How to become a competitive applicant with a poor undergraduate GPA

Nov 15, 2014
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I have a 3.1 undergrad GPA I knew this would not get me into medical school so I went to grad school. In May I will graduate with a masters of physiology. My current GPA is 3.7. What can I do to become a more competitive applicant? I have a year of research, I've held leadership positions, and I've volunteered. I have not taken the MCAT yet. Should I retake some undergrad classes?

If you are not going to be encouraging please do not respond!


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Pinocytosis

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First of all, awesome job on stepping up in graduate school. I think this shows adcoms that you have changed since your undergraduate studies, especially since it's a master's degree in an applicable and science field. Do you have an "upwards" trend in undergraduate? i.e. 1.75 freshman year, 2.5 sophomore, 3.4 junior, 3.8 senior

What kind of clinical experience do you have? I see you have most of the "boxes" checked, but I don't see anything pertaining to clinical experience.

When do you plan on taking the MCAT? Doing well on the MCAT + the graduate GPA can help alleviate some of the problems associated with a lower undergraduate GPA. Will it completely mitigate it? No.

In your personal statement, secondaries, etc. try to explain your growth. Why the sudden change in effort towards school? What made you get a 3.1 and how have you changed as an applicant, but more importantly, as an individual?
 
OP
M
Nov 15, 2014
76
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Pre-Medical
Yes I do have an upward trend in GPA.

The only clinical experience I have is I went on a medical service trip to Belize and worked with patients and doctors there. I also volunteer at the hospital where I work with patients. Should I do more clinical experience if so what should I do?

I will take the MCAT September 9. My goal is a 505 is this high enough?


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Pinocytosis

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505 = 28-29 on old test

MD: No. generally speaking, most people aim for 508+. To play it safe, shoot for 510+.
DO: Generally, yes. DO schools had an average MCAT 27.33 for matriculants. (AACOMAS handbook)

If going the DO route, I'd recommend using the grade replacement policy. The caveat is that the institution and course number must match up exactly. Not sure if that is applicable.

Interesting medical service trip. How long did you spend in Belize?

Any shadowing experience? If possible, paid clinical work too.

I personally enjoy clinical experience. Many SDN-ers say that I waste my time shadowing past 50+ hours. Remember: do it for yourself, not others.
 

Weirdy

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Grad GPA and clinicals look pretty solid.

Would not recommend retaking undergrad. To bump from a 3.1 would take too much money and time which you could put elsewhere.

DO definitely doable. Aim for 510 and apply. Address upward trend/ difference between Grad and Undergrad in apps.
 
OP
M
Nov 15, 2014
76
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Pre-Medical
Do better than 510 on the MCAT and you should be golden. I have a very similar app and my cycle is going pretty well so far. I did get 518 on the MCAT though.
Congrats on your MCAT!! I know that took lot of hard work! Where did you start on your diagnostic MCAT? How long did you study for the MCAT and how did you study? Any tips or advise would be very helpful!
 

AnatomyGrey12

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If going the DO route, I'd recommend using the grade replacement policy. The caveat is that the institution and course number must match up exactly. Not sure if that is applicable.
This isn't true. Most applicants retake grades at their local CC.

OP, I would look into DO schools and grade replacement. Your gGPA is nice but won't be enough to compensate for a low uGPA, usually the only masters programs that overcome low undergrad GPAs are SMPs. If you kill the MCAT like ChrisMack did then think more about MD.
 
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The Knife & Gun Club

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Med schools look at grade trends, but also see undergraduate and graduate GPA listed separately. They'll also see science and non science GPA broken down by year. Just FYI.

As a low GPA applicant I put a lot of work into writing a very good PS that highlighted my strengths and experiences as someone passionate about medicine. Med schools aren't just looking for people who got good grades, they want people who actually care about the field (because that will motivate you to succeed in med school). So make sure when you write your app you stress common themes among activities/interest and relate them to your long term desire to become a physician.

Also, do well on the MCAT. 505 would be acceptable for some DO programs (although you'll by no means be a shoe in or close with that score). A 508-510 would be a reasonable DO score. For MD you'll want to approach at least 515 IMO.

