PMY 216 : What You Need to Know About AACOM Killing Grade Replacement

Session 216

In this episode, Ryan talks about last week's news that hit the premed world specifically for nontraditional students. The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) announced that starting May 1, 2017 (this application cycle), the AACOMAS application will no longer use grade replacement for GPA calculation.

A little back story…

There are 3 different application services to medical schools in the United States:

TMDSAS – for most of the Texas schools

AMCAS – MD schools

AACOMAS – DO schools

AMCAS Application

Historically for the AMCAS application, if you repeated the course, all grades would be counted (All credit hours and earned will be counted on average to your final GPA). They have always taken into account all of the courses you've taken regardless of repeating courses.

AACOMAS Application

It has always allowed you to use grade replacement. For example, if you failed your Chemistry 101 and retook it the next semester or during your 2nd year and you got an A, then you would have an A for your GPA calculation. The AMCAS application would ignore the previous attempts at that class. If you got a C and you retook it and got a D, then what's counted is the D. It's not the better of the two grades, but the newest of the two grades.

NEW POLICY!!! – NO MORE GRADE REPLACEMENT

As per AACOM.org:

Effective May 1, 2017, AACOMAS will include all course attempts in the GPA calculation. This change applies to students matriculating into the 2018-2019 academic year. In the event of multiple attempts of the same course, AACOMAS will no longer drop initial course attempts from the GPA calculation.”

  • Osteopathic medical schools may continue recalculating and weighing applicant GPAs per their established admissions practices.
  • The current AACOMAS Repeat Coursework Policy drops the initial course attempts from the GPA calculation.
  • In the upcoming 2017-2018 AACOMAS application cycle, applicants will continue to identify repeated courses during coursework entry, but they will no longer enter 0.00 credit hours for initial attempts. Credit hours for all attempts will be entered as they appear on the official transcript and all grades will be averaged.
  • The AACOMAS application instructions will be updated in advance of the 2017-2018 application cycle to reflect this change in policy.

Read full notice on AACOM.org

Ryan's thoughts on the policy change:

For re-applicants

So if you applied previously to DO schools through AACOMAS, your GPA may be different if you have to apply again because they're going to apply the new standards to your transcript and to your grades assuming you repeated your coursework.

Effective immediately – no transition period!

If you're in a current postbac program, to improve your GPA assuming that you're going to use the repeat coursework policy that AACOMAS always had, you're out of luck. — Not cool at all.

With what AAMC did with the new MCAT, they worked closely over the course of several years with schools and students to let them know that the MCAT is changing. It had a smooth transition.

This, however, was a soccer punch out of left field. For students taking federal loans going to postbac programs to try to improve their grades assuming they were going to use the repeat coursework, they basically have been lied to.

“Statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants”

AACOM talked about data from 2010 and the research department at AACOM researched the impact of the new policy on overall GPA from 2010 using a “statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants.” They said the repeat policy raised the mean Science GPA by 0.03 and the non-Science GPA by 0.01 on a 4.0 scale. This sounds good and maybe this won't affect people that much in a “statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants.”

However, the grade replacement policy wasn't there for the “statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants.” This policy helped the outliers who are the non-statistically significant sample of students, those who started school 10 years ago and didn't know what they wanted to do or failed out of school or left school because of financial constraints. Regardless, they had poor GPA's and are now working towards improving those GPA's because they've found the passion to become a physician. Now, AACOM is saying you're out of luck.

Nontraditional students with life experience

The people this policy was helping were the ones that we want in medicine. They are the nontraditional students with life experiences that will make great physicians. But now they're going to struggle to get into school.

Osteopathic schools historically have said that they wanted nontraditional students that have life experience. This is the core of what they've been searching for. But now, this is gone.

What are your chances to get into medical school?

Each medical school decides for themselves how they want to process applications. Every school can look at your application and look at your trends and GPA. The problem though is they get thousands of applications so it's hard to do that for every application. The way schools can help with that is through the software available that filters out applicants based on scores. But now if your GPA drops, there's a good chance that schools are not ever going to see your application.

What do you do? – Advocate for yourself.

You can send a letter to the admissions office to ask for an interview. Now, the school is going to hand-pull your application and decide what they're going to do.

Schools love reporting on their stats.

They love showing that their matriculating class has an average MCAT score of x or y. If DO schools are going to open up their doors to students that have a 2.6 GPA, that's going to hurt their numbers. Are they going to want to do that?

The lack of transition period.

It's not about the policy itself we’re against here. But it's HOW they did it. It should have been done with a transition period in mind.

What happens to the postbac programs now?

