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Medical Should I pursue DIY Post-Bacc vs SMP for nontraditional reapplicant?

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Mr.Smile12

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    Thanks for taking the time to open and read!

    I'm hoping I can get a little help here on deciding if a DIY post-bacc or SMP is in my best interest and any other application advice you guys and gals may have

    I applied in the 2019-2020 cycle for MD only with no interview invites.

    Basic stats:
    - Graduated in 2017
    - 3.48 cGPA, 3.37 sGPA
    - 507 MCAT (Chem/Phys: 131 CARS: 124 Bio/Biochem: 126 Psych/Soc: 126)
    - 0 research experience (other than a semester-long research project for a class).
    - ~150 hrs of volunteering in patient transport and as Heme/Onc waiting room coordinator at Rush University Medical Center over one year.
    *Starting with a hospice service soon in western Michigan.
    - 10 hrs of shadowing in Rush University Medical Center Radiosurgery for cardiothoracic and neurosurgical tumor boards
    - 24 hrs shadowing Primary Care and Hematology/Oncology.
    - 3,569 hours of clinical experience as a nurse technician (similar to CNA or PCT) over 1.5 years on nights. Hours were accumulated as follows:
    *1,729 hrs in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    *1,840 hrs in Emergency and Level 1 Trauma Center
    - Match Coordinator of College Rugby Club
    - LORs from supervisors at PM&R and ED/Trauma jobs, primary care physician I shadowed, and volunteer coordinator at RUMC.
    - Hobbies: woodworking, camping/hiking/fishing/hunting, learning Spanish as a second language,


    I realize applying at the time I did and for just MD rather than MD & DO was not the best idea as I have wasted an MD application cycle and limited my odds of matriculation. I also realize that some of my stats need improvement. I plan on retaking my MCAT, volunteering more with hospice services, and gaining more shadow experience in a broader range of clinical settings.

    What I can't decide on is if I should do a DIY post-bacc to improve my GPA before applying again or just dive into an SMP. From what I have read SMPs are kind of high-risk high reward if you do well enough on your MCAT and maintain a strong GPA, but even if you have a guaranteed interview you aren't guaranteed admission. However, linkages to medical schools from such programs are also important.

    Would it be better to do a DIY post-bacc then an SMP? If I were to go the route of a DIY post-bacc, would it matter in the eyes of MD or DO schools if I took classes at a community college or a four-year university? How should I structure my class selection for a DIY post-bacc? Is there another route I haven't thought of that I should pursue in order to make it into medical school?

    * Addressing some factors of my stats: Did not apply for nearly 2 years after graduation because I worked multiple retail jobs to help my parents keep their house and regain their financial stability. I also do not have an academic letter of recommendation because the professor that was going to write mine (who was also the premed advisor and head of the premed committee) died over the winter break of my junior year, and I was not close to any other professors. So this would be another plus for doing a post-bacc right?

    I refuse to quit on getting into med school so any and all advice would be heavily appreciated!
    I'll need to get other experts to comment on your shadowing vs. clinical experiences. I'm not sure exactly what is involved with shadowing for the boards and how that differs with respect to traditional expectations with shadowing.

    Your GPA suggests that a DIY postbac would be okay. Your MCAT scores suggest you would be a good candidate for DO programs. I don't know what classes you intend to take, but take them at a four-year institution if you can. Build rapport with faculty to get a good set of letters for a future application. You probably should wait until next cycle to apply, especially if you wind up not having enough shadowing hours. You should reach out to your former institution to see if you could still get a review from their new prehealth advisor or whoever is so designated.
     

    MusicDOc124

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    I agree. You're fine for DO as it. And since you didn't already apply for DO, your app doesn't necessarily need to "change" to show any differences from prior. If you really wanted to apply MD still, you'd need to get your GPA up and likely an SMP would be better, and need a higher MCAT with better balance. It's costly and will add another year before you apply, whereas you could apply DO in 2 months when the apps open up and have solid chances with your experience. GPA is still slightly on the lower side, but manageable. And MCAT is fine, just unbalanced. Overall, though, again because of the experience factor too, you're fine to just apply DO without additional steps right now.
     

    Mr.Smile12

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    I felt that my lack of LORs from academic faculty was one of the large draw backs of my application which is one of the reasons that a DIY post bacc or an SMP is appealing to me. Would adcoms really look down on not having an academic or committee letter? Is it worth it to take more classes for that reason alone?

    Given your situation, I think many admissions committees will not expect you to have a committee letter, but if professor letters are required, there's no negotiating around that. Your GPA issue is the reason you're taking classes, and a strong performance should come with a strong letter of evaluation.

    Rush is my dream school. So the dreamer in me says to crush an SMP/post-bacc and retake my MCAT and go for it, however, the logical side of me says to take your advice to shadow more DOs and apply DO.

    Have you been in touch with students who go to Rush? How about admissions recruiters? Recently graduated (or matched) alumni who are working as residents? They may also have some suggestions.

    Just curious as to why an SMP would be of better benefit than a DIY post bacc (other than the linkage to that particular school if I were to do well)? If I were to do really well in the SMP (gpa 3.75. or higher) and on my MCAT, would that boost my cGPA/sGPA enough to apply to other MD schools should the school connected to the SMP not work out? Does an unbalanced MCAT have a negative effect on my application?

