low GPA high MCAT please help

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by surag, May 13, 2008.

  1. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    So I've been thinking and rethinking about going to medical school. I've been trying to find other areas I might be interested aside from med school but now I'm thinking perhaps it is best for me. I shadowed a physician recently and really did enjoy the experience.

    However, my GPA sucks but my MCATs are great. I have a 2.8(just graduated) and a 37 MCAT which expires after next year(I took it in 2006). I took the MCATS after doing very very well in the pre-med courses but my grades tanked my junior and senior year.

    Any suggestions as to what I can do to help myself get into med school? I want to avoid DO and Caribbean schools if possible. I was also thinking of the peace corps just to have a great experience and appreciate other cultures. I'm sure it will help towards med school but I feel like improving my GPA is important. I think its too late to apply for SMPs for this fall so I'll have to apply for next year. this means that I'll have to retake the MCATs for the most part since they'll expire by the time I apply. I'm pretty smart and if I shore up on my orgo I'm sure I can do well again if I want to. If you guys can help me out please let me know as to what I can do to improve my GPA and have a better chance at med school

    Thanks

    Surag
     
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  3. Archer

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    The first step would be to figure out how you let your grades tank and decide if you have the stamina for med school. Speak with a premed advisor at your school.
    From my understanding, your GPA is going to be a pretty big hurdle. It seems like the number of applications is going up along with average GPA and MCAT numbers.
     
  4. osli

    osli Senior Member

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    Aside from the GPA problem, you've got to work on the glaring red flag in your future application... a smart guy who decided to blow off junior and senior year isn't attractive. Maybe you didn't blow them off... perhaps there was some valid personal problems or whatever. If so, great. If not, think hard about how you can prove that whatever was the problem with motivation in the past never will be again. That probably means more classes, post bacc/SMP/grad degree or whatever at the least.

    It's probably better to have struggled early in college and be able to show a steady if gradual improvement with good grades in difficult junior/senior courses. Having your transcript the other way demonstrates that intelligence or aptitude isn't the problem, but rather discipline or motivation (at least, that's how it looks). So focus on that at least as hard as you focus on just bringing up the GPA. Improving GPA would probably help that late bloomer a lot more than the late slacker.

    You might also want to expand your options to include DO schools, which are sometimes more receptive of students who have taken oblique paths to the typical premed route (typical activities, good grades, good MCAT, med school). The DO degree might seem to hold a lot of students back from matching into the more competitive specialties, but to be honest those students probably never just blew away both courses and standardized tests, and that probably continued into med school where board scores reign supreme. For someone who made a 37, you likely have the potential to score high on the boards no matter what school you go to, and that will open doors to pretty much anything you might want to specialize in.
     
  5. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    So if I were interested in the very competitive fields of neurosurgery, orthopedics and so forth, me doing well in the boards can potentially allow me to join an allopathic residency program?

    Thats promising. But I still would like to have the MD degree...its just the pedigree that I would appreciate. As much as it doesnt matter...I mean, is there a stigma? how bad is it and how much does it affect professionals? I havnt come into much contact with DOs so I dont know whom to ask these questions.

    Thanks.
     
  6. osli

    osli Senior Member

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    Allopathic neurosurgery would be tough, as would allopathic dermatology and plastic surgery. But that is true for any graduate of any school. You might be confined to the osteopathic residency programs in those specialties. Orthopedics is tough but not impossible. It's relatively easy to land an osteopathic ortho residency, so that is a definite plus, but because of that some allopathic ortho residencies are reluctant to take DO graduates (which I certainly understand). Most other allopathic residencies will be more open, from radiology and anesthesiology to general surgery to urology to medicine and all of its subsequent branches. Of course, there will always be some programs that simply won't take a DO graduate, even if it is family practice, but then there are some that simply won't take graduates outside of a select few "prestigious" schools too, so I don't see that as being a significant difference. Also keep in mind that if you aren't absolutely dead set on an allopathic residency then as a very bright student you would have an excellent shot at pretty much any osteopathic residency. Let's be honest... a 37 in the osteopathic world will have much less competition than the same score in the allopathic world assuming you can manage similar grades and board scores.

