Graduate Degree vs Graduate Classes

Hello everyone,
Last year I applied and was rejected. I applied too late, and was in the process of re-taking a pre-req. (I changed a D into an A) Last year I spoke with my first choice school, who encouraged and worked closely with me during the process. (A member of the adcom had actually assited in editing my PS!)
After my rejection I asked why? Why would an adcom be so encouraging, even after seeing my ‘whole picture’ and flat out reject me. I was told my 14 y/o gpa was too low and dragged me down. I was informed to obtain a masters degree in the sciences at a school associated with a medical school.
OK, the question. I want to be a physician, I’m financially broke, and have a young son to tend to. I can only afford to take three grad lvl courses this year. I am currently enrolled. However, shouldn’t B-A performance in Virology, physiology, and a 9cr gross anatomy class be proof enough, or should I plan another year or two for a Masters in immunology or physiology? Thanks,
ps my undergrad was in physics w/ minors in ee and cs gpa 2.1 science gpa hmm below that…current gpa…hmm around a 3.0 mcat i fell aslep guys…23 no numbers below 7…

I’m not sure why the school was so encouraging and rejected you. I do think that if your old GPA (however old) was a 2.1, you really have to shake the heavens to show you can cut the mustard now. When you say you have a 3.0 now, is that your cumulative, that is, including your old grades? Or is that your current GPA? If the latter, I think you do have to take a few more courses and perform extremely well.
The MCAT score, I’m sure you know, is not helping you. Can you retake next year and pull up that score? Again, when you have old history to overcome, everything you do now has to be as good as it can be.
If you can get As and have a nice, new shiny GPA, and pull up that MCAT, you should improve your chances. How many schools did you apply to? Are you tied to a single geographic area?


ps my undergrad was in physics w/ minors in ee and cs gpa 2.1 science gpa hmm below that…current gpa…hmm around a 3.0 mcat i fell aslep guys…23 no numbers below 7…

First of all, congrats on hanging in there. Second, I also have the same undergrad GPA as you but I went back and got a Master’s degree and finished with a 3.7 and had success with this process. It’s a shame an adcom told you that you could get admitted with both a low GPA AND MCAT. No that it’s impossible but put together with your late application, you had a very slim chance of getting in.
Moving on, you’ll need to decide just how bad you want to get admitted to really make it happen because falling asleep during the MCAT isn’t going to cut it (sorry to sound so harsh). I would also seriously consider getting a Master’s degree in an area like Anatomy since your post bacc classes seem geared this way anyway. I’d also get the idea of making B’s out of my head. Do your best and strive for A’s. You CAN do this!
I’m also currently a single parent, so I know how you feel. Bu use that as your motivation to give 1000% and settle for nothing else! Good luck!

A graduate gpa is calculated separately from your undergrad gpa, so it has no affect on the latter.
You can take postbacc courses – and no, you don’t have to be in a formal program or some high powered (ie expensive) university. You can take these courses at your state or city college. It will be less expensive and more flexible in terms of your schedule. Post bacc classes not taken for a degree objective are calculated (and therefore affects) you undergraduate gpa. Just make sure you nail the courses (as a post bacc, you are expected to get pretty much all A’s).
I will give the devil’s advocate point of view in that if you did a grad degree with them, then it increases your chances of getting into their school since they will get to know you even better; also, you will surely get some good letters. However, if your situation does not allow, you do have other alterantives. Good luck!


A graduate gpa is calculated separately from your undergrad gpa, so it has no affect on the latter.

Obviously, I strongly disageee about not getting the grad degree. Pehaps that’s a suitable option for someone who doesn’t have responsibilities outside of taking care of his or herself, but if for some reason the OP either chooses not to go to med school or doesn’t get in, he/she will have nothing to “show” for all that hard work and will STILL have a child to raise.
Money shouldn’t be an issue in this because if the OP looks hare and works even harder, a fellwoship, scholarship or other funding CAN be found to fund the grad program free. A good number of the major universities especially those that have med schools have MS programs.
And like you mentioned, the grad GPA is SEPERATE from the undergrad GPA, all the more reason for the OP to get a “fresh” GPA start.
The absolute worst thing any nontrad applicant can do, but especially one that’s a single parent, is rush the process of getting into med school. There are too many important variables that MUST be accounted for. Yes, a post bacc won’t be as long as a master’s degree, but a Master’s degree leaves options in case things don’t work out.