They are now making liars of the postbac programs. What is the point of going to postbac programs now? (Unless you are a career changer and haven't had many or any sciences in your undergrad years)

What's next? What do you do now?

Just keep doing what you're doing. If you're truly meant to do this and sacrifice four years of your life to go to medical school and another three years for residency, do the best you can to boost your GPA.

Push forward. Advocate for yourself. Get that clinical experience. Crush the MCAT. And just do it!

Keep your head up. It's a long journey. It always has been. It's no different than the AMCAS GPA calculation now.

Links and Other Resources:

Ryan will speak at the California State University, San Bernadino Premed Conference www.csusbpremed.org. RSVP for a meetup with Ryan.

AACOM.org’s policy change

TMDSAS

AMCAS

AACOMAS

Interested in Orthopedics? Check out this week's Specialty Stories podcast or last week's episode featuring an anesthesiologist on www.medicalschoolhq.net

www.mededmedia.com

Transcript

Introduction

Dr. Ryan Gray: If you're interested in orthopedics, go check out this week's Specialty Stories Podcast featuring a community based orthopedic surgeon. Or last week's episode talking to an anesthesiologist. Find all of our episodes of Specialty Stories at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net.

This is The Premed Years, session number 216.

Hello and welcome to the two-time Academy Award nominated podcast, The Premed Years, where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. I am your host Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement, and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming a physician.

Now before I move on I want to make an announcement. This podcast is going live January 11, 2017, and I will be speaking at the Colorado- Colorado. That's where I live. California State University San Bernardino Premed Conference on January 14, 2017. So if you are in that area- Los Angeles, San Diego even I know some people that are going to try to come up from San Diego, come and visit. Go to www.CSUSBPremed.org. Again that's www.CSUSBPremed.com, not .org. Go to www.CSUSBPremed.com and buy a ticket, and I will do a meetup that night as well. I would love for you to RSVP for the meetup, we'll go grab dinner or something after the closing keynote, and if you're not part of our hangout group, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group. I have an event in there that you can RSVP for that meetup.

Change from AACOM on Grade Replacement

Alright this week I wanted to talk about some news that hit the premed world last week, and it hit pretty hard, specifically for nontraditional students. And that news came from AACOMAS, or AACOM, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. That news was that starting May 1, 2017, so this application cycle for applying for 2018, starting this year the AACOMAS application will no longer use grade replacement for GPA calculation. Now let me give you a little back story if you don't already know. There are three different application services to medical schools in the United States. Texas has their own application for most of the Texas schools, there is the AAMC application service which is AMCAS to apply to MD schools, and then there is the AACOMAS application for DO schools. Historically the AMCAS application, if you repeated a course, all of the grades would be counted. So all of your credit hours and credits that you earned would be counted towards your final GPA. Meaning that everything is averaged together. There's this general language in the premed world that grades are ‘averaged' for repeats. But there's nothing magic going on, it's just simple math. When you add stuff together and divide by two, it's averaged. So the AMCAS application has always taken into account all of the grades that you have taken, all of the courses that you have taken regardless of repeating courses. The AMCAS application however has always allowed you to use grade replacement, meaning if you failed your Chemistry 101 freshman year, if you retook it your sophomore year or the next semester and you got an A, then you would have an A for your GPA calculation. The AMCAS application would ignore the previous attempts at that class. If you got a C and you retook it, and you ended up with a D during the retake, guess what? That D counted previously. So it's not the better of the two grades, it's the newest of the two grades. That's how it's always been calculated until now. It's changed now.

Let me go ahead and read the official announcement from AACOM's website. So if you want to go check this out, it's www.AACOM.org, they have a big announcement link at the top.

It says, ‘Notice. Change to AACOMAS repeat coursework policy for 2017-2018 AACOMAS application cycle. In an effort to increase transparency, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine has approved the following change regarding the AACOMAS repeat coursework policy. Effective May 1, 2017 AACOMAS will include all course attempts in the GPA calculation. This change applies to students matriculating into the 2018-2019 academic year,' meaning applying in 2017. ‘In the event of multiple attempts of the same course, AACOMAS will no longer drop initial course attempts from the GPA calculation. Osteopathic medical schools may continue recalculating and weighing applicant GPAs per their established admissions practices. The scope of this policy change is limited to the AACOMAS verified GPA calculation. The current AACOMAS repeat coursework policy drops the initial course attempts from the GPA calculation. In the upcoming 2017-2018 AACOMAS application cycle, applicants will continue to identify repeated courses during coursework entry, but they will no longer enter zero credit hours for initial attempts. Credit hours for all attempts will be entered as they appear on the official transcript, and all grades will be averaged. The AACOMAS application instructions will be updated in advance of the 2017-2018 application cycle to reflect this change in policy.'

