I’ve been reading post on this forum on and off for a few years now but finally got up the nerve to register and create a post of my own. My story is similar to many of you, Iâ€™ve always known I had a desire to be a physician but I discouraged myself from pursuing it for various reasons. The desire never really went away and its actually gotten stronger since I started working full time.
Iâ€™ve finally decided that I owe it to myself to truly pursue becoming a physician, the only problem is I donâ€™t really know where to startâ€¦
A brief history about me:
- PharmD currently working in mail order pharmacy (~1year)
- My GPA was about 3.38 in pharmacy school and 3.7 in undergrad from what I remember (I did 2 years of undergrad and 4 of pharmacy school so I donâ€™t have a bachelors)
- 1 year of residency (community practice focus with ambulatory care component as well) â€“ my residency research project did result in a publication
Recently Iâ€™ve been considering applying to a post-bacc program offered at a college in my area. They have an option for people with science backgrounds to enhance their application. This maybe a silly question but would this even be an option for me given that I already have a professional degree?
I really want to do it because I (1) want the structure, (2) want to boost my gpa and (3) get more shadowing experience and (4) most importantly I want the opportunity to get letters of recommendations.
Would a post-bacc be worth it if it is an option? Or should I just focus my efforts on finding volunteer opportunities to get clinical experience and extracurricular activities?
If you already took the courses required, there’s no reason to pay to take them again. You may be able to get rec letters from your old profs and your boss at work. I had work/shadow letters only and still found enough schools whose criteria I fit to apply broadly.
You may want to read up on or call AMCAS about how they would view your grades since you technically only have 2 yrs of undergrad.
I wouldn’t see why you could not take a post-bacc. I had a bachelor’s degree and MSN and went back to do a postbacc because I needed a few of the prerequisites (2nd semester of ochem and of physics) and because it had been too many years since I’d had the other prerequisites. No prob - averaged into my undergrad gpa and also stood alone as a postbaccalaureate gpa.
So I’m in a pretty similar situation as you. My background: 26 y/o 2013 PharmD graduate in the Northeast, no PGY, now working as a retail pharmacist. 3.4 GPA, no bachelors degree. 150K in student loan debt Haha.
Since we graduated around the same time, you probably have about the same prerequisite requirements to fulfill: orgo 2 with lab, and physics 2 with lab. I’m not sure what else you might be missing, but it looks like most recent PharmDs mainly need those 2 classes.
Here’s a few points I’d like to bring up in case you didn’t know them. MD schools don’t accept grade replacement, DO schools do.
So if you’re thinking of taking a bunch of classes just to boost your GPA, here are the pros and cons that come to mind:
-shows med schools you can handle a full course-load of science classes
-you might get some grades replaced when applying for DO schools
-shouldn’t a PharmD be good enough to show you can handle a full course-load?? (I have not heard/read much info on this topic, so I truly donâ€™t know what admissionsâ€™ opinions are)
-grades won’t be replaced for MD schools
-structured post-baccs cost a lot
-you need to do well in a lot of classes to move your GPA up
-takes a lot of time, which might be hard to fit with your working schedule and life
-takes away time you can spend working to pay off loans (I know this is a big con for me!)
As for your GPA, I feel like it’s on the average/low-end for what a lot of med schools are looking for (keep in mind that GPA is only ONE PART of a person’s entire application). Check out this table by the AAMC: https://www.aamc.org/download/321508/data/ 2013fact…
As a reminder, GPA and MCAT are only 1 of the many parts to an application; albeit, a huge part. This chart doesnâ€™t say what YOUR chances are, it merely shows acceptance rates charted by GPA and MCAT scores only. With that said, letâ€™s see where youâ€™d fall. With a 3.38 GPA, scoring around the 50th percentile on the old MCATs (score of around 25), there is a 19% acceptance rate. Up your MCAT score to 33 (over the 90th percentile) and the acceptance rate is close to 50% - not too bad Iâ€™d say. If you move from left to right on the grid, you can see that slightly higher MCAT scores show a bigger jump in acceptance rates; this is in contrast to moving from bottom to top and that higher GPA show a lesser jump in acceptance rates.
