Sorta New to OPM - Need Advice and Resources

First of all thanks so much to all of you with your supportive stories and postings! Its great to hear about your experiences and to know that I m not the only one. OK so I am new to OPM…I signed up a while ago but back then I was still in the panicky mode of “out damned spot” as regards my low GPA…which gave birth to some courses I took to make me look good and even more low GPA. I had very solid high school grades, was on scholarship into uni which I managed to keep even though my grades werent great. I have graduated with roughly a 2.5 GPA from UBC - Canadian University - and the best advice I have read here so far is this is not a sprint, its a marathon.I started out in the Sciences, but my bad grades and a not very supportive Associate dean meant that I had to switch to arts. I graduated with a BA in Womens Studies and Polisci.
SO here I m seeking direction over the next steps. I have most science pre-reqs but my grades are horrible and are mainly below C except for Biology grades. For the longest time I was stuck in the rut of I cant do it and trying to rectify my past. I have now reconciled with my low grades that resulted mostly from my getting asthma at uni and not being focussed enough. I am now focussed and ready to do whatever it takes to get into medschool. I am thinking of writing the MCAT in April 2006. I am working part time, and I just need a barrage of advice over what steps I should take in preparation and training for the marathon. I am thinking of grad school for a Masters…any other ideas and or encouragement will be highly appreciated.

You have a couple of options. You can take a post bacc program, or you can kind of create your own post bac program and retake those prereqs and get better grades in them. You can try to get into graduate school and go that route. I believe a post bac program is probably your best bet.You can get a higher gpa and prove that you are capapble of taking science courses and get good grades. you need to do this for the adcoms as well as yourself.
I would take the mcat only when absolutely ready for it.

You guys are awesome! Thanks so much Larry for the comprehensive reply and thanks Marica as well. I am so glad that I am finally at the point where I am no longer making excuses for myself, and I am glad to be reading your post when my mind and heart are in that space because its hard enough to take full responsibility for your actions - its harder to hear it from someone especially when you know its the truth. But the truth has set me free…and I gladly welcome your advice.
As for the options you presented, #4 and #5 look particularly tempting… Just kidding! That would have been the old me who’s favourite line was poor me .
The new and improved me is all about tackling the new steps. I have been thinking about a Masters in Public Health and I am looking into Univ of Washington program and a few other schools that have women’s health ( I did my undergrad in Womens Studies and Political Science). I have received some advice from doctors who suggest that its an MPH makes more sense when you are a doctor already - anyone who knows more on this is welcome to add to the breadth of knowledge. I have also thought about a MSc in Epidemiology or Health Policy as these are areas of medicine that I m quite interested in as well.
At this point I am trying to keep from quick fixes and rush decisions. I am trying to make up a comprehensive plan and go through with it. I realise that I’ve known what I wanted to do ie become a doctor - but I didnt really put in what I needed in terms of planning how that was going to happen…hence my current predicament right now. I read once that if you fail to plan you plan to fail…and that was me.
So at this point I dont mind however long it takes. That said if there is a more direct way of doing things I am very open to it. I am 50-50 about retaking courses - I think I would more prefer to do upper level courses and do well in them rather than the opposite.
Please keep the advice flowing and thanks again for taking the time to read the post(s) and/or reply…And thanks once again!


I have most science pre-reqs but my grades are horrible and are mainly below C except for Biology grades. For the longest time I was stuck in the rut of I cant do it and trying to rectify my past.

Just so you know that you are not alone with this issue Brenda, I have an inordinate amount of “grade baggage” and graduated “Magna Cum Barely” starting out in Biochem but ending up with a Liberal Arts Degree. I wound up with a Master’s in Sociology along the way with excellent grades and am now going back and redoing the pre-req via undergrad route .
Larry wrote an absolutely excellent (concise, precise, and accurate) summary of the paths to go. The only caveat, which everyone will tell you here, is that a specific medical school may want, expect, or even require a specific path and will not accept a substitute. For example, Einstein College of Medicine has on their web site “Unless the applicant is planning a career in public health, or for other reasons decides to pursue an advanced degree in public health, such a degree will not overcome a weak basic science background.” My point to this is you need to check with the schools you are interested in on what they would like to see improved on your record.

Brenda, welcome. Yep, we’re a pretty nice bunch and we try to hold each other up and be supportive. Remember that if you think that some of what I say here is a little harsh!
First of all, if your science grades are “mainly below C,” you are going to need to retake the basic science prerequisities for TWO reasons. One, you need to show that you can do it. Two, you need to learn it. Poor grades reflect poor understanding of the material. Given that you are older and more focused, it is possible that you could learn a lot of it on your own. But truthfully going back and taking them now with new-found focus and determination would be really good, AND you’ve gotta have the grades on your application.
You are ALSO going to have to do some upper-level work because re-taking prerequisites can lead to a response from an AdCom of “Well, sure, if you get to take it twice you should get an A the second time.” You need to not only Ace your prereqs but also show good strong work, preferably A’s, in upper-level classes to quiet those doubters.
Finally, and this one kinda pains me to say out loud, but I’m going to anyway: an M.P.H. is not going to help in terms of admissions, and I say this from the vantage point of having participated in AdCom discussions where candidates’ qualifications were evaluated. An MPH is “soft” science, and I’m sure my colleagues who’ve done all the stats and stuff would like to hit me over the head for that, but it is NOT O-chem or lab science. It’s a lot more reading and talking about things and it doesn’t enhance your application, unfortunately.
Having said that, let me hasten to add that it DOES enhance your professional life and your personal education. I am not putting down the MPH at all, I think it’s a great field and well worth pursuing. Just don’t do it to buff your application to med school.
Post-bacc programs vary: some of them are organized around the prerequisites, others assume you’ve done the prereqs and want more advanced work. I think YOUR best bet, if money and location were no object (ha), would be to do your basic sciences, then do a post-bacc of advanced courses.
Finally, don’t take the MCAT next spring. Don’t even think about your MCAT target date until you’ve got your course plan mapped out in detail. You commented that you’re ready to settle down and be methodical about this, and that means figuring out how to get to the MCAT, not setting a date when you think you need to take it and working back from there.
I may throw up if I write “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” one more time and you’ve browsed the boards enough that you may throw up when you read it, but despite the triteness of the phrase, it still holds.
Good luck to you!

Do not take the MCAT in 2006. As mentioned previously, you need to have the core subjects; Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics mastered before even thinking about taking the MCAT. It’s much better to wait until 2007 or beyond and receive a good score than take the test unprepared and have to explain a bad score. Retaking the core courses will not only give you a chance to improve that particular grade, but will also give you a chance to master the subject. The thought of retaking these classes and additional upper division classes may seem daunting, but as you mentioned in your first post, and as Mary just mentioned, this is a marathon! Many of us “older” premeds can easily fall into to the “hurry up” trap where because of our age we feel the need to rush this entire process. We start thinking "Oh my god, I’m going to be 40, 50, 60 years old when I finish medical school etc”…Try not to fall into that trap, its counter productive. Rushing the process can lead to disaster. This is truly a marathon so try to enjoy the adventure! Best wishes Brenda and welcome to OPM.