Now this next statement is big if you need to reapply to DO schools. ‘Effective May 1,2017 applicants using the 2017-2018 applicant cycle re-applicant feature in AACOMAS for matriculation into the 2018-2019 academic year must adhere to the new policy. Therefore AACOMAS will automatically update previously verified coursework to ensure all applications adhere to the new policy.'

So if you applied previously to DO schools through AACOMAS, your GPA if you have to apply again may be different assuming you have repeat coursework, because they're going to apply the new standards to your transcripts and to your grades. So be aware of that if you are a re-applicant.

No Transition Period for New Policy

Let's break down what they said here. They said basically, ‘we're changing the policy immediately, there's no transition period, no warning, no nothing.' So if you're in a current postbac program to improve your GPA using- assuming that you were going to use this repeat coursework policy that AACOMAS had always had, you're out of luck. I find that very hard to swallow, and very disingenuous, and not cool at all by AACOM. If you look back at what the AAMC did with the new MCAT, they worked closely over the course of several years with schools, with students to let them know the MCAT is changing. We're changing how we score it, we're changing what's on it, and we're going to ramp up into it, we're going to talk to the schools about using the old score and the new score together for a little while, and the transition was pretty smooth. This transition however was a sucker punch out of left field, and for students that are taking out federal loans, student loans, going to postbac programs to try to improve their grades with the assumption that they were going to use this repeat coursework, they are- have been lied to basically, and I don't like that. So I have some more thoughts on this.

So AACOMAS gave some more- the people at AACOMAS or AACOM gave some more information and talked about how they looked at data from 2010, the entering class of 2010, and the research department at AACOM researched the impact of the new policy on overall GPA from 2010 using what they say is a statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants. They said that the repeat policy raised the mean science GPA by 0.03 and the non-science GPA by 0.01 on a 4.0 scale.

Now that sounds good, it sounds like oh this isn't going to affect people that much. And maybe that's true in a statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants, it's not going to have a huge impact. The problem is that grade replacement, this grade replacement policy wasn't there for the ‘statistically significant group of people.' They were there, this policy was there for- not necessarily was there for, but it helped the outliers, the non-statistically significant sample of students. The students that started school ten years ago and didn't know what they wanted to do, and failed out of school, or left school because they ran out of money, or whatever their situations where they had poor GPAs and are now working towards improving those GPAs because they have found this passion, this calling to go back and be a physician. And now AACOM has said, ‘Sorry you're out of luck. And oh by the way, those thousands of dollars that you took out loans for to pay for your postbac program which is a waste of money now, you're out of luck. Sorry, better luck next time.'

The people that this policy was helping were the ones that we want in medicine. They are the nontraditional student that has life experience, that will be a great physician, and now they are going to struggle to get into school. I had a couple people email me, and message me on Facebook, and I'm going to read a couple of those.

How the Change Affects Students

It says, ‘This is huge. SDN is going bonkers of course. For me this is a drop from 3.5 to 2.6.' So AACOM's statistically significant sampling obviously leaves out students like this that his GPA is dropping from a 3.5 to a 2.6. Huge, it changes everything he said. ‘I'm so glad I decided to do an SMP instead of another year of postbac. This is devastating for many people. Their statistically significant focus group is pure garbage.' Yes, I agree with that.

So I'm not sure about the comment about doing an SMP instead of another year of postbac because an SMP is a postbac, it's just a Master's postbac. So I wasn't quite sure of that. Obviously if you don't know an SMP, Special Master's Program, the GPA for that is going to be calculated separately on the application whereas a traditional postbac, all of that GPA will be considered an undergraduate GPA, so maybe that's what he's talking about. But it's still huge, huge, huge, huge.

