When it comes to GPA, how do adcoms distuingish what is a more difficult college

Zona Pellucida

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 17, 2008
2,446
3
Status
Medical Student
I have heard a few people say that if you go to a college that is known to be a bit tougher, they will understand for (slightly) lower grades in some subjects.

First of all, is this true?

Also, how do I find out if my college is viewed as slightly harder.

I go to a smaller private college and the class difficulties seems to be pretty much average in every department, except Chemistry (specifically General Chemistry).

General Chemistry is taught horribly (dumb new age teaching style they swear by) and is basically the "test" for all traditional pre-med students freshman year, and ultimately dropped half the population of my major. The averages on exams were around 42%. I was getting congratulated for getting 58%s ... awesome.

I ended up with a C first semester and a B second semester. I know this won't kill my chances at all as no one is perfect and it is my only C on the transcript but are adcoms already aware how EVERYONE hates these classes and they are abnormally difficult and an A is unheard of at my institution?

Or do I simply just let them know at the interview stage?

Thanks
 

RySerr21

i aint kinda hot Im sauna
10+ Year Member
Dec 22, 2007
5,931
30
Status
Fellow [Any Field]
I have heard a few people say that if you go to a college that is known to be a bit tougher, they will understand for (slightly) lower grades in some subjects.

First of all, is this true?

Also, how do I find out if my college is viewed as slightly harder.

I go to a smaller private college and the class difficulties seems to be pretty much average in every department, except Chemistry (specifically General Chemistry).

General Chemistry is taught horribly (dumb new age teaching style they swear by) and is basically the "test" for all traditional pre-med students freshman year, and ultimately dropped half the population of my major. The averages on exams were around 42%. I was getting congratulated for getting 58%s ... awesome.

I ended up with a C first semester and a B second semester. I know this won't kill my chances at all as no one is perfect and it is my only C on the transcript but are adcoms already aware how EVERYONE hates these classes and they are abnormally difficult and an A is unheard of at my institution?

Or do I simply just let them know at the interview stage?

Thanks

adcoms will know of schools and perceived difficulty of the institution as a whole, but they arent going to konw (nor are they going to care) about the sh*tty gen chem teacher that made the class abnormally difficult. You aren't going to be able to use the "my school is difficult" excuse for a low GPA. But as you said, its just one course. Do well in your others and you'll be fine.
 

njbmd

Guest
Moderator Emeritus
5+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
May 30, 2001
9,050
153
Gone Walkabout!
Visit site
Status
Attending Physician
I have heard a few people say that if you go to a college that is known to be a bit tougher, they will understand for (slightly) lower grades in some subjects.

First of all, is this true?

Also, how do I find out if my college is viewed as slightly harder.

I go to a smaller private college and the class difficulties seems to be pretty much average in every department, except Chemistry (specifically General Chemistry).

General Chemistry is taught horribly (dumb new age teaching style they swear by) and is basically the "test" for all traditional pre-med students freshman year, and ultimately dropped half the population of my major. The averages on exams were around 42%. I was getting congratulated for getting 58%s ... awesome.

I ended up with a C first semester and a B second semester. I know this won't kill my chances at all as no one is perfect and it is my only C on the transcript but are adcoms already aware how EVERYONE hates these classes and they are abnormally difficult and an A is unheard of at my institution?

Or do I simply just let them know at the interview stage?

Thanks
Overall performance in undergraduate is one of the main criteria without regard specifically to institution. Would your General Chemistry have been "dumb" if you had earned a grade of "A"? Probably not; find a way to adjust to the course requirements or transfer.
 
About the Ads

Zona Pellucida

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 17, 2008
2,446
3
Status
Medical Student
Would your General Chemistry have been "dumb" if you had earned a grade of "A"? Probably not; find a way to adjust to the course requirements or transfer.
Yes. I don't understand why I paid for my professors to simply hand out a packet, put the class in groups of 4, and just sit in the front of the room doing nothing. We received ZERO lectures and we were expected to 'teach eachother' in an intro level course. Awesome.

That was freshman year. I am now a Junior and have never gotten a C again and have only improved. I'm not worried about this in the least, was just curious on how far adcoms look into this type of thing, so relax!
 