PthDr2B, if a graduate degree worked for you, then it is fine. It’s not for everyone, so no need to get into a huff (and my disagreement with you doesn’t constitute a criticism of you). I was just pointing out the options for someone who does not feel they may have the time/interest/money to invest in a graduate program.
I did a non-degree post bacc program (and it was not one of those formal programs), and I did very well and got into several schools. It was also much shorter and less expensive than a graduate degree. I also had more free time – if I had a child at that time, I would still have had plenty of time for him/her (and no, this does not imply that I think you robbed any child of yours of parental time…).
Not every MS degree is marketable enough to use as a fall back position. Some of the ones that are include public health, chemistry, engineering – these are pretty good career choices with good upward mobility. Master’s degrees in the life sciences are not that upwardly mobile unless you go on to a PhD (and yes, I do know what I am talking about as I spent several years in academia).
I am glad your choices worked out for. I am just elucidating other options. Peace.

Hi there,
Getting a graduate degree at a university that has a medical school does not really increase your chances of getting into that school unless you were a fairly competitive candidate to begin with. I am a former professor at GWU in DC where I encountered at least 100 people who attempted to get into GWUs medical school by either taking graduate classes in Biochemistry. Since many of the faculty of Biochem were on the admissions committee, they tended to refuse to admit these folks. The same strategy doesn’t work at Howard.
Georgetown has a non-thesis masters that is one year at $24,000 that is a direct route into medical school if you perform well. This is in addition to the GEMS program which is for financially challenged individuals and URMs. (Yes, poor white people can get into GEMS but you are investigated pretty thoroughly). Any GEMS student that performs well is automatically admitted into the medical school class.
If you performed poorly as an undergraduate, you are probably not going to be admitted to a graduate program. In order to qualify for departmental funding, you need to have an undergraduate GPA that is in the 3.2 to 3.5 range which is in range for many medical schools. Sure you can pay your way through graduate school but open graduate degrees are not a guarantee into medical school and tend not to be as useful in the working world as a graduate degree with departmentally funded research.
Taking a couple of graduate classes to prove that you can perform academically is not a bad idea if you have a very poor undergraduate performance in the sciences. In addition, try to get some meaningful research where you can get a publication or two. This does not mean that you are sitting at a lab bench all day but can be as informal as collecting clinical data on a weekend.
Realize that non-traditional students are getting pretty commonplace in medical school applications. People who can do post-bacc programs and perform well are going to be at a definite advantage. Also realize that with a poor economy, many folks are looking to medicine as a career with job security (IT folks whose jobs have been sent overseas) who have very good undergraduate GPAs. These folks are your competition too.
Anything above and beyond your first undergraduate degree is calculated as post bacc even if you were not in a post bacc program. Do they raise your undergraduate GPA? No, these classes do not but they can demonstrate that you might be able to handle the rigorous medical school curriculum especially if you were a poor performer as an undergraduate.
The other thing that you really need to investigate, especially if you have a poor undergraduate GPA and you are doing damage control, is getting a professional pre-med advisor. Before you invest thousands in re-taking any classes or graduate work, invest in getting some professional advice (Judy Colwell is one of the best) and plotting a strategy that is effective in getting you to your goal. It isn’t getting any easier out there, it is getting more difficult. Having someone navigate for you, especially if you have limited financial resources is well worth the money.

This is actually a pretty helpful, illuminating discussion, and so far I haven’t really seen anybody acting huffy. I see some strong opinions, thoughtfully expressed and to me that’s what these forums are for. I don’t really have a big opinion on graduate vs. post-bacc myself, but I’m enjoying reading the posts of the people who do.


If you performed poorly as an undergraduate, you are probably not going to be admitted to a graduate program. In order to qualify for departmental funding, you need to have an undergraduate GPA that is in the 3.2 to 3.5 range which is in range for many medical schools.

As I stated before, I had a 2.1 undergrad GPA and I completed an MS degree. What I didn’t mention is that I did one semester in the chemistry dept before I applied to the grad school. I took 2 classes(which I paid for) and earned 2 A’s while working full-time at night, taking care of my Dad, and with a husband and new born in tow. I also finished from a top 5 chemistry department. My app was also helped by my competitive GRE scores. Finally, I sought out my own funding (a minority scholarship) for the first semester after I was admitted, then given a stipend by the Chemistry/Pharmacology dept after that. All tuition was paid in full by the grad school.

The other point I want to make is that had I stayed in the pharmaceutical industry, I’d be making 100K, EASY right now after 5 years with the company I worked for including bonuses, incentives, ect, ect. I haven’t needed to to dip into my 401K yet, but trust me I have a nice little cushion set aside for med school.

PS-Pathdr2b is NOT huffy!

Well I must say I never thought my question would yield such support! Thank you! Well, the reason I fell asleep during the mcats was I found myself with a family member in an ED all night long. Happily all turned out well.
At the moment I will submitt my app this yr to 5 DO schools. I’m rather tied to the midwest at the moment. I would like to head back home, the east coast, but my son’s mother holds my son and I within a certain geographical region…
I’ll just plug away at my previously cited masters course. If I’m not accepted this year I’ll apply for a masters in immunology, its a bit of a no brainer for me.
Well, thanks again, I’m very sleepy, so I’m off to bed. Thank you for all your support…