Another one. ‘I saw about the AACOM grade replacement and wanted to privately message you. I was solely depending on the grade replacement to get my GPA high enough to apply. I graduated with my BS in Business in 2015 with a 2.6, many personal and health issues, and I never intended to apply to medical schools. I made A's in all of my retakes, but I made an F in Orgo I years ago, and made an A this time.' So you go from what, a zero to a 4.0. ‘This feels like it has ruined any chances I've ever had. Any hope of reassurance? I already finished my postbac classes and I am already doing an MPH with 3.0 GPA, science GPA is 3.8.' It says, ‘I have worked so hard this past year trying to shadow and do well in my classes that I can't imagine doing anything else.' This is the person that grade replacement was meant to help, and what historically osteopathic schools have said they wanted. They wanted these nontraditional students that have life experience. This is the core of who they've been searching for, it seemed like, for so long. And now it's gone, and so this student asked for reassurance, and I'll give you some reassurance here. Each medical school decides for themselves how they want to process applications. And every school- we'll talk specifically DO schools here, but it applies to MD schools as well. Every school can look at your application, and look at your trends in GPA and go, ‘Wow this student did poorly freshman year, and sophomore, and senior year and I don't see- or junior year, and I don't see a senior year on here. It looks like maybe they dropped out. Yeah I don't see they have a degree in here anywhere. Oh but look they restarted courses six years later. And look, they have all A's and all B's, and they have a 3.7 GPA, wow that's a stellar change in grades, and their overall GPA doesn't look very good at 3.1 or 3.2, but man these last two years have been stellar with a 3.8 GPA. That's great, I want to read more about this person.'

Schools can do that. There's one problem though with that. Schools get thousands upon thousands upon thousands of applications, and to do that for every application is hard. It's not impossible but it's hard, and the way that schools can help with that, with sorting through applications and looking at GPAs is through the software that is available to be able to say, ‘You know what? I don't want to see any applicants below a 3.0 GPA. I don't want to see any applicants below a 500 MCAT score.' The schools can do that. And so if now all of a sudden your GPA drops like this one student that posted, it dropped from a 3.5 to a 2.6, there's a good chance that schools aren't ever going to see his application because it's going to be filtered out.

Next Steps

So what do you do? Well now you have to advocate for yourself, which is something you should always do anyway. I talked about a student that I did mock interviews with, his fiancé got into Wake Forest, he applied to Wake Forest, never got an interview. And so he advocated for himself, and sent a letter FedEx to the admissions office and said, ‘Hey my fiancé got into Wake Forest. I was never invited for an interview, I'd love for you to take a second look at my application.' They did, they offered him an interview, he was accepted, happy ending. This is what's going to have to happen now for students who were relying on grade replacement to have a chance at getting into medical school. A 2.6 GPA, I don't care if you're on Student Doctor Network, or on Reddit, or in the Hangout where it's mostly a positive vibe; a 2.6 GPA is not going to get you into medical school. But now it may because of grade replacement. And there's one little asterisk on here that I'll talk about in a second. But what you're going to have to do now, students like this, they're going to have to advocate for themselves, which means they're going to have to email the admissions committee, they're going to have to call the admissions committee offices and say, ‘I applied this cycle, and with the new policy in grade replacements, my GPA is much lower than what it would have been last year. I would love for you to take a look, here's a little bit about myself, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' And now the schools are going to have to ‘hand pull' these applications, and look through them, and decide what they're going to do with them. But here's something else to think about. Schools love reporting on their stats. Medical schools love showing that their matriculating class has an average MCAT score of 515, and an average GPA of- an average science GPA of 3.7, and cumulative GPA of 3.8. And if schools- osteopathic schools are going to open up their doors to students that have a 2.6 GPA, that's going to hurt their numbers. And are they going to want to do that? That's a good question. I don't know.

So this is a huge shift in policy, and I'm not against it, but I'm against how they did it because it should have been done with a transition period in mind. To lie to schools, to postbac schools that have been selling the dream, ‘Come to our postbac school, give us $50,000 and we will be able to increase your GPA because you'll use grade replacement, we're going to prepare you for the MCAT, and you're going to be a stellar applicant to osteopathic schools specifically, but you'll hopefully look good for MD schools as well.' They now make liars of the postbac programs. And how is this- moving forward how is this going to affect postbac programs? Because now what's the point of going to a postbac program unless you- unless you are a career changer and haven't had many sciences, or any sciences in your undergraduate years. If you've taken a full load of undergraduate science classes, and you just did poorly, and you're trying to retake classes, the way simple math works is you're not going to budge your GPA much because you've already taken so many credit hours. It's not going to move the needle much. So are these postbac programs going to go away now? It's a huge, huge deal. There needed to be a transition period to let students know, ‘Hey if you're thinking about doing this, in three years we're not going to allow grade replacement, so maybe you should think twice about going to a postbac program.' It's big.

So the question really comes down to what next? What do you do? If you're listening to this and you've been working up the courage to go back to school, and do a postbac whether a formal one or a do-it-yourself one to help your GPA, to use this grade replacement policy, this former grade replacement policy, what do you do now?