Finally, network and apply early. Idk when you plan on applying (17/18 cycle?) but you want to start building up connections at your home state med school. I networked very thoroughly with my hometown schools and it paid off immensely. Try to shadow or work at the med schools parent hospital.

Note I didn't say grade repair. That's not because I don't think it's necessary, I just don't know too much about it. I didn't do GPA repair (applied with a 3.2sGPA and a 3.4 cumulative), so I can't comment on what strategy to take with it.
 

The Knife & Gun Club

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Congrats on your MCAT!! I know that took lot of hard work! Where did you start on your diagnostic MCAT? How long did you study for the MCAT and how did you study? Any tips or advise would be very helpful!
I know this was directed at Mack but just my 0.02 - if you can take a summer MCAT or find another block of time where you can basically study several hours a day every day for a month or two. When I took it I tried to do around 30 hours of study time a week x 8 weeks. That's where I felt is been exposed to most of the content and was reaching diminishing returns
 
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Aug 4, 2014
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Finally, network and apply early. Idk when you plan on applying (17/18 cycle?) but you want to start building up connections at your home state med school. I networked very thoroughly with my hometown schools and it paid off immensely. Try to shadow or work at the med schools parent hospital.
I hope you don't mind me asking, what do you mean by networking at your hometown schools? Were you able to speak/meet with the admission office?
 

The Knife & Gun Club

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I hope you don't mind me asking, what do you mean by networking at your hometown schools? Were you able to speak/meet with the admission office?
Na nothing like that, I just tried to get involved with people who were involved with the med school.

without giving too many personal details away, I'd say I worked very closely with a couple people who were very involved in my hometown and undergrad med schools. I made sure to work hard for them, and when the time came to apply they were extremely generous in calling in connections on my behalf. I don't think I'd be at the school I am today without it.
 
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OP
M
Nov 15, 2014
76
7
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Pre-Medical
Med schools look at grade trends, but also see undergraduate and graduate GPA listed separately. They'll also see science and non science GPA broken down by year. Just FYI.

As a low GPA applicant I put a lot of work into writing a very good PS that highlighted my strengths and experiences as someone passionate about medicine. Med schools aren't just looking for people who got good grades, they want people who actually care about the field (because that will motivate you to succeed in med school). So make sure when you write your app you stress common themes among activities/interest and relate them to your long term desire to become a physician.

Also, do well on the MCAT. 505 would be acceptable for some DO programs (although you'll by no means be a shoe in or close with that score). A 508-510 would be a reasonable DO score. For MD you'll want to approach at least 515 IMO.

Finally, network and apply early. Idk when you plan on applying (17/18 cycle?) but you want to start building up connections at your home state med school. I networked very thoroughly with my hometown schools and it paid off immensely. Try to shadow or work at the med schools parent hospital.

Note I didn't say grade repair. That's not because I don't think it's necessary, I just don't know too much about it. I didn't do GPA repair (applied with a 3.2sGPA and a 3.4 cumulative), so I can't comment on what strategy to take with it.
Since you were a similar applicant how well did you do on the MCAT?
 

The Knife & Gun Club

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I got a 35...which I think would be a 517?

I probably could've still gotten an MD acceptance with maybe a 33, but anything less I think would be pushing it. I also didn't have the impressive grad school performance you've got.

Basically just do as well as you can on the MCAT, because that will decide where you apply. And if you haven't yet, get some DO shadowing/LoR so you can apply DO...I didn't and got canned at basically every DO school I applied to :oops:.
 

lexswift

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I got a 35...which I think would be a 517?

I probably could've still gotten an MD acceptance with maybe a 33, but anything less I think would be pushing it. I also didn't have the impressive grad school performance you've got.

Basically just do as well as you can on the MCAT, because that will decide where you apply. And if you haven't yet, get some DO shadowing/LoR so you can apply DO...I didn't and got canned at basically every DO school I applied to :oops:.
You got a 35 with two months of studying? That's really impressive!
 
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At this point, any and all discussions of "what-if" are null until you take your MCAT. The MCAT may not always open doors, but it can certainly keep doors open for you. Dedicate all your time and energy to studying (if you can, some people lead very busy lives obviously) and kill the MCAT, then come back and ponder where you're at. You'll get much more meaningful advice that way with an essentially complete application. Good luck!!
 
