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What to do with a poor undergrad GPA?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by GellaBella, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. GellaBella

    GellaBella Penn Vet V'14
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    Hi everyone,

    I know there have been threads like this in the past, and the advice on them has been good, but I'm wondering what people will suggest for my specific situation.

    Unfortunately, I have a really bad undergraduate GPA. There is really no explaination for it, except that I think I was in denial my entire time I was in college. When I recently requested my transcript so I could see where I'm at in terms of prereqs...well, I was shocked and embarrassed.

    My cumulative GPA from undergrad is a 2.98
    My GPA in my major (biology) is a 3.14
    My GPA in my minor (chemistry) is a 2.6...ouch

    needless to say my transcript is full of Bs and Cs.

    Now I remember why I didn't apply for vet school after college, even though it was what I wanted to do.

    However, in the time since graduating undergrad I have been at a university completing a PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. My GPA from graduate coursework is a 3.67. Much better, but I'm not sure that that at all makes my poor undergraduate showing any better.

    My question is what do you think I should do? Obviously I can re-take some prerequisites, but since many places seem to just average the grades together I'm not sure if that will be helpful for me.

    I do have/am getting veterinary experience. I was awarded a fellowship during college to do research at the University of Cambridge Veterinary School in the UK. I am currently shadowing with an exotics veterinarian, and I have another veterinary experience lined up with a veterinary fertility specialist. I also am hoping to gain some large animal experience after I graduate this spring.

    Plus all of my time in graduate school has given me over 10,000 hours of research experience.

    But still my undergraduate GPA is haunting me.

    So what do you think? Is there anything I can do to help myself out?
     
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  2. hopefulvet21

    hopefulvet21 Edinburgh c/o 2013
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    I think it will vary with certain schools, but I think what you have done and are doing since undergrad is very impressive. You can't go back to undergrad again and change your GPA obviously, but I've heard some schools would rather you not retake pre-reqs. Also, since you seem to have proven yourself academically with earning your PhD, I think that will help compensate for the low undergrad grades. I also think many schools will be more interested in your more recent achievements and experience. And I think it might be wise to have some sort of explanation for your low undergrad grades in your application, with emphasis on how you have improved and changed. Good luck...and the UK is an awesome place to study;)
     
  3. WhtsThFrequency

    Veterinarian 10+ Year Member

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    However, in the time since graduating undergrad I have been at a university completing a PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. My GPA from graduate coursework is a 3.67. Much better, but I'm not sure that that at all makes my poor undergraduate showing any better.

    Yes, it really does. A higher GPA in advanced studies will beat out a low undergrad GPA any day. It'll still turn a few heads but thing is you have obviously worked a lot since then.


    I think it might be wise to have some sort of explanation for your low undergrad grades in your application, with emphasis on how you have improved and changed.


    Definitely. Even thought you say you "didn't have an excuse" - you're obviously a smart person so there was something awry even if you didn't notice it or have a "classic" excuse like work or family problems. Maybe you were just not mature enough - and you have obviously matured since then - and adcoms SEE that! I did terribly my senior year of college. Low Bs, Cs and a few Ds. In my interview I told them what had happened (I was working full-time) and how I learned from it (don't work so much during school, address problems as soon as they arise, manage time better etc).
     
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    #3 WhtsThFrequency, Nov 30, 2008
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012
  4. flyhi

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    I sincerely hope that a poor undergrad gpa is not the end-all-be-all because there are too many people who would make great vets that did not for one reason or another maintain a stellar gpa.

    I would also hope that your impressive stats in graduate school would account for a lot. I think it shows how much you have matured and your capabilities. It sounds like you are getting fabulous experience as well.

    Good Luck :luck: with your endeavors and keep us apprised of your status once you decide to apply.

    Now, back to watching my Redskins get pounded :mad:
     
  5. nyanko

    nyanko total trash mammal
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    Definitely not saying the PhD won't matter at all because it most assuredly will, but some schools don't even consider graduate GPA itself because grad classes in general are pretty different in assessment and format than undergrad and professional school classes. The most important part of the PhD is the research, and finishing the dissertation - that is very impressive and will go a long way towards proving your aptitude despite a poor undergrad GPA.

    :luck: from someone in a very similar situation!! What area is your research in, OP? :)
     
  6. Nexx

    Nexx 2 weeks and counting
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    Hey Gella, you can also look to the VMCAS website and/or the VMSAR book. From there you should be able to work out which universities are a bit more forgiving in terms of grades and may weigh more heavily on your recent coursework.