NeuroChaos

10+ Year Member
Mar 26, 2008
429
1
Status
Pre-Medical
There is an whole spectrum of difficult from easiet to imposilby hard..
but I assume an A is an A, regardless of where you earned it. Yes, it might take a bit more effort to get that A at, lets say, an ivy leauge, as opposed to a small college. but your A's are an evidence of your work ethic at ur specifc school. I am sure not every one at "easy" schools gets 4.0s
 

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
15+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
24,209
37,318
Status
Academic Administration
Your gpa and MCAT will be the major thing the adcom looks at. Which school gets less attention but it does get factored in a little bit. Adcoms go by reputation. Some small schools (and some larger ones) will describe the school in the committee letter and put the applicant's gpa in the context of the school's average gpa, average gpa among pre-meds or some other measure of that kind. Some schools even include class rank and total class size in the committee letter.
 

flip26

10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2007
4,795
12
Status
Medical Student
I have heard a few people say that if you go to a college that is known to be a bit tougher, they will understand for (slightly) lower grades in some subjects.

First of all, is this true?

Also, how do I find out if my college is viewed as slightly harder.

I go to a smaller private college and the class difficulties seems to be pretty much average in every department, except Chemistry (specifically General Chemistry).

General Chemistry is taught horribly (dumb new age teaching style they swear by) and is basically the "test" for all traditional pre-med students freshman year, and ultimately dropped half the population of my major. The averages on exams were around 42%. I was getting congratulated for getting 58%s ... awesome.

I ended up with a C first semester and a B second semester. I know this won't kill my chances at all as no one is perfect and it is my only C on the transcript but are adcoms already aware how EVERYONE hates these classes and they are abnormally difficult and an A is unheard of at my institution?

Or do I simply just let them know at the interview stage?

Thanks
You are saying an "A" is unheard of? I don't believe that, but if I heard that about my Chem classes, I would have taken them somewhere else, even if at a CC during the summer...

So really, how many of your classmates made As? Bs?

Why didn't you make at least a B?

You should be aware that for the most part, med school requires "self" study - you learn the material on your own - at some schools, most students don't even attend the lectures.
 

Zona Pellucida

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 17, 2008
2,446
3
Status
Medical Student
You are saying an "A" is unheard of? I don't believe that, but if I heard that about my Chem classes, I would have taken them somewhere else, even if at a CC during the summer...
I wish I could have taken it at a CC yet my college does not accept courses from other institutions if they are a part of your major.

So really, how many of your classmates made As? Bs?
A few people I knew got Bs that had AP Chemistry in high school.

Why didn't you make at least a B?
First semester of college. Never have taken a Chemistry related course in my life (only did Physics in HS)

You should be aware that for the most part, med school requires "self" study - you learn the material on your own - at some schools, most students don't even attend the lectures.
Thats fine, I will always attend lectures as what teachers SAY seems to stick in my mind well but I am fine teaching myself material like biology and micro and organic, but not things that are heavily math related as this is where I struggle, and apparently a lot of people struggle as so many people did horrible in my class.

Everything I answered above is irrelevant. I just ranted about my Gen Chem class as an example to set up my question.

Thanks for the responses!
 

hopefuldoc87

Killer tofu
10+ Year Member
Jun 2, 2007
568
2
Status
Resident [Any Field]
You are saying an "A" is unheard of? I don't believe that, but if I heard that about my Chem classes, I would have taken them somewhere else, even if at a CC during the summer...

So really, how many of your classmates made As? Bs?

Why didn't you make at least a B?

You should be aware that for the most part, med school requires "self" study - you learn the material on your own - at some schools, most students don't even attend the lectures.
Are you in medical school? Yes, I'm aware that alot of the studying is done on your own, but all the schools I interviewed at had good lecturers (according to the tour guides, at least). And even though some students don't attend the lectures, that's their own choice. It seems the OP just has a horrible professor in this "weed-out" class. Don't worry. Suck it up; it's just one course.

And DON'T take it at your CC. Horrible advice. It won't look good if your intro level Gen Chem class you took at the CC when you could easily have taken it as your 4-year institution. They will question it (my friend's have gotten it questioned on it at their interview - what are you going to say? it was harder at your school?)
 

flip26

10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2007
4,795
12
Status
Medical Student
Are you in medical school? Yes, I'm aware that alot of the studying is done on your own, but all the schools I interviewed at had good lecturers (according to the tour guides, at least). And even though some students don't attend the lectures, that's their own choice. It seems the OP just has a horrible professor in this "weed-out" class. Don't worry. Suck it up; it's just one course.

