How important is difficulty of classes for admission?

m1lkm4nn

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I am registering for my last semester of classes and am wondering if I should select a more difficult upper level science class or not. Taking this would make my semester significantly more difficult, but I get the feeling my courses have not been as difficult as most applicants'. I am a biology major at a good school with a 3.65 gpa. I've had difficult classes, for sure, but not too many in the upper 300-400 level. Should I just focus on getting As, or would adding a difficult class be worth the effort? I am interested in the class, but as I said, it could make things unnecessarily difficult. What do you think?
 

theroadtomed

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I think you should have had several 300 level courses at the very least. IMHO, taking a ton of 100-200 level classes makes it look like you spent four years worrying about nothing but GPA, regardless of whether that is true or not.
 
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I'm taking alot of upper levels cause I didn't do as well as I'd have liked to in the prereqs (I'm a lazy bastard).
 
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HiFi09

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they look at your gpa.period.

Will they appreciate it if you took a bunch of hard classes and got the same good grades? .....uh...yea....maybe.

If you are interested in the class and believe you will do WELL in it...than sure take it. But, it will most likely provide your app zero help. Its a risk benefit analysis. Weigh the risk of you doing poorly (and associated negative consequences) versus the probability of you doing well (and associated benefits). All i'm saying is that the associated negative consequences are much more impactful than the possible associated benefits.
 

Rain Rabbit

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300 level courses are considered higher level...? i thought higher level only applied to 400+ courses
 

airplanes

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300 level courses are considered higher level...? i thought higher level only applied to 400+ courses

3 to 4 benjamins is higher level. I think schools take into account difficulty of schedule so they know you aren't trying to pull a fast one. One course probably won't make much of a difference though so if you don't think its worth it, I wouldn't go for broke.
 

HumidBeing

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Three hundred level classes are upper level classes as opposed to introductory level classes.

When I think of upper-level classes, it's the 400-600 level classes that I think of, where the 500-600 levels are graduate level courses open to qualified undergrads.

I guess it's a matter of interpretation.
 

nevercold

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they look at your gpa.period.

Will they appreciate it if you took a bunch of hard classes and got the same good grades? .....uh...yea....maybe.

This advice will get you a mile ... backwards. The interest in GPA, classes, etc. for med schools boils down to two questions:

(1) Can you handle tough educational experiences and hard science?
(2) Are you better qualified in that regard than the next applicant?

The upper level courses will approximate the rigor of med school classes better than the 100 and 200 level classes. Willingness to take on those classes and ability to succeed in those classes answers the two questions above better than 100 and 200 level classes.
 

nycfella

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Course numbers aren't standardized across different schools, and mostly they have no way of knowing what the difficulty of a class was, so I don't think that's going to be a big factor in admissions.

I have to appreciate this response. It's just beautiful for so many reasons. This guy (or gal) indirectly answers the question by using logic. Not something used very often on SDN...
 

nevercold

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I have to appreciate this response. It's just beautiful for so many reasons. This guy (or gal) indirectly answers the question by using logic. Not something used very often on SDN...

Except that the country is not filled with brand new universities and the medical school admissions committees are not filled with brand new people. The argument is valid, but not sound, because the premise that schools don't know which classes are upper levels is invalid. There are only so many course numbering systems and so many ways to structure course titles. It becomes apparent quickly which end of the spectrum a course is on. There are finer course-to-course variations that med schools don't know about, but they know the 100/200s from the 300/400s for the vast majority of undergrad institutions.
 

nycfella

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Except that the country is not filled with brand new universities and the medical school admissions committees are not filled with brand new people. The argument is valid, but not sound, because the premise that schools don't know which classes are upper levels is invalid. There are only so many course numbering systems and so many ways to structure course titles. It becomes apparent quickly which end of the spectrum a course is on. There are finer course-to-course variations that med schools don't know about, but they know the 100/200s from the 300/400s for the vast majority of undergrad institutions.

I completely agree. Schools can only scrutinize course difficulty to some extent. But I still think a high GPA trumps all. Besides every major requires upper level courses. Going out of your way to take more upper level courses for the sake of showing you can do well is pretty well...:rolleyes:. Unless you really enjoy the stuff, but then again you could just take graduate courses in the subject.
 

HiFi09

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This advice will get you a mile ... backwards.

Yea, either that or it will get you into your top choice, with interviews at most other top 20 schools you apply to:rolleyes:........

The interest in GPA, classes, etc. for med schools boils down to two questions:

(1) Can you handle tough educational experiences and hard science?
(2) Are you better qualified in that regard than the next applicant?

The upper level courses will approximate the rigor of med school classes better than the 100 and 200 level classes. Willingness to take on those classes and ability to succeed in those classes answers the two questions above better than 100 and 200 level classes.

IMO...there are two ways for the average premed/md applicant to go about getting accepted into a school:

1) Understanding that this process is largely about jumping hoops and showing interest in things that a)might not truly interest you and b)might not have a whole hell of a lot to do with the actual realities of being a physician. Succeeding is about understanding exactly how you will be evaluated relative to other applicants and positively emphasizing the aspects of your app that will matter most (namely..your bpcm and your mcat score).

2) the wrong way.

Am I advocating that you should always take the path of least resistance and thus avoid classes that are interesting yet challenging all in an effort to protect that gpa? Absolutely not (even though I admit it may come off as such). All I am pointing out is that if a single class will burden you with an overwhleming amount of work to the extent that it negatively impacts your ....a)performance in other classes...b)time to study for the mcat....c)time to do other meaningful stuff (ec's)....then it is not worth IMO.

For every person I know that threw caution to the wind and did watever they chose and still had a successful admission cycle, I know twice the amount of people who bit off a little more than they could chew either in their course or concentration selection and are now sloging threw a postbacc or smp because in the eyes of many adcoms a 3.3 in physics is not as good as a 3.8 in sociology.

To put this situation into a little more context...the OP asked if a single upper level course would enhance their app. With all due respect to the OP, this kind of question doesnt ring of a great amount of understanding about the app process. As such, I gave a pretty vague and general response that I thought would serve the best interests of the OP.

I understand completely those who would be quick to flame my outlook on being a pre-med, etc....but I say what I say because I think it is just the plain truth and I encourage the OP to take it with a grain of salt. With that said, anyone coming out and definitively saying...."Yes taking harder courses will have a huge impact!!!" is full of it. I respect your thought process for saying this, but the fact of the matter is, whether you are a premed, med student, resident, attendent, or on ONE school's adcom, your opinion is worth just as much as mine.
 

RoyBasch

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because in the eyes of many adcoms a 3.3 in physics is not as good as a 3.8 in sociology.

I absolutely agree with this, but I hate it. Why don't these admissions committees that allegedly have made a science out of evaluating the true potential of applicants as students not WAKE THE HELL UP! Regardless of what your passion is, the FACTS ON THE GROUND are that science majors are WAY harder than humanities and social science majors.

I know I'm going to get flamed by all the gender studies majors who will say "but gender studies is my true passion and I find engineering boring." Ok, I understand, but your interest in a topic does not correlate with its objective difficulty in terms of hours spent to achieve comparable academic success, overall complexity of the material, and the tolerated margin of error. I am speaking from some authority here as a person double majoring in History.
/rant

To answer the OP's question, it does matter, but not as much as it should. If you are getting a degree in biology I imagine there are enough upper level classes required for the degree that you have taken to keep the admissions committees happy. If you major in biology I think that qualifies you as not a slacker.
-Roy
 
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