Foreign UG, MS in US: any advise

I am new to the forum, so let me give some background information first.


I am 35 years old guy who did his UG from India and majored in business. I then did a MS in Computer Science from an University in the US and have been working in hi-tech industry for past 8 years. I am doing well (financially) in my job but find something is missing. My wife is a medical graduate from India and is doing her residency (IM) here in the US. We are permanent residents.


It is during my wife’s residency that I have really come to appreciate what a doctor does and love the work they do. I was looking for a career change and found my inspiration.


Now, as I embark on this long journey, I have my doubts and concerns. I have listed 2 major ones here and would appreciate your responses:

  • How much of an issue is the fact that my UG is not from US? Does the MS help? My MS is from UC school and GPA was > 3.75.

  • Last time I did a science course (excluding computers) was in 10th grade, so pretty much need to start from scratch. I am thinking taking introductory courses from community college and then higher level courses from University. Does this sound reasonable? How about doing an introductory course online?





    Thanks!

Welcome to OPM, fellow desi.


This is a frequent topic, one that pertains to and interests me, so I’ve participated in a lot of threads on this topic. I will try to post a few of those threads, but you could also click on my UserID, go to my profile page and click on “View Posts by this user.” You’ll see plenty of threads on this topic if you do that. Now, to briefly answer your questions:

  1. Your foreign UG is an issue, yes, but it is not insurmountable. It’s a bit harder if you’re in TX. As a general guide, you should aim for 40-90 credits in a US institution. You probably have 30 credits from your MS. So you should aim to take about 50-60 more, and the core pre-reqs of PCB and Organic Chem should be part of those 60.

  2. The CC vs Univ debate is also a popular topic and I won’t touch upon it here, but again, if you view all my posts, you’ll see that this is the second major topic that interests me.


    If you’re in CA, chances are you won’t be able to enroll for UG classes at a public university unless you crash them. No enrollment priority is given to those already having a degree. This does not apply to private universities. Also, if you’re not in CA, you have options. Examples are Drexel’s evening post-bacc program, or UMd’s Science in the Evening program directed specifically at people like us. Of course, if you’re willing to quit your job and go full time, there are many more choices in post-bacc programs available to you.


    Finally, as far as introductory courses online, at most places, you won’t be able to take science courses online because of the lab component. I suggest taking English I and II online at your CC because it is a requirement at many schools and I’m pretty sure you don’t have any English courses on your UC transcript. Most DO schools also require 2-4 semesters of behavioral and/or social sciences, so consider taking Psychology / Sociology / Anthropology online. This should keep you busy for 3 or more semesters if you’re doing this while working full-time. You can also start volunteering.


    Once you’re down to the core pre-reqs, you’ll need to take them in a classroom setting, whether at CC or a 4-yr. Although you said you’ve not taken any science classes since 10th grade, if you attended a high school such as NPS, DPS, any of the good KVs, etc, you’ll be just fine.
  • Dullhead Said:


1. Your foreign UG is an issue, yes, but it is not insurmountable. It's a bit harder if you're in TX. As a general guide, you should aim for 40-90 credits in a US institution. You probably have 30 credits from your MS. So you should aim to take about 50-60 more, and the core pre-reqs of PCB and Organic Chem should be part of those 60.



The majority of MD schools imply they want 90 undergraduate credits taken at a US school. Some only require a 30 credits. Some will not accept a off-shore degree for any reason

Your graduate credits will likely NOT count towards ANY of the above for the majority of schools.

I have to setup some sort of searchable database here to keep this updated for each school. Even so, the issue is very confusing


I did not mean to post spurious advice - the issue is indeed confusing, but I believed, maybe incorrectly, that credits in a US graduate program would at least be helpful in establishing a GPA in AMCAS or AACOMAS (because medschools like to say “but we don’t have any US-based GPA to compare you to others.”) That GPA won’t count towards the UG pre-reqs, though. However, it’s probably better than nothing because if I’m not mistaken, a foreign UG does not even generate a GPA in AMCAS / AACOMAS.


And yes, not all medschools require 90 UG credits although I think TX might. Redo-it-all, please chime in.

Lets deal with what is required before what is helpful

OK this is what I know out of my experience.

  1. MS credits DO NOT COUNT toward the 90 credit hour requirements (assuming a school requires that much

  2. Foreign credits DO NOT COUNT, unless you can find an university that will provide you with equivalent credits on a transcript with corresponding courses, clearly listed with course name, number and credit hours. Let’s just say that unless the university is very expensive and that you decide to go for a Bachelor’s, then it won’t happen.

