into the UC Extension classes...those are typically compatible with holding down fulltime work alongside!
Great idea! But do they count as undergraduate? I want something to boost my AMCAS uGPA. If they are the undergraduate courses, nearly all the undergraduate science classes are during the weekdays in the morning/afternoon :/
 
OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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Even in the low-tier private MD schools your gpa is a real sore spot. It's hard to judge without having mcat info (I understand the desire to remain unidentifiable). I'd say it would be a huge risk though to apply with an MCAT below or even at 30 (assuming relatively balanced subsections) and your ECs. Not to say it couldn't happen, but it seems unlikely
I just took my MCAT in September and received a 33 (12PS, 10V, 11BS). What do you think? Thanks for your help!
 

BurghMed

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Congratulations on the score. I'm interested to hear what Goro has to say
 
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Feb 19, 2014
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In for answers as I'm curious about OP's decision/route (fellow So cal resident :D)
 
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mehc012

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Great idea! But do they count as undergraduate? I want something to boost my AMCAS uGPA. If they are the undergraduate courses, nearly all the undergraduate science classes are during the weekdays in the morning/afternoon :/
Extension classes? Yup, undergrad credits. The reason I suggested looking into Extension is because they are typically designed to be taken by someone who is working...they are typically evening courses (like 6pm-9pm) to fit with a normal work schedule. They are overseen/accredited by the associated UC, but not strictly a part of them...they do usually allow you to enroll in the local UC courses as well, but then you run into the whole 'during the workday' thing again.

I have been using Berkeley Extension as my DIY postbacc, and it has enabled me to work more than fulltime while taking a half-time school load. They're a bit pricey per credit (as most non-degree-granting places are), but that is more than made up for in my case because I can work concurrently and cover tuition that way. Most of my profs have been quite good, and classes are usually 15-30 people if I were to estimate, kind of like high school class sizes. I've gotten a good LOR out of it as well.
I'm also not sure how they're counted...they are not the same as the full UC, but they definitely aren't CC courses either. You get upper levels (300 and 400 level courses) and your classmates are typically ambitious career changers like yourself - most of the classmates in my area are Stanford or Berkeley alums who changed course post-grad. I'm not sure how adcoms see them (and the ones I've asked didn't seem to have any firm opinion either way), but if you take upper levels I doubt they'll just be brushed off as CC work. Obviously, I'm not an authority on that. And of course, massive disclaimer that I want this to be a good option because it's the one I chose, so perhaps I'm a bit too gung ho about it...but I won't have any better evaluation of it until next year, when I can tell you whether it got me in or not! :laugh:

I'm not saying that it's the best option, or that it will work for you, but that there are opportunities like that available if you feel like you can work AND study. With your GPA, you probably don't need more than a handful of classes to start pulling it up anyway, and you could make some real progress with halftime while working (also getting that 4.0 postbacc listing on there to show that you can tackle studies with a full schedule).
 

BurghMed

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My two cents in terms of chances is that even for the low tier MDs I wouldn't be surprised if you got a couple interviews, but also wouldn't be surprised if you didn't get any. I think if you could somehow get your gpa up to around a 3.5-6 you would definitely up your chances significantly. According to the AAMC, with your gpa and mcat you have about a 50/50 chance of getting an acceptance. I think doing a uc extension seems like a great idea. Your only real weakness seems like your gpa, which can be looked at as a good thing now that you have an excellent mcat score
 
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OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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My two cents in terms of chances is that even for the low tier MDs I wouldn't be surprised if you got a couple interviews, but also wouldn't be surprised if you didn't get any. I think if you could somehow get your gpa up to around a 3.5-6 you would definitely up your chances significantly. According to the AAMC, with your gpa and mcat you have about a 50/50 chance of getting an acceptance. I think doing a uc extension seems like a great idea. Your only real weakness seems like your gpa, which can be looked at as a good thing now that you have an excellent mcat score
I think I can get it up to almost a 3.5 if the classes count as undergrad! I have so many credits now that I can't raise it by much.. definitely not a 3.6 :(
 
OP
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Extension classes? Yup, undergrad credits. The reason I suggested looking into Extension is because they are typically designed to be taken by someone who is working...they are typically evening courses (like 6pm-9pm) to fit with a normal work schedule. They are overseen/accredited by the associated UC, but not strictly a part of them...they do usually allow you to enroll in the local UC courses as well, but then you run into the whole 'during the workday' thing again.

