Another new guy

Well…here we go. First time post, I’ll try to be brief and keep my cortisol levels under control.

I am a registered Native American, veteran, graduated with a BS in biology a couple of years ago, sGPA of 3.4 and overall of 3.5. Had a rough time with calc, o chem and physics. Most of my grades are As and Bs. Not many ECs, but was a combat medic for 4 years, worked closely with a handful of military doctors.

I was nearly a high school dropout a number of years ago, but the military set me straight and a doctor with whom I worked inspired me to pursue medical school. Got out of the military, got married, enrolled in college. Had a kid half way through, the coursework got more difficult, I lost my grandfather and best friend in the same year, and suffered some a couple low grades. Put off studying for the MCAT until after I graduated. Got a job, tried to start MCAT studying but gave it up after physics and o chem made absolutely no sense to me…again. I stressed myself out, became disillusioned and decided to give it up, then looked into PA school. Found a few schools that I could apply to this year and made the CASPA profile.

Why am I here, then? I thought I had given this up, but my gut/heart/hard head has been restless. In all this planning to apply to PA school, I find myself looking at/thinking about LECOMM’s PA->DO program often. While fishing this past weekend a thought occured to me…it said “you are not done with this, you will not let undergraduate classes defeat you…come up with a plan and take the MCAT.”

What’s my plan supposed to be?? I literally understand very little about physics and o chem, how in the world do I go about relearning the courses well enough to make a competetive score? Becuase of my low-ish GPA, would I need a 35 to be considered? I’m 30 this year (young to many, I know) and just want to get the ball rolling with the rest of my life. How in the world do I approach this? Especially now that the MCAT has changed?

Thanks so much.

Welcome to OPM.

Some good news: Physics and o-chem are de-emphasized on the new MCAT, so that’s good. Bad news: There is biochem on it now.

Good news: No one really knows what to do with the new scoring system yet (the old scale is gone). Bad news: Same. Schools might just arbitrarily pick an acceptable range until there is a year of data or more on MCAT performance.

Do you need to retake any of your prereqs – if you got a C in them, you do, most likely. So you could start by putting together a plan to take them and get As. That might mean taking them one at a time to fully focus. (Also remember that DO has grade replacement.)

What was it about physics and orgo that you didn’t get? Did you get overwhelmed, did you lose confidence, did you have professors who didn’t explain things well?

I use as a supplement to those courses. He’s amazing. It’s very slow going, but if you invest the time, he will get you there.

Khan Academy also has a new MCAT prep section. If you have the time and $$, you could do an MCAT prep class, but I wouldn’t until you have reviewed or retaken physics and orgo.

Once you know how much time you need to devote to taking classes, you can start to come up with a timeline. For example, will you be ready to take the MCAT next April (2016)? That would put you in line to apply in June 2016 and hopefully matriculate in August 2017.

Your GPA is pretty good, you have work and military experience. You can use the time to bolster your application in other ways, especially community service (not just clinical). There’s nothing you can do about your past numbers, but you can make your application strong in other ways.

It’s a lot of planning and it seems like a lot of years, but if you’re called to this, as you seem to be, putting in the time is worth it.

I have a C+ in physics 1 and o chem 2…if I understand the calculations correctly, retaking would not raise my GPA enough to worry about. Is this accurate? Many of my prospective schools do not state that such a grade would screen me out, as far as I can tell.

Realistically, I don’t see myself ready to take the MCAT until the 2017 cycle. I never took biochem or sociology. I suppose at this point, my options are 1) an MS/post-bac or 2) just start studying for the MCAT.

A third potential option is a paid post-bac with the local university, but they state that the program is intended for minority students seeking a PhD. I could earn roughly the same income doing it and I am Navajo, but I am not seeking a PhD…the program director did not return my call about whether or not they would consider a wannabe med student. Profiles of some past students on the program site show that they went on to med school though.

This all seemed so much more attainable back in college…but the reality is really sinking in. Good grief this is a long road; serving in combat was a lot easier than this.

I appreciate your help.

Do not give up!

If this is your path, own it.

