Navigating Through Advice and Info as a Premed Student

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ADG 129: Navigating Through Advice and Info as a Premed Student

Session 129

Today, our student is looking for clear answers after receiving different, conflicting pieces of advice from medical admissions, doctors, and advisors.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

By the way, the episodes in this podcast are recordings of our Facebook Live that we do at 3 pm Eastern on most weekdays. Check out our Facebook page and like the page to be notified. Also, listen to our other podcasts on MedEd Media. If you have any questions, call me at 617-410-6747.

[00:25] Question of the Day

“I have done a lot of research. I’ve even called medical schools and postbac programs, and I get a lot of information that’s contradictory, and it’s very confusing. And so, I was hoping to get clear answers.”

Note: You just have to deal with that. At the end of the day, humans are running the show. Human beings are in different admissions committees at medical schools and postbac programs. They all have different desires and different wishes. They also have different things that they hold to a higher standard – whether they want a higher GPA or higher MCAT score, whatever that is, which is why you get different answers.

A: It means nothing because it’s not a hard science. At the end of the day, medical schools are constantly asking themselves, are you academically capable of doing well in our program? And they each have their own standard for what that looks like.

“At the end of the day, medical schools are constantly asking themselves, are you academically capable of doing well in our program?”Click To Tweet

[02:58] Low Non-Science Undergrad GPA

From a low non science undergraduate GPA to a really high non science master’s GPA, you probably figured something out there. The student says she grew up, which is a very common story.

The good thing is that, hopefully, you’ll have a very high science GPA, when all is said and done because you haven’t had the bulk of your science courses yet. And that’s a very good thing.

Your final number doesn’t tell a story at all about who you are. But seeing a very low undergraduate GPA, with a very high postbac science GPA will tell the story that you weren’t grown up then or you didn’t have your passion back. Then you figured out what you wanted in life, and you went and you conquered it, and you crushed your science courses.

Your cumulative undergraduate GPA will never be great. And that’s just something you’re going to have to live with and be okay with. But knowing that, your science GPA can still be very good. Then you can apply to a broad range of schools and find a school that’s going to parse those numbers apart.

'Medical schools can see every single data point that you put in your application.'Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, it’s very hard because most schools don’t really talk about their process in terms of how they’re calculating GPAs. We don’t know what they’re looking at and what they’re not looking at, etc. And so, you’re just going to have to hope and pray that the schools you’re interested in applying to are going to be schools that are going to parse your GPA the way that needs to be looked at.

Q: “Is it true that DO schools are more likely to do that than MD schools?”

A: DO schools have historically been friendlier to lower GPAs because they are looking past just GPAs. They are not looking for the ego boost to the median GPA for their students is 3.8. Unfortunately, the U.S. News and World Report rankings continues to perpetuate this problem of higher stats which is just absurd.

“DO schools have historically been friendlier to lower GPAs because they are looking past just GPAs.”Click To Tweet

[06:50] Community College vs. University

Q: “I have picked my science classes. I currently enrolled into a local community college. I have seen a few of your podcasts about community college versus university credits. I was told that the best option for me would be to do half and half, like half at community college for prereqs and then half at the university. A fellow doctor was willing to give me some advice because I was finding a lot of misinformation. So I was trying to talk to anyone who was willing to talk to me.”

A: Fellow doctors are probably the worst people to ask for advice. The majority of physicians out there have no idea what goes on in the admissions world. They just know what they did. They hear anecdotes from other people. But you have to take everything you hear from physicians with a grain of salt.

There’s no logic behind that. It’s true that some schools have some negative bias against community college courses but that is slowly going away. 

In terms of the big picture, the far majority of schools out there are going to look at your classes. They’re going to see how you’re doing now. They’re not going to care that it was done at a community college as long as you have a good reason why. Whether it made more sense financial-wise or schedule-wise, whatever that looks like, as long as you have a reason which they may ask you, then answer it.

Where things get sketchy is if, for instance, you are maybe more of a traditional student. Then you’re taking organic chemistry at your four-year university and you get a C or a C minus. So you go to the community college to take organic chemistry and you get an A. Then you go back to the four-year university and take OChem 2 and get a C. And you go to community college, and you get an A for OChem 2. That’s where things get fishy because they will question why you keep bouncing back and forth.

There’s a perception that community college is easier than four year university, which is asinine.

