Did well in upper-level courses, bombed introductory courses, what's the verdict?

Jul 15, 2015
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Pre-Medical
Interestingly, the reason I did well in advanced science courses (neurophysiology, cognitive neuro, etc.) was because I did poorly in introductory courses (C+ first semester orgo and physics, C- introductory neuro) and knew I could do better. The poor grades are because I transferred to an Ivy and the course difficulty hit me hard. It took a semester to adjust, resulting in one out of four of my college years having a pretty crappy GPA, while the other three all averaged over 3.4.

How would adcoms view this? Would they assume laziness or would they deduce that the first semester of transferring to a tough school may have rattled me a bit but that I can recover and do well?
 

judb16

2+ Year Member
Jun 16, 2015
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Medical Student
I recently matriculated into a allopathic school and was a neuro major too who didn't do so well first 2-3 semesters (~3.2 GPA was my highest semester). I ended up with just over a 3.7 cGPA and no one ever asked me about my GPA. In fact all they ever said was "solid GPA"... of course I wasn't interviewing at Harvard or Stanford but you get what I mean. I think they definitely appreciated upward trends. The only thing about what you said that makes me hesitant is that your good semesters "all averaged over 3.4".. I'm not sure that's enough. If you have a bad first few semesters you need to be 3.7-3.8+ for the rest of your undergrad. A 3.4 is still below average matriculating GPA for allopathic schools.

Just my two cents, but I'm not convinced a 3.4 at an Ivy League is enough to float you into school. More information could be helpful.. ie. cGPA, MCAT, ECs, if you want MD or DO, but a 3.4 is definitely something to be concerned about IMO.
 

studpremed

5+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2013
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Pre-Medical
What upper division classes did you take besides neuro? Usually the best way to demonstrate mastery of intro classes is to do well in advance classes that build upon the intro classes. Have you taken physics and orgo second semester? Biochemistry is needed for the mcat so you should definitely take it. Genetics and physiology are also classes that are worth taking too.
 
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OP
LIC2015
Jul 15, 2015
101
38
Status
Pre-Medical
I recently matriculated into a allopathic school and was a neuro major too who didn't do so well first 2-3 semesters (~3.2 GPA was my highest semester). I ended up with just over a 3.7 cGPA and no one ever asked me about my GPA. In fact all they ever said was "solid GPA"... of course I wasn't interviewing at Harvard or Stanford but you get what I mean. I think they definitely appreciated upward trends. The only thing about what you said that makes me hesitant is that your good semesters "all averaged over 3.4".. I'm not sure that's enough. If you have a bad first few semesters you need to be 3.7-3.8+ for the rest of your undergrad. A 3.4 is still below average matriculating GPA for allopathic schools.

Just my two cents, but I'm not convinced a 3.4 at an Ivy League is enough to float you into school. More information could be helpful.. ie. cGPA, MCAT, ECs, if you want MD or DO, but a 3.4 is definitely something to be concerned about IMO.
First year was 3.7, second was 3.6 (both years at community college), third was 2.9 (transferred to Ivy, worst year of my life, almost comically brutal to me now), last was just a tad over 3.6. The fact that I got a 3.6 the last year from 38 credits (avg 19/semester) of advanced science and humanities is fine and all, but I don't think adcoms will go into that amount of detail to see how my fourth year compares to my third year. I'd already taken bchem, developmental neuropsych, animal physiology, all the premed reqs, and a bunch of other sciences (animal behavior, intro neuro, etc.) and sociology/medical ethics and did well in those. Minimum grade in a writing course was A (took 5-6 total writing/literature courses over 4 years)

In hindsight, lack of preparation was my problem. But that's over, and I need to figure out how to move ahead. I think my AMCAS cGPA will be around 3.3/3.4; sGPA will be a point or two below that. At this point, is taking ~20 credits of upper-level sciences (cancer bio, immunology, genetics, etc.) over the next two semesters at a nearby college worth it (informal post bac), or is there a shot with what I've got? I'm aiming for minimum 510 MCAT for MD (not considering DO at the moment because of my interest in research opportunities in med school and surgery).

I should mention I graduated 3 yrs ago, have been doing research in the meantime at a med school. 4 pubs (second/third author on a couple), solid ECs, great LORs from MD/PhDs and professors, etc.
 

judb16

2+ Year Member
Jun 16, 2015
159
134
Status
Medical Student
First year was 3.7, second was 3.6 (both years at community college), third was 2.9 (transferred to Ivy, worst year of my life, almost comically brutal to me now), last was just a tad over 3.6. The fact that I got a 3.6 the last year from 38 credits (avg 19/semester) of advanced science and humanities is fine and all, but I don't think adcoms will go into that amount of detail to see how my fourth year compares to my third year. I'd already taken bchem, developmental neuropsych, animal physiology, all the premed reqs, and a bunch of other sciences (animal behavior, intro neuro, etc.) and sociology/medical ethics and did well in those. Minimum grade in a writing course was A (took 5-6 total writing/literature courses over 4 years)

In hindsight, lack of preparation was my problem. But that's over, and I need to figure out how to move ahead. I think my AMCAS cGPA will be around 3.3/3.4; sGPA will be a point or two below that. At this point, is taking ~20 credits of upper-level sciences (cancer bio, immunology, genetics, etc.) over the next two semesters at a nearby college worth it (informal post bac), or is there a shot with what I've got? I'm aiming for minimum 510 MCAT for MD (not considering DO at the moment because of my interest in research opportunities in med school and surgery).