And DON'T take it at your CC. Horrible advice. It won't look good if your intro level Gen Chem class you took at the CC when you could easily have taken it as your 4-year institution. They will question it (my friend's have gotten it questioned on it at their interview - what are you going to say? it was harder at your school?)
If as that other poster claims (I wasn't talking to you, DeNiro, so why so huffy?) it is unheard of or in other words impossible to make an A in Chem I and II at your 4 year, and in fact your best possible grade is a C, then I would definitely take the class somewhere else, even if it is at a CC, with the caveat that I would make an A...and no, I would not say I took it somewhere else because it was easier - I would say I took it elsewhere for financial or scheduling reasons...I would rather explain an A from a CC than a C at my pristine 4 year...

And take a look at the Stanford secondary thread - somebody just got accept to Stanford Med, and they took ALL of their science pre-reqs at a community college, not at their 4 year...the anti-CC fervor among pre-meds on SDN is hilarious...
 

236116

Guest
10+ Year Member
Dec 8, 2008
1,327
3
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
And take a look at the Stanford secondary thread - somebody just got accept to Stanford Med, and they took ALL of their science pre-reqs at a community college, not at their 4 year...the anti-CC fervor among pre-meds on SDN is hilarious...
I know we don't always get along, but I love you for this.
 

flip26

10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2007
4,795
12
Status
Medical Student
I wish I could have taken it at a CC yet my college does not accept courses from other institutions if they are a part of your major...A few people I knew got Bs that had AP Chemistry in high school...First semester of college. Never have taken a Chemistry related course in my life (only did Physics in HS)
What is your major? Chemistry? Why would you major in Chemistry or some other science having never even taken it in high school? Do you think that you have to be a science major to get into med school?

And as for the students in your class who made Bs, why would anybody who had AP Chemistry in high school need to take Chem 1? Something wrong there...

Sounds to me like you picked the wrong college to be a "pre-med" at...and you picked the wrong major, too...

Good luck.
 

Zona Pellucida

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 17, 2008
2,446
3
Status
Medical Student
Are you in medical school? Yes, I'm aware that alot of the studying is done on your own, but all the schools I interviewed at had good lecturers (according to the tour guides, at least). And even though some students don't attend the lectures, that's their own choice. It seems the OP just has a horrible professor in this "weed-out" class. Don't worry. Suck it up; it's just one course.

And DON'T take it at your CC. Horrible advice. It won't look good if your intro level Gen Chem class you took at the CC when you could easily have taken it as your 4-year institution. They will question it (my friend's have gotten it questioned on it at their interview - what are you going to say? it was harder at your school?)
Great advice and that is EXACTLY what the course was. They NEEDED to weed people out because they did not have the seats in upper level courses. They EXPLICITLY told me this when I asked. I did suck it up, took the C and have improved every semester (3.5 --> 3.6 --> 3.7 --> 3.8 --> 3.9) so I am not too worried about it.
 
About the Ads

Zona Pellucida

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Nov 17, 2008
2,446
3
Status
Medical Student
What is your major? Chemistry? Why would you major in Chemistry or some other science having never even taken it in high school? Do you think that you have to be a science major to get into med school?

And as for the students in your class who made Bs, why would anybody who had AP Chemistry in high school need to take Chem 1? Something wrong there...

Sounds to me like you picked the wrong college to be a "pre-med" at...and you picked the wrong major, too...

Good luck.
I am a Biology major. General Chemistry I and II as well as Organic I and II are REQUIRED for biology majors at my institution. Is this not normal?

And the part about AP Chemistry...

Students who took AP Chem and AP Bio BOTH needed to take the institutions Gen Bio and Gen Chem courses. They would accept the CREDIT for those AP courses but would NOT accept them as fulfilling the major requirement unless they were taken at the institution.

I'm beginning to think my college is different when I thought all of this was standard. Haha
 

236116

Guest
10+ Year Member
Dec 8, 2008
1,327
3
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I am a Biology major. General Chemistry I and II as well as Organic I and II are REQUIRED for biology majors at my institution. Is this not normal?
yes.
And the part about AP Chemistry...