    As for the stigma, not to be too harsh, but that perception is much more common among people like you than is true for practicing physicians and the vast majority of the patient base. Residency directors may choose not to accept DO students because the AOA doesn't open residencies to allopathic students... a very valid argument. But rarely is it because they feel that a DO graduate simply cannot be competent. In fact, most programs that take the occasional DO student find them to be exceptional, which is logical since if they only occasionally take a DO student you would expect the ones that they take to be exceptional regardless of "pedigree."

    And you need to really level with yourself here. You blew off several semesters of school... you may not have the luxury of going for the "pedigree." So you need to ask yourself just how badly do you want to be a physician? Is it to run with a particular crowd or be viewed a certain way by certain people? Have a particular lifestyle? Have a particular job? Because if it is the first, you are barking up the wrong tree regardless of MD or DO. If it is the second, then both MD and DO will get you there, though you may want to seriously consider the time and financial investment it will take to get there. If it is the third, then the pedigree is irrelevant.
     
  7. osli

    osli Senior Member

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    Oh... one more thing. You may well have come into contact with several DO's throughout your life and had no idea, since there is little to no distinction in clinical practice. Who knows... perhaps you were treated or operated on by a DO in the past and were completely oblivious to it.
     
  8. osli

    osli Senior Member

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    Ah, one more thing. :) Maybe MD isn't completely closed to you if that is what you have your heart set on. Best advice is to schedule an appointment with a few adcomms if you can for a counseling session... lay out your history, grades, and scores and ask if their school would consider a candidate like yourself, or after a post-bacc or SMP, or whatever. What would it take? You might get a sense for how likely you would be to get in down the road.

    Don't take me wrong though... DO schools aren't likely to just open their arms wide at the moment either. They'll probably frown on your GPA (and the timing) as much as MD schools, but will probably be more receptive after a semester or two of courses, post-bacc, etc., and a few might have "guaranteed in" master's programs that would be worth checking into.
     
  9. rogue0722

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    That is very, very true. I just found out my old primary care doctor whom I saw a few times last year, is a DO!
     
  10. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    I'm not sure what masters to pursue anymore. Should I do an SMP, an MPH or a MS in engineering? All of which are viable and possible options. However, I like the MPH more than anything but I'm not sure how much it will help improve my science GPA or if it can be used to improve overall GPA. will it matter? Will anyone look at it and give it consideration?

    If I do any masters program, I'm thinking of doing peace corps after that and then going into med school. I just need something to shore up my GPA to above a 3.0. I'm sure I can score a high MCAT score as well and hopefully my peace corps work can help me out.

    What do you guys think?

    Surag
     
  11. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Right now, you are not competitive for any medical school (MD or DO) in this country with that low uGPA and thus even entertaining potential residency selections is a bit premature. You have some serious "damage-control" to work on period. You essentially had two years to work on getting your uGPA up and you didn't do that. The red flags are flying high right now in terms of what you bring to the table no matter what your MCAT score.


    The only "masters" degree that is going to be helpful for you is a SMP(application enhancement) which with your uGPA, is going to be a long shot if any shot at all. (These programs are not likely to take your below 3.0 uGPA). No graduate degree, outside of a strong performance in an application enhancement SMP, will "raise" a poor undergraduate science GPA. You need more than a few years of very high post bacc work to get yourself competitive which will likely mean that you are going to have to retake the MCAT because of expiration by the time you get your uGPA into an acceptable range (not easy or cheap).

    Nothing "extracurricular" is going to offset your poor academics. While Peace Corps is admirable, it's not helpful for what you need if you truly wish to go into medicine/medical school.

    At any rate, you have huge mountain ahead of you. Your best bet is to start putting one foot in front of the other and getting the job done.
     
  12. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    Thats not true, a lot of these programs don't necessarily require a 3.0 GPA and take into consideration the MCAT score. The earlier one applies the stronger the chance for admissions.

    Why is an SMP necessary for medical school? Can't a strong science based masters program in engineering provide the same opportunity?