I should mention I graduated 3 yrs ago, have been doing research in the meantime at a med school. 4 pubs (second/third author on a couple), solid ECs, great LORs from MD/PhDs and professors, etc.
Sounds like your ECs are good. Obviously fantastic research. You might be able to explain that bad year due to the obvious dip. Lots of secondaries will give you the chance to explain situations like that and you could also include it briefly in your personal statement if you presented it in a way that you learned something from it and it made you a better person. I think your low GPA will raise some flags, but they can be overcome.

I think you'd definitely have to aim for 510 or higher on the MCAT. Realistically I'd say 515+. The AAMC data tables has your GPA and a MCAT of 510 (roughly 31 on the old MCAT) as about a 40% acceptance rate (I interpolated here a little bit). Whereas a 515 would put you at just over 50%. At this point, taking the extra classes is up to you. Whether or not its worth the time/money. You'd have to do really really well in all of them (especially the science classes). It would kill you to do anything less than 3.7. Also, those 20 credits probably won't affect your GPA significantly. Search for threads on post-bac/informal post-bac. From what I remember they suggest it around a 3.4, so you might be on the bubble.

What I CAN say is apply early, apply very broadly and kill the MCAT. Also, I can't really comment on this because I don't know for sure, but I wouldn't discard DO schools just based on wanting to do surgery/research. DOs can still match to surgery residencies and do research (though, again, I'm not the best source of info on this).
 

Goro

7+ Year Member
Jun 10, 2010
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Somewhere west of St. Louis
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My Microbiologist colleague would say that you went into lag phase before going into log.

Interestingly, the reason I did well in advanced science courses (neurophysiology, cognitive neuro, etc.) was because I did poorly in introductory courses (C+ first semester orgo and physics, C- introductory neuro) and knew I could do better. The poor grades are because I transferred to an Ivy and the course difficulty hit me hard. It took a semester to adjust, resulting in one out of four of my college years having a pretty crappy GPA, while the other three all averaged over 3.4.

How would adcoms view this? Would they assume laziness or would they deduce that the first semester of transferring to a tough school may have rattled me a bit but that I can recover and do well?
 
Aug 16, 2016
25
4
Status
Attending Physician
No, you are fine, if anyone asks explain that the transfer from a community college hit you like a train. Admissions people actually do understand life.
 
OP
LIC2015
Jul 15, 2015
101
38
Status
Pre-Medical
No, you are fine, if anyone asks explain that the transfer from a community college hit you like a train. Admissions people actually do understand life.
This may turn out to be a stupid question (it's a stupid question), but is there any negative feature - other than poor performance - to me taking some advanced science courses over the upcoming fall and spring at a nearby college? Anything that may be a red flag of sorts?
 
Aug 16, 2016
25
4
Status
Attending Physician
Nope. That is considered a good thing. Shows you want to work, get additional preparation, be ready for the mass of learning ahead. Just get good grades. Very good grades.
 
Mar 25, 2016
88
5
Status
Pre-Medical
Interestingly, the reason I did well in advanced science courses (neurophysiology, cognitive neuro, etc.) was because I did poorly in introductory courses (C+ first semester orgo and physics, C- introductory neuro) and knew I could do better. The poor grades are because I transferred to an Ivy and the course difficulty hit me hard. It took a semester to adjust, resulting in one out of four of my college years having a pretty crappy GPA, while the other three all averaged over 3.4.

How would adcoms view this? Would they assume laziness or would they deduce that the first semester of transferring to a tough school may have rattled me a bit but that I can recover and do well?
The better question is how did you transfer to an Ivy? Was your former institution a top 20? Transferring is ideal as a junior because you finish all the pre reqs at the easier institution.
 
OP
LIC2015
Jul 15, 2015
101
38
Status
Pre-Medical
The better question is how did you transfer to an Ivy? Was your former institution a top 20? Transferring is ideal as a junior because you finish all the pre reqs at the easier institution.
My former institution was a community college, so I had to work extra hard to get into an Ivy. I did research in a pharmacology lab at one of the largest major DOE-funded laboratories for nearly two years and joined two honors societies, made Deans list, joined the honors college at my CC, etc. I did all prereqs except orgo at CC.

If I could do it all over again, I would've gone to a local public 4-year university first, then transferred. CC is easy, but I didn't learn much.
 
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