  3. It is necessary to check each school for their requirements as this is very confusing and unclear. What I have found is that usually a number of credits is required, 90 most of the time (based on my own targets). But these credits should be completed before you matriculate, not before you apply. Although most applicants will have completed them and therefore you will be at a disadvantage if they are not complete.

  4. The real catch: VIRTUALLY, at most schools, all students have a Bachelor’s from a US institution. Only exceptional circumstances will waive this requirement. However if you have a terminal degree (MS in the US), perhaps SOME universities will demonstrated SOME flexibility. Again, very unclear and no general rule can be established.


    All that to say the issue of credits is very confusing and there is no clear and simple answer. The bottom line is that you must take the core of pre-required courses at a minimum (about 40 to 45, usually include BIO, GEN CHEM, OCHEM, PHYS, ENG and STATS/MATH, sometimes even BIOCHEM) plus a few additional upper levels (like GENETICS, CELL BIO, MOL BIO, A&P etc…). Shoot for 60 or 70 UNDERGRAD credits BEFORE you apply if you want to be taken seriously. Avoid, as much as possible, on-line and community college credits. But if CC are the only option, do that (it is better than to do nothing). Note (to add to the confusion) that I personally did only CC credits and yet have a number of interviews. You should also consider the possibility to CLEP out of a few course to help reach the 90 credit hour limit (but not the core requirements as listed above). Some schools DO NOT accept CLEP at all so you must be careful with what you CLEP and where you apply. Be very careful, read a lot and set a reasonable plan given your goal (TIME/MONEY) and most importantly your target schools. My best advice here is DO NOT RUSH, whatever you do, you must make yourself the best applicant you can be.


    I am not a med student and this is what I have learned based on my own experience, for the schools that I target. Take time to research the issue very carefully. Do not hesitate to call schools and talk to the admission people. Perhaps not now given that the interview season is in full swing, more around April May. That’s what I did, and it has worked out well so far.


    Good luck.

The fact that you have a foreign undergraduate degree will be a hindrance for medical school application, but it is still possible. I just submitted my secondary application this cycle, and have not heard back from any schools yet. This journey is definitely a roller coaster ride, so be ready.


First thing you should do in my opinion is to contact the schools of interest and explain to them your situation. Every school is different, so you need to do your research.


Using myself as an example, I have a foreign UG and PhD in biological science from US. Some schools told me that I am fine, but most schools did not accept background despite my US PhD (from a pretty good school). Also, you should get your foreign transcript evaluated ASAP. Depending on circumstances, this process can be lengthy. You will need to have your evaluated foreign transcript before taking UG pre-req courses in most schools, including CC. I was lucky enough to talk my way into taking classes at a local CC. If you have the money/resource to attend a formal post-bac program, it would be great. I did not, so I had to deal with random advisors who were not helpful. For example, I wanted to take Biology, and the advisor at the CC wanted me to take pre-req for biology. It was a little rediculous if you ask me, since I could probably teach the class.


Another thing, I took some courses, GEM CHM, PHY, ENG, and CAL at a CC, and ORG CHM, BIO in a 4-year university due to financial and scheduling reasons. Not ideal, but we will see how it goes. I did manage to get the top grade out of 310 students in my ORG CHM I class, so my professor wrote an excellent letter for me. Hopefully that will help. I also did well in my MCAT, 36Q (14PS, 10VR, 12BS), hopefully that will compensate my foreign UG and CC credits.


Anyway, good luck to you! I am hoping I can be like Redo and get some interview invites. BTW, redo is a very accomplished scientist, so his CC credits probably are not as big of a deal to most adcoms.

Thanks Dullhead, gonnif, redo-it-all and Apple pie! This is useful information. I plan to contact the schools of my interest. I have started browsing their websites to get the basic information. I did see a note about International students on a couple of sites which were like “International students must have studied for at least one year at an accredited college or university in the United States”


My location preference would be California, I know it is competitive but that doesn’t scare me


Again, online courses are just refreshers before I start regular classes.


I have my UG transcripts evaluated by http://www.wes.org/ and it turns out to be a decent GPA, need to check what it was.


Apple Pie: I am thinking of a formal post-bac program like http://extension.berkeley.edu/spos/premed.html


Do you think this is worth it? I believe the classes are same as regular UC classes but need to confirm.


gonnif: is the searchable database online where it can accessed?


redo-it-all: I am willing to spend time, my aim is 2016. does it sound reasonable?


again, thanks for all your help.

