Reality check please

Hey all, after looking at another premed forum and seeing the panic and desperation over there, I began to wonder if I am deluding myself about my chances for attending a medical school in this country.
Let me give my full background and then open up the floor for any opinions or advice, all of which will be greatly appreciated.
After two relatively unsucessfull years at Providence college, I transfered to a school near home, Monmouth University, and changed my major to art. When I say unsucessful, I mean that I failed a few classes, but I also had some A’s. I left Providence with a 2.0ish, maybe a little higher.
After the transfer, I made Deans list for 2 semesters, then transfered to Syracuse. I only lasted a semester there, it just wasnt the right school for me, but I did well for that one semester. Then I transfered back to Monmouth, were over the course of about 4 additional years, I graduated with a cum 3.2. I did have some more failures, mainly due to lack of interest in school, but whenever I retook a class I aced it, duh, as I should have in the first place.
My lack of maturity and focus really made my college transcripts ugly.
Following my graduation, I went to get my MFA at a small school in NYC, the NY Academy of Art. This time, no screwing around, I did very well, probably graduated with a 3.8 or so, and only didnt graduate on time becuase of my brain surgery.
Now I am finishing up my prereqs and I should have them done in the spring with a post-bacc 3.8. Calculus really screwed my gpa As I prepare for the April MCAT, I am just wondering how well I need to do to have a chance at going to Med school in the states?
Can I overcome the idiot I was in my early college days? I was a freshman in college in 1992, Ive come a long way since then. Sorry for such a long post, but I really am just feeling like a need an honest reality check.
Who’s got their reality check book handy
Thanks, Tim

You don’t say if any of your undergrad “sins” were in BCPM or if they were mostly gen-ed requirements and art major stuff. Your post-bacc GPA is more than solid and if that’s where your BCPM numbers are, I think you’ve got a good chance.
There’s so much more to this than the numbers, but of course they’re where everyone starts. So, just on the numbers, my response is, yeah, I think you’ve got a chance.

But then there’s the rest of the story. Why is an art major changing careers to go into medicine? What’s your story? You have the potential to be a very, very interesting and captivating applicant if you tell your story in a compelling fashion (in your personal statement) and have the experience to back up your assertion that you now really want to practice medicine. Do well on the MCAT, tell a good story, and you are definitely an applicant for a US school who can hold his own.

I agree with Mary. If you have an interesting story to tell, and didn’t have many BCPM classes that you did poorly in first time around, I think you have a reasonable chance. You have shown that you are capable of handling the pre-req coursework, and can further cement that with a decent MCAT score.
The bigger question about your application is what kind of volunteer experiences, healthcare experiences, shadowing, do you have? You will need to make a convincing case to the adcoms that you have investigated a medical career and have a good idea of what it entails. The adcoms are really big on shadowing, even if you have some clinical experience. Volunteering does not need to be medically related.
Now is a good time to go talk to some admissions people at schools you are interested in. They can give you some guidance on what they would like to see you do to improve your application and/or what areas of your background might be found lacking. You would still have some time to get some volunteering/shadowing/clinical experience in (if needed) before applying next year. They can also tell you what a competitive MCAT would be at their school.
Don’t get too stressed out about what you read on the "other " pre-med board. A lot of what goes on there is a game of ego - people trying to make themselves feel better by putting others down, etc.

Mary forgive my ignorance, but what is BCPM?
The short version of the rest of my story is:
I started college as a pre-med but lacked the desire and maturity to really pursue it. Art is something that I have always loved, so it was a natural “fallback” for me.
After my close-up experience with clinical medicine (read, craniotomy) I really began to look at things differently. I had a great job working at a museum production company as a sculptor/moldmaker. This summer I ran the moldmaking dept, directing the process of making molds of an entire T-Rex. It was really fun. I still work there part-time, and will go back full time during my lag year, but I just dont see my future there.
I just came to the realiztion that I still want to be a doctor, so I have kind of come back to where I started. Even in my art, science always played a huge part. My understanding of organic chem has really added to my understanding of the materials I use at work, but I feel like I want to apply my knowledge to something to directly help people, maybe to help them live better?
Thanks for the quick response,

BCPM = Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math

No, in fact I only took one Science course during my undergrad days, bio for non-science majors, which I got an A in. I took all my BCPM post bacc.