Students who took AP Chem and AP Bio BOTH needed to take the institutions Gen Bio and Gen Chem courses. They would accept the CREDIT for those AP courses but would NOT accept them as fulfilling the major requirement unless they were taken at the institution.

I'm beginning to think my college is different when I thought all of this was standard. Haha
that's the stupidest thing i have ever heard.
 

flip26

10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2007
4,795
12
Status
Medical Student
I am a Biology major. General Chemistry I and II as well as Organic I and II are REQUIRED for biology majors at my institution. Is this not normal?

And the part about AP Chemistry...

Students who took AP Chem and AP Bio BOTH needed to take the institutions Gen Bio and Gen Chem courses. They would accept the CREDIT for those AP courses but would NOT accept them as fulfilling the major requirement unless they were taken at the institution.

I'm beginning to think my college is different when I thought all of this was standard. Haha
Sounds like you are actually doing well at your college, but I seriously would not subject myself to a "weed out" class at any college. And your college sounds very "anal" about its class requirements - that is a red flag to me. I know tons of people at very prestigious schools and their AP credits were accepted so they were able to "leap frog" over the weed out classes, into the upper level sciences where As come more easily...

I recommend majoring in something you love AND can earn a high GPA, then taking the pre-reqs in a post bacc.
 

Myuu

例えば、貴方の名前を忘れてしまうとか。 。。
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Sep 28, 2007
12,933
29
Hanging with Darmok and Jalad. In Lothlorien.
Status
What is your major? Chemistry? Why would you major in Chemistry or some other science having never even taken it in high school? Do you think that you have to be a science major to get into med school?
Some schools have been known to steer/mislead people into these majors. I'm not saying that's what's occurred here (obviously, I can't--I'm not the op), but you should know that this happens all the time.

And as for the students in your class who made Bs, why would anybody who had AP Chemistry in high school need to take Chem 1? Something wrong there...
And for an even better barrel of fun, some schools are really picky about what AP credits they'll accept if they accept them at all...

Edit: Aaand, just for solidarity's sake, there was a physics prof at (one of) my schools whose exam average was around 12. Fun times, yeah?
 

45408

aw buddy
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Jun 14, 2004
16,957
51
Status
Resident [Any Field]
As a general rule, assume that all GPAs will be treated equally, and that any low grade in any low class is going to be noticed. Are some schools/majors harder than others? Yes, sorry, that's how it is.

There are occasional stories about schools that multiply your GPA by a factor of difficulty, but they are rarely substantiated, and it's highly unlikely that you'd find out if they considered your school to be very hard or not.
 

pianola

MS2
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
May 23, 2008
6,067
17
Florida
Status
Medical Student
Hey, I'm not out to get in the middle of an argument but to the best of my understanding, some medical schools will be able to adjust for the difficulty of your school (and the applicants from your school), but I doubt that individual classes are considered.

(Also, as you're making your school list, don't apply to Cornell if you're planning on saying that bit about how annoying it is to have students teach each other. At least, think about your decision before you do, anyway.)
 

flip26

10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2007
4,795
12
Status
Medical Student
As a general rule, assume that all GPAs will be treated equally, and that any low grade in any low class is going to be noticed. Are some schools/majors harder than others? Yes, sorry, that's how it is.

There are occasional stories about schools that multiply your GPA by a factor of difficulty, but they are rarely substantiated, and it's highly unlikely that you'd find out if they considered your school to be very hard or not.
I have actually seen examples of law schools that do this, but the stories about med schools doing it are apocryphal...I can believe that med schools look at general ranges of grades from different schools, but I don't see how a system of multipliers could work and be meaningful...besides, the MCAT is the equalizer that will glare a hot light on a high GPA from an "easy" school if the MCAT is not commensurate, and vice versa...
 

236116

Guest
10+ Year Member
Dec 8, 2008
1,327
3
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hey, I'm not out to get in the middle of an argument but to the best of my understanding, some medical schools will be able to adjust for the difficulty of your school (and the applicants from your school), but I doubt that individual classes are considered.
i doubt that's anything but acrophycal fairy dust.

too many applicants, not enough time. numbers are numbers.
 