Some more pros Iâ€™d like to acknowledge with post-bacc programs: some of them integrate shadowing opportunities, some of them provide committee letters of recommendation, some of them have linkage systems with med schools (where, if you get a certain GPA and MCAT then you get an automatic interview). A few of the post-bacc programs in my area donâ€™t seem to offer these incentives for someone like me who only needs to take 2 or so classes (some of them straight out said they wonâ€™t accept students who only need to take a few required classes).
My biggest problem is that some schools require letters of recommendations from college science teachers. It would be pretty tough to get letters from my old school teachers, so thatâ€™s one of my main hurdles right nowâ€¦
I don’t think post ugrad work factors into the amcas data. As long as the work is good, it should be a positive. Be ready to explain why you did what you did academically and professionally. I had an interviewer ask me 3 times why I pursued an MBA. I think he wanted me to fit the traditional applicant model, which I truly don’t.
If you’re far enough removed from the classroom, you may be able to submit professional LORs in lieu of professor LORs. Almost every school I was interested in applying to either didn’t absolutely require a professor LOR or waived the requirement for my situation. I used 2 work letters and 2 physician letters.
Thank you all for your responses!
Iâ€™ve been researching post back programs in my area and I havenâ€™t completely given up on pursuing one but Iâ€™ve also come to realize that it may not be the best option for me. I requested an official transcript from my Pharmacy/undergrad school just to get a more clear picture of where I stand GPA-wise. Turns out my memory was right regarding my undergrad science GPA, it is 3.7 but
my overall Pharmacy School GPA was 3.5 though Iâ€™m not sure how my pharmacy school course work would even play a role in my application (which is disappointing).
After seeing my official transcript I now have a new concern - whether or not Iâ€™ll need to take the courses that I received AP credit for. Iâ€™ll have to research how that will factor in further but if anyone can shed some light on the subject that would be greatly appreciated â˜º I received credit for
- 4 credits of general Bio
- 4 credits of a random Bio elective
- 4 credits of Calculus I
- 3 Credits of English
Iâ€™m not concerned about the biology credit since I still had to take an additional year of biology + lab anyway to meet the pharmacy school requirements but technically I only took 1 semester of English and the only college math course I took was pre-calc trigonometry. When you say you still need physics 2 and orgo 2 do you mean you need a 2nd year of them? My school had us take 2 semesters of organic chem and physics prior to pharmacy school, would I need 2 more?
I greatly apprieciate the information you provided regarding the GPAs and MCAT scores on acceptance rates! It looks like a more fruitful endeavor would be to focus my efforts on doing really really well on the MCAT. I think Iâ€™ll put my coins towards that instead.
Like you Iâ€™m concerned about the LOR from science professors also. That was a big factor in me considering the formal post back route. Iâ€™m not too keen on the idea of professional LOR because that would mean Iâ€™d have to discuss my plans with my employer and I donâ€™t think they would be too supportive. The last time I opened up (rather was outed lol) about my plans to pursue a residency post-grad I was let go by the retail pharmacy I worked for throughout pharmacy school. I could see my former residency directors being supportive, but I donâ€™t want to bring it up with my current employer.
So long story short, a formal post bacc probably wouldnâ€™t be necessary for the sake of fulfilling the prereq only, especially in light of what youâ€™ve said about grades not being replaced. Iâ€™ve thought about the other cons you listed as well. Iâ€™m pretty much in the same boat as far as student loan debt give or take 10K lol and I really do not want to add to it anymore than medical school itself will. I donâ€™t want to take out loans to complete my prereqs Iâ€™m hoping to spread them out enough to where I can pay as I go while still working.
Thereâ€™s so much to consider before even applying its seems overwhelming and Iâ€™m still only in the planning phase ::sighs::
The AP credit situation is completely up to each medical school. Some will accept AP credits as pre-requisites, some will not. The moral of the story there is to check with each individual school you are interested in, or retake the classes, or tailor your application decisions to which med schools DO accept AP credits. The best way to determine this information is to get your hands on a copy of the most recent MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirements) book, published each year by AAMC. Here is the link: MSAR link. Folks here on OPM lovingly refer to this as the “pre-med’s bible.” It truly is. Make sure you get the most recent version (don’t buy an old one off Amazon or eBay).
You also mentioned English and math – some schools require these, others do not. Of those requiring these, some want 2 semesters, some want only 1. Again, completely school dependent. While the basic science requirements are mostly standard (emphasis on “mostly”), the upper level science courses they want, along with the non-science courses, are up to each school.
