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Post-Bacc or Graduate Degree (already searched)

Discussion in 'Postbaccalaureate Programs' started by Maxprime, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. Maxprime

    Maxprime Higgs chaser
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    I have a low GPA (2.7) from undergrad and a lot of hours - so it will be difficult to make up. I can, however, get into a graduate program at a smaller school. I know that the seperate GPA would be the obvious upside, my questions:

    1) Will a great graduate GPA still be held down by a rubbish undergrad GPA? I know grad degree programs are generally a bit inflated - would ADCOMS dislike this route?

    2) I assume that post-bacc & SMP would look better than a different science-based master's, correct?

    3) Would a bad undergrad GPA and a science master's get me into an SMP better than just 2 years of post-bacc?
     
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  3. Sundarban1

    Sundarban1 Devil in disguise
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    1.) Yes, if your goal is medical school you need to get the GPA up. If you've done a search you already know that undergrad and grad GPAs are not combined. If you have no sincere interest in graduate work, don't waste your time, do a post bacc.

    2.) Again you don't need a master's degree in anything if you are considering medical school. I would take a year or so of classes either on your own or in a formal program to get that GPA up into a competative area.

    3.) Most SMPs require the MCAT, so if you have not taken all of the classes you need in order to take the MCAT, take them, then take the MCAT and apply to SMP's.

    Forget graduate school, it serves no purpose to you. Get that GPA up and hit the MCAT hard.
     
  4. Maxprime

    Maxprime Higgs chaser
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    Thanks again - will do.
     
  5. relentless11

    relentless11 Going broke and loving it
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    I want to echo Sundarban1 that you should not pursue a graduate degree unless you actually like it. Research can be a pain for some, and doing a masters by exam isn't really all that exciting either. Although a grad degree will be a positive thing, but your undergrad GPA will certainly "hold you down" as you said.

    My GPA was actually 2.65, but I pursued the PhD route because I like research, and wanted a PhD anyway. It also allows me to go to school for free over a long period of time to pull up my undergrad GPA. In addition to taking undergrad classes, I'm also allowed to take the med school classes which works like an SMP. There are certainly benefits to doing grad school, but at the same time, you have to like it, and you have to have a program that is willing to let you pursue your goals on becoming a physician. Chances are, most grad programs are not so flexible, therefore go for the SMP.

    Problem is your undergrad GPA is quite low, even for grad school standards. So I would recommend doing post-bacc first and then get into an SMP. To get into grad school, you're going to need to convince them that you won't have a 2.7 GPA trend...since a 2.7 is failing at the graduate level. So yea, if grad school isn't your cup of tea, forget it, focus on getting the grades up as Sundarban1 said.
     
  6. Maxprime

    Maxprime Higgs chaser
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    Gotcha, thanks.
     
  7. defrunner

    defrunner I'm Greased Up
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    I've already said this before in other posts, but I'll say it again. Post-bac's are not designed for people who have already taken the pre-req's or to just get their GPA up for med school (remember, since it counts twice, it is not as easy as you think to just be able to pull up your GPA, especially since you have all those credits already accumulated). Post-bac's are meant for people interested in medical school but never took the pre-req's, most likely because they did not decide on their career until after they were already too deep into an unrelated major (i.e. English).

    With a low GPA in undergrad, my feeling is that you're pretty much screwed anyway and a post-bac, while it 'may' help, is by no means the cure-all to the problems posed by the low GPA. A special master's program is a very useful thing to have because you have a higher degree to be able to pursue other options in case you can't get into med school. Getting in with a low GPA is not impossible, but it is very, very improbable and it would be, in my humble opinion, stupid not to prepare for the very likely eventuality that you won't be able to overcome this and get in within three application cycles.

    A master's degree based in the sciences is also another very useful option. Getting a master's in, say, religion is not helpful, but a master's in biotechnology or molecular genetics is.

    At this point, you can do very little to rectify your past mistakes. It's there and you'll have to deal with it, but if you take a post-bac and still don't get into med school, then that means you just wasted a whole lot of time, money and potential work experience (which counts as an EC) for nothing.

    I am biased because I have a low undergrad GPA (2.85) and elected to go into a master's of biotechnology myself at a reputable university over an SMP. I did not apply to any post-bac's because I felt it was an inappropriate avenue to take, considering that one of my majors was biology.

    Do the research and come to your own decision. Each option has their advantages and disadvantages. Either way, you will need to do something to show med schools that you are capable of handling their curriculum, as well as do better than the average matriculant on the MCAT. Since the average matriculant is about a 30-31, you need to score higher than that.

