Finishing just the pre-reqs vs. taking more to try to raise GPA?

Hi, Dr. Gray and fellow non-trads!

I’m a 33-year-old non-trad looking for advice on courses to take as I finish up a DIY post-bacc. I’ve been back in school full-time for two years and will be done with all of the necessary courses that required by most schools and recommended before taking the MCAT by the end of fall 2019. My goal is to apply to med schools this time next year.

The short version of my dilemma is that my BCPM-GPA is currently a 3.48 and my only remaining required coursework is two semesters each of physics and biochem. My main question is: For the fall semester, should I just finish the required coursework so I can be a part time student / employee / MCAT prepper, or should I stay full-time and take more 200- and 300-level courses to demonstrate I can make good grades in them?

Here’s the full background:

My concern is that my grades don’t show much upward trajectory - in fact, I’ve struggled in some of the science courses much more than I’ve ever struggled before. I have a BA in sociology from 2008 with a 3.78 GPA from my first time as an undergrad. Being a sociology major came very easily for me, and many of the skills and perspectives I learned through that program and working for a non-profit led me to want to become a physician. However, until I started on my pre-med journey in the fall of 2017, I hadn’t taken a real science course since high school. I’m still figuring out what study methods work for me. I’m great at connecting concepts and applying them to real-world problems, but not great at memorizing or learning topics without much context offered for how the subjects fit together.

Most of my grades have been great since returning, but this last semester was straight B’s in my science classes. I know Dr. Gray says we should be getting all A’s in these pre-reqs and if we’re not, to figure out why. A big part of my struggle has been with organic chemistry. My school offers two very short, 4-week long semesters over the summer and I thought I could pull off the full organic chem sequence then. Instead I crashed and burned in orgo 1, struggling through just 18 days of lectures with labs 4 days a week, plus scribing 20-30 hours each weekend. I ended up with a C+. I thought I could try to find some momentum to push through the second semester, but quickly realized I didn’t have a good enough foundation and withdrew. Organic became a mental and emotional block more than an academic one, but I didn’t face either of those aspects head-on enough to succeed when I tried to take orgo 2 in the fall and I ended up with another W when I had an average of a 47 after two exams. That all really shook my confidence. I ended up quitting my part-time scribing job to focus on school this spring, but struggled to balance re-learning the foundations of organic 1 while taking organic 2 plus anatomy and physiology 1 and microbiology.

While I’m thrilled that I pulled off B’s in these courses, I’m worried how the combination of W’s, B’s, and that one C+ will look to schools. I’ve heard Dr. Gray talk about how schools want to see an upward trajectory in your grades, especially if your GPA is lower. This last semester dragged me down a bit grade-wise and an undesirable trend, which is why I’m considering taking more classes. No matter what, I should be well above a 3.0 GPA cut-off and should be leaving myself time to take the MCAT more than once if needed. As a potential consideration, my school offers an MCAT prep class for under $1,000 - including materials and 8 practice tests! - but only in the spring semester.

I’m taking both semesters of physics and biochem between this summer and fall, and that should finish out what’s absolutely required. On one hand, I really enjoy being in school and think there would be benefits to taking more courses now so I wouldn’t be seeing the material for the first time in med school, especially if I’ve figured out my study needs enough to pull off A’s in those. On the other, going to school part-time would let me get a part-time job, which would help me financially and, if I’m able to get a clinically related job or go back to scribing, would provide reinforcements to what I’ve been learning. I’m 33 years old, which I’ve come to appreciate doesn’t make me too old for this process, but I’d like to make sure my first round of applications is fantastic so I can avoid a second round of applying, since leaving my full-time job in 2017 has not been spectacular for my finances.

Thanks for any advice and insights you can offer! For context, I’ve included my pre-req grades below.

GPAs (as of end of spring 2019)

BCPM-GPA = 3.48
c-GPA for post-bacc = 3.57
c-GPA for prior BA = 3.78


Gen 111 / lab A / A
Gen 112 / lab A- / A
Biodiversity 211 A (4 credits)
Genetics 305 A
A+P1 221 B- (4 credits)
Micro 310 B (4 credits)


Gen 111 / lab A- / B+
Gen 112 / lab B / A
Orgo prep 183 A
Orgo1 231 / lab C+ / A
Orgo2 232 / lab W / W (summer 2018)
Orgo2 232 / lab W / B+ (fall 2019)
Orgo2 practicum 283 W (fall 2019)
Intro Organic 230 A (fall 2019 - the chem dept offered this as an express class and allowed us to stay in lab for the semester, due to the number of students who withdrew from orgo2 + lab + practicum and were at risk of no longer being full-time students)
Orgo2 232 B
Orgo2 practicum 283 A


Pre-calc 111 A-
Intro Psych 103 A
Stats 250 A-