    I also had a low GPA from what I should have had if 'life' didn't interfere when I first started college. Sufficed to say, I left (or was booted rather) a university with something like a 0.7 GPA after three semesters... impressive, I know! Those three semesters included pre-reqs such as calc, bio 1, stats, chem, speech. Apparently you do well in classes if you can actually attend the lectures! Needless to say, I think chem was the only class I received a B+ in, (thank god I paid attention in high school!) the rest were F's. It took me a long time to bring that GPA back up to anything reasonable mainly because I also had to work because no school would give me financial aid for quite some time after that. I ended up with a Bio GPA in the 3.5-4.0 range, Chem in somewhere in the 3.0 range and an overall of 3.55

    Anyhow you have taken the only plausible step really which is too prove that you can succeed and realize that it takes hard work to do so. You just have to think of a way to demonstrate on your application that while you had some faults in your past educational career, you recognize it and have made massive effort to go above and beyond now.

    But there are definitely schools to look to, North American and internationally that will look at the entire application and person... not just a GPA and GRE score.
     
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  7. FlyOnTheWall

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    You already did it. Your PhD and record of upper division achievement answers the question "Can you handle the course work?"

    There is no running away from a bad GPA. It's too easy to bring one down and nearly impossible to fix it by retaking pre-requisites.

    Your application is significantly strengthened by your upper division performance and research background. It's a strength and you should focus on that. But do take responsibility and own your poor performance as an undergrad. Then and ask the Ad Coms to look at your recent performance to understand where you are now.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    GellaBella

    GellaBella Penn Vet V'14
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    Ok thanks guys, I've really been stressing about this ever since I got my undergrad transcript in the mail. I know there is nothing I can do to change it, so I guess the best thing to do is figure out how to strengthen my application in other aspects as much as possible.

    You guys have made me feel much better. I know this is what I want to do so its good to know someone with a less than stellar undergrad GPA won't necessarily get booted right off the bat.

    :luck: from someone in a very similar situation!! What area is your research in, OP? :)

    Hi nyanko! My area of research is in understanding and combating antimicrobial resistance in bacteria. Using E. coli as a model organism I've identified a gene of previously unknown function that when I knock it out causes the bacterium to become 100-1000 fold hypersensitive to a variety of stressors, including many antibiotics, so the normal gene encodes a protein involved in protecting the bacterium from many types of stress. I am characterizing the gene and its protein product and it's the long term hope/goal that eventually "we" might be able to find or synthesize something that inhibits the protein from functioning that can be combined with currently available antibiotics to increase their effectiveness (this is not a completely new idea, beta-lactamase inhibitors are currently combined with the beta-lactam class of antibiotics (penicllin/ampicillin etc) to stop the bacteria from degrading the drugs). If that happens it will be a long way off and who knows if it will ever get to that point, but its pretty interesting and (when things in the lab work..which is rarely) fun to work with nonetheless. :)
     
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  9. sumstorm

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    I would also suggest seeking out those programs that have 'grade exceptions' where they will let you give an explanation for grades, or consider your application despite poor early performance.
     
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  10. DVMorBust

    DVMorBust UW SVM Class of 2013
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    I have no idea if this is relevant or not - but isn't there a 6-year exemption option? The prereqs would obviously have to be recorded somewhere, but does anyone know if you're required to list all classes previous to 6 years if you cross that line for prereqs in the first place?
     
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  11. nyanko

    nyanko total trash mammal
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    I think that's on a school by school basis, DVMorBust. UIUC had such a thing, iirc.
     
  12. KittyRex

    KittyRex UC Davis SVM c/o 2013
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    University of Missouri does it, as well.
     
  13. pressmom

    pressmom Third year!
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    Congratulations on your PhD, Gella! What an accomplishment.

    As far as vet school advice, I would either check a VMSAR or the pdf files on aavmc.org (go under applying to veterinary school then click on college specific requirements) to see how various schools calculate their GPA. I'm pretty sure if Tennessee (my school) is doing it the way they used to, they calculate 4 GPAs and only 1 takes into account graduate work, so there wouldn't be much help for you here. :( Just apply wisely and broadly and I'm sure you'll get in somewhere!
     
