PhD Student Wondering What to do

Alright guys,

I need some advice on what to do.

I am a PhD student in life sciences focusing on heart research. I had previously earned a BS and Masters in chemical engineering. My GPA was pretty low (2.89 and 3.14) for my earlier education (with total of 120K debt- half due to Masters). One D in organic chemistry lab (the lecture I got B and B- in)

I then had trouble finding a job as an engineer in 2010- great economy and eventually found work as a research assistant and took some classes while working (~2.9 in science courses with a C+ in the organic chemistry lab retake).

Two years ago I got accepted to the PhD program where I was working at and have been in the lab ever since. I did interview at a DO school but that did not go well. So that led me to the PhD program.

Now in the PhD program I have earned a 3.9 in my coursework (physiology, biochemistry) and just passed my candidacy exams. I earned a publication so far but have yet to come out with my first author publication (which is still in preparation). At the moment working on grants and hoping to take the MCAT in Jan (last expired score 31R). I might retake it.

I have shadowed some doctors and volunteer 2-3 hours on weekends at a hospital. Research takes full-time.

Now the thoughts on my head:

  1. I wanted to finish the PhD in four years due to my RA experience. However I find that this is just not happening with all the stuff happening. I wanted to finish in 2016 but I don’t know if it will happen.

  2. If the MCAT goes well, should I attempt to apply to medical schools (MD or DO) and just leave PhD if admitted or finish PhD first.

  3. I am in debt of 130K though I am making payments on the non-federal loans (university). The federal loans I know can be consolidated and worked through with IBR or something similar. I don’t want to go excessive. I have no credit card debt or any other thing of that kind. From what I know I can borrow basically all my medical school loans with Grad Plus and Stafford. I did read an article where some guy ran out of loans. Sounds scary.

  4. GPA is low but my recent grad coursework has been really good. Some med school admissions people have said it would take care of past problems.

  5. I am 29 also and not getting any younger. I am impatient.

    What do you guys think?

    I am a bit lost

Nice PhD GPA. A plus is it is in the harder sciences. You’ll need to prove that you have grown and can handle the sciences now (for whatever reason, you’ve done a lot better in your doctorate). Be ready to describe how you’re different now than the earlier academics. A strong showing on the MCAT retake can help solidify their positive opinion of your recent academics. You are tracking the upcoming changes to the test I hope.

Some schools make a caveat that if you are in a professional program when you apply to med school, you must complete that program before you can matriculate. Not sure if that’s the same all around or at all for DO programs (didn’t reseach it too much, been a couple of years). Dig into the MSAR and the AACOM equivalent as a starting point.

1/2) May want to complete the PhD for the above reason. at least in a couple of my interviews, I had to explain my motivations for earning my graduate degree (MBA), why I chose business, how it could be applied to medicine, why not just get a management job, etc. be prepared for the same line of questioning. If you want to apply MD, try to find programs that reward reinvention since your undergrad performance was well below the average MD matriculant. I would apply for a med program again before I would think about taking/retaking undergrad courses.

3) I don’t know all of the requirements to secure federal funding for med school. However, fed will only cover up to the school’s published cost of living. Everywhere I looked, the money really is only designed to provide for your basic human needs. It doesn’t factor in money you currently owe, unexpected major expenses, etc. Aaaaand, it only covers the cost of a single student with no dependents. Anything on top of COA must be covered by private loans, if I understand it correctly.

4) I would listen to what the admissions folks told you. Seems logical to me.

5) Definitely not the oldest person on the forums! Impatience is a bad trait to have for med school applications (though we ALL have it). Good luck with whatever you decide. Just make sure it’s not a rash decision and it’s the best for you in the long term.

  1. Are you registered for Jan MCAT?

    If not, good luck with registration.

    As the test changes in April (last date for current MCAT is January 23). After January 23, the test itself changes it’s format:

    4 hours to 7 hours

    less physics more biochem

    less ochem more biochem (was not a lot of ochem anyway)

    add in psychology and sociology

    add in research methods

    add in statistical reasoning

  2. If you are registered, have you been preparing for the MCAT?

    From what I have read, you are not ready for the current MCAT and should look at taking the new format and take a prep class to really prepare you . In addition, I would talk to med schools and ask them how they would factor in your PhD GPA since that will fall outside the “box” of initial review.

    Congrats on getting into PhD program and getting the harder sciences nailed. That should bode well for you!

    (and you are surely not the oldest… I think I am now)