One thing that I recommend you also look into, by contacting an admissions office or two – the effect that not having a bachelor’s degree has on your application. Technically, medical schools do not usually require a bachelor’s degree to apply, but mostly that is because the people who are applying are college students who have not yet FINISHED their degrees (but they will prior to matriculation). Most medical schools DO have a minimum posted number of undergrad hours. Since you jumped into a graduate program, I don’t know how that affects things. You should look into this, so you don’t get some terrible surprise later on.
A couple more things to consider – volunteering and shadowing hours. These are both important.
Also, you need to be able to answer the question: “Why medicine, and why now?” That differs for every person, and the answer is often especially different for us OPMs. But you need a concise, compelling answer. Something to think about as you explore this further.
My two cents. Best wishes to you … and keep posting!
Like the previous commenter, Iâ€™d also recommend that you check out the school websites that youâ€™re interested in. Some of them will list explicitly what THEIR rules are for AP credit classes.
Here is an example of what Tufts says about it ( Link ):
Advanced Placement: For biology and physics, AP credit does not reduce required coursework. Applicants with AP credit in these disciplines are expected to take a full year of college coursework in biology and a semester of college coursework in physics. For chemistry, AP credit may be applied toward the general chemistry requirement and as one semester of the two years total required coursework. Applicants with AP credit in chemistry must present at least a year and a half of college chemistry coursework that includes at least one semester course in organic chemistry. Examples (in semesters): 1 AP + 1 general + 2 organic or 1 AP + 1 general + 1 organic + 1 biochemistry or 1 AP + 2 organic + 1 biochemistry
Exemption Exams: Do not apply toward course prerequisites.
Here is an example of what Harvard says ( Link ):
We will consider other course formats or combinations that are sponsored by the undergraduate institution attended and provide equivalent preparation. When advanced placement credits used to satisfy portions of the chemistry, physics, or mathematics requirements noted above, scores from the AP examination must be submitted prior to matriculation. If these scores are not shown on the college transcript, an AP score report will be required before matriculation.
As you can see, each school is different, so I would check with the schools youâ€™re interested in. As a general trend that Iâ€™ve seen from my research, a decent amount of schools would like to see at least 1 semester english, some like to see at least 1 semester calculus.
When I said orgo 2 and physics 2, I just meant the second semester. The problem with me is that I didnâ€™t take orgo 2 with a lab (it wasnâ€™t required, wishing it was nowâ€¦) and physics 2 with a lab. So it looks like you should be good with this if you took them both with labs.
So I made an excel table for myself listing some schools I might be interested in and what classes they require. I cross-referenced this with what I had completed. In the end my table illustrated that for each school Iâ€™d apply to, Iâ€™d be missing 1 requirement and that requirement would be something different for each school! For example, Iâ€™d need orgo 2 with lab for school X; or Iâ€™d be ok without having an orgo 2 lab for school Y but they would need physics 2 with lab; or thereâ€™d be calculus 2nd semester being requiredâ€¦.etc. The point Iâ€™m trying to make here is that: if youâ€™re trying to improve the odds of you getting into med school, and youâ€™re open to the opportunity of being in many states, then why not just take all of the most common pre-reqs across the board? With all the credits you have, you certainly wouldnâ€™t need a formal post bacc program.
But here is another thing Iâ€™ve been thinking about (since non-trads are so concerned with being able to fit a school schedule in with working): Iâ€™m not sure about all schools, but I know that a lot of the ones Iâ€™ve looked at stated that pre-reqs are sometimes required before the student matriculates medical school. Basically this means that you can be accepted into medical school without having all the pre-reqs finished yet (makes sense since traditionally juniors in college apply to med school and might not have all pre-reqs done). So I was thinking of simply studying for the MCATs, applying, and if I get into a school, THEN worry about finishing any pre-reqs at that time (that is, if I am even missing any for the school Iâ€™d be getting in to). Maybe the pre-req might even be waived?? If scheduling is too tight, I know that you can even defer your acceptance into med school; this way youâ€™d have time to do the pre-req without having to worry about it in med school.
Does anyone have any opinions on this course of action?
It’s possible to take the mcat without having taken classes in the testable material (aka most med school prereqs) though most people wouldn’t recommend it. I had to relearn most of the testable material after being years removed from school, but having the remnants of the material in my head made it much easier than going into it blind. A commercial prep course would be very helpful for a focused study plan.