  • CS2MD Said:


My location preference would be California, I know it is competitive but that doesn't scare me



It should, california maybe the most competitive state for medical school. remember medical admissions is a negative process; they look for ways to weed out the applications which are several thousand for a hundred or so seats.

  • CS2MD Said:


I have my UG transcripts evaluated by http://www.wes.org/ and it turns out to be a decent GPA, need to check what it was.



Most schools will require that your courses be formally transferred to a USA school. Having them evaluated is NOT an equivalent

  • CS2MD Said:


Apple Pie: I am thinking of a formal post-bac program like http://extension.berkeley.edu/spos/premed.html

Do you think this is worth it? I believe the classes are same as regular UC classes but need to confirm.



the above classes are fine but remember you are likely limiting yourself to the less than 25% of medical schools that require 30 US undergrad credits

  • CS2MD Said:


gonnif: is the searchable database online where it can accessed?



A database does not exist. There was a long list on SDN with schools and their requirements compiled by two students. However, I found it highly in accurate. The reason if often medical schools websites do not present things clearly or contradictorily.

My "favorite" example is from Johns Hopkins which clearly stated that all students MUST have 90 credits from a USA university in no uncertain terms. The next paragraph described how foreign students needed 30 credits from US schools. Huh?

I called and spoke to admissions on this question, got conflicting responses, and actually was referred to official of general counsel, who never responded.

My point being is that you need to look specifically at each school you are planning to apply to and get their policy from the website and then confirmed via email from admissions.

  • CS2MD Said:


redo-it-all: I am willing to spend time, my aim is 2016. does it sound reasonable?



All my above is just "technical" but the point was made by redoitall, if you want to be really competitive, you need a US bachelors
  • gonnif Said:


All my above is just "technical" but the point was made by redoitall, if you want to be really competitive, you need a US bachelors



Yes, that's perhaps the one thing to remember out of this. Being educated abroad leaves us with a heavy heart when we hear that we have to retake everything. So that's hard. Now unless there is something unusual about your academic achievements, then that is the best strategy. Get another bachelor, do well on the MCAT and you will be fine.

I can speak for me. Like Apple Pie, I did well on the MCAT (although my VR is a bit low). When I compare my numbers with other kids, I can clearly see that apple to apple, I am not as competitive as others. People with my stats land twice more interviews as me, and these are the possible reasons.

1) I am older (sorry to throw a rock in the water), just an opinion.

2) All my credits are either CC or CLEP

3) I do not have a bachelors and I do not have 90 credits yet.

4) My desire to become clinician scientist is not in line with some schools, more oriented toward primary care.

HOWEVER! before setting a path to med school I talked to adcoms of at the time the two schools close to me, 1 DO and 1 MD. Let me tell you that the MD school is very competitive, within the top 20 in the US, and average MCAT score nearing 34. Not that this mattered to me, but it shows the challenge I was facing. With excellent advice from the admission director, I can report today that I have landed an interview with that school, and importantly with the very first batch of applicants.

So I may not be seen competitive for a few other Texas schools, but to me, it doesn't matter so much because I did everything with the MD school in mind. I would have loved to go to the DO school as well, but they were just so full of themselves that it is like they were telling me: "don't bother". And with a competitive MCAT, and good GPAs, I didn't get invited to the DO school while people with mid-20 MCAT and around 3.3 GPAs got invited.

So, aside from the fact that it is not all about numbers, the best source of information remains the admission office of the school you target. Set a path from their information and things should be fine. Although I must say, getting out of the admission office of the MD school "Well, frankly to be competitive here, a 35 MCAT is a minimum to hit" left me thinking, jeez... I had the info, I performed, I am interviewing. That simple.

And finally there is more to the application. I oriented my application toward practice and research. Of course this school is also the best fit. Less competitive schools were not a fit for me, and I wasn't invited, which makes sense to me. So it is important to target schools that 1) are a reasonable reach and 2) offer the best perspectives for YOU. From there set a path to get there and everytime you take a class or do something, think about it. It is also not a bad idea to keep in touch with admission folks. I did, meeting them once every year or so for 3 years to make sure you are on course.

I am saying all this because being a non-trad is already a challenge, but when you are educated outside of the US, things become insane. You must proceed with care, strategy and do not hesitate to review/change/update your course of action to meet and even exceed expectations for the schools you want.