OP
M
Nov 15, 2014
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Pre-Medical
You got a 35 with two months of studying? That's really impressive!
How many practice exam did you take before taking the real MCAT? What was your diagnostic score? I took my diagnostic yesterday and scored 490. I am very concerned about improving my score so many points! How many hours a day were you studying?
 

ChrisMack390

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Congrats on your MCAT!! I know that took lot of hard work! Where did you start on your diagnostic MCAT? How long did you study for the MCAT and how did you study? Any tips or advise would be very helpful!
Sorry, just seeing this. I got a 502 on my diagnostic, then a bunch of scores ranging from 498 to 504, then I finally started trending upward 507, 509, and 513. I was shooting for 515, so obviously I was pleasantly surprised by my final score.

I made a pretty lengthy post in the 509+ study habits thread on the MCAT forum. I would go read through that thread, you will see a lot of common elements in successful study plans. Practice tests and carefully reviewing your practice tests is the most important thing.
 

The Knife & Gun Club

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How many practice exam did you take before taking the real MCAT? What was your diagnostic score? I took my diagnostic yesterday and scored 490. I am very concerned about improving my score so many points! How many hours a day were you studying?
In the good old days we had 12 AAMC practice tests instead of just 1. I think I took maybe 20 practice exams...every day after work (during the second month of studying) I'd sit down with one of those giant iced Starbucks coffees and either take an entire full length or review the wrong answers on the previous day's full length. I don't think that'd be possible now with the length of the new exam and the limited number of real practice tests :/

My diagnostic was a 22 btw. I think that's like 490? And I took the test using a graphing calculator because I didn't realize that wasn't allowed lol
 

ChrisMack390

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In the good old days we had 12 AAMC practice tests instead of just 1. I think I took maybe 20 practice exams...every day after work (during the second month of studying) I'd sit down with one of those giant iced Starbucks coffees and either take an entire full length or review the wrong answers on the previous day's full length. I don't think that'd be possible now with the length of the new exam and the limited number of real practice tests :/

My diagnostic was a 22 btw. I think that's like 490? And I took the test using a graphing calculator because I didn't realize that wasn't allowed lol
This was where the Kaplan tests, though imperfect, were very helpful in that they allowed you to take and review just 1 section of the practice tests. Toward the end of my studying I would take 1 section per day and review it. I would do C/P Monday, CARS Tuesday, Bio Wednesday, and Psych Thursday. Friday would be general review, and then a full length Saturday.
 

ChrisMack390

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The average low GPA of all schools is 3.44, however, one school did accept a 3.1 overall GPA, so if you have the time and money I would suggest you retake some of those courses especially if they are prerequisite courses. As far as the MCAT, the average new MCAT score accepted was a 503 and the average high was a 512, so if you score over a 512 you will be noticed. Accompany that with your good work in your masters program should go a long way. As many others have said make sure you keep up or even increase your volunteer work and shadowing. If you do receive an interview prepare yourself to discuss your undergrad GPA and always show how you learned to overcome your past shortcomings.
This is terrible information. More than one person with a 3.1 GPA got into medical school last year (wtf?), and a 503 is not a competitive score for MD admissions. There are also a number of medical schools with 10th percentile GPAs lower than 3.4.
 

The Knife & Gun Club

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The average low GPA of all schools is 3.44, however, one school did accept a 3.1 overall GPA, so if you have the time and money I would suggest you retake some of those courses especially if they are prerequisite courses. As far as the MCAT, the average new MCAT score accepted was a 503 and the average high was a 512, so if you score over a 512 you will be noticed. Accompany that with your good work in your masters program should go a long way. As many others have said make sure you keep up or even increase your volunteer work and shadowing. If you do receive an interview prepare yourself to discuss your undergrad GPA and always show how you learned to overcome your past shortcomings.
The amount of wrong information conveyed here is staggering. Most notable, 503 is even below the DO average by a significant amount.

Where in the world would you even get this?
 
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candbgirl

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DMATCHME has been a member for one year and that was his first post! Off to a good start I guess.


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