Am I out of my mind for trying?

Hi everyone,

As for many of you, medicine has been my goal for a long time. Also like many of you, I’ve just never had the opportunity to make it happen.

I’m 38 now, and went to a good private college quite young (in the 80s), but unfortunately, for a number of reasons, my academic performance was not ideal. After sophomore year, I took time off and had a child, and then transferred into a much more prestigious university. She was 6 mos. old when I started junior year. I was going to school full-time and raising my baby alone, so frankly, I was thrilled that I even managed to graduate. While my grades improved there (about a 3.0), my overall undergrad GPA still came out to about 2.85.

I moved across the country, took a stressful job and went about being a “responsible adult”, which in this case, meant taking care of obligations and putting my goals on the back burner. It was way more important to me to be a good parent than anything else; med school was just going to have to wait.

Later (after a layoff), I went to business school and finished an MBA with a 3.94… I learned that I’m very good with all things quantitative, but to be honest, finance just isn’t what interests me.

My undergrad degree was in Lit, so I barely touched the science/maths. Not to mention, it’s been many years, so I want to do everything again. I have signed up to take the premeds at the state university nearby (which fortunately is a respectable school), and I want to do as much as possible - more than just the prerequisite requirements - in order to boost my GPA. I looked into formal post-bac premed programs, but I need to stay nearby, as I can’t afford to move with a kid headed to an Ivy League school in a few mos. In addition, my father is terminally ill and requires constant care, so I really have to work with what I’ve got.

I’m not worried about my ability to perform well, but the fact remains that even if I get straight A’s in every course I take, mathematically, I just can’t make the 3.8 GPA that so many people say is crucial.

This is the only thing I have ever wanted to do as a career (vs. just a job to pay the bills). Now that I’ll be an empty-nester, I finally have a shot at making it happen - but suddenly I’m stricken with the anxiety that failure is inevitable. I know that admissions committees look at all grades - but (assuming a stellar performance in the prereqs) will they care at all that my recent grades (graduate and post-bac) are much higher? Logically, I would think that my current and recent coursework would be a more accurate predictor of my ability than grades from classes I took 25 years ago, but I don’t know - maybe to them, it’s all the same.

This is an enormous undertaking and will require incredible planning and sacrifice, and I am afraid to invest all of my time, money and energy only to come out of it with nothing to show (plus a totally stalled non-medical career!). That said, the idea of not trying makes my stomach hurt. This is the only thing I’ve ever wanted and I’m very torn. When I’ve talked about my goals, more often that not I’ve heard “but you’ll be 41 when go to med school” or “what makes you think you’ll even get in”? It’s getting hard to stay positive.

Has anyone else been in this position? I would appreciate any advice.


Hi there and welcome aboard.

One thing has been said many times here: age is not a factor. You will be 41 whether you try to go to Med School or not. So it doesn’t matter. The oldest student ever accepted to Med School was 72!

Your MBA GPA is good so it won’t play against you, and may even help as one folk here told me (Emergency). The only issue I see is your low GPA as some schools (specially MD) have a cutoff and don’t bother reading your application at all if your GPA is below a certain threshold.

With that said, assuming you can get it high enough (and that should be as high as you can, 3.3+), you could have a shot:

1- If you can demonstrate a clear progression and improvement of your grades. You need to ace your pre-reqs, I wouldn’t settle for anything below 3.9. If you get a C first exam, drop the course for that semester. You can’t afford more bad grades at this point.

2- Make sure to package all this in your essays. I am not an expert at all and don’t want to give silly pieces of advice, but if you can mention quickly why and how you improved (what prevented from achieving better performance), you should be OK. Although I am sure that adcoms don’t like pessimistic stories and like to see the bright side so it is better to discuss the improvement rather than the low performance.

3- Since you may have time, get in the clinic (shadow, volunteering etc…). This is very important to show your interest.

4- You will have to ace the MCAT. If it’s high enough then maybe the low GPA (if you show improvements in your pre-reqs) may not be as big an issue. Target a score as high as possible and prepare as long as needed to reach it.

I’d say that you have a shot. It won’t be easy and there are no guarantees. The other good news is that DO schools will likely look more behind the numbers than MD Schools. In the end, DO or MD, you will be a physician doing the same job. So you may also want to think about that.

In any event, I wish you good luck.

All the best.

First, take a deep breath.

Yes, med schools WILL look at your recent coursework and yes, you will still have a shot if you do well in your new coursework (even without a 3.8 GPA).

I had a 2.78 undergrad (Spanish Major). Got a 4.0 in my graduate degree (which is generally a non-factor for med school apps, unless you have a crappy grad GPA). Since I was a Spanish major, I had taken very few math/science courses. On my AMCAS, my post-bacc GPA was a 3.98, science/math GPA 3.7ish, overall GPA (original undergrad and post-bacc) ~3.1.