    Also, while I appreciate your candidness, I've heard of quite a few students in my situation who, with good MCAT scores and postbacc or masters programs managed to get into medical school afterwards.... I dont think GPA is the end all, but the path to med school is certainly longer and more winding.

    Any other thoughts on this?
     
  13. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    For the record I got interviews at two schools for the MD program. I didn't give my recommendation letters in time and it didn't work out-I didn't really have a strong relationship with any professors nor had I done well enough to ask some1 I didn't really know well.
     
  14. Lacheln

    Lacheln Cavorting in the Hills

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    Start postbacc classes, get the GPA up, and start forming relationships so you can get letters. I think it's clear you need time to think about your motivation, given the decline in performance and not getting your letters in on time. The adcoms are going to be asking about that, so you'd better a) have a good story for the whys and how you're different now, and b) recent coursework to demonstrate you've mended your ways in a concrete way.

    I understand the whole "I'm smart and can do the coursework intellectually" thing, shown by your MCAT, but it also takes stamina and focus.
     
  15. respublica174

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    Hi, I'm really nervous about this and I would really appreciate your advice.
    I am applying this year and I would like to know how competitive my application is and what range of schools I should be aiming for.

    -------------------------------------------------------------
    I'm a student who recently completed masters of science in biology with a 3.9 in 2008. With:

    Undergraduate GPA 2.62, BCPM GPA 2.9 in 2006 in an engineering school with biology degree(initially an engineering major, switched second year)

    MCAT 12 Phys, 11 Biol, 9 Verbal = 32 M; Aug. 2005

    Clinical experience
    5 months of volunteering at a local ER and internal medicine
    6 months of rounding with general surgery team at a local medical school's hospital
    15 months of shadowing at pathology service
    1 month in cardiology

    Publications
    secondary author in an article in Journal of American College of surgeons
    secondary author in an article in annals of surgery
    (hopefully 2 pathology journal articles by the end of the year)

    Presentations
    2 posters for United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology Annual Meeting (www.uscap.org)

    Other activities
    6 months microbiology research during undergraduate
    2 years of part time retail job(during college years, which explains my low gpa) and another job for 5 months
    1 month participating in M1 PBL class at a local medical school
    Publication of a religious book currently sold in bookstores
    ------------------------------------------------------------------


    I'm considering re-taking MCAT and taking post-bac classes for BCPM. What do you think?

    Thank you
     
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  17. flip26

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    If by this you mean SMPs, you should be aware that the minimum GPA for many SMPs has been steadily rising - it is tough to get in these programs with a GPA much less than, say 3.3...and a sub 3.0 is deadly, even with your high MCAT...and many SMPs do have explicitly stated minimum GPAs, and many more have unofficial minimums...

    But that is not to say that there aren't any SMPs that would accept you - you just need to apply broadly - do your homework on this first.

    Good luck.
     
  18. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    Are there any posts or threads about students with 3.0 or lower GPA and the help they got to get into med school?

    Thanks

    Surag
     
  19. CrepesofWrath

    CrepesofWrath They're delicious.

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    Don't forget to turn in those applications early, and stay on top of your recommenders for those letters....oh wait, you're talking about SMPs.

    :laugh:
     
  20. CrepesofWrath

    CrepesofWrath They're delicious.

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    Surag,

    I am sorry to put this so bluntly, but you have to be realistic. If you have a copy of the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) published by the AAMC, you can see the distribution of GPAs and MCAT scores of medical school matriculants as reported by the medical schools. You will see that someone with <3.0 undergrad GPA is at a severe disadvantage. While it is true that applying earlier can make an applicant more likely to receive an interview spot, it does nothing to help someone overcome a fundamental deficiency in their application.

    The truth with regards to master's programs is that some programs will be more beneficial than others. It is safe to say that most master's programs will not be of help because many admissions committees believe, unfairly or not, that there is widespread grade inflation at the graduate level. The SMP, as you know, is specifically designed to allow potential applicants to demonstrate academic ability - doing well there is the best and most efficient way to overcome an undergraduate GPA that is that low.

    Whether or not an MS in engineering will be helpful is debatable. If you are able to even consider engineering as a backup to medicine, just commit to engineering and forget about medicine. You will end up ahead financially as an engineer, anyway.
     