The answer is you keep doing what you're doing really. There's really no way to say don't do anything. If you're truly meant to do this, to sacrifice four years of your life to go to medical school, and sacrifice three plus years of your life for residency, then what are you going to do? You're going to go, and you're going to study, and you're going to do as best as you can in your classes to boost up your GPA by whatever you're going to boost it up to, and you're going to push forward, and you're going to advocate for yourself, and you're going to get that experience, that clinical experience, you're going to crush the MCAT, and you're just going to do it because there's nothing else to do. Unless at this point you think you've lost, and in that case I wish you the best of luck. But if you're listening to this podcast that means you want to be a physician, and if you want to be a physician you push forward.

I don't know if you push forward silently, meaning maybe talk to somebody to see if this is in some way challengeable through a legal system maybe. Should this be a class action lawsuit? I don't know. I've heard some rumblings about it, but maybe that's something you look into. If you really feel like you've been wronged by this, if you have all of that debt from a formal postbac program, and now it's basically useless- even though it's really not useless, it still shows a good track record of grades, but it's not what you were expecting. It's not what the policy has been. So I'd be very interested to see if anybody tries to challenge this moving forward. So keep your head up, it's a long journey, it always has been, that's nothing new. This makes it a little bit harder a little bit longer. It's no different than the AMCAS GPA calculation now, and so it's not like AACOMAS is totally changing the rules of applying to medical school for everybody. They're just changing the rules that had been set for them, and as humans we don't like change, and this is huge change, but it is what it is. I'm hoping to have somebody from AACOM come and- come onto the podcast and talk to me about these changes, and about some other things about the application process for AACOMAS. So hopefully that will come in the future.

Final Thoughts

Alright I think that's it for today. I do want to take a minute- I haven't done this in several episodes and I apologize for that, but everybody that leaves a rating and review in iTunes I get notification of, and so I love to read those on here, and I haven't done that in a while. So I apologize and I want to read a few today.

We have one here that says, ‘Everything you need to know in one place. This podcast is invaluable to say the least. It's like having a premed advisor with you everywhere you go and through every step of the journey. I can't say thank you enough to Dr. Gray.' Well you are welcome Click tick. That's who left that one, Click tick.

Says another one here, ‘I'd pay for this.' Maybe I should charge. Nah. This one by Corey GdSA, ‘I'm in a formal postbac with many resources but I still think this podcast gives me incredible tips and information. I'm happy it's free but I'd be willing to pay for this resource. I love the interviews with admissions professionals, and the stories of inspiration. If you need something to keep you going when you have stressful days on your premed journey, this is it.' Alright there's another one.

This one here from Dotszy. It says, ‘The best. As a nontrad the only motivation, inspiration and information to go to medical school comes from within. Sometimes I am exhausted and experience in motivation dip. I don't have peers and teachers around me to keep me going, I do it all on my own. This is where Dr. Gray and his other podcasts come in. Thank you.' Awesome, I love that review. I hope to give you motivation, encouragement, information, all of that to keep you going.

And one more here, Suns suspense says, ‘Very interesting, love what you guys do, please keep it up.' Alright that was a short one, I'll read one more.

And one from TryWasAlwaysBusy. ‘So helpful, I love this podcast. Dr. Ryan Gray and Dr. Allison Gray-‘ and I love how people are spelling our names right now, G-R-A-Y. ‘Cover talk all the topics premedical students wonder about. Everything from applications, to MCAT, to shadowing experiences, to current healthcare issues. I would recommend this podcast to any premed at any stage in the process.'

If you would like to leave us a rating and review, I would love one, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/iTunes to do that. Or if you listen on the podcast app on your iOS device you can leave a rating and review right there.

I hope you have a great week, I hope the news of this change in grade replacement policies don't upset you too much. If you are one that is being severely affected by this, let me hear from you. I'd be interested to hear from you and hear what your GPA was supposed to be, or what it would have been with the grade replacement, and what it's going to be now with just averaging. So let me know, shoot me an email, Ryan@medicalschoolhq.net.

Don't forget to check out everything that we do over at www.MedEdMedia.com. This week's Specialty Stories Podcast is an interview with an orthopedic surgeon. The Old Premeds Podcast is actually very similar to today's podcast here at The Premed Years, just a little bit shorter, talking about the AACOMAS change in policies. And The MCAT Podcast is covering lots of fun MCAT questions where we actually break down questions for you. So that's The MCAT Podcast.

Go check them all out and don't forget I am also going to be at Cal State University San Bernardino January 14, 2017 to give a presentation on what I knew- what I wish premeds knew. Go there if you're in the area, make the trip, and come join us for a day of premed fun. Come hang out with me and several other people for dinner that night. Again that's at Cal State University January 14, 2017. Go to the Hangout, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group and you can RSVP for the meetup later that night.

Have a great week, we'll see you next week here at The Premed Years.

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