Now, there are those who will tell you that you will never get accepted to med school (especially an allopathic school) with anything less than a 3.4 cum, even if you do very, very well in your pre-reqs now. This is NOT true. I was accepted to all five schools I applied to (all MD, 2 ranked schools by US News). There’s another OPMer at my school with a similar undergrad GPA who also had several MD acceptances. There are others who have managed to get into medical school with crappy undergrad GPAs, as well.

That’s not to say that your path isn’t made more difficult - there are some schools that won’t even look at your application because your cum GPA will be too low. However, MOST schools will look at your entire application, note the recent great grades and give you a chance (assuming the rest of your application is up to snuff).

You need to: 1. Do VERY well in the pre-reqs (as close to all A’s as possible). 2. Do well on the MCAT (you want to be close to or above average for accepted applicants at the schools you apply to. 3. Get great letters of recommendation - that means taking time to get to know your professors by going to office hours, etc. 4. Get some healthcare experience in if you don’t have any - shadowing, volunteering, etc. 5. Take some upper level science courses beyond the pre-reqs and do very well in those as well.

Always remember that averages are just that - averages. Don’t write a school off because they have an average GPA of 3.8. There is likely a very narrow distribution, but because of having so many data points around or higher than the 3.8, they can very easily have a few 3.1 GPAs floating around in there that don’t bring the average down.

You will have people tell you to go the DO route because DO schools tend to have lower GPAs, MCATs, and have a reputation for being more accepting of non-trads. Certainly, you shouldn’t discount them - there are many very good DO schools out there. DO schools do replace old grades with new grades if you retake the course (unlike MD schools which average all grades), which is an advantage for many people. However, since you haven’t taken many pre-reqs, you can still have a great science GPA. I guess what I’m saying is don’t assume that you should go DO because you’re a non-trad with a low GPA unless the DO route is something that interests you.

If you decide to do this, you will run into lots of people that will tell you that you don’t have a chance. You may have pre-med advisors tell you that you don’t have a chance. You will have to ignore them and do everything you can to make your application stand out.

Welcome and good luck!

Thanks very sincerely to both of you for these thorough, thoughtful replies. I am extremely grateful.

While not everyone rains on the parade, my goals are something I don’t advertise too openly. I guess I’m just afraid of hearing all about my brother’s super smart friend who didn’t get in, or the fact about my age, or whether I’m “being realistic”, any of the other things I’m sure most people on this site have heard 100 times too. It’s amazing how much resistance you get when you finally have the courage to go for what you want, sometimes from people you might have hoped would be supportive.

Encouragement is not something I hear as often as I’d like, frankly, and it goes a long way, so again, much gratitude. This venture will clearly be an uphill climb, but the question I keep asking myself is which is worse, trying and failing or never having tried… and for me, it’s definitely the latter. I’m sure you’ve both been through these particular hoops - staying positive is a choice I’m just going to have to make and really commit to, because I certainly can’t control anyone else’s response.

Fortunately, though I live on the edge of a rural area, we have a brand new hospital in the adjacent county. I brought it up when I was there and working as a volunteer in the ER is an option, so I will make that a priority. I will definitely go above and beyond as far as classes go, so that I can improve my skills and expand my knowledge base, and hopefully be better prepared for the MCAT.

I don’t want to pry, but may I ask which DO and MD programs you both applied to? It would help to know which were smarter choices for an applicant in this situation. I’m sure there are a number of schools that would say “adios” on page one of my application, so I’d like to hear which might read on to page two, if you don’t mind sharing.

Again, thanks so much and all the best!

  • In reply to:
I don't want to pry, but may I ask which DO and MD programs you both applied to? It would help to know which were smarter choices for an applicant in this situation.

I didn't apply to any DO schools - not because of any kind of bias, but more because I really didn't know anything about them and hadn't checked into them. In retrospect, I probably would have applied to the state DO school had I been more familiar with DOs at the time (and if it wasn't in the middle of nowhere. ;))

I applied to:

University of Cincinnati

Wright State University

NEOUCOM (Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine)

University of Toledo

Ohio State University

I feel very fortunate to not only live in a state that has a ton of med schools, but also has med schools that are generally non-trad friendly. We also have Case Western and Ohio University, which I didn't apply to, that are both known to be non-trad friendly.

You’re that the rest of us. I just pulled pit of and took bunk of “W” in their stead. I’ planning least for cslculus through full, I know preferemce DO pr MD, but either was, at least you’ll know.

In 2004 I signed up to run my first marathon. A friend sort of urged/dared me to do it with him. My thought was, “Alright, why not, you only live once, I can try or die trying!”

At that point the farthest we had ever ran 6 miles. We only had 3 months to work up to 26.2 miles.

Most everyone I talked to thought it was stupid or crazy, or didn’t think I could do it. Or I had relatives telling me I would hurt my organs, or women shouldn’t do that to their bodies.

This made me have a lot of self doubt, because I thought, if everyone else thinks I can’t do it, why should I think I can do it…

Finally, I told one guy in my running group, and he gave me a high five and said, “Awesome, you can do it!”

