Introduction and advice


My name is Meghan and I am a 27 y.o. professional living in MN. I currently work in the medical field, cytogenetics to be specific, and have recently been very serious about going back to school for a medical degree! I would like advice on how to best proceed as I am getting conflicting advice.

My situation:

I earned my undergraduate degree in 2011 and I graduated with a cumulative GPA of 3.04. This is mostly due to not being focused my freshman year and overextending myself. However, there was a remarkable upward trend in the more difficult classes as I moved through my undergraduate degree. I am currently enrolled in a graduate degree program in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry while concurrently working full time. Admittedly, my undergraduate grades aren’t the best but I have been doing well in graduate level classes.

Aside from the lower than average GPA I feel like the rest of my application has the potential to be very strong as a non-traditional student. I work in the medical field, have been published, did research as an undergraduate, I currently working on project with some of the directors, present at conferences, participate in the city orchestra and hold board member seat, can have great letters of recommendation, etc. I still have yet to take the MCAT but plan on doing it in January/February of this year.

I have heard from many people that medical schools primarily look at undergraduate grades and success in difficult classes. However, I have also heard that demonstrating success at higher level course work is also better. Should I continue on my path of earning my MS or should I abandon grad school and redo some classes as post-baccalaureate student. I have talked to some advisors for the post-baccalaureate programs but it seems like they were just pushing for enrollment in their program and I didn’t feel like they had the best overall advice or guidance. I was hoping to get some input and accurate information from others on this site!

Thank you for your time and input!



My thoughts:

Your undergrad GPA isn’t stellar, but you’ve also been out of school for 5 years doing sciency stuff with high level people. Upward trend toward the end of undergrad is good. Everyone is entitled to a maturation process, which it seems like your freshmen year was part of. Without grades on top of your undergrad, those grades would be looked at a little more closely than if you have more recent academic endeavors. Doing well with recency is a big plus, especially if they are in “harder” classes. Sounds like the rest of your package would be pretty solid.

GPA repair probably isn’t necessary, especially if you ended on a high note and have been doing well recently. Professional experience goes a long way. Undergrad grades will obviously be looked at but will probably be more as a “screener” at this point. A 3.0 should get you past most auto-reject algorithms (maybe depending on what your math/science grades were). Each school is different in what they look for in the initial process. Be prepared to explain your “low” GPA, especially any classes you did “bad” in, like a C or worse. Don’t make excuses and highlight what you learned about yourself in the experience. You could technically do grade replacement if applying to DO schools if you have some horrendous individual grades. For MD schools, they’ll just get averaged in with the rest of the grades anyway, and it’s hard to bring up 120 credit hours worth of GPA.

Definitely finish out any prerequisites you have left. I’d recommend biochem if it isn’t a prerequisite nowadays anyway. Refresh yourself on MCAT-type subject matter, but don’t necessarily retake a Bio I course for the sake of retaking it. It’d be better to take the next course in the sequence or a more “upper level” class as opposed to redoing a course at this point. I’d recommend a prep course for the MCAT since you’ve been out of school for awhile. You definitely want to do well on the MCAT to show you have the academic prowess that isn’t shown by your GPA. Big picture, though, is if they want you to know it, they’ll teach you in med school. So don’t take something like immunology to get a “leg up” unless it’s something that interests you and you want to learn about ahead of time.

The MS program… Finish if you want to, especially if you’re doing well. Dropping out can appear as being “wishy washy” with what you want to do with your life, but if you’ve had some recent epiphany that the MS won’t contribute to, it might be a waste of time. When I was applying a couple of years ago, I remember reading some schools require you to finish any graduate program you’re enrolled in at the time you apply before you can matriculate. It’s ultimately up to you in balancing what you’ll get out of the program with the risks involved in dropping it.

Thank you for your advice! It is much appreciated as I embark on this journey!