Finally finished a bachelor's (an introduction)

Hi everyone! I’ve been lurking on this forum throughout the years and decided that I should become a part of it to both give and receive help and support. I have some more immediate questions / concerns and so on, but I’ll make a thread in the applications forum for that. This is “the long story” for those who want to read.

Age now: 34

GPA: 3.1 AMCAS (3.2sGPA), 3.4 AACOMAS. There’s a 4-year break in my undergraduate career that spanned 10 years full-/part-time. Earned dean’s list many semesters (GPA > 3.5/3.7 with 12+ credit hours), but there are 2 bad semesters on my record when I arrived at university (and an F or two from the early 1990s)

MCAT: 30 (2013, 9P/9V/12B; my verbal dropped 4 points from practice exams)

2004-2007: classes at community college

2005: first responder certification

2006: ~24 hours volunteering in medical clinic for the homeless

2006-2007: 400+ hours as volunteer martial arts instructor

2007: ~100 hours research experience

2007: earned 2 year degree

2008: ineligible to continue in college but not dismissed from university

2012: back in school

2013: 20 hours shadowing

2014: Graduate with bachelor’s

Not listed are normal working hours or one-time volunteer activities.

I came to medicine in a very round-about kind of way, with none of the classic stories about “What made me want to be a physician.”

Mostly coasted through high school, with no clue of what I was going to do. Put myself in courses that were labeled “College prep” because I knew, somehow, that that was a good thing. But I didn’t even know what the SAT was. I couldn’t see my life past 18–it was just a void and all I knew was that I was getting kicked out of the house when I turned 18. Moved from across the country halfway through my senior year of high school because of “Family Stuff” but still graduated. Should have been an honors graduate but the school barely knew I was there. No family members are involved in healthcare or ever went to college.

I’ve been working since 16, out of the house and 100% on my own since I was 20.

Tried college because I knew I wanted to be successful. Mistakenly followed the “do what you love” advice and enrolled as an English major. Realized it was dumb to go into debt (no scholarships of any sort) to get a degree I didn’t need and which wouldn’t help me get a job to pay for said debt. Left the school and worked fulltime for 5 years.

As I worked, I pondered life. I’d always been interested in the human body, nutrition, exercise, and health, and so I wondered if I could turn that into a career somehow. Started looking stuff up and found not only physicians and nurses but a huge array of allied health possibilities. Many might say, “Duh, of course you could be a doctor or a nurse” but honestly I had no idea. No one had ever said, “look, here’s something you could do.” No one guided me on how to find a job or plan a career.

So in 2004, I returned to school at 24 years old to begin my bachelor’s degree at a community college. I only had ~9 credits to my name so I knew I could keep researching my options while I worked on classes. I eventually had to move to a different job and that started a career as a programmer. It paid the bills and was mildly interesting but never what I wanted to do. Meanwhile, I talked with people I met who were in healthcare.

I did extremely well in my medical school prereqs. I was also trying to get into an interdisciplinary undergraduate research program (“IDS” for short) in neuroscience at a major state university. While still at the community college, I found a research mentor on the university campus, began working in his lab, and so on. On the advice of the IDS program coordinator, I got my 2 year transfer degree as a psychology major. In hindsight, this entire thing was a huge mistake all around.

Got my AA degree in 2007 and started at university that next fall. But because I was a transfer student and didn’t have a university GPA, I couldn’t yet apply for the IDS program. So I was still a psychology major. By this time, the IDS program coordinator I’d also been talking with had retired.

I took on too many classes at once, in addition to working (unpaid) in a lab, as well as trying to start my volunteering, and realizing that I was doing all of that and wasn’t even admitted into the IDS program yet made me doubt everything. I’d never had a problem in school before and didn’t even realize I was having one. I blinked. My grades dropped, orgo 1 hit the floor, and it was a mess.

I took some non-science classes the next term to try to reset myself and tried to change my major. Was denied twice (partially because of the transfer student stuff and partially for reasons still unknown) and informed I was no longer eligible to continue in that college. Note that this was just the college within the university and not the university itself. Meanwhile, financial aid didn’t offer enough money to cover all my expenses and I’d had to start working again that semester. I was disgusted with the appeal process for reasons I won’t go into in public and just left. Didn’t withdrawl (didn’t even really know what that was) and abandoned everything, including my classes, which earned F’s.

I thought I was done. I didn’t know what my options were. “Well, that’s it, I guess,” I thought, and so I abandoned the goal of medicine/healthcare and continued working. Money had to come first and I was taking unpaid time off to go back and forth to campus for appeals.

After I gained some time and distance from it all, I was disgusted with how I left and knew that it didn’t represent my abilities. I also regretted abandoning the path towards healthcare.

Eventually I decided that yes, I still wanted it, even though I tried to convince myself that I didn’t. I found that I still had options: I could enroll in a different college within the university. I talked with the associate dean of that college and they gave me a chance. However, they asked me not to work and to extremely limit my volunteering. While on the one hand, this was entirely reasonable given that my academic performance was paramount, I knew it made it more difficult to get the experiences I needed. In addition, I still had to work, anyways, because financial aid didn’t offer enough.

Beyond those 2 terms in 2007/2008, my GPA has been pretty good, though I wasn’t always able to take a full course load each term because of work, both office jobs and freelance development work. I worked hard to redeem myself. I graduated with my bachelor’s in summer 2014, ten years after starting it.

Looking back, there are a lot of things I wish I had done differently, both picking different paths for school and also just smacking my past self and telling myself to ask for help or more options. It’s been a very rough ride but I don’t hide that I also made some very big mistakes.

Throughout the years, I pondered stuff like EMT, etc, as a way to try to combine getting the experiences I needed with ways to pull in money, but the programs themselves would have required me to take out loans, which didn’t contribute to my bachelor’s. As it is, I came very close to the federal loan limit for undergraduate work. So this was likely a good decision on my part. Over the years, I applied for 20+ entry-level positions in the local hospitals (patient transport, desk clerk, etc) with no return phone calls.

In hindsight, I see areas where I could have volunteered more and I wish I had because I know that that’s a huge problem with my application. One of my problems, so to speak, is that I tend to give my current job a huge amount of priority even if it’s just temporary. I’m trying to get better about this. Also, it’s difficult because I have no safety net for my finances and that leads me to “play it safe” with my time.

I spoke last year with an associate dean of admissions at a state medical school and was told in no uncertain terms that my application is too inconsistent and wouldn’t even land me an interview. So between that and the AAMC MCAT+GPA grid giving me a 29% chance (3.1 gpa 30 mcat), I knew going into this past cycle that my odds weren’t good.

Since summer 2014, I’ve been working in a research lab doing mainly computer stuff like bacterial genome sequencing, genome assembly, and some biostatistics. Scraped together some money to apply. Can’t get AMCAS assistance because I don’t have access to my parents taxes and was denied for AACOMAS fee assistance. Applied in the 2014 cycle to begin in 2015, to 16 schools, split evenly between 8 MD schools in my state, a few DO schools in my state, and a few other DO schools through out the country. 1/4-1/3 of them were early, completely by August. No interviews.

And that brings me to now. So: Hello :shock: !