That was all I needed, I knew I could do it. And I had at least one person that believed that I could do it.

Since then I have ran 7 marathons, multiple halves and other races and am training for my 8th.

You need to find at least one person (a live one, not forumite) that believes in you to help and support you in this race to be a Doctor.

You can do it!

To all of you reading this thread…I have a philosophy, for better or worse, along the lines of “if the high school kid down the street can fix something, surely I ought to be able to do it.” It can translate into any number of scenarios. That plus, “If you don’t ask, they can’t say ‘yes,’” has been very useful over the years.

Remember, “averages” are just that. Most med schools do not have a matriculating class average gpa of 3.8. The national average is about 3.6.

Yes, there are times when getting into med school seems like a crap shoot. Sometimes it is. Med schools get far more qualified applicants than they can accept. But, SOMEBODY has to be in that pool of acceptees. Why not you? You can’t change the past, you can only make the present and future work for you.



I am new to this forum and have been hanging onto every word here and fully plan to follow Emergency and Re-do-it all’s advice.

Here is my background. 15 years ago, I was pre med at the University of San Diego with an overall GPA of 3.28 and a science GPA of 3.16 (I have questions about how the science part is determined). I did not take the MCAT. I don’t remember exactly my thought process but I have some recollection of thoughts of my ability to handle med school and wanting balance in my life.

Currently, I am an ICU RN with a billion hobbies (including learning to break-dance at the age of 37-hahahaha) but do not feel fulfilled. I have had a comfortable, healthy life and I have always felt a duty to pass that on to the world at large. I certainly feel I have given great medical care to my ICU patients and have really helped them and their families through what is usually a low point in their lives. The problem is outside the hospital, what I can give is limited by my scope and education as an RN. During the time I volunteered at a free clinic, I felt so restless taking automatic blood pressures and counting out meds. I wanted to do more! When I was in Haiti on a medical mission recently, I did my best to triage a population that has, by in large, a 2nd or 3rd grade education, hardly any health care before the earthquake and thus not a lot of experience keeping track of medical conditions if they had even seen an MD, and on top of it all, were hot, hungry and traumatized. I did my best, but wanted the additional medical training of an MD to DO MORE!!! I have been on a long journey and it has led me back to a desire to go to med school. There are many hurdles but I will (obviously) do everything it takes to reach my dream.

Science classes I took in undergrad : Yr of bio w lab, yr of Gen chem w lab, Yr of O Chem w lab, yr physics, genetics, biochem, embryology, neurobiology, molecular bio, ecology, plant phys, bio of oceans, indep study= research for bio professor (nothing interesting: all I can remember was counting invertebrates in a mud pile but did get to use an electron microscope for some reason), vertebrate natural history, and senior seminar (maybe this is where I used the e- micro? It’s amazing how 15yrs seems like nothing until you try to remember details).

Question 1: To calculate science GPA, is it all of the above or just the usual suspects: bio, chem, ochem, and physics? (I calculated using all my science classes including the independent study and senior seminar). Does it include Calculus (only took one semester, got a B)?

Question 2: I need to do some research, but I am assuming my pre reqs are too old to count (except in the dreaded re take averaging). Does it prove any kind of desire/ persistence to take everything (bio w lab, chem w lab, ochem w lab, physics w lab) over again even if, somehow, it is not required? Some courses outside the usual suspects I did well in: Embryo (A-), Neurobio (A) and others were awful Molecular bio ©. Should I also take these over or just molec bio?

Question 3: Micro bio was a pre req I took for nursing school: got an A. Will they count that in my science GPA? Again, should I take this again as well?

Question 4: For nursing I did a generic MSN @ SFSU (accelerated course that ends in a master of nursing. They don’t award a BSN so as to avoid the CA fees associated with getting a second bachelors). Noted in another post above is that your grad GPA doesn’t count unless it sucked. Mine was a 3.62 if you don’t count the credit courses and a 3.28 if you do count them. How do you think they will calculate my GPA?

Will this affect me and what can I do to put a positive spin on this?? I had overcome obstacles such as: broken arm= no job= relative homelessness (sleeping on random people’s couches because I couldn’t afford rent) and accomplished a thesis that all my advisors told me was too big to finish= determining the need for a free medical clinic in West Oakland. When I was done, the public health department asked for a copy of my thesis because they didn’t have all the information I had scoured the Earth to obtain.

Question 5: Med schools also look at how rigorous the school was where pre reqs were taken. How do I determine how the scale Univ. of San Diego rated 15 years ago?

Question 6: What are indicators of a non trad friendly school. Should we just look at age spread of applicants? For example, a school that took just 2 students above the age of 25 is non trad friendly?

Question 7: Is my situation impossible because I was premed before? (Versus a low GPA in a non science major?)

Question 8: How helpful are prospective school pre admissions counselors especially if you are a nontraditional student with a low GPA? Should I bother? Are there any other tools out there to help me with the admissions process?

Thank you all for your stories, strength, and wisdom!