    I am applying this cycle and I scored a 33 on the MCAT, so I have strong feelings against those who disparage master's programs. Granted, there is some grade inflation but at least in the program I am in, we all learn our stuff and we handle some pretty difficult classes. It's not like the program I'm in is a joke. I can't say anything about other master's programs because I don't know about them, but to me, a post-bac vs. master's is not a debate at all.

    With a master's, you're not screwed over completely during the time you re-apply if you don't get in the first time. What can you do with a post-bac that you can't do with your undergrad degree? Nothing. It's pointless if you have already taken the classes. You might as well just stay the extra year in college and repeat your pre-req's.
     
  8. ssquared

    ssquared Member
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    Since you seem to be very well versed on this subject, I have to ask: what about situations where people can't repeat the pre-req's? My school does not allow for classes with anything above an F to be repeated. Since I didn't fail my pre-req's (just managed to get C's in chemistry) it just doesn't seem like repeating classes is the way to go. I would like to go to a special master's program, but seem pretty convinced that a regular master's program is the way to go.

    Of course, that would mean preparing for the GRE, which I don't really have time to do right now given that I'm trying to study for the MCAT....

    It's tough trying to make up for poor grades in a few classes. I hate the idea that a few bad grades could possibly ruin my chances completely of ever going to medical school. :(
     
  9. Maxprime

    Maxprime Higgs chaser
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    I have not taken my pre-reqs yet - so I agree that post-bacc is best for me.

    I agree, if a post-bacc doesn't get my GPA into a competitive range (3.4+) then an SMP is necessary.

    I disagree in that you can do very little - ADCOMS supposedly do look @ improvement. IMO, a student with a 4.0 in post-bacc for 2 years, a great MCAT, proper EC's, and a 4.0 in an SMP leaves a candidate in very good shape to be accepted. For example, my freshman GPA was a 1.2, taking more hours and scoring a 4.0 has to show vast improvement.

    I agree 100%.
     
  10. relentless11

    relentless11 Going broke and loving it
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    This is highly incorrect since by definition (AMCAS) defines post-bacc as taking undergrad coursework AFTER receiving your bachelors degree. Not all post-bacc programs require you to take pre-reqs. There are two kinds: (1) career changers, (2) GPA enhancement. The former is what you are referring to. The latter are also out there, including those for reapplicants. Feel free to look these up on the AAMC website, but off the top of my head, UC Davis, UCSF, UCLA, UCI, and UCSD all have one or both of these programs. UC Davis (where I am at) has a program that is suitable for reapplicants, while UCSF has both. Therefore, a person such as yourself who has a GPA <3.0, can pull up their GPA to a 3.0 by taking a full-time courseload of NEW upper division undergraduate classes. More importantly some schools also screen GPA, and usually the cut-off is between a 3.0-3.2, such as in the case for the med schools in the University of California system. Therefore even with a good GPA from a masters program such as yourself, you may be screened out and never receive a secondary application because of your sub-par undergraduate GPA.

    This is not true, however I do agree that SMPs are the way to go. The key point is not many SMPs will take someone with a GPA <3.0 without any evidence of academic success as you stated. However, the UC med schools, which by far are one of the harder schools to get into do take people who have shown significant improvement in their GPA, and per discussion with the dean of admissions from UCSF, and the director of admission at UC Davis, they have all recommended taking POST-BACC if GPA rehabilitation is needed, NOT graduate school. They do not mention SMPs since no SMPs are available in CA.

    Incorrect, although a masters degree will be viewed in positive light, usually masters degrees combined with a low undergrad GPA may not be helpful. Mainly because: (1) undergrad grades are weighted more than graduate grades, (2) the amount of graduate coursework in a masters program may be limited. (3) Graduate courses may be inflated, and also vary in difficulty. Reason for (1) is many people apply with ONLY undergrad grades, and thus to make it fair, it is better to compare undergrad grades, since there is little or not comparison to graduate coursework. In regards to (3) I have completed my course requirements for a PhD in pathology, and have taken both graduate and med school level courses. I have to say that graduate level courses at times are easier or harder than undergrad courses, but usually pale in comparison to the amount of material in med courses. Thus graduate level may not mimic (depending on the program) med school. This is why our deans and directors of admission suggest POST-BACC.
     
  11. Sundarban1

    Sundarban1 Devil in disguise
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    Listen to relentless and myself on this one. I have a master's degree and I'm in a post bacc myself. While the masters degree in science is good, it is not good enough to offset a bad GPA, no matter how well you do.
     
  12. mshheaddoc

    mshheaddoc Howdy
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    Unless you are taking classes with med students or similar classes as med students ... Those are the only times I'd say a masters is worth it.

