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PhD to MD?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by liposome, Mar 6, 2007.

  1. liposome

    liposome Guest

    Jul 3, 2006
    Hi everyone,

    I would really appreciate some advice about my chances of getting into medical school.

    First my numbers and background: I went to a lower-tier California State school, and had an undergraduate GPA of 3.38. After undergrad I joined a post-baccalaureate program at Drexel University's IMS Program where I took actual medical school classes and was graded on the same grading scale as the med students. Although I passed all my classes, I received mostly Cs and Bs, and had a post bac GPA of 2.75. It was always my (overly ambitious) plan to receive both an MD and a PhD, so after a year in my post bac, I applied to an MD/PhD program, but was only accepted to the PhD program. I'm currently a PhD candidate in biochemistry and will probably graduate around January of 2008. I currently have 3 peer reviewed publications (2 from undergrad, 1 from grad), and probably a couple more on the way before I defend. I also have a patent pending on a medically-relevant invention. My grad school GPA is a measly 3.03. I took the MCAT last April with moderate/hard studying and received a 31P (B: 10, P: 10, V: 11).

    Last June (2006), I applied for the MD program again at my current campus (the only campus I applied to this year), and haven't heard any news yet. But at this late in the game, I'm pretty discouraged. So, I'm planning to apply again this June. Since my undergraduate GPA is from a lower-tier school and my post bac and grad GPAs are lackluster, should I take the MCAT again and try to get a higher score? Would a higher score help me substantially? If my score should happen to fall, would that hurt me even more? Or should I take my chances with this application cycle and apply broadly?

    Any help and insight would be appreciated. Thank you!
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  3. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    I don't understand why so many people with low GPAs and good MCATs come to the conclusion that the way to improve their apps is to retake the MCAT. :confused: Your MCAT score is fine. Your GPA is low. Don't retake the MCAT when what you clearly need to do is take some upper level UG coursework and raise your GPA.
  4. Scottish Chap

    Scottish Chap Physician PhD Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Aug 3, 2003
    I agree with Q, though I might suggest meeting with the Director of Admisisons at a few medical schools to ask them what you should do next. Your problem is more unique than many that I see posted on SDN. Your MCAT score tells me you're good at multiple choice tests and your almost complete Ph.D. tells you have a lot of persistence, but those low grades at the postbacc. level will haunt you the most, I think. It makes it look as though you might not have been giving 100%

    You can definitely get into a D.O. school but, without any connections at an allopathic school, it will be tough. I would apply to a ton of them. Putting all your eggs in one basket (applying to just one school) is never a good idea for a successful application to medical school.
  5. relentless11

    relentless11 Going broke and loving it Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Mar 30, 2001
    I agree with the two replies above. I also want to point out that the OP is working with several handicaps which should be addressed if they want to survive allopathic admissions. I cannot speak about admissions to DO programs though since I'm not all that familiar.

    (1) There appears to be a downward GPA trend, even if graduate GPA is a tad higher than post-bacc. This may imply that when courses got harder, the student did poorer. Since most schools value upper division undergrad classes, and in a good number of cases (at least for me) graduate science courses are on just as hard (if not more) than med school classes, this may translate that the OP may not survive in med school courses.

    (2) The grad school GPA may actually hurt the OP IMO. The 3.03 borderline being dismissed from the program at least at UC (<3.0 GPA = going home), and sub-par for most grad students anyway. The average that we see on SDN for grad students is 3.5 and above. My PhD program here at UC Davis has a similar average.

    (3) I agree with ScottishChap, the post-bacc grades may hurt the most. Those are supposed to count towards your overall undergrad GPA, therefore your overall undergrad GPA may be lower.

    (4) MCAT and GPA are completely different things in terms of med school. They are in essence APPLES and ORANGES. MCAT is standardized and really tests your knowledge over a 5-6 hour period depending on which test you take nowadays. GPA deals with your performance over a larger period of time. Going to class, taking several exams, and doing labs, etc.