And so, for a nontrad like you who went to a university and graduated and now you’re looking at what is next. If you need to go to community college, then go to a community college. Don’t think twice about it. Will there be a medical school that won’t like it? Yes. There’s nothing you can do about that. So

“Don't put yourself into a financial hardship or don't kill yourself schedule-wise just to go to a four-year university.”Click To Tweet

[11:41] Community College OR Postbac (Not Both!)

Q: “I called ahead to a postbac program, which I plan to do, and mentioned community college versus university. And they told me they didn’t care.”

A: I stopped our student right there and asked her why she was talking about a community college and a postbac program. And she assumed she would have to do all her prereqs at the community college and then apply to a postbac program.

Now, you don’t need to do that because your community college prereqs is your postbac program. It’s not both, but an either/or.

Students will do a do-it-yourself postbac program, or they can go to a community college or a four-year university, or do some combination of both. And then take all the prereqs that they need and apply to medical school.

At the end of the day, you need to prove that you’re a good student. Go to a community college because that’s what fits your lifestyle as a mom, as a non trad, or whatever it is. Do really well and get a 4.0. Take 20, 30, or 40 credits, whatever you need, and some extra just to put that cherry on top. Make sure there’s no more objections. And then apply to medical school.

Just take lots of classes at the community college. And if you need to take more classes at the four-year university just to add more credits under your belt, then do that. There’s nothing special about a postbac program that’s going to help you.

[15:04] Why Postbacs Have Prereqs

It doesn’t make sense that a lot of postbac programs require science prereqs. They tell students that they’re going to help them improve their GPA. But to come to their program, they have to prove that they have a good enough GPA. This doesn’t make sense.

But isn’t the point of the program to prove that you’re good enough because you struggled earlier? 

And a lot of these programs are still geared towards pre-health students, or premed students, where they require an MCAT to get into the program. When the whole point of the program, supposedly, is to help you do well on the MCAT.

So it absolutely doesn’t make any sense for them to require those. Other than they’re looking for naive people who are ignorant to the process and they’re taking advantage of those students, unfortunately.

[16:30] When to Do a Postbac Program

The only time I tell students to go to a postbac program is if you are self-aware enough that you need the structure and the accountability. If you need the potential built-in advising in and around that postbac program, then go do a postbac program.

Everyone could self-study. But there are some people out there who want the accountability of showing up for a course and knowing that the instructors are waiting for them. They’re willing to pay more because they are self-aware enough to know they need it, otherwise they won’t do well.

[17:44] What Prereqs to Take

Q: “In order to get like science prereqs that I need, is there like a set minimum? Or is it that some schools are very different from others?”

A: A lot of schools are moving away from prereqs and they just know if you’re academically capable – period.

The standard is: gen chem 1 and 2, bio 1 and 2, organic chemistry 1 and 2, biochemistry, physics 1 and 2, and English for a lot of schools. Some schools require stats, some schools require anatomy, physiology, or just anatomy depending on the school.

The far majority of those courses are helping with the MCAT as well. And then you add in psych/social, which probably is going to be less of an issue for you because of your undergraduate major.

Anyway, those are the bare minimum. But then for somebody like you, you’re going to probably need more courses than that. Consider statistics or cell biology or genetics, looking at more of the upper division biology classes that are going to help your science GPA in terms of just getting more and more credits as close to a 4.0 as possible.

Check out Mappd and use our built-in course catalog that can calculate what your medical school GPAs will be. The application services don’t care what your transcript GPA is. Because if you’ve retaken a course, some undergraduates will just ignore your first course. And they’ll only use your newest course, which if you’re replacing a C with an A, that makes your GPA look a lot better. For medical school applications, you have to input every single course every single grade. It all counts.

[21:35] Pursuing Master’s or Not

Q: “Should I be continuing in my master’s program now since it doesn’t help me in this path because I have a year left? It would be nice to have the degree. But since I don’t plan to pursue it that way.”

A: If you want to be some sort of a super niche marriage and family psychiatrist and you think your master’s degree may help with your branding and your future business. If you’re thinking that far ahead, then great, continue it. But in terms of will it help with your medical school application? It won’t. Schools aren’t going to care if you drop out of it.

Q: “I will start my internship with a diagnostic center. Is that considered clinical if I finished pursuing the degree?”

A: It depends on what you’re doing. Clinical experience is interacting with patients. But in your case, it’s probably clinical. However, don’t make that the bulk of your clinical experience. Go out and get other more traditional clinical experience.


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