Advice needed! What path should I take?

For applicants who have been out of school for a few years, or are planning to have a family in medical school, or have other non-traditional qualities.

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detertobeasurg
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Advice needed! What path should I take?

Post by detertobeasurg »

I graduated in Spring of 2011 with a Bachelors in Psychology from a local college (Queens College) but I've decided that I really want to pursue a career in Medicine.
What's really slowing me down is my low GPA which is a 2.7 and I've only taken one prereq which was Gen Bio 1.
I've looked at a few options such as postbac programs but the schools near where I live offering those programs require GPAs north of 2.8 so I don't really have much of a chance getting into those programs

Should I go back to Queens College for a second degree in Biology while taking other prereqs for Med School? Or are there other option out there for me that you guys may know?

Your help is much appreciated!

DOdoc
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Re: Advice needed! What path should I take?

Post by DOdoc »

Hi,

Regardless if you pursue a second degree, you will at least need to take the medical school pre-reqs. Those are gen biology I & II, physics I & II, gen chem I & II, and o-chem I & II. Many schools require at least one semester of math--some require two. Also, some schools require one semester of biochem (which I recommend taking even if it isn't required). There is no way to get around these. Period.

At this point, your GPA is too low to be considered for medical school admission if you had completed the pre-reqs already--however, if when you take the above classes, you NEED to do well. The fact that you have not completed this essential course can work to substantially improve your present situation. If you do take them(absolutely nothing lower than a solid to high B; A is what to strive for) your GPA will come up. The more important GPA to be concerned with is your math/science (M/S) GPA rather than your overall GPA. You will also need to take the MCAT, and if you do well on that (aim for a 30/average of 10 each section--disregard the writing portion, it will not help nor hurt you) you should be in better shape. Lastly, you will need some patient contact/experience by at least shadowing a physician for as long as you can. These will complete the 'trifecta' of admission.

Let me know if you have any other questions, and good luck in your pursuits!

Dr. F.

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Re: Advice needed! What path should I take?

Post by medic2doc »

DOdoc,
I am in pretty much the same situation as detertobeasurg. I graduated in 2009 from CalState San Marcos with a Bachelor's in Political Science and a Minor in Global Studies. My undergrad is regrettably a 2.85. I enjoyed college but did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to pursue. Since then I have been working in EMS and have become obsessed with medicine! I am determined to do whatever it takes to get into medical school. This fall I will be returning to CalState to take the standard pre-requisites for medical school in the hopes of raising my overall GPA and establishing a solid science GPA.
Since I am a non-traditional applicant, I really have no idea what admissions committees are looking for and have a couple of questions. You mentioned above to disregard the writing portion of the MCAT. Is there a reason why that is not as important as the other subjects? And do you know if paramedic experience will help to compensate for my low undergrad GPA in the eyes of admissions committees?
Any advice you have to offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

DOdoc
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Re: Advice needed! What path should I take?

Post by DOdoc »

Thank you for the reply and the post. I'd be more than happy to discuss the internal workings of the admission committee from my experience as well as provide some advice on what I think you could do. Keep in mind, however, that what I write is from my experience and understanding only, and there are many qualified individuals who monitor these postings and may have different perspectives and advice and in my opinion, I am usually no more right than they are wrong. Just food for thought.

As for your specific questions, I hope I can provide perspective. First of all, your previous degree and classes may or may not be relevant. In the medical school application service (AMCAS for allopathic, AMCOAS for osteopathic) you will enter in your math and science classes, and the service will determine an aggregate GPA for these classes only. I believe if memory serves correctly, you will also have an overall GPA--but this doesn't matter as much. The reason for this discrepancy is that your overall GPA is not a good predicter of your ability to manage the rigors of medical school, but your math/science GPA very much is. That is why it's weighted so heavily on applications, and why one can have a stellar overall GPA but a lower M/S GPA and still not get in. Thus, the more M/S classes you take, the better the chances of raising your M/S GPA with good academic performance. Since by comparision, the number of classes a typical college student takes compared the number of M/S classes is disproportionate, you will find docs recommending hammering M/S classes to raise THAT GPA compared to the overall GPA. So we're clear on that part.