  21. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    well for what its worth, suppose I do end up at an SMP and manage a 3.03...which is the best I can hope for with a 4.0 that year( I went through a lot for the past 2 years-my grades sucked less because I was lazy and more because of family issues) thats why I'm taking this year of and working/volunteering.

    Supposed I do well at an SMP the following year, and move my GPA above a 3.0, plus peace corps-which I plan on doing regardless of whether it helps my med school admissions or not(however I am willing to postpone it if I can do other things that will help my med school admissions).

    Suppose I retake the MCATs and get over a 35(I assume if I got a 37 I can diligently work and get a 35 at the least again)

    Does that pull me up enough that I can apply to a state school and get in?

    I feel like my extracurriculars(peace corps) along with a strong MCAT should make me competitive for a seat somewhere....
     
  22. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved

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    Surag, you are all over the place here. Take things one at a time, and work on getting each piece of the puzzle in place before you rush off to start the next. As others have already been saying, your grades are a huge, glaring red flag to any adcom. Nothing else you can do will make up for the fact that your GPA is far below the average for all medical schools in this country. Any schools that use GPA cutoffs would still screen you out even if you had a perfect 45 on the MCAT, spent a decade in the Peace Corps, and single-handedly saved all the dying children in every third world country. So if medical school is your goal, then fixing that GPA deficiency should be your top priority.

    You mentioned having had family problems during your last two years of college. Are these problems now solved to the point that you could go back to school and succeed? If not, you need to take some time off from school and get your personal affairs in order before you even think of starting down this road to medical school.

    Assuming your family issues are resolved, you basically have two choices to redeem your transcripts. One option is that you can register at your old UG (or any other) for UG-level coursework and do a couple more years of coursework at the UG level. The advantage of doing this is that these new UG grades will be averaged in with your previous grades. Also, if you retake classes you did poorly in and then apply to osteopathic schools, those schools will allow you to replace your previous poor grades with the new, higher grades. This is the post-bacc type of route. There are formal post-bacc programs available, or you can make your own post-bacc on your own. Either way can be successful as long as you establish several consecutive semesters of excellent grades.

    Your other option is to join an SMP. These are programs that are designed to allow students to take medical school type classes and give you a chance to "prove" that you can handle the work. The advantage is that this route will probably be faster than going the post-bacc route. The disadvantages are that it is more expensive, and the stakes are higher. If you bomb out of the SMP, you will now have a poor record at the grad level as well, in medical school courses, and you will decrease your competitiveness for medical school even further. Just so that you are clear, SMP coursework is taken at the graduate level, and this is *not* averaged into your UG GPA by AMCAS. However, doing well in an SMP can still help you gain admission to medical school and make up for a poor showing in college. In contrast, the engineering MS you are considering would not be as helpful because it would not be averaged into your UG GPA, nor allow you to show your stuff in medical school coursework. Thus, it would not be particularly advantageous to do an engineering MS if getting into med school is your goal.

    Finally, from what you've told us, I see very little to be gained by you joining the Peace Corps as far as improving your candidacy for medical school or your personal situation is concerned. It will take you away where you cannot help your family if they need you. It will do nothing to remedy your poor GPA or otherwise prepare you for medical school. As an EC, it will not give you an advantage over volunteering regularly and consistently for a cause that you care about here in the United States over that same period of two years. I suppose the one good thing that could come out of it is that it might give you a chance to find yourself--it sounds like you're still looking for what you want out of life. If that's the case, forget about med school for a while and go abroad if that's what you want to do. Medical school is hard enough even when you are totally committed to doing whatever it takes to get in (and through) it. Don't make the mistake of being premed by default because you're not sure what else you want to do with your life.