So, your BCPM GPA is good. That is extremely helpful. You have an interesting story from a patients point of view that can be turned into a compelling personal statement. The big thing you seem to be lacking (and this is just based on the info you’ve given in this thread) is any clinical experience and/or shadowing. You also don’t mention any volunteering (which, of course, doesn’t mean you don’t do any).
There are a few key things that medical schools want to see. The first is the ability to succeed in the basic sciences the first two years of med school. This is determine largely by your BCPM GPA and MCAT. I think you will be okay there.
The next is altruism. They want to see that you are the type of person who will give back to the community. Thus, they want to see volunteering. Volunteering does NOT have to be clinical, although a lot of people do hospital/medical related volunteering in order to kill two birds with one stone. If your volunteer work is something you are truly passionate about, so much the better.
Third, they want to see that you know what you are getting into. I suspect that while they will find your personal medical experiences interesting as a catalyst, they will not see them as a substitute for shadowing and/or patient care experience. For about the third post this week I will mention that I was asked at EVERY SINGLE INTERVIEW last year if I had done any shadowing. When I said no, I had to explain why not and why I thought I understood what a physicians career and life were like - did I have relatives who were doctors? had I at least talked to doctors? This probably has a lot to do with recent polls of doctors showing a pretty high percentage of those who say that if they had known what being a doctor was like they would have never gone to medical school.
Clinical and/or research experience is a factor. Schools generally like to see one or the other. I personally did not have any research experience. When asked about it at my last interview, I asked the interviewer if my lack of research experience would be a negative. Her answer was that ideally people would have both, but the reality is that most only have one or the other.
Another thing that can be a factor is leadership experience. Some schools place more emphasis on this than others. However, anything that demonstrates leadership skills and self-motivation is good.
These are not intended to be all encompassing, but hopefully this will give you a good idea of some areas where you may need to work at improving. If you already have most or all of these covered, then I say you are in good shape. Start studying for the MCAT and writing a killer personal statement and good luck!!!

Hey with what you went through and how well you are doing now and your story I think you have a good chance keep plugging away and go for it!


Your posts are very informative! They sort of confirm what I’ve been thinking I need to do to get into med school. I’m actually really thankful, now, that I have a longer period of time to prepare.

Hi Tim,
I’m in the same boat as you. Dropped out of college in the early ‘90s w/ barely a 2.0, majoring in dance…yes you can fail dance. Oh those young and foolish days of not showing up for classes.
Though I have come back and am doing better those old GPA’s haunt you forever. But what everyone else has posted is absolutely true, it’s not the end all be all of your medical pursuits. What I’m also beginning to learn is that you must find the right med school! Some are more strung-up than others on high GPA/MCAT as being the most important determinant. I was just visiting a med school here in Texas and the Dean of Admissions was saying that they choose applicants (as most schools do) on the potential of the applicant to actually finish and graduate from med school. However, he went on to say that they have learned that the GPA and MCAT scores are not always good indicators of that (though that is the common belief). Here’s his story that I found rather encouraging:
A few years ago they had about 40 med students failing and struggling to make it. Wanting to see “where they went wrong” in the admittance process, they went back to review these students’ applications hoping to find a common thread. He “expected” that the commonality would be low GPA’s and MCAT scores. That didn’t turn out to be the case however. He found that some of the kids that were failing had 4.0’s, some 3.0’s, some 35’s on MCAT, some 22’s. Then they took their best students, those doing very well in med school and looked at their records: some had 4.0’s, some 3.0’s, some 35’s on MCAT, some 22’s. So they began interviewing and talking to all of them. And they found that ALL of the students doing well had one thing in common: in their past they had all faced some sort of set-back or crises that they had to overcome. Whether it was family issues, health, or just failing grades in college that had to be brought back up. Whereas none of the students who were failing had been through such an experience. Not to say that you had to have had some sort of tragic experience to make it through med school…but he says all students entering med school will face a major setback: they go from being the best undergrads to suddenly struggling and failing exams in med school. And the ability to cope, pick yourself up, and “come back” is essential (also why they like adult-returning students). This is why along with looking at the GPA/MCAT they now immediately ask applicants “what sort of set-back have you had to overcome?” They find that this is a more realistic indicator of a student’s potential to finish as opposed to the GPA/MCAT.
I’m sorry this was so long. But I said all that to say, get to know the schools…they each seem to have different “philosophies” on what’s important in applicants.
Best wishes,

Thank you for that ray of light!
Thank you for posting that.