236116

Guest
10+ Year Member
Dec 8, 2008
1,327
3
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
I have actually seen examples of law schools that do this, but the stories about med schools doing it are apocryphal...I can believe that med schools look at general ranges of grades from different schools, but I don't see how a system of multipliers could work and be meaningful...besides, the MCAT is the equalizer that will glare a hot light on a high GPA from an "easy" school if the MCAT is not commensurate, and vice versa...
lmao... i swear i didn't see this post before replying.
 

RySerr21

i aint kinda hot Im sauna
10+ Year Member
Dec 22, 2007
5,931
30
Status
Fellow [Any Field]
I am a Biology major. General Chemistry I and II as well as Organic I and II are REQUIRED for biology majors at my institution. Is this not normal?

And the part about AP Chemistry...

Students who took AP Chem and AP Bio BOTH needed to take the institutions Gen Bio and Gen Chem courses. They would accept the CREDIT for those AP courses but would NOT accept them as fulfilling the major requirement unless they were taken at the institution.

I'm beginning to think my college is different when I thought all of this was standard. Haha
I'm a kinesiology major and my major requires that you take two semesters of calculus, two semesters gen chem, two semesters ochem, two semesters physics, and two semesters of general bio. So in that regard, your school is not the only one. As well as intro to psych.
 
Last edited:

Excelsius

Carpe Noctem
10+ Year Member
Apr 6, 2008
1,667
11
Status
Your gpa and MCAT will be the major thing the adcom looks at. Which school gets less attention but it does get factored in a little bit. Adcoms go by reputation. Some small schools (and some larger ones) will describe the school in the committee letter and put the applicant's gpa in the context of the school's average gpa, average gpa among pre-meds or some other measure of that kind. Some schools even include class rank and total class size in the committee letter.

Lizzy, if the school doesn't have a committee letter, do you think it would help to ask the dean to write a short letter (or disclose statistics) about your rank in the class? I think we need another thread to elucidate different properties of a committee letter.
 

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
15+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
24,209
37,318
Status
Academic Administration
Lizzy, if the school doesn't have a committee letter, do you think it would help to ask the dean to write a short letter (or disclose statistics) about your rank in the class? I think we need another thread to elucidate different properties of a committee letter.
If you have a pre-med advisor, you might ask if there is a system in place to inform med schools about your undergrad institution. If your school doesn't have a couple of boilerplate paragraphs, tell your pre-med advisor to get in touch with the pre-med office at Swarthmore. They do a good job with their letter and may be willing to offer some tips to a fellow advisor.
 

Excelsius

Carpe Noctem
10+ Year Member
Apr 6, 2008
1,667
11
Status
If you have a pre-med advisor, you might ask if there is a system in place to inform med schools about your undergrad institution. If your school doesn't have a couple of boilerplate paragraphs, tell your pre-med advisor to get in touch with the pre-med office at Swarthmore. They do a good job with their letter and may be willing to offer some tips to a fellow advisor.
Excellent! Thank you very much.
 

HeatherMD

Queen of Passiveagressiva
10+ Year Member
Oct 29, 2008
348
0
Canada
Status
Pre-Medical
The recent Maclean's issue ranked Canadian universities in a variety of categories, including entrance averages of highschool seniors and the "competitiveness" of the student body. Those are not categories in which I wish to brag about my institution's position. I think we also boast the highest drop-out rate and lowest degree completion stats in the country.

I would have felt very sorry for myself had I not seen these results coming..

Maybe if I apply to US med school's I'll include the data lol
 

Myuu

例えば、貴方の名前を忘れてしまうとか。 。。
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Sep 28, 2007
12,933
29
Hanging with Darmok and Jalad. In Lothlorien.
Status
The recent Maclean's issue ranked Canadian universities in a variety of categories, including entrance averages of highschool seniors and the "competitiveness" of the student body. Those are not categories in which I wish to brag about my institution's position. I think we also boast the highest drop-out rate and lowest degree completion stats in the country.

I would have felt very sorry for myself had I not seen these results coming..

Maybe if I apply to US med school's I'll include the data lol
That's not so bad! My school was the self-reported (by students) the least-studying campus in the United States. I'm still not sure who they surveyed, because that just didn't make any sense... at all.
 
About the Ads