Depressed. More B's. Downward GPA trend in post-bacc. Seeking advice.

So, yet another semester is coming to a close.

And it looks like more B grades are on the way.

I was in the A/B borderline for several classes, but inevitably and predictably mess up at the end and that A grade drops to a B.

Since starting post-bacc, my GPA has a steady slow decline. Usually, I tend to do well in my courses, except mess up on one test (or sometimes a project). And then my A grade drops to a B. In those few classes where I have a B, grades drop to a C. The problem seems to be timing. Always my timing seems to be off; I always run out of time finishing projects or studying for tests, no matter how early I start. I am just too slow at reading and writing the material, even if I start weeks ahead of time.

My premed advisor believes that my chances at any U.S. medical school evaporated years ago due to getting some C grades in repeat courses, and the fact that my grades fail to show an upward trend. There is a slow downward trend instead.

I don’t have much time to turn things around. I’ve extended my post-bacc purposefully to bring up my grades but that has not happened. To make matters worse, if I do finally master my time and the material and start getting A’s, any improvement in my GPA will be minimal and won’t make up much for all those B’s and C’s.

My extracurriculars clearly show that I have the interest in medicine, but my grades show that I don’t have the aptitude.

And it is making me depressed.

Free advice from a non-medical student. It’s worth exactly what you’ve paid me for it, so do with it what you will.

If you show a slow downward trend and your GPA is <=3.0, you may have a serious problem. In such a case, slogging through may not be your best course. Rather, you must decide whether medical school is worth the effort. If it is, you need to discover and fix what’s wrong academically before you continue. Whether it’s distractions at home, poor study habits, slow reading, lack of retention, drifting off during lectures, failing to get homework and labs done in a timely manner, or whatever it may be, you must identify that problem and resolve it, and THEN go back and finish your postbacc.

On the other hand, if you show a slow downward trend and your GPA is 3.0-3.5, you still have a chance of getting into med school. If you really nail the MCAT, some school is likely to take you. And if you show a slow downward trend and your GPA is 3.5+, you are probably getting worried over nothing.

My post-bacc GPA is 3.1. My problem is that I keep missing those A’s, sometimes by just a few points. My school does not give out plus/minus grades, so if you miss an A, you get a B. At my alma mater, I was a B+, A- student. If my current school had that grading scale, I would have a 3.3. Sigh.

As far as medical school being worth the effort, ; I would say, yes. I’ve put 20+ years into medical work with underserved populations, and don’t want to throw away that effort just because of grades.

I am currently working with learning skills counselor to improve my grades; through her, I have already identified a reading disorder (slow reading coupled with mild dyslexia), but the extra measures I have taken have not appreciably translated into improved grades. My test scores have gone up, but I still mess up on one test, enough to drop the grade.

getting A’s in my last semester (next semester) will not appreciably improve my GPA. I have too many units.

So, I am relying on doing well on the MCAT and extracurriculars.

More ideas for your to chew on and accept or ignore, as you see fit.

Consider the 80/20 rule, which is most commonly stated: 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. As I look around at different organizations, whether work groups, church congregations, families, or service organizations, the 80/20 rule seems to hold.

Here is another application of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your grade comes from 20% of your work. Students who always seem to end up with Bs and Cs are typically those students who do the 20% but not much more. The B/A students are those who put in twice the effort; the solid A students put in three or four times the effort of the C/B students.

When I returned to school for my second bachelors degree, I observed that I routinely worked harder than most of the other best students in the class. Considering that I took an absurd course load and still graduated summa cum laude, I would wager that I worked harder than any other student in the college of computer science while I was there. Yet students who worked half as hard as I did still managed Cs or even Bs. In that sense, I was working a lot harder for just a little improvement.

If you’re always borderline A/B and always seem to be slipping to B, my guess is that you are missing that extra push to get over the hump. How to avoid missing it? I say, avoid the hump altogether. Don’t get 91% in your classes; get 96%.

“But how?!” you may ask. “I’m already doing the best I can do!” No, you are not. You never perform to your limits over a long stretch of time. Maybe for a few minutes or an hour, or even a day, but not longer. Consider the following questions:

  • How much time do you study outside of class for each hour in class? The canonical number is supposed to be two hours outside study for each hour in class. You should consider this a minimum, and work up from there.
  • How much time do you study before the lecture? Are you already familiar with the material, at least in general overview, before the teacher covers it? If not, you are not sufficiently prepared for the lecture.
  • How much do you review the material you have already studied? How many optional (or unassigned) problem sets do you do? How many sample/old/internet tests do you take on each topic?
  • Are you in a study group for each class? If not, why not? Do you make flash cards for terminology items? Do you make up games for yourself where you read part of a sentence from your text and try to complete it without looking? Do you highlight key terms in your text, then go through and look at them and see if you can define them and give a thorough explanation? Do you (at least mentally) try to teach the subject to someone else so you can find out if you actually understand it well?
  • Does your spouse think you're obsessive about class? Do your friends say that you're no fun any more because all you do is study for school? Do they avoid talking to you because all you want to talk about is your school subjects?
  • Do you find yourself doing google searches to find out more information on the topics you're studying? Have you read the wikipedia entries on them? Have you corrected the wikipedia entries?
  • Do you remember those annoying, know-it-all gunners from when you first went to school? You know, the ones who always sat in the front row, always raised their hands, weren't embarrassed to give the wrong answer (but usually ended up giving the right answer), stayed after to ask the teacher about the finer points of his/her lecture, and in general just seemed like an anal-retentive, socially comatose machines? Are you striving to become one of them? If not, why not?

If you're already doing all or most of these and you are still struggling with Bs and Cs, I guess I'm not going to be much help.

Great checklist, Spox! I’m not a personal fan of study groups (I just seem to prep better alone with my own path of self-teaching), but the rest of the list seemed oddly familiar!

I am going to try to implement some of the ideas you have put forth. Some of those ideas I already implement, but I am going to try to do better as you have recommended.

Will medical admissions even care if I do better at list late stage? Will it make any difference in the chance of acceptance or more likely the possibility of rejection?

Study groups were something I discovered only in my last year of my (first) undergrad program. When I did not understand the subject, the study group was a lifesaver, since I got 1-1 attention to explain what I wasn’t getting. When I did understand the subject, it was a chance to solidify my understanding by teaching it to others.

I did not sufficiently stress the idea of teaching to others. When you understand something well enough to teach it to another person – not pretend to teach it or hand-wave your way through an explanation, but really teach it to someone – then odds are you will ace a test on that topic. In my experience, one of the best predictors of how well I will do on an exam is how comfortable I feel teaching the topic.

Rereading what I wrote in my original responses above, I’m afraid I may come off as arrogant. Sorry about that; I don’t believe that I really am arrogant. On the contrary, I am all too aware of my own limitations. But when I went back to school for my second bachelors degree, I really nailed the program. I actually did it right, for once. So I’m trying to pass along that experience for the benefit of others, just as I have benefited so much from hearing others (on this forum and elsewhere) tell what they did to succeed.

Will medical admissions even care if I do better at list late stage? Will it make any difference in the chance of acceptance or more likely the possibility of rejection?

It can’t hurt. At this point, you can’t undo prior mediocre grades. Just concentrate on what you can do.

One thing you might want to check to see is if your school has free tutoring or review sessions. In OChem this semester there was a study session each morning of Lecture. I really found it helpful.


I haven’t been able to read over all of your previous posts, but from what I have gathered I think your first goal is to get a handle on why you are not achieving in your coursework and figure out a solution to those problem(s). Even if you were able to enroll into a medical school, a PA program, or a NP program right now, by your own self-assessments you wouldn’t be able to handle the curriculum. Once you have conquered your learning problem(s), then I think your next step would be to tackle a Georgetown SMP type of program to prove to yourself and medical schools that you can handle the medical school curriculum.

Datsa - I had one other study suggestion which the learning specialist here at school passed on to me to help me use my time more effectively. That is (if the lecture powerpoints or outlines are available before the lecture) to spend 30 minutes reviewing what the next day’s lecture is going to be on - the LAST 30 minutes before going to bed. Look at any figures and read the main topics. That way, your subconscious is working on the material as you are sleeping, and your lecture will actually be your SECOND pass thru the material. I found this greatly enhanced my understanding and retention of the lecture itself. Have just started to try this but striving to make it a daily habit.

As to how any improvement will be noted by an admissions committee - I suggest you put your attention on becoming the best, most effective student you can be. This will help you master the material to have it for med school, and help you master learning to succeed in med school, and help you retain what you learn in med school to be able to apply it in practice.

The battle is not over yet. I’d say to figure out all possible ways of making your studying more effective and look on next semester as a fresh chance to continue improving.


That’s a great list!

So, it looks like things are actually worse than I had previously mentioned in my lsat posts. I took my genetics final today. It was a comprehensive final, both written essay and multiple choice and I had a hard time with the multiple choice. I just could not recall all the concepts and facts. To make matters worse, this is the third time I’ve retaken this course; I took it three years ago (from a different professor) and got a C, then I retook it but dropped out since I was headed for a D. Now it looks like I may get a C instead of a B.

This would be the second course that I’e retaken and not improved my grade. I took second semester biochemistry three times and got a C each time. Retaking courses and not improving one’s grade or even acing the course leaves a poor impression.

I spent a lot of time studying for this course.

The problems I had with this course were the same I had with some other courses. I failed to see certain patterns that were obvious to my classmates and other students. No matter how I tried, I could never master dihybrid crosses. Even private tutoring didn’t help.

It is situations like this that are convincing me that I just don’t a scientific mindset.