Bad grades, low GPA and poor choices

Hello! I am a third-year premedical student, and the reality of my situation has made me realized that I will not be accepted to medical school without addressing and improving major flaws in my academic profile. I have a cumulative GPA of 3.207. I came into my freshman year of college with a strong sense of overconfidence and certainty in my academic skills (given that I was an excelling student in high school). I did very poorly in my first semester (cGPA: 3.406) and earned mainly C’s in my science courses. I continued to take major pre-med science courses the next semester without addressing the cause of my academic underperformance in the previous semester; needless to say, I did worse and finished that term with a GPA of 2.8. After this, I lost all confidence in my academic abilities to succeed as a student. In the fall semester of my sophomore year, I received an institutional action for attempting to cheat on a physics exam and received an F in the course. This not only made me question my competency to become a doctor; surprisingly, but I also underwent significant character development and even developed a connection with the physics professor. I realized that I was in a deep “hole” and would need to work twice as hard to “make it out” if I truly desired to become a doctor. I took time to reflect on why I felt the need to cheat on an exam and reflected on the reason why I was consistently underperforming in my science courses. Since then, I have seen an upward trend in my GPA. I finished the fall semester with a 3.778 (I had 2 B+: psychology and Biochemistry I). Overall, I have 5 C’s (Gen Chem II, Calc I + II, Orgo I + II) and 1 F (Physics I).

I have not taken the MCAT yet, but I hope a good score can help my overall stats and open more doors to potential medical schools. My plan is to keep this upward trend till I graduate, improve my EC’s by working as an EMT while also shadowing and volunteering, and try to get a good MCAT score. I plan on taking a gap year to complete a DIY post bac program to improve my GPA, but I do not know If there are better options to use this gap year. Given the severity of my situation (a low GPA and institutional action) and substandard EC’s, I feel very defeated and I am not sure if an “upward trend” and improved EC’s is enough to become a successful applicant to medical school. Aside from the plans I listed above, what can I do (or should do) to improve my chances of getting into medical school?

Cheating IAs can be lethal to your medical school application. You really need to be able to reflect and explain it in the character limit AMCAS gives you.

There are 2 ideas surrounding cheating IAs:

  1. If your application is otherwise solid cheating IAs can be forgiven with time and you may get an interview from med schools that forgive
  2. If you have a cheating IA, the school essentially won’t even deal with you and will outright reject you without looking at your app because it is easier.

Even though SDN is a questionable place, they do give some good advice:

If you have an institutional action (IA) for cheating, stop right now. Your medical career is over. Now, there’s cheating and then there’s cheating. Plagiarism is not the same as merely forgetting some footnotes. Having someone take an exam for you is, well, lethal. Thus, a cheating IA means you should either find another career or first engage in 5-10 years of some honest, virtuous position of responsibility.” Quote taken from Goro on SDN