    Oh and relentless is SPOT on about what exactly "post-bacc" is. :thumbup:
     
  13. defrunner

    defrunner I'm Greased Up
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    This is what I meant; I thought it had been obvious as to what I had been talking about. Sorry.

    I was referring to career changing and having a major that did not fulfill the pre-req's. I never said that pos-bac's require pre-req's (in fact, I said the opposite, if you look back and re-read). Perhaps there are post-bac's for GPA enhancement, but I was talking about my own experience and over the course of my research, I found that the schools I was looking at did not encourage applicants relying on it for GPA enhancement. There are obviously many more schools than I looked at; I apologize if I made too broad a generalization.

    I am from the East coast and have never been in California, nor do I know anything about their programs. They are great schools and I would have loved to move out there, but I know that I have no chance whatsoever at any programs (graduate or medically), so I did not even look at them. Again, I apologize if I made too broad a generalization -- the California schools were not what I was referring to.

    Again, this is why I am not applying to California schools. Perhaps I'll be lucky enough to go there for residency but this is not the time for me to look at them.

    As for other schools screening me out, I am aware of this. That is why I have applied mainly to schools with reputations for looking at the whole applicant, as well to none of the schools that screen pre-secondary.

    Even with my admitted lack of knowledge about the California schools, I find it interesting that they do not offer SMPs. The point is irrelevant anyway. The master's program I'm in has a "cut-off" of 3.0 themselves and they let me in anyway, presumably because I did well on the GRE, had good essays and good letters of recommendation. Cut-off's are not set in stone.

    Also, I know that upward trends are viewed in a good light; I was referring to the post-bac's impact on overall and BCPM GPA.

    I did not say anything to the contrary and am not sure why you say I'm wrong. I meant helpful as it being viewed in a positive light. Master's programs may or may not help but they do provide a much better fall-back plan than a post-bac. Remember, even with a post-bac, acceptance is not guaranteed. Do I want to be screwed over if I don't get into med school? No. Not everyone that wants to go to med school gets in; I am just hedging my bets.

    As for (1), yes undergrad GPA is weighed most heavily, no matter what. As for (2), if it's a science-based master's program with upper-level science classes, I don't see the problem. Also, my graduate program allows me to take med school classes as my electives, which I plan to do this spring. As for (3), yeah some graduate programs can be inflated and vary in difficulty. I never disputed this. Again, if it's science-based and at a university with a good reputation, then it won't be that negative.



    My whole point is that, for me personally, I would rather hedge my bets with a reputable graduate degree, because my GPA is such that there is no way I would have been able to bring it up to a 3.1 or something, let alone a 3.4. I had way too many credits due to my unrelated double majors for a post-bac to make much of a dent. Post-bac's are right for some people and not right for others. I just wanted to offer an opposing viewpoint, because you guys seem to be telling the OP to take post-bac as the only option and I disagreed. Obviously it works in California and if you're lucky enough to live in the state already, then why not?

    Post-bac's do, on the whole, have a good reputation but not everyone going through it gets into med school, and then what happens after that? Being a doctor is my dream, but this isn't the time to be unrealistic. I did not apply to upper-tier or even mid-tier schools, for the most part. My application, other than my undergrad GPA, is very solid (as far as everyone tells me). The biggest thing to me is that my undergrad pre-med committee wrote me a committee letter of recommendation; they don't do that for people they think do not have a good chance of acceptance.

    To the OP, the GRE is not that bad. No study course is required at all. If you want to study, then get a GRE book or something, but if you did well on the SAT, you will be just fine on the GRE (considering how similar the two are). The worst part about it is that you can't go back and change your answers once you put it in (it's computer-based). If you are interested in doing a regular master's program, then that's great. Just make sure that you get a scientific base in the master's and see if taking med school classes is an option. Also, reputation matters, so don't go to a clown college or something for this.

    Do the research and come to your own decision about what's not only right for you now but also for your future. I have not regretted my decision to get a master's in biotechnology because not only do I have the science-based curriculum at a very prestigious institution, I am also making good contacts in the medical department and elsewhere for future recommendations and potential jobs. Even if I can't go to med school, I am in much better shape now than I was when I graduated last year.

    Nothing can be done about my undergrad GPA but I can make damn sure I solidify everything else, and to be honest, I don't want to attend a med school that is all about the numbers instead of the person. If they reject me immediately, then that's fine because I know that my undergrad GPA is a major drawback; my only goal right now is to just get to the interview stage at a few schools. I am mentally prepared for rejection across the board but I am also confident in myself and my application. Doing a master's program was right for me; a post-bac was not.

    That's all I was trying to say; just offering a different viewpoint. Relentless has the facts right but the whole story was incomplete.
     