    Unless someone tells me AMCAS does this differently: Postbac coursework is treated as undergraduate coursework in GPA calculations. Graduate/SMP GPA is NOT included. Undergraduate GPA still seems to be a stronger factor with acceptance outcomes, but helping admissions committees see successful outcomes in more rigorous curricula like an SMP is also a factor.
     

    Goro

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    I felt that my lack of LORs from academic faculty was one of the large draw backs of my application which is one of the reasons that a DIY post bacc or an SMP is appealing to me. Would adcoms really look down on not having an academic or committee letter? Is it worth it to take more classes for that reason alone?

    Rush is my dream school. So the dreamer in me says to crush an SMP/post-bacc and retake my MCAT and go for it, however, the logical side of me says to take your advice to shadow more DOs and apply DO.

    Just curious as to why an SMP would be of better benefit than a DIY post bacc (other than the linkage to that particular school if I were to do well)? If I were to do really well in the SMP (gpa 3.75. or higher) and on my MCAT, would that boost my cGPA/sGPA enough to apply to other MD schools should the school connected to the SMP not work out? Does an unbalanced MCAT have a negative effect on my application?

    “Dream schools are like dream girls: better in the abstract than reality”. –The exceptionally wise gyngyn

    Lack of LOR from academic faculty? What does this mean, exactly? That're you're too far out of school? But you applied this past cycle...you had to have LORs! You are required to get LORs from your faculty.

    MD schools in particular are rather anal about committee LORs, but a lack of one is not lethal. However, if a med school knows your own school provides committee LORs, you'll need to explain why you don't have one. Or did you apply without letters?????

    In case you're not aware of it, Rush is a particularly service loving school

    SMPs are auditions for med schools. And yes, if you don't get into your host SMP school, there are others that believe in reinvention. An MCAT is only imbalanced when one of the subscores fall < a school's 10th %ile for acceptees. Your total score is 4 points below the national median. Successful reinventors typically have > 513.
     

    Goro

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    I didn't actually have an LOR from a faculty member that knew me well as a person or as a student. The one faculty member that I was close to passed away during winter break of my junior year before he could write me a letter. I also feel like I may be too far out of school as I graduated in May 2017 from my undergraduate school. I had one LOR from a faculty member that vaguely remembered me and he said he could write, per his words, "a generally positive letter based on your grades and GPA, but nothing too specific pertaining to your character as a person or student". To me this seemed like he wrote a cookie cutter letter, and based on what I have read on other SDN threads can either be better than not having a faculty letter at all, or if it is too general, can actually damage your application. Wouldn't a post bacc be beneficial for this reason alone?

    I did apply without a committee letter and put in the explanation as to why I didn't.

    Yes, I am more aware of that now for Rush. I just made the decision to peel back from my work in the ED/Trauma Center (70-80 hr work weeks) to start volunteering on things that have become important to me through my experiences in the ED (acute mental/behavioral health crises in ED settings, effects of social determinants on patient quality of life/life goals/health outcomes, end of life/hospice care). Hoping that maybe it will be enough.

    I do think it may be worth the time to improve my MCAT. As I have read before "Apply when you have the best application possible. Medical schools aren't going anywhere." However, I do know if I have a good enough application already for DO I should seize that opportunity.
    Taking a couple of courses to get faculty letters is recommended when you're too far out of school to get them from previous faculty.
     

    Mr.Smile12

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    I do believe I would have a strong performance in either an SMP or postbacc. I know it definitely won't be a cake walk, but I know I have the drive to handle it.

    Yes, there is a PGY-1 in my ED here in Michigan that is from Rush, and my cousin is also an ENT PGY-1 in South Carolina from Rush, so I have been talking to them about it when they have free time. No admission's recruiters.

    Yes, that is my current dilemma. I know I want to do one or the other.
    -I know the SMP is high risk high reward, as it is useless to me if I do not do well enough in the program or on the MCAT, and even if I do well on both, nothing is guaranteed. However, the linkages to either the host school, or other schools may be incredibly helpful (I once read that the Georgetown SMP will help you get into other schools even if they themselves don't accept you, but that advice is N=1 so far).
    -I know a post-bacc is vastly cheaper to most SMPs, would allow me to build up my undergraduate GPA, and put me in tough with professors and a committee to get letters from (can't remember if the SMPs will write a committee letter or if those individual professors will write the letter either?).

    Right now I'm at a loss as to which would have a larger positive impact on my application/admissions outcomes.
    I don't know about Rush's history in admitting students from postbac or master's programs. You need to find that out, as well as any patterns of postbac/masters programs the admissions process seems to prefer. (I am not knowledgeable to know whether Rush has a linkage memo of understanding/agreement with such programs.)

    You should be able to determine the postbac GPA and hours you need to move the needle on your undergraduate science GPA/BCPM. What are the upper-level biomedical science courses you have yet to take (see @Goro 's guide to reinvention at least for some of those suggested classes)? If you have already exhausted many of those options but have more A's than B's (like 2:1), find the cheapest SMP that fits your needs. If you have not exhausted those options, postbac certificate or DIY would work depending on what is offered to you.
     
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