Low GPA - what kind post-bac/SMP should I apply to?

Looking for some help on how to approach med school from my current position:

Age: 28

Undergrad cumulative GPA: 2.3

Undergrad major: Biological Systems Engineering

Undergrad minors: Engineering for Energy Sustainability, Technical Communication, Environmental Studies

I don’t have many of the pre-reqs, like organic chemistry, biology, biochemistry…

Undergrad extracurriculars:


Two-time captain of varsity team captain

Club (4), collegiate (1), and elite (1) national championship titles (6 total)

Head of the Charles winner

USA Under-23 World Championships trials winner

USA Under-23 World Championships

Peer leader in the Life Skills Academy for incoming freshman student-athletes

Student Athlete Advisory Committee

Other activities during college:

Collegiate engineering magazine (graphic design, web design, and photography)

Environmental engineering research lab assistant

Two engineering internships (environmental and software)

Student software developer at the university

Since undergrad:

Volunteer rowing coach

Took a couple software engineering classes at HES

Attended software development bootcamp (so I could get a job to pay those loans)

Working as a software developer

Previously at a startup acquired by Google

Contract/consulting work

Currently full-time at another startup

My GPA is largely due to trying to get an engineering degree, three minors, and make the national team in rowing. I also had a couple of injuries/illness and a surgery throughout my undergrad years. 2.3 is pretty low, though.

I know there are several routes I could take – SMP, formal post-bac, DIY post-bac. And I need to do really well on the MCAT, as well as shadow a few doctors.

Here are my questions:

  1. What are the best SMP/MS/post-bac programs that will give me the best shot at getting into a med school?
  2. What’s the best way to spend my time until I get into a post-bac program? Should I volunteer (where)? Do research (what kind)? I’m currently in Boston.

    I am open to going anywhere and getting any type of experience. I would like to do this as efficiently as possible, though I know it’s going to be a long uphill battle with my GPA.

    Can you think of any other advice?

    Any and all advice is welcome and appreciated.

Hello and welcome to the site! I’m going to preemptively apologize for the massive wall of text, just trying to cover your questions and anticipate questions you may have.

Let’s take a look at the three options you suggested.

SMP: usually a 1 year program in which the applicant will attend first year medical school classes with current first year medical students. Some of these serve as linkages, others do not. They require you to have already completed the class requirements. These are considered 'record enhancer programs". They often require the applicant to have a 3.0 or higher GPA. Other record enhancer programs will have the applicant take advanced science degree classes in a field like biology or genetics instead of classes with medical students.

Formal post-bac: generally a 2 year program in which the applicant takes all the required pre-requisite classes and the MCAT, before applying to medical school. You get the benefit of prestige and having a cohesive support structure to assist you with the application process. These are the “career changer programs”. They also often require the applicant to have a 3.0 or higher GPA.

DIY post bac: a however long it takes venture in which the applicant takes (or retakes) the required pre-requisite classes and the MCAT. Depending on the institution the applicant has the support of a pre-med adviser to assist with the application process.

It sounds like you have not completed the pre-reqs yet, so an SMP is probably not a good program for you. Many formal post bacs require a higher GPA as well, so those may be a reach. I did a DIY post bac myself. You may want to try and calculate how many classes you would have to take to bring your GPA up to a 3.0. A lot of schools will automatically filter out applications that fall below a 3.0. DO schools have a grade replacement policy that maybe helpful when an applicant is trying to improve their GPA. It’s something to look into if it would be a fit for your situation. I don’t have much experience with the formal post bacs and the SMP’s, although I have classmates that have done them and they are successful medical students. I recommend that you reach out to programs that you are interested in to get information on what they look for in applicants, and so you can determine if they are the right environment for you. If your undergrad school has an alumni center try asking them for advice, you can also reach out to your undergrad’s pre med adviser and see if they have any insight as well.

Extra curricular activities have been discussed a lot on the forum. The general consensus is if you are going to find an activity to devote your precious free time to, make sure it’s one you enjoy! Many people volunteer in free clinics or shelters. If you are going to do research do yourself a favor and make sure it’s in a subject you find interesting. It’s important to have clinical exposure, either through shadowing or a job like a medical scribe. Also, network the (whatever word you want to use here :wink: ) out of any gathering you are at. It’s amazing what a few well placed words from well placed people to other well placed people can do.

You stated that it’s going to be an uphill battle, a lot of what differentiates a person that gets into medical school, and one who doesn’t, is persistence. It’s going to be a long and financially costly road. It can also be emotionally costly if you don’t have a strong support system or loved ones that have expectations that either may not be realistic or diverge from what dedicating yourself to this journey will require. I’m not trying to discourage you, just forewarned is forearmed. Feel free to PM me with any questions. Good luck to you on your journey!

This is very helpful.

I do not have the pre-reqs or a decent GPA.

So, my current GPA is 2.302. 187 credits for 430.5 GPA credits.

