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Advise from more experienced board members...(long)

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by Chris Seattle, Oct 11, 2001.

  1. Chris Seattle

    Chris Seattle Junior Member
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    As many of you as I have read are wondering about scores and admissions selections, I wish you the best. I am new here, so I beg your patience as I ask for any wisdom that people might offer. As a 29 year old who has returned to school to do the older 'pre-med' thing, I have a few concerns. First of all, my previous scholastic performance ten years ago was acceptable but less than stellar with 2 years of tough courses and a 3.3 GPA. Unfortunately I wasn't really trying back then, but now I have set my mind on going the full term and sticking it out. Knowing that for the next 2 years my grades will have to be excellent, so far I have been studying excuberantly and have achieved 4.0's in a 2 out of 3 classes. The third, a biology class, I just today got back a test with an 84% on it. This discouraged me because I felt as if I knew the material (for those of you who have not done this well, please do not see this as bragging. I am working very hard for these grades). Anyway, the teacher informed me that I was at the top of my class. Putting this all into perspective, if I get a string of teachers like this where 3.7's are the best they will give no matter what, it is going to make my cumulative GPA somewhere around a 3.5 or 3.6 tops, considering that I would have a year and a half probably before MCATs and admissions attempts to pull the GPA up. I know that with a decent MCAT score, demonstration of distinct commitment in good grades from my return to school after an 10 year absence, and total commitment to becoming a physician, I bear some bit of a chance to making it into a school. Outside of school I have been involved in medical research for the last six years, (that which drove me to believe that I must become a doctor). On top of this, I have to work to pay my way through school as well as support my family.

    so, my questions so far are;
    1. when you encounter teachers who are very strict about giving out top grades, do you work super extra hard for them or just make sure you know the material very well?
    2. How do I go about putting together a list of schools? Obviously, since the University of Washington is near me and I will be finishing my undergrad there it would be my primary choice, but since they only accept about 7% of applicants I am soberly concerned...
    3. Anyone have any tips or tricks on the financial end of it? My family has no financial support for me at all, nor does a single person in my family posess a college degree.

    Any words of wisdom would be appreciated and I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this community.
     
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  3. sz

    sz Senior Member
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    Chris:

    I'm not terribly experienced but here goes anyway. :)

    1. Both
    2. Look at MSAR (medical school admissions requirements. Gives you stats n' all. Look at school websites, which are very informative most of the times. Meet and get info from counselors at specific med schools and with the premed advisor of your own school.
    3. This is harder. I worked and saved beforehand and took a loan to cover the rest.

    By the way ... welcome to SDN and good luck!
    :) ;) :D
     
  4. SMW

    SMW Grand Member
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    You probably won't get a string of profs like that, but even, in the worst case scenario, if you did, you'd still be fine if all the other parts of your application were strong. Schools like to see an upward trend in grades which it looks like you'll be able to demonstrate.
    You might want to look at the school rankings on TPR website; they have rankings for research, primary care, women's health, etc. You can even re-rank within categories by other things, like cost, MCAT averages, GPA's, etc. They also have information on the various schools. Steer clear of their discussion forums which are full of immature, hateful, and unhelpful people.
    I don't have any ideas on financing besides loan, loans, and more loans.

    Welcome to SDN! :) Hope you find it as helpful, and as much fun, as I've found it to be. :D
    P.S. I'm applying to U Dub as a WWAMI applicant.
     
  5. snowballz

    snowballz Senior Member
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    On the financial end..my family does not support me at all financially. I depend on loans, loans and more loans..I think that is how most students go, unless their parents have excess.

    Alicia
     
  6. Chris Seattle

    Chris Seattle Junior Member
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    thank you all for your advise. The concept of Financial aid justs tempts me to rant since it angers me as much as anything. I made a decent living working last year which I can't do now while I am a full time student (financial aid guidelines assume I make as much as I did last year). Thus, they only offer just enough loans to cover tuition for the year but not a penny for anything else. Hence I have no choice; it would be impossible to go to school and not work. And as long as I work, I am not eligible for more financial aid. It seems that the financial aid system works great for the 19 year old poor student who wouldn't make a lot of money in high school (not that I made a lot of money last year; it would be considered in the low income bracket). Combined with the cost of living in Seattle...ugh.
     
  7. old lady

    old lady Member
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    Really?
    For financial aid they consider you to make as much as you did before you were in school? I didn't know it worked that way for undergraduate since I didn't have to get loans then. But surely it couldn't be that way for medical school? They can't assume you make any money during school - you are not even allowed to work. I would think it shouldn't make any difference how much you made the year before. It shouldn't make any difference how much your parents are making either, once you are an adult. But I know they do take that into consideration. Anyway, I am planning on paying for the entire tuition as well as supporting myself through loans during medical school. I'm sure most other people are too, unless their parents are incredibly rich. You can't "save up" hundreds of thousands of dollars beforehand.
     
  8. Focus

    Focus crazy!!
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    About your biology class, if you're at the top of your class, don't be concerned. It seems that if an 84% is the highest grade, the curve should give you an A+ (being the highest grade in the class)
     
  9. baylor06

    baylor06 Surgeon
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    I feel your pain! I had the same issue with financial aid returning a year ago as a post-bacc at the same age you are now.