I have been using Berkeley Extension as my DIY postbacc, and it has enabled me to work more than fulltime while taking a half-time school load. They're a bit pricey per credit (as most non-degree-granting places are), but that is more than made up for in my case because I can work concurrently and cover tuition that way. Most of my profs have been quite good, and classes are usually 15-30 people if I were to estimate, kind of like high school class sizes. I've gotten a good LOR out of it as well.
I'm also not sure how they're counted...they are not the same as the full UC, but they definitely aren't CC courses either. You get upper levels (300 and 400 level courses) and your classmates are typically ambitious career changers like yourself - most of the classmates in my area are Stanford or Berkeley alums who changed course post-grad. I'm not sure how adcoms see them (and the ones I've asked didn't seem to have any firm opinion either way), but if you take upper levels I doubt they'll just be brushed off as CC work. Obviously, I'm not an authority on that. And of course, massive disclaimer that I want this to be a good option because it's the one I chose, so perhaps I'm a bit too gung ho about it...but I won't have any better evaluation of it until next year, when I can tell you whether it got me in or not! :laugh:

I'm not saying that it's the best option, or that it will work for you, but that there are opportunities like that available if you feel like you can work AND study. With your GPA, you probably don't need more than a handful of classes to start pulling it up anyway, and you could make some real progress with halftime while working (also getting that 4.0 postbacc listing on there to show that you can tackle studies with a full schedule).
Great advice! I guess the only concern I have is how adcoms view extension courses. I'll definitely look into it. I sure hope they count towards the undergraduate cGPA and sGPA and not as graduate. Is the grading and everything else the same in these classes?

In terms of money, how much did your UCB Extension courses cost? I'm wondering if it is more/less expensive than if I were to take regular undergraduate courses. Thanks!
 
OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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Pre-Medical
Thank you everyone for your help!

I think I will take classes at UCI and find the best job I can find that will work around that schedule. UCI Extension - Access UCI (link: http://unex.uci.edu/pdfs/brochures/access_uci_brochure.pdf ) allows you to take undergrad classes at UCI alongside other undergrads and be graded the same way; the only downside is that you can only enroll in a maximum of 2 classes per quarter and only after all UCI students have enrolled, so no classes are really guaranteed..

** I am going to e-mail AAMC to see if UCI Extension: UCI Access courses will count towards my uGPA and I will keep you updated (for those in a similar situation)!
 
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OP
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**EDIT**

After factoring in the 5 classes I took at a community college, my GPA is now 3.45 cGPA and 3.41 sGPA. Hopefully that makes a difference..?

I would still be thrilled to hear more advice. Thanks so much everyone!
 

mimelim

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If your application came across my desk, you would be a pretty easy toss out. First consideration, academics. 3.4/33 is a workable academic background. Much better looking if you were engineering/taking 20 credits a semester while working etc. Won't turn anyone's heads, but good enough for some MD schools. The problem is, I just don't see a whole lot else here. Why do I want you in my class? If you include every person in applying to medical school with a 3.4/33 or higher and without red-flags, you are in a massive pool. Why are you any better than them? Another way of putting it, I've got maybe half a dozen students with 3.5/34 that won't get into my school because we just have that many people applying. Why should I take you over them?

The reality is, medical schools have an overload of academically qualified applicants. The students that get in with lower GPAs usually have something else going for them. Some other demonstration of why they should be taken over the rest of the pool.

Your GPA is your weak point. You've already graduated. You've gotta either show me that you are academically better than the others, or make me want you in another area.
 

mehc012

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Great advice! I guess the only concern I have is how adcoms view extension courses. I'll definitely look into it. I sure hope they count towards the undergraduate cGPA and sGPA and not as graduate. Is the grading and everything else the same in these classes?

