Do I Need a Postbac to Overcome An Inconsistent uGPA Trend?

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ADG 148: Do I Need a Postbac to Overcome An Inconsistent uGPA Trend?

Session 148

Our premed today has a good uGPA, but her overall trend raises some red flags. Find out why I recommend taking additional coursework to demonstrate consistency.

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[00:27] Question of the Day

“How do we explain and show our progress to admission committees when our upward trends sort of falter. For context, I had a tough time adjusting to college, my first year and a half. My freshman and sophomore year science courses are all C’s and one D. 

I received a D+ in Chem I and then retook it the next semester and got a C+. That summer, I took Chem II at a local college, got an A. And then when I came back to school that Fall, I realized it didn’t transfer to my home institution. And so when I retook gen chem there, it was much harder, and I received a B-. 

And so, after that semester, I continued to take advanced biology courses, physics, physics and had all A’s. Up until my first semester of senior year, I got a B in orgo II, and a C+ in Physics 2.

Chemistry is not my strong suit, but that physics grade hurt a lot. And it was I think, mostly because I had not done very well on that final exam. So I’m really scared about how schools are going to view this fluctuation in my trend. And so I’m wondering how I can even begin to address that in my application, and how I can approach this issue.

I take full responsibility, always. My study habits were not where they should have been. I wasn’t focused. But as you mature, and you get better study skills, you learn more about how you are as a student and what works for you. I was doing better. And then that C+ in physics, it was just one that day. The problem for me is would the admissions committees even give me the time of day? Or would they just see that as an excuse?”

[02:40] Explaining Bad Grades

It’s going to be hard to try to explain away bad grades when your academic career is bookended by poor grades.

Calculating it on the MSHQ website, her final numbers are 3.56 cumulative and 3.5 BPCM. And her trends are as follows: 3.27, 3.48, 3.93, and 3.64 per semester. Then for science trends, 2.3, 3.24, 3.93, and 3.6.

Looking at the numbers, they’re not super scary. It could have been great if her junior year of 3.9 would have carried over senior year with 3.9 as well. It doesn’t sound like there’s a ton of them, because her overall GPA is is still relatively decent. It’s going to be the question mark of which student they’re getting.

And because she doesn’t have any sort of consistency in her year by year trends, that’s going to be the biggest question mark. Who’s going to show up first day of medical school?

[05:35] Taking Extra Classes

Our student explains that a lot of her prerequisites were as a freshman as a sophomore, and those are where her grades are really low. That being said, she’s curious if she has to take additional classes. My advice is to show medical schools one more year of getting good grades. 

She’s applying next year and says she has already taken to two gap years so far to address deficiencies in other parts of her application. Maybe she could do spring or fall and spring of 2022, and apply next cycle with another 25-30 credits, depending on how much bandwidth she has to take credits. She could do this and not delay her application anymore and jump into classes right now.

She’s not applying until next year and classes are just starting as we’re recording this, and she could potentially go jump in. And maybe she’s working full time as the site manager for some research. And so, she could try to find maybe a community college, and take some night classes, whatever will work to fit into her schedule. Get as close to 4.0 as possible, get that upward trend going.

Her overall number doesn’t matter here, but her trend. She has to get her trend up with a decent amount of credits to continue that trend.

[09:25] Aiming for a High MCAT Score

You always want to shoot for a 528. Too many students try to play this game of “here’s my GPA, what MCAT score should I shoot for?” But there’s no equation out there. It’s impossible to give her a range of what MCAT she should get.

Look at the AAMC’s historic data where they have grid charts that show GPA ranges. Matched with MCAT ranges and what the number of applications were for that, that range and number of matriculants, or number of acceptees, she could go look at that.

“Too many students try to play this game of – here's my GPA, what MCAT score should I shoot for? But there's no equation out there.”Click To Tweet

But that’s prior data that doesn’t predict the future. There are no stories behind those numbers. Looking at the chart doesn’t tell you anything.

[10:56] To Take an SMP or Not

Whether she should take an SMP, I don’t think this student needs one. They’re super expensive and typically longer depending on what you look at a year or two, depending on on which ones you go to.

'An SMP doesn't move the needle, especially because it's graduate coursework. The undergraduate GPA is the bigger factor in this process.'Click To Tweet

[11:27] No Money to Take Additional Courses

From a financial perspective, if that’s just not in the cards, then it’s not in the cards. She just has to go in knowing the risk associated with it. Hopefully, her MCAT score will ease some concerns of some medical schools around her academic capability.

The consequence of that is if she crushed the MCAT and medical schools still are unsure of the type of student they’re going to have. It’s not silly to apply with what she has now, but it’s just more risky.

[14:54] Being a Reapplicant is Not a Red Flag!

Our student is considering to apply the upcoming cycle but just be proactive about things in case she reapplies.

The problem that comes with being a real applicant is putting a crappy application together the first time and not doing anything to fix it. Then they’re putting a crappy application together the second time. Because people don’t reflect. They don’t ask for feedback, and just continue to put together a crappy application and apply again. Then they blame not getting in again because they’re a reapplicant.

Hence, focus on those grades. Number one, do not give up after a poor start like this student did. Then don’t listen to what people say out there that you’re not smart enough. Continue to push through and turn around your academics.

'A single grade, a single semester, or a single year doesn't define your academic capabilities.'Click To Tweet

[16:56] MCAT Prep

Our student took a tutoring package with Blueprint MCAT for her MCAT prep. Since she’s working full time, she started studying in April of this year to get the half on diagnostic. She started with a 500 and has been studying passively. She took a full-length a few weeks ago. She did improve but she also knows she could be doing so much better.


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