Also, a couple of us deferred a year for the previous cycle, and many schools seem open to the idea of allowing people to defer for whatever reason. I think your reasoning is flawed though (not 100% sure). When we deferred, we were not considered conditional acceptances, meaning we had completed all of the requirements to matriculate (maybe not background check). The reasons I’ve seen for deferrals include things like military, financing, research, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
I can definitely see a school pulling a conditional acceptance due to failure to comply with the requirements remaining prior to matriculation of the current cycle. You may want to check with a school before you invest the time and money into that strategy. If you do call around, please let us know what they come back with.
So I was thinking of simply studying for the MCATs, applying, and if I get into a school, THEN worry about finishing any pre-reqs at that time (that is, if I am even missing any for the school Iâ€™d be getting in to). Maybe the pre-req might even be waived?? If scheduling is too tight, I know that you can even defer your acceptance into med school; this way youâ€™d have time to do the pre-req without having to worry about it in med school.
Does anyone have any opinions on this course of action?
From my experience and knowledge, this is a BAD idea. It could get you into serious trouble.
First, as kennymac said, taking the MCAT without having taken the specified courses is a bad idea, in terms of knowing the content. If you do decide to go that much inadvised route, you would need to get any pre-requisite waivers early -- talk to medical schools BEFORE you apply. Many schools will quite simply toss your application into the trash if you don't have the correct pre-requisites, unless you have a waiver or a good reason. Not having "time" to finish the pre-reqs, unless you can make a good case that other courses in your portfolio make up for the gap or raise some other mitigating factors in your life, doesn't sound like a good reason. But you'd have to ask them.
As for deferrals -- I deferred this past cycle. I actually requested, and was granted, three separate deferrals (and in the end, I had to choose one). You need to be aware that deferrals are not automatic. They're a privilege, not a right, so to speak. You can request a deferral, but you have to make a good case for why you should be granted one. In my case, my funding fell through, and I needed a year to get that straightened out. All three medical schools accepted that reason. Again, finishing courses -- things you're supposed to do BEFORE you matriculate -- that sounds iffy in terms of a reason for deferring. In addition, know that I was required to send final, official transcripts at the end of this past summer -- as IF I were attending this fall, even though I'm going next fall. So the medical school where I'm going wanted to know I have all my ducks in a row ahead of time.
My thoughts ...
Thanks terra_incognita! You always add a very valuable 2 cents from what i’ve read on the forum so far
I have purchased the eBook and a subscription to the MSAR online tool. Its been a great asset so far. Looks like I most likely will have to take a semester of english and probably calculus as well. Thats funny because I never even considered that those would be the 2 classes I’d need to take.
I wonder if they will/have gotten rid of AP courses since it seems like they’re pretty much useless from an application stand point. Of course the content you learn is a positive but if it doesn’t really cut down on the amount of classes you have to take in college is it really worth it? But thats water under the bridge now.
I’ll also look into the stipulations around not having a bachelors degree. I hope that the fact that I completed a professional degree would at least be equivalent (another thing I had not considered yet - this list is growing ha!)
Shadowing and volunteering are definitely on my radar. I’m looking at ways to get both while working on my prerequisites. That’s another reason a formal post bacc was appealing to me.
@cheryman007 … That excel table that you created is a great idea! I just transferred my transcript into an excel spreadsheet but i hadn’t thought about using it to cross-reference with specific school requirements. I’m going to try that.
1 year Orgo chem w/lab and physics w/lab was a requirement at my school so i should be ok as far as the science prereqs go.
I’d have to agree with Kennymac and terra_incognita in that it seems a bit risky to apply without completing the prereqs before hand.
Aw, thanks ErXCrystalM. I do what I can. Always glad to help another OPM.
I understand what you mean about the English courses – one of the schools I was accepted to gave me grief about not having courses specifically from the “ENGLISH” department (although I was a journalism major, and clearly had plenty of writing, and had also taken multiple comparative literature courses …). They ended up accepting my courses in lieu of the specific English requirement. But it’s a lesson that schools can be very finicky about these things. Yet also that they can bend. Sometimes it’s talking to the right person, someone sympathetic to your case. That helps too. Like I said, what matters is being educated up front so there are no nasty surprises in the end. That’s the last thing you want when you’ve invested thousands of dollars, ungodly amounts of time, and buckets of blood, sweat, and tears in this process!