With regard to your situation, what will have the most effect is a little unclear as you didn't provide enough detail in your response, but that's okay--it can be answered anyway. I would suggest looking at your transcript from the degree you've completed and pull out the M/S classes. If you do not know how the GPA is determined, then what you do is write the number of credits for each class, and then multiply that by the "weight" of the grade. For an A, this is usually 4.0. An A- is 3.7 and an B+ is 3.3 and so on down the line. For example, if you got an A- in a 5 credit class, this would translate to 16.5 points. You do this for all of your M/S classes and add the total of all the credits and all the points awarded. Once you total them each, you divide your M/S GPA by the number of credits and viola! You calculated your M/S GPA.

In order to apply to medical school, you will need to complete bio 1 & 2, physics 1 & 2, gen chem 1 & 2, and o-chem 1 & 2. Most schools require at least one semester of math and sometimes two. Some schools also require biochem (which I highly recommend taking even if it's not required). Each school determines their minimum cut-off with regard to GPA, so you can see what you already have, and at least get a rough idea on what you need to do moving forward. Depending on your classes from that degree, you likely are lacking some if not most of these classes so in your case, this is actually not necessarily bad news. The fewer classes you manage, in theory one should have more time to devote to the classes you take--the grades are important. Once you have completed the above requirements, you will then sit for and write the MCAT which will be a test to guage how well you learned those classes. Again, this score is important, and I'd recommend (to anyone) to enroll in a review class. They are pricey, but it's a small price to pay when you graduate from medical school. They structure your learning and teach you techniques on how best to attack the MCAT when you write it.

With regard to the writing portion you mentioned. The reason I say this is many of the admission committee members AREN'T MDs or DOs and have never seen the MCAT before. They know what the numbers mean, all except in writing. Most will have absolutely NO clue how good an "S" is relative to an "O". In fact, when you get to the interview point, the admission committee members won't even KNOW your grades--they only know you met the minimum criteria for admission. This is done to prevent interviewer bias being inadvertantly being introduced to the interview process (so that a member would rate someone higher based on their scholastic acheivement and not the interview). If you did well on the PS, VR, and BS but did horrible on the writing--no one cares. Not everyone is a good writer but that DOESN'T mean they aren't capable. However, if you do stellar on the writing but poorly on one of those sections, your admission could be in jeopardy. So that is why I said that.

Specifically to you, any and all experience that anyone has is fodder for the personal statement and great talking points for the interview. You will likely be asked something like, "why being a doctor and why this school" and if all you can come up with is, "I want to help people" you'll hear crickets and get yawns. THAT IS UNDERSTOOD BY APPLYING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL!! But if you can answer that with a history describing how you fell in love with medicine unexpectedly because you became an EMT, and talk about the obstacles you overcame to acheive medical school, and talk about your path and learning and discovery--that makes for a GREAT interview.

With that said, you need to establish a relationship with a physician and begin shadowing experience shortly after getting yourself settled in your studies. In addition, it would be of great benefit to find a lab you can work in as a research assistant and see if you can launch your own studies. I can only imagine what opportunities for this exist at CalState...any campus. This is improve your personal statement and interview too. The more you can bring into the process to demonstrate your desire and ability is only going to help you. Make sure those admission committee members know that you're doing this--at their school if THEY'RE lucky and if they snub you, you'll go elsewhere to their detriment. Don't be arrogant--there is plenty you'll need to learn--but walk in that room and leave them with no doubt you're very serious about this, and can support it with your accomplishments, and you'll do just fine! Most admission committee members WANT to accept you, not exclude you (unfortunately you'll find a bad apple anywhere) and they know what you've been through to get to that point. But they can't admit you unless you convince them you deserve it. So that's what you do...

Hope that helps, and feel free to post more if you have more questions or if I wasn't clear enough.

Best wishes and good luck,
Frank
Last edited by DOdoc on Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Advice needed! What path should I take?

Post by DOdoc »

As an afterthought, I wanted to give you one example of a great answer I heard a prospective student give to us on the admission committee. The question posed to the student was, "What will you do if you don't get into medical school?" The student sat back and smiled slightly and then sat upright and looked each of us in the eye. Her response was, "I have absolutely no idea because it's not going to happen. I will be a doctor because it means that much to me and I haven't even considered a contigency plan." She was offered an open slot.

Dr. F.

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