Sanity Check Needed

Hello Everyone! First time poster, recent binge listener, looking for a sanity check because I have almost convinced myself to take the plunge and start attending school again full time.

A little about me, I am 30 years old and have been in the Marine Corps for about 8 years and am currently a Captain. I graduated in 2009 with a degree in Criminology from a state college with a 2.7 cumulative undergrad GPA. I only took a few science and math courses, but that GPA is 3.65 (I did the math and if I get all A’s in my prereq courses it will be a 3.89). I also have a negative trend GPA during my undergrad years with my freshman and sophomore years being my best. Grades were not a priority for me at the time and I did not have any aspirations of doing any post-graduate work. I knew I was going to join the Marine Corps after my junior year (always was going to join the military) so my senior year grades went out the window.

Fast forward 8 years from my undergrad and I just finished a master’s program at Marshall University where I got a M.A. in Leadership Studies. Some credits from a year-long military school were applied to the program, but I took six classes and finished the program with a 4.0 GPA (I realize that this program does not carry much weight). I have also taken some prerequisites at a local community college and have received A’s in Gen Bio 1/2 and Gen Chem 1. I definitely had the ability to earn these grades the first time around, but lacked the motivation and passion.

My end goal is to get accepted into the Uniformed Services University or receive a HPSP scholarship. I would like to retire from the military. I can discuss why I am interested in switching careers in another post if anyone is interested, but had a very inspirational medical situation happen to me a few years ago that completely changed my life.

From here I see a few paths that I could take and would appreciate some honest feedback.

1- The first one is whether I should take the plunge and get out of the Marine Corps to start attending to school full time. I am applying to Post Bacc programs in my area, but think it is a long shot because my GPA is under the recommended minimums. If I got into a Post Bacc Program I would definitely leap at the opportunity.

2- The second path that I am a little more hesitant on is whether or not to go back to school full time and earn a second bachelor’s degree (likely major in Biology). The good thing is that the GI bill pays for both of these options.

3- Path three is to stay in the military and continue taking prerequisite courses at a local community college. I am coming up on a PCS next summer so need to either get out summer 2018 or I will be transferring to a new area. The problems I see with community college are that they aren’t looked at as competitively as 4 year schools (but they are truly my only option at this point in my career with work), I have to take classes on the weekend because of work and am worried about information retention for the MCAT, and actually being able to finish in a reasonable amount of time (I already had to drop a semester in summer 2017 due to exercises/training).

I know that I need to go to school full time to really make this happen, but my wife thinks that I am not being realistic about my actual chances of getting into USU, getting HPSP scholarship, or even getting into medical school (side note- she is supportive and can financially sustain us so that isn’t an issue). I would be giving up a very promising military career so am not taking this decision lightly so please give it to me straight. Thanks for reading!

I’m assuming that since you are considering punching that you don’t owe any more time unless you PCS…

Getting out would be a solid way to focus on academics only. In the grand scheme of things, your overall GPA isn’t going to move that much, and your success in applications will be driven by your more recent academic performance more than your GPA as well as what you write about your experience/growth after college. I’m not one to turn my back on a sure thing, so I’m not a huge fan of throwing away the career you have if there are ways to make both things work (others will disagree with me). Having a spouse that can support you might lean me more towards cutting ties with uncle sam and going all in though. If things don’t work out with medical school, do you have other future career options? I was active duty when I was finishing up my prereqs. I opted for the online route thanks to a ridiculous ops tempo, but it may not be the best route for you. I was able to work out doing one class as a distance learning through a local 4-year university that was essentially an online class with tests proctored on campus.

Unless you really want another undergrad degree, I wouldn’t waste the time and money. Your past academic stuff wouldn’t be erased, just buried under a mountain of other credits. If you crush your classes now and show that you can do school, would an additional 60 credits (or whatever it would be) prove anything more? I’m not a pro at GPA repair though, so I would default to whatever the podcast recommends. The tough part for a sub 3.0 is to get your GPA high enough to get through the initial screen so the rest of your record can make your case for you.

Any possibility to use the base education office to look at other opportunities outside of whatever local community college you have? I was actually able to get tuition assistance to cover some classes because I was working towards being able to apply to a program of a higher level of education than I already had. That would make you incur more time though.

As far as retention for the MCAT goes, I’m all about the commercial prep courses for the MCAT. Make sure you learn the general/foundational principles of the prereq courses while you’re taking them. The prep courses are designed to fill in the gaps between learned once/never learned and what you really need to know, plus how to apply the concepts in the way the test makers want you to. I had prereqs between 6 months and 10 years old when I took the MCAT, and in 3.5 months of really busting my butt with an on-demand video-lecture course I was able to do well enough on the MCAT to never have to take it again. Granted, this would really depend on how you learn best and how much you can cram and regurgitate before dumping. Note that this strategy is NOT recommended when studying for boards in medical school…

USU is pretty picky about their applicants and kind of stress GPA in who they pick. They advertise a 3.6 average gpa and do not consider online credits as real school. HPSP advertises a 3.0 minimum, and then your application package for the scholarship would be boarded because the scholarship is quasi-competitive. With HPSP, you also have to apply and be accepted to any US/PR accredited medical school, so it’s technically a 2-part challenge to get HPSP.

Just for perspective, I got out as an O-4 to start med school. Another user who I think has since gone inactive here started school the fall after he retired as an O-5.

Thanks for the reply Kenny. Correct, I do not owe any time. I would incur more time if I did PCS this upcoming summer. I hear you on the sure thing, I think that’s what is the hardest part for me and would especially stink if I do really well academically post bacc and don’t get any acceptances. In your experience, did you encounter any school viewing your online or saturday classes as a negative even though you were active duty?

I was only thinking about doing the second Bachelor’s degree to get the pre-reqs done and show that I could succeed at a 4 year university. I know that it isn’t going to help my cumulative GPA that well, but my Math/Science GPA can get pretty high. I am also limited to Post Baccs in my immediate area and think that it is a slim chance that I get in to them. I have applied though, so all I can do is wait and see (and volunteer/get experience during the wait). I think that it is more likely that I will have to go and do my own post bacc at 4 year university, and will likely end up getting a bachelors so I can use my GI bill.

Any suggestions on classes besides the pre-reqs?

I had a few schools who wouldn’t look at me because of online classes but it wasn’t enough to keep me from applying pretty broadly (applied to 15 MD and 1 DO). Some of those schools that didn’t want anything to do with me may have loosened their requirements by now.

Totally optional, but I think I would have benefited from an undergrad immunology and microbiology (bacteria/virus) course. Did fine without them, but it would have made 1st year a little bit easier to have seen that type of stuff before. Maybe a medically-focused cell biology course would have been useful to. In all honesty, you could pretty much do med school without any prereqs and be completely fine learning it all the first time by sucking on the fire hose. They’ll teach you what they want you to know, it’s just nice to have some background to flatten out the learning curve requirement a bit.

Thank you for using my question on the podcast Dr. Gray! I’m definitely motivated and just waiting to hear back from all of my local universities for post-bacc and undergrad transfer. Fingers crossed. @medicalschoolhq

Update- Starting at Georgetown on Wednesday. It’s go time!

Congrats! Georgetown is a great school. Did you decide to go for the post-bacc or second bachelor’s?

I got into the Post Bacc program. They also have some new linkages, which is a plus. Some do not have requirements for undergrad GPA, just Post Bacc GPA and MCAT score, so that is huge!