    (5) The low GPA at a lower tier school may be an issue, but not as big as the actual GPA. I know UCSF has some very small factor that is added to students who do well at well known schools (e.g., from UC Berkeley). Regardless, we are expected to do well where ever we go, regardless if its Chico State or at UCSF's graduate program.

    It must also be noted that most schools (I have yet to see otherwise) consider GPA and MCAT EQUALLY. Therefore doing well in one may not make up for the other. So be wary of that.

    IMO, DO may be the way to go, but the OP has to show RECENT ACADEMIC success in rigorous coursework. I say this from advice from UC Davis School of Medicine, where I am doing a PhD. I graduated undergrad from UCD with a 2.65 GPA. Did post-bacc, and did it well, but couldn't afford it anymore so went the PhD route with teh caveat that I could take additional undergrad classes as electives. Maintained a 4.0 for the past 2 years in med school, grad school, and undergrad level coursework. My cumulative undergrad GPA is now a 2.89 and will pass the 3.0 mark December of this year assuming nothing happens to my thesis research, and that I keep getting 4.0's. To emphasize how important this GPA thing is to me, I will probably finish my thesis next year (3-3.5 years time), but I may drag things out longer to have more time to take more classes to boost my GPA even further. There are days when I wonder if I'll actually run out of undergrad science classes here at UCD.

    Take my advice for whatever it is though. I'm not here to discourage, but thats just how it works. Clearly if time is not an issue, and you have the capacity to do it, then you can certainly get into med school if you show med schools that you can do it. Its all about evidence-based methods to persuade med schools to grant you admission. Good luck!:luck:
  6. Auraraptor

    Auraraptor 2+ Year Member

    Feb 16, 2007
    Did you try calling them directly for this cycle and both inquiring and submitting a letter of intent? Since you are already there, see if you can walk over and get a heart to heart with someone over there...
  7. liposome

    liposome Guest

    Jul 3, 2006
    Thank you all--I appreciate your honest critiques. The reason I asked about retaking the MCAT was that I had talked with a member of the admissions committee here, and she recommended that an increase of about 3 points in my MCAT will probably make me very competetive in this school.

    I applied to this school, and only this school this time for a handful of reasons, 1) to test the waters, 2) my home and fiance are here, 3) I'm actually really attached to this campus, and its facilities and collaborators. But, in the end, I want to practice medicine, so I would go to which ever school takes me, DO schools included.

    I agree that the GPA I received in my post bac hurt me a lot, and my GPA in grad school is also lackluster. In both cases, I don't think it was for lack of trying. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the smartest person out there, but I worked hard hard in these classes. Unfortunately my earlier education probably didn't prepare me well enough, as I was taking many theses classes (physio, immuno, biochem, histo) for the very first time. But if given another opportunity to take these classes, I'm willing to bet that I'd do substantially better.

    Anyway, enough excuses, sorry about that. I'm at a point in my life where I have about a year until I receive my PhD. Afterwards, I will either go to medical school or do a post doc. I would be relatively happy with "just a PhD", but I will always regret not trying for med school this one last time, since it's what motives me and my research. I will seriously consider your fine advice about taking some undergraduate classes for the next year, but I don't know how much one or two semesters of undergraduate classes can help me. I mean: how many classes should I take? Should I take them just to show an increasing trend in my grades? Or should I take them to actually increase my GPA? How much of an increase in the GPA is good enough?

    Also, in light of some new info above, should I retake the MCAT? Will the risk of getting a lower score be worth it if I can raise my score higher?

    Thank you again for your advice, I look forward to more! :)
  8. AtreyuRocks

    AtreyuRocks 7+ Year Member

    Mar 3, 2007
    Richmond, VA
    I agree with most of what everyone has said. Especially about the MCAT deal. Raising three points when you already have a 31, personally I don't think it is worth the risk or time (assuming you are very busy with defending, then again you said you only did mild studying and got a 31, very nice!). As far as raising your GPA, I am guessing it is going to be very difficult because at this point you have taken so many courses, it will take quite some A's to raise the GPA. I went through this scenario myself about raising GPA and MCAT and whether it was worth the time and effort. I would apply broadly. And I will check back with you when I am done with the 2007 application cycle and I can confirm an acceptance (I applied super-late, fingers crossed.)