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  14. nyanko

    nyanko total trash mammal
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    Your research sounds really interesting and relevant! I definitely know what you mean about "when things actually work in the lab." Sometimes that can be part of the fun too, though! ;)

    Are you interested in going into vet research or academia? One thing that adcoms will most likely want to address if you have a PhD is the "why" of having both degrees.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    GellaBella

    GellaBella Penn Vet V'14
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    Well I am actually interested in clinical service although I do want to still be involved in research as well. I've always wanted to be a vet, but with poor undergraduate grades I figured that was out for me. When I was still thinking about vet school someone recommended I begin to get research experience. I started doing research at my college and it was veterinary-related research (Developing an in vitro system of culturing ciliated tracheal cells to study Bordetella infection) and I LOVED it. Then I was awarded a fellowship to go to the University of Cambridge Veterinary School for 3.5 months to continue my research and aid in their work on Bordetella as well. I absolutely loved that as well. So I went for my PhD. But after doing this for 5 years, I know that this isn't the way I want my (insignificant as it may be) impact on the world to be. Doing basic science is incredibly important but I want to be involved with things that can help animals in the near future, not many years down the road. So maybe I'm cut out for clinical research, I'm not sure, I've never had the opportunity to be involved in clinical trials of any kind. Also, being involved in laboratory science has made me very concious of lab animals, how they are treated, and the experiments we do on them and why. Of course animal testing is necessary, but sometimes I'm not sure that it's done in the best possible way. I think that ideally (and I'm not sure this is practical) I would love to practice veterinary medicine (I'm interested in household exotics) and also be a consultant for research involving animals - I want to make sure that approved protocols are being followed and that the animals are not suffering unnecessarily. I do enjoy doing research, but I just feel like I can do more good in a more direct, hands on approach to veterinary medicine.

    I dunno if that is too sappy an approach to it or not. But thats how I feel. I used to be one of those people who was always an advocate of animal research, of course not flagrant misuse of animals, but that it was important enough to justify the animals lives. Depending on what people are working on, my feelings on the subject have changed. I still think its important but I don't think every laboratory animal use is really necessary or justified. It's a fine line to draw though.

    :)
     
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  16. littlecaitling

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    This is very reassuring to read! I'm a senior in UG, and my GPA is far from impressive too (i think I'm just under a 3.2? I'd have to check my transcript to be sure). Between that and my apprehension to go so much further into debt at this point in my life (i had to take out quite a bit in loans for UG, since I'm going to a small private school and a little over halfway through my family's financial situation changed dramatically), I've been considering putting off vet school for awhile. But what really turned me on to graduate study (and research in particular) was my senior thesis research. I always thought that graduate study, while it may be impressive, wouldn't help me much since I'll be graduating with a fairly poor UG GPA. It really puts my mind at ease to see a few vet students, and even a vet, say that graduate work and research really does count when applying to vet school.
     
  17. IvyLynx

    IvyLynx NCSU CVM c/o 2013
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    Seeing that you've done so well with your PhD (congrats ^_^), i don't think you have much to worry about. How are your GRE scores? Those can help shove those nasty GPAS under the rug as well.
     
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  18. OP
    OP
    GellaBella

    GellaBella Penn Vet V'14
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    Hi Ivy,

    well when I took my GRE's to get into grad school I did ok. I got a 1260 without studying. It has been over 5 years now so my previous GRE scores have expired so I will have to take them again. I will definitely study this time and hope to score higher than I did 5 years ago however, I also haven't been taking math/english courses in awhile and my regular every day vocab has been replaced by science words so I think I'm probably going to have a tough time getting back into the swing of 'non-science' things. I'm hoping to start studying in January though and take them in late spring or so. :)
     
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  19. livefor32

    livefor32 VMRCVM 2016!
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    I am also a graduate student (masters - animal science) with a less than impressive undergrad gpa (3.22), but with an improved grad gpa (3.77). A previous boss of mine is on an interview committee for a vet school and he told me that schools will most often weigh more recent grades heavier than older grades. He said that if my undergrad was a 3.0 and in grad school it was a 3.4, that looks very good for me (they look for upward trends!). I think continuing your education shows that you're motivated, and what you learn in graduate school can often be translated back into the veterinary field. Graduate school is extremely challenging and to be able to complete a masters or phd shows a certain level of intelligence and maturity not necessarily reflected in your undergrad gpa.
     
  20. Qoonsa

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    Hi GellaBella,
    Hearing about how you got into a graduate PhD program after a low undergraduate performance is really encouraging for me to hear. I was wondering:
    Which undergraduate school did you go to?
    Which graduate school did you get into? Did the admissions ask you about your low gpa?
     

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