    Best of luck to you. :)
     
  23. simpler2

    simpler2 person
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    Surag, though it has already been mentioned, I would really question the role of the peace corps in your journey. There are thousands of other post-grad volunteer opportunities available, both internationally and in the US that will be more oriented towards a future medical career. Also, the utility of peace corps work has come into more question recently as developing nations produce their own educated workforce. I think volunteering is admirable, I spent a year in a l'arche community after undergrad, but I don't feel that one should volunteer to cushion an application/credentials (there is a great risk of doing harm to those you serve when this is the case).
    As with anyone considering a medical degree, I think that you should have an idea of what you want to do with your life and if that degree will help you get there. Spending all the time and effort for the prestige or lifestyle might leave you embittered if things don't match up to your expectations. However, I believe working very hard to medically serve a population that you are passionate about serving will both give you strength to get through the rigmarole and leave you satisfied with your vocation.
     
  24. surag

    surag kobayashi

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    so based on these two options I can either attempt for the SMP, if I dont get in I can do a post bacc and then an SMP and apply to med school?

    I know its an expensive route...but the cost isn't really an issue as my parents can pay for it.

    The question is really whether or not it will work.

    I think after working this year I'll attempt to get into both post bacc and SMP programs and either do 1 year or 2 years before applying to med schools...and retake the MCATs
     
  25. Perrotfish

    Perrotfish Has an MD in Horribleness
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    I'm sorry but this just isn't right. I've been through the SMP application process, the only explicit minimums I found out of the dozen programs I researched (and the 8 that I applied to) are at Loyola (3.0) and EVMS (2.75). The rest that I found had "suggested" minimum GPAs of a 3.0, and, with a sub 3.0 GPA and a high MCAT, I got into most of them. Now that doesn't mean the average for these programs isn't way over a 3.0, but you have to take into account that the average MCAT is WAY below a 37. If he can duplicate that MCAT score I think he should have a strong chance at several of the best programs.

    You're already looking at a 2 year wait for medical school, do you really want to add two more years for a stint in the Peace Corps?
     
  26. talkalot24

    talkalot24 Member

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    Don't let folks discourage you too much. It may be a tougher road, but if you have the desire and discipline, anything is possible. If you have good experiences, write a strong personal statement, interview well, do a post-bacc or SMP and do well, and get a strong MCAT score (which you've proven you can do), you have a good chance of getting accepted.

    Other options include summer programs like MED (and UNC-CH) or SPFD (Summer Program for Future Doctors) at ECU in North Carolina. It simulates medical school. I know MED has an excellent success rate of folks getting accepted to schools. I know folks who did MED who had a sub-3.0 GPA and were accepted to dental/medical school. Of course, these folks did very well in the program (top 10-15%), had strong MCAT/DAT scores, and great experiences.

    My message is: if you truly want to be a doctor, don't give up. Don't let folks discourage you. It can be done.
     
  27. cwfergus

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    The MCAT does not expire after 3 years...... does it?
     
  28. talkalot24

    talkalot24 Member

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    Many schools won't accept a score that is more than 3 years old. I think for some schools it's 5 years.

     
  29. elxr06

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    and so SMP is the first year of medical school but you get a M.S. and a pretty decent shot at completing the rest of medical school (maybe not at same school) if the SMP stats are decent?

    I suppose you do need everything that is required of med school or grad school depending on whether you need GRE or the MCAT .... what else do you need to get to an SMP? And how are you supposed to get LOR's easily if you don't have high GPA's or whatnot? Wouldn't that be a red flag to the prof's trying to help you but......


    That was what I am worried about since my current GPA stats is a 2.7-2.8ish...
     
  30. flip26

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    You are in medical school, so when did you go through this, because there has been a definite shift in the last 2 years towards higher GPAs being necessary to get into an SMP - their "official" minimums may still be 3.0, but the reality is that these schools have more applicants to choose from these days and the average GPA is on the rise...read the SMP threads to get a feeling for the shift...

    The OP has an MCAT score that will "expire" after next year at most places, so all this talk about Peace Corps is extra foolish. I would try to get into an SMP ASAP, preferably one with instant admission to med school minus the glide year business...would be a shame to lose that 37...
     
  31. kai35

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    I was accepted to Minnesota and UIC with a 2.9 and 33 (11/11/11).

    It's possible, but very difficult. You need an incredible personal statement.
     
  32. DocSoMa

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    Amen to that! Don't let SDN get you down. You only have one life to live and if medicine is your calling, then go for it! Best of luck! :luck:
     

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