One comment about being blunt about your aspirations to potential programs that are not medical school:

keep them to yourself

I’m not saying lie at all.

Please do not lie if asked a direct question.

Some programs will not accept a student into them if they know the real reason is something like med school. They simply don’t want to train someone for research just to lose them from the lab to school.

That said, why did you get the C+?

Answer that, what would you do differently, take a higher level orgo class or physics class, or repeat them with the new insight to get A’s.

Though for MD the grades will NOT be replaced, it would show you understand the material and can do the work.

Then, nail the MCAT.

Dream. Go. Do.

I’m not sure about the GPA ramifications, but if you go DO, you get grade replacement – the originals show up on your transcript, but aren’t included in your GPA. That means, of course, that you need to do well on the retake.

I agree with Adoc – you need to figure out why you got a C+. If you didn’t get the material, you might want a retake or perhaps take a Udacity course or something so you can be solid on the material. If it’s not going to make a difference in your GPA, it will for MCAT prep.

The way I think about it is, for every deficit on my application, where else in there have I been exceptional to balance it out?

Whatever you decide, the fact that you’re thinking about it and starting to make plans means you’re getting started. Yep, it’s a long road, but you’re on it.

Welcome! Yes, this is a rough road, I know from personal experience (one example: divorce during the middle of my post-bac … definitely not ideal). Those difficulties can weigh you down. But in overcoming them, you can also become a much stronger person in the end – that’s what I have found.

In the meantime though, you do need to address your grade situation. Yes, consider the DO grade replacement option for physics and orgo. That would essentially make your C’s go away, assuming you do better the second time around. But that means you need to figure out WHY you didn’t understand the material in the first place, as another poster said. This is also critical to success in medical school – effective study strategies and skills. One thought – do you know how you learn best? Is it audio, visual, kinematic, or a combination? Maybe the classes/professors weren’t hitting your learning style, and you need to make up for that on your own time. Whatever your learning style though, it’s important to engage in ACTIVE (as opposed to passive) learning and studying. Not just reading the chapter, but working extra practice problems on your own, writing summaries of your notes in your own words, drawing out structures on a dry erase board in different colors, whatever makes the material stick for you. “Use it or lose it,” as they say.

Wishing you the best. And keep us posted on your progress.

  • Adoc2be Said:

That said, why did you get the C+?

Answer that, what would you do differently, take a higher level orgo class or physics class, or repeat them with the new insight to get A's.

For both C+ grades, I just couldn't motivate myself enough to put the time in studying. I really, really dislike physics and o-chem, or at least I did at the time. Don't ask how I would have tried to explain those grades if I would have even been blessed with an interview back then. I really have no excuse for it.

If I did poorly enough to earn Cs in physics and o-chem, should I even attempt a higher level course?

Lately I am considering enrolling in a local university MPH. I know this will do nothing for me in terms of getting into medical school as it is not in the area of hard science. Here is my rationale:

1) To get me back into the academic environment, because I am horrible self-started. I just can't do it completely on my own, I need direction from an authority figure.

2) I could retake physics and o-chem from the undergrad college (assuming they would let me) to use a grade replacement for D.O. schools or to show allopathic schools that I actually can handle the material. I can also then take

3) I can use grad school loan and stipend money for a Kaplan MCAT course when the time comes.


Now that I think about it...why don't I just do a DIY post-bacc at that same school? Hmm...input?

No. (edited: you updated your response before I could post my own; “NO” is in response to taking higher level classes)

But if you’re not going to repeat the courses, then take “something” higher level in those areas to show you can handle the material.

Personally, I would retake them (and not worry about grade replacement or not for MD programs).

Primarily, you will need to know ochem for biochem and for the new MCAT you will need to understand the concepts well.

It’s no longer about the cat leaping from a 10m platform at a velocity of 10m/s for 2 seconds and landing how far out after 5 seconds, it is about the enzymes that reacted to create the energy for the cat to jump in the first place along with a break down in said enzyme that caused the cat to jump further (catalyst) or not (breakdown in catalyst).

So, I would just retake the courses. It is really important to understand both fields (less ochem) but still important.