    EDIT: oh yes, and I agree that DO is also an excellent option if you agree with this type of practice
  9. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    You probably won't be able to raise your total GPA much, that's true. But the upward trend that some of the other posters have mentioned is something important to consider. Right now you don't have a track record of solid academic performance. If I were looking at your app, that would be what concerns me, not your MCAT score. Incidentally, your MCAT is nicely balanced and competitive for most med schools. You're already above the 80th percentile for all test-takers, at the national average for allopathic matriculants, and comfortably above average for osteopathic matriculants. So I really don't think raising your MCAT score will be as helpful as showing an improvement in your schoolwork. Trust me when I tell you that the highest MCAT score you can imagine won't make up for not having the grades.

    If you're serious about going to med school, you need to cast a much wider net. Very few people are strong enough applicants that they can apply to a single school and expect not to have to reapply. Are you a CA resident? It's unfortunate if you are, since all of your state schools are apparently very competitive. Get yourself an MSAR, look through for schools where you fit the mission and are reasonably competitive, and apply broadly. Best of luck to you. :)
  10. liposome

    liposome Guest

    Jul 3, 2006
    Atreyu, thank you for your insight, I'm glad that I now know someone else who was having the same problems. And please don't get me wrong, I STUDIED for the MCAT. I mean, enough to fear taking it another time. But, I feel that I definitely didn't use all my time wisely, and so that there's a little room for improvement. Good luck to you this cycle, and yes, please keep us updated on your application! :)

    Thanks again, Q. From what I've seen in these boards, I know that your advice carries a lot of weight. I'm actually not a CA resident anymore, and it's a bit of a relief. One of my priorities when I moved out of CA was to establish my residency in my new state. But, regardless of the State I'm in, I think I'm still in for an uphill battle considering my GPA. I will look into some classes, and apply broadly. Thank you again.
  11. viostorm

    viostorm Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    California schools are notoriously tough to get into from what I hear.

    Apply broadly (12-15) allopathic schools and 2-3 DO schools and I bet you will get in somewhere.
  12. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator Physician PhD Faculty Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    I don't know that my advice is necessarily any weightier than anyone else's; I can only tell you what makes sense to me. :)

    Make sure to apply to your new state's state schools then for sure. Your state schools are almost always your best prospects because they have a mandate to take people who are residents of the state.* Many state schools take few or no OOS applicants. Here in FL, all three of our public state schools are like this, so we Floridians have a huge advantage because we're not competing with outstanding people from all the other states. There *are* some state schools that take OOS applicants, but don't apply to other states' state schools unless you really fit in with their mission and/or you have ties to that state. A lot of state schools have higher standards for OOS applicants versus in-staters. For example, those few OOS students who go to the FL schools tend to have significantly higher stats than the FL students' averages.

    (*Note: this advice is with the apparent exception of CA schools, and I say apparent only because I have no experience with applying to CA schools. I've just seen a lot of Californians lamenting their situation on SDN over the past few years.)
  13. CD4helpCD8

    CD4helpCD8 Senior Member 7+ Year Member

    Aug 20, 2006
    As Scottish Chap mentioned, I too would suggest OP to talk to the director(s) of the ADCOM at those schools you have applied to or you are interested in. It seems everybody talked about numbers here, but don't forget medical schools DO weigh your clinical exposure/volunteer work heavily, especially for us PhD-->MD (they want to know we have genuine interest in medicine as a whole). In particular, RECENT (in the last two years or so) clinical exposure - the lack of that pretty much wiped out my applications this cycle :( and I am reinforcing it :) .

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