In terms of money, how much did your UCB Extension courses cost? I'm wondering if it is more/less expensive than if I were to take regular undergraduate courses. Thanks!
No, they ABSOLUTELY count towards your uGPA. I have called and verified with the UCBX people, even for courses of theirs which are listed as 'graduate-level' - unless you take it in conjunction with a specific graduate program which agrees ahead of time to count them for grad credit, Extension courses are undergraduate.

The only question is how they are considered in the sense of 'CC courses are easier than 4yr institutions' bias. But honestly, I think that whole thing is a big of SDN BS, because I'm going to take classes wherever I can while working fulltime, and they can judge however they like.

I don't know about the quarter system thing because mine still does semesters (thank god, because quarter systems are stupid and logistically challenged).

I really don't think your GPA is your Achilles heel at this point. It's more that it's on the low side of average, but everything else is 'meh', and nothing stands out as being particularly good to balance. So, sure...address the GPA if you want, but also put in time elsewhere. You're never going to shock and amaze with your GPA, no matter how much postbacc you do...but if you make it avg instead of low-avg, and then spend the time on your work and ECs to make those 'good' instead of 'avg', that's a big upgrade from your current, no?
 
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Dec 16, 2013
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lol my confidence gets knocked down about 5 notches every time I come here. I know many people who got into medical school with a ~3.3 (even that rare 2.8).
 
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OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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If your application came across my desk, you would be a pretty easy toss out. First consideration, academics. 3.4/33 is a workable academic background. Much better looking if you were engineering/taking 20 credits a semester while working etc. Won't turn anyone's heads, but good enough for some MD schools. The problem is, I just don't see a whole lot else here. Why do I want you in my class? If you include every person in applying to medical school with a 3.4/33 or higher and without red-flags, you are in a massive pool. Why are you any better than them? Another way of putting it, I've got maybe half a dozen students with 3.5/34 that won't get into my school because we just have that many people applying. Why should I take you over them?

The reality is, medical schools have an overload of academically qualified applicants. The students that get in with lower GPAs usually have something else going for them. Some other demonstration of why they should be taken over the rest of the pool.

Your GPA is your weak point. You've already graduated. You've gotta either show me that you are academically better than the others, or make me want you in another area.
I appreciate the honest input. You're right. I do feel that my extracurriculars are lacking, and I'm struggling to find a way to change that. I plan on getting more involved in my volunteer experiences and would love to go abroad to do something meaningful but it's not financially possible for me now. Do you think my clinical research experience would stand out? It has exposed me to patients of all kinds and has reaffirmed my commitment to helping people.

Would you mind giving some examples of things that would make an applicant really stand out?

Thanks!
 
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OP
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Nov 21, 2011
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No, they ABSOLUTELY count towards your uGPA. I have called and verified with the UCBX people, even for courses of theirs which are listed as 'graduate-level' - unless you take it in conjunction with a specific graduate program which agrees ahead of time to count them for grad credit, Extension courses are undergraduate.

The only question is how they are considered in the sense of 'CC courses are easier than 4yr institutions' bias. But honestly, I think that whole thing is a big of SDN BS, because I'm going to take classes wherever I can while working fulltime, and they can judge however they like.

I don't know about the quarter system thing because mine still does semesters (thank god, because quarter systems are stupid and logistically challenged).

I really don't think your GPA is your Achilles heel at this point. It's more that it's on the low side of average, but everything else is 'meh', and nothing stands out as being particularly good to balance. So, sure...address the GPA if you want, but also put in time elsewhere. You're never going to shock and amaze with your GPA, no matter how much postbacc you do...but if you make it avg instead of low-avg, and then spend the time on your work and ECs to make those 'good' instead of 'avg', that's a big upgrade from your current, no?
Yep, I'm determined to give it my all and devote my time and energy to things I'm passionate about, so hopefully that will show in my ECs. Thanks for the input and motivation!
 

mehc012

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I'm interested to hear what Goro has to say.
He beat you to it.
You're fine for any DO school, but your GPA is 0.2 points below the national avg, and I'm afraid that you won't be very competitive. If you're boning for the MD, aim for the low tiers and the newest schools. forget the UCs; they don't need your donation.
 
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