    I agree with what folks have been posting re:MSAR etc. If you have some specific quesitons re:UW etc. you can email me. My wife graduated from UW SOM two years ago, and I'm in the application process now (although I'm a CA resident now, so I'm not applying to the UW).
     
  10. RainaNoelle

    RainaNoelle Member
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    Chris, something that might help you in the near future is to talk to your school's financial aid office about your situation. Some schools have a form where you can indicate your *expected* income during that school year (instead of just your *actual* income during the prior year) and the school will take that into consideration in calculating your financial aid package. I was in the same boat as you (I have over $40k in undergrad student loans now, but it took me 8-1/2 years to finish because I kept having to cut back on school to work full time to just survive). I'll be going the 'loans loans loans' route for med school too, but we plan on living on my husband's salary while I'm in residency and most of the first year after that, so I should be able to funnel my income to paying those big nasties off pretty quickly (at least I sure hope so...)

    Please note that this is not something that gets completed with the federal financial aid application (the FAFSA, isn't it called?) This is something separate for your particular school where the school itself reevaluates your status and changes the aid it will offer.

    As far as your grades go, your 3.3 isn't perfect but it could be a lot worse (I've heard of people with a lot worse early on improving it and getting it). Your bio prof seems to be impressed with your performance...express your concerns about your grade, tell him/her how hard you are working to achieve your goals, and ask him/her if there are plans to curve class grades accordingly. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that to be the plan all along. If not, ask what you can do to improve your performance in the class. I've never met a prof that wasn't interested in helping a student who really wants to do well in their class (of course, maybe I've just been lucky, but I think it's worth a try.) :)

    Another aid for deciding what schools to apply to is a book called 'The Insider's Guide to Medical Schools: Current Students Tell You What Their Medical School Is Really Like' put out by Peterson's (there's another 'insider's guide' put out by someone else as I recall, but this one's better). They mention things in it about your chances of getting in as an out-of-stater, and how hard they are to get into, as well as compiled comments on what life is really like at each school. I never did get my hands on an MSAR book (which I have heard is great...I just never bothered ordering it and my UG school didn't have it in the library), but I have found this one to be quite helpful in my decision.

    Best wishes and good luck!! :)

    Raina
     
  11. Chris Seattle

    Chris Seattle Junior Member
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    thanks all for piping in...

    in response to old lady;
    Yes, once in medical school I hear you have to either pay for it out of pocket or borrow the tuition and expenses but working is not very possible. Once I get to that point, my challenge will not be getting the financial aid to kick in but to somehow figure out how to live with a family in Seattle on the aid provided.

    Mr. Bull Terp;
    If she was grading on the curve you would be correct that I would have nothing to worry about. All of my classes are grading on a strict point scale. What you see is what you get. I spoke to another student this morning who was quite upset; she was holding a 4.0 in the class and scored at 50% on this test. Apparently this is the type of test that puts a dent in everybody's report card.

    baylor06;
    thanks for the reply. I actually worked at the UofW for 6 months, and know a med student or two there so the environment and cutlure is not so foreign. I appreciate your offer for assistance; I believe that most important for me right now is to focus on getting top grades and dealing with the next bridge when I get there. I am fearful of the possibility of not gaining acceptance in UW SOM and thus having to relocate myself and my wife to another state for school. That would be tough.
     
  12. praying4MD

    praying4MD 2K Member
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    Just work hard and pull your GPA up as much as possible. As long as you do reasonably well on the MCAT, you should be ok. It's a balancing act-- the higher your MCAT the lower your GPA can be. Unfortunately, it does not usually work in the reverse order. Meaning, even if you have a high GPA, you still need a good MCAT to pull you through. You shouldn't be concerned if you are a good standardized test taker.

    Second, don't forget that adcoms also notice grade trends. It is very advantageous for you if they see an upward trend because it shows that you have determination.

    Lastly, the GPA/MCAT is only part of your application. You have other unique qualities that really make you stand out. Many schools understand the commitment of providing for a family, working and going to school. They respect the amount of time management and effort that requires. Don't underestimate yourself. :)

    Dealing with teachers like that-- I would always go in for help. I had a teacher that was notorious for giving out only one A per semester. I was in his office twice a week asking questions and trying understand what he's looking for. He knew me and could see the effort I put in, and my grades reflected it. Of course, gauge your teacher's personality. If they are not the type to like students in their office, don't do this. Just make sure that they know that You personally are really trying. BUT, don't go there with a sob story or excuses about grades-- that will backfire.

    So, do both-- work extra hard, know the materal, and make sure the prof knows you are doing these things. You should be fine.

    Where to apply: Get the MSAR from the AAMC. Apply to a range of schools. A few top choices, maybe even big names. The majority of the schools you apply to should be within your reach, and then also few backups where you are confident about your chances. Don't limit yourself, but be realistic.

    Finances: Loans. Sorry!

    Hope this helps. Good luck! :)
     

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