I’m new to this board and appreciate all I’ve learned from you already.
I am seriously considering applying to medical school 10+ years since college graduation. I was an immature failure in college as a chemistry major (2.9GPA) due to excess partying, socializing. I had thought about med school but never seriously during school. After a year off trying to straighten out my life I got into graduate school an 5 years later received my PhD in biochemistry. I worked as a post-doc for 2 1/2 years at Johns Hopkins Medical School, and currently at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis. I have published several significant publications in major journals. Having worked with MDs and been around top institutions, I’ve realized that that is what I want to do…
I have dusted off the old notes and books in preparation for taking the MCAT in April. My question to anyone is…does my poor GPA in undergrad completely rule out my chances? Do I need to retake a couple of the classes I screwed up in (P-chem!) to boost that GPA? My GPA in grad school, for it’s small worth, was 3.9…though grad school gpas in science are not very relevant…only a few classes taken. My thought was to see if I do well on the MCAT to determine if I apply.
I appreciate any thoughts! Thanks!
Welcome to OPM! You’re not the first Ph.D. to grace our memebership roles. One other comes to mind who was tenured faculty at Univ of GA in the MicroBio Dept. Due to family considerations, he’s now actually in PA school & loving it!
Regarding your idea to test the waters w/ the MCAT - I personally feel that is not the greatest strategy. MCAT scores are like birthmarks - you carry the damned things around with you the rest of your life AND to need to take the MCAT more than once is somewhat of a ‘ding’ to your application. In all liklihood, you will not perform up to snuff taking the beast in this manner & then would have an additional hurdle to overcome in the application process. So why add to things unneccesarily? If you just wish to see where you are, all of the test prep companies (Kaplan, Princeton Review, Northwestern…) offer free sittings of mock exams in order to sell their product. Take advantage of this w/o potentially compromising future plans.
Regarding your Ugrad GPA…not great, but not awful either. Mine was substantially worse & I am a second-year anesthesiology resident at Dartmouth. Yes, old crappy grades are surmountable - but it will be a challenge.
Your having substantial grad work & a Ph.D. should bode well for you at most programs. No, it will not bring up your Ugrad GPA, but it does show that you are more than capable of succeeding in a rigorous academic program & completing an advanced degree. Now, not all schools will welcome you with open arms, but more & more schools are learning that second career folks represent a valuable addition to a class full of traditional students. Plus, just think how popular you will be as a BioChem tutor!!! Believe me, having such a skill is a readily barterable thing for others to assist you in kind with other topics.
Were I to be you, the first step I would take would be to take a walk down to the WashU med admissions office, maybe even head across town to the admissions office at SLU too, and chew the fat w/ the Dean/Dir of Admissions. You being faculty have ready access on level well above that of other applicants. Just lay your cards on the table, tell them you are entertaining the possibility of applying to med school and wanted their input on the most productive path.
Best of luck & success to you. Please keep us informed as to how things progress.
I would likewise encourage you to consider the practice tests for the MCAT. I don’t think there is any point to retaking undergrad classes – it will not affect your undergrad GPA, at least the way it appears on your transcript. However,I think that a good MCAT score and Ph.D. and to a lesser extent, your grad GPA should overcome questions regarding your academic competence. I also have a Ph.D. (in Pharmacology and Toxicology) from many moons ago (16+ years since college graduation). I studied for the MCAT for a couple of months and, in the weeks before the real MCAT, I took as many practice tests as I could (you can take them on-line from the MCAT registration website for a fee). For me, the practice test scores were very close to my actual score. As for your chances, it really depends on whether you want to go to a very competitive school. I think that there are many schools that will overlook a weak GPA or MCAT in light of other aspects of your background. You’ll never know unless you try. When it is time for you to apply, my other suggestions are to start the application process as early as possible (you can start the on-line applications before your MCAT scores are released) and apply to a range of schools.
Best of luck!
You probably have all of the pre-req courses for medical school between your undergraduate and graduate cousework. Other than making sure that you have everything, your emphasis should be on doing well on the MCAT. While graduate work does not erase a poor undergraduate GPA, it does temper things along with a good MCAT score. You also need to show some good extracurricular stuff (preferably not in the sciences and more in the community service area).
You need to apply to a variety of schools including the DO schools which tend to look at your whole application as opposed to GPA and MCAT. You should apply to your state schools and others with a national reputation.
I would strongly encourage you to take a formal MCAT prep course as your undergraduate coursework is fairly old. You should be able to get up to speed pretty quickly. Your graduate work will help you ace most of the sections that undergraduate struggle with but you may find that you need major refreshment in things like Physics etc.
I wouldn’t worry to much about your Undergraduate GPA too much. I think the fact that you have demonstrated ability at advanced academics will count for more than has been suggested. The experience at John Hopkins will help as well. I would put a reasonable effort into MCAT. That said, it was kind of a trial balloon strategy for me as well. I did some on-line trial exams in which I did pretty well on the physical sciences and reading comprehension sections, so I focused on the Orgo and Bio – just doing Kaplan review. ultimately, Inspite of not actually having completed Orgo at the time, I did decently and considered it a sign that I was on the right track! I started applying like mad.
Steve Youngs - UNECOM MSIV
Echoing OMD’s advice, I would trot off to every med school (MD & DO) within 100 miles. Make an appt. with the Dean/Dir. of Admissions and chat with that person about “what do you look for in your most competitive applicants?”
Additionally, if you can’t answer the question, “How have you challenged yourself that you want to be a doctor?” by having in-depth experience in a medical environment with patients, then you might want to explore this first.