  14. defrunner

    defrunner I'm Greased Up
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    Without knowing too much about your situation, I can't say a lot more. I had originally meant that for people who already had pre-req's, doing a post-bac was pretty much the equivalent of re-taking your pre-req's (since after all, they are undergraduate-level classes; there may be the option to take classes with grad/med school students, but I am not sure about this aspect).

    Study for the MCAT first and foremost; that is by far the biggest single test you have to do well in. If you're applying for this cycle, just focus on the MCAT. If you're applying for next cycle, just focus on the MCAT. Either way, focus on the MCAT. The GRE is offered pretty much every day so it isn't like you can't be flexible with it over the year; you don't need to worry about studying too much for it either. It is very, very similar to the SAT in terms of content. If you're worried and want to brush up on your skills, then get a book or something but don't go overboard.

    If you only have a few bad grades, then do not stress too much over it. A few C's are not going to kill you at all. Just make sure you nail the rest of your application and get it in early. The stories you hear about people with a 40 MCAT and 4.0 GPA not getting in anywhere is because they were over-confident or just had no personality. Something was majorly off with their application. Regardless, they usually get in the second time around, which you don't hear about.
     
  15. defrunner

    defrunner I'm Greased Up
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    Like I said, not everyone that applies to med school gets in.

    I do, however, have some questions... Did you not even get secondaries or interviews? Did you not get wait-listed and just rejected outright? Did the ad-com's specifically tell you after you got rejected that the master's degree did not help strengthen your application at all? Do you regret getting your master's instead of going straight for a post-bac? Did you apply broadly enough? Did you apply to DO or just MD programs? Are you sure that your MCAT, EC's, essays, LOR's, etc were all more competitive than the norm? As you said, a master's alone does not offset a bad GPA, but having a stronger and more solid rest of the application does help.

    I just have serious doubts that a master's program does not help at all, especially for schools that do not screen pre-secondary.

    Regardless, at least you have a good fallback option with the master's instead of 'just' the post-bac.
     
  16. defrunner

    defrunner I'm Greased Up
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    My point was that post-bac's do very little in terms of your overall GPA once you have accumulated that many credit hours upon graduation. Upward trends are viewed very positively, obviously, and to be honest, a candidate in a post-bac for 2 years and then an SMP following that with great EC's and MCATs is a helluva candidate. That shows serious dedication and time commitment to the medical profession (re-applicants are viewed positively for this same reason, if they further strengthened their application in between cycles, that is). My point was not both SMPs and post-bac, it was for if you had to go in only one direction.

    I just wanted to offer another viewpoint so you don't think a post-bac is the only way to go. Sorry for all these posts.
     
  17. mommy2three

    mommy2three PGY-1
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    if you would have asked me a year ago i would have told you that smp's were the way to go....today i will tell you to run as fast as you can away from a smp.
    i was in a similar situation, my overall undergrad gpa was low a post bacc would not help me as i had all my pre-reqs with good grades and i had a LOT of credit hours, my science gpa was good and i had a lower mcat but still acceptable.
    after applying and getting not a single interview from anywhere i talked to numerous ad reps who all told me the same thing....i needed to get a good gpa somewhere. since i could not do it with my undergrad they recommended i seriously consider a master's program. they told me by getting my masters degree i accomplished two things: 1. i raised my gpa (since grad is calculated separately from undergrad and 2. i proved to them that i could "handle" med school classes (since they are the equiv of grad level). so off i went to search out masters programs. ended up getting a last minute acceptance here in chicago to a smp and thought it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. i studied my behind off last year and i ended up missing the gpa cutoff by 1 question on one of my finals. trust me when i say i never took anything for granted...i studied my tush off for every single week i was in class and i still did not make it.
    now i have since talked to numerous deans of admissions in chicago area to figure out how my failure to complete this program would play out in the application process and they have all told me the same thing. it is going to hurt me. one of them even went so far as to tell me that students like me who do not make it for whatever reason are the reason she tells people who are considering smp's to run as fast as they can away from them and pursue a regular grad masters instead. you have to realize that you may fall into the small number who do not complete the program...you may fall on the wrong side of the stats. and now i am at a competitive disadvantage compared to people who are coming from grad programs with 3.5 gpas because mine is not near that (even though the classes i took are more difficult than classes found in a traditional grad program). so now on top of the other things i had stacked against me i have a low grad gpa which i have to take the next year to raise.
    sad but true that for most adcoms it comes down to numbers...and if you enter these programs you run a very real risk of hurting your numbers, yes you can also help them.
    this is jmho based on my personal experience...feel free to take it with a grain of salt.
     

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