I calculated it:

(430.5+(131*4))/(187+131) = 3.001

It would take 131 credits of 4.0 to raise to a 3.0. :shock:

If I retook a bunch of classes from when I (unsuccessfully - Fs) withdrew for various accidents/injuries, I would be taking classes completely irrelevant to medicine.

131 credits would be about 8 full-time semesters (~4 years) before I could think about applying.

Surely a near-4.0 in some program would help, but which ones might accept me?

Based on the PreMed Years and OldPreMeds podcasts I have listened to, I think you may be in a good position to not worry so much about your undergrad GPA if you can rock out your post-bacc and the MCAT. Since you have taken time off from school, had a full time job, become professional and realized med school is something you want to pursue, then you could really make a strong case for your maturity and determination by making really good grades in your post-bacc.

If you can afford to travel to a formal post-bacc then that would be fantastic as it would all be laid out for you and there wouldn’t be much guess work. I am doing my own at an large university, so it is sometimes hard navigating on my own. I think all you really need is to take courses at a university that has a medical school attached to it though. That should suffice well.

If you had trouble in your undergrad then I would suggest getting started prepping for your post-bacc courses now. I know some people have the opinion of just relaxing until it starts and not stress out, but that backfired on me a great deal. I didn’t realize how weak my math skills were and now I am doing the post-bacc I am constantly having to review math as I encounter it in chemistry. Kahn Academy videos and maybe even a free online Coursera.org, OpenMIT, or EdX.org course may be something you could do in leisure to lay a good base before you take the course for credit.

I would find out exactly which classes you need to apply to medical school and succeed on the MCAT. I would not worry about doing a whole ton of classes to try and raise the overall GPA. Some schools, like LSU medical school, even have a 32-hour policy where if you are a non-traditional student, do a post-bacc of science only courses totaling at least 32 hours, then they will exclusively consider the GPA from just those 32 hours for your application to medical school. That kind of situation definitely rules out your problem with the undergrad, but I think only a handful of med schools are doing that.

I also think that medical schools are able to clearly see the difference between your undergrad GPA from a few years ago and your post-bacc work. I think Richard Levy on a podcast stated this recently. So it seems that the post-bacc is not merely lumped into the undergrad GPA and kind of lost. It seems that the med school has two distinct periods of time they see and can make a better judgment about.

As for what to do until the post-bacc. You could consider becoming an EMT or scribing. It only takes four months to become an EMT and about $1,000. I just passed the test couple weeks ago and really enjoyed the course and experience. During the course I was able to ride along with an ambulance service on a few 12 hour shifts. It was really fantastic. I keep trying to find a part time job with an ambulance service, but since the area I am in has an over abundance of paramedics EMT jobs are very few. This way you could shift careers into medicine and get exposure and money. Definitely shadow as soon as possible and think about shadowing both DOs and MDs.

Another thing would be to get in touch with medical schools right now and tell them your story and what you want to do. Ask them what they would like to see from you and start building a relationship with various medical schools. Some of them are really eager to help out and will encourage you on your way.

Finally, I notice that you exhibit a pattern of working for “start up” companies. If you are the creative force behind the startup then that will definitely work towards your advantage. For volunteering you could use your startup experience and create something that could really make a difference. Here is a podcast about what I mean: https://medicalschoolhq.net/mshq-083-how-one-uf-premed-student-is-changing-patients-lives/


AAMC has a decent site you can use to find a program that fits your needs. Quick glance shows 9 career change programs in Mass.

@ltwtrower wrote:

This is very helpful.

I do not have the pre-reqs or a decent GPA.

So, my current GPA is 2.302. 187 credits for 430.5 GPA credits.

I calculated it:

(430.5+(131*4))/(187+131) = 3.001

It would take 131 credits of 4.0 to raise to a 3.0. :shock:

If I retook a bunch of classes from when I (unsuccessfully - Fs) withdrew for various accidents/injuries, I would be taking classes completely irrelevant to medicine.

131 credits would be about 8 full-time semesters (~4 years) before I could think about applying.

Surely a near-4.0 in some program would help, but which ones might accept me?

What you should be aware of now is that post bac programs designed to boost your GPA for med school, and especially those with med school linkage, often have fairly high GPA standards as requirements for admission. If you get into one of these programs without further demonstrating that you have changed your study habits then you risk shutting a lot of doors for a long time if you don’t do well.

I would advise against a post bac/smp and instead get into a science master’s program, though to be honest you might have to search for a while with that GPA. If you can demonstrate that you can handle grad level science courses then you can both earn a master’s and boost your credibility. If the master’s program doesn’t work out for you, then you still have the option of a post bac/smp at a later time when you are ready to throw the gauntlet down.

This is a very helpful discussion. from my point of view I can say that if you are a good programmer or skillful another field then easily you can get into interesting field. Being an expert of recruitment team of eduhelphub I only want to give a gentle reminder that current world is searching for skill rather than degree.