Today on Ask Dr. Gray, our student has concerns about her GPA. While it’s not low, the upward trend isn’t all there. Let’s talk about how she can recover.
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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[00:34] Question of the Day
“I started college and I had a 2.8 that first semester because I got a D in general chemistry. The next semester, I changed my major, which I was a lot happier in. I retook the chem class and I ended up with a 3.7.
After that my entire sophomore year, I had a 3.5 and then a 3.8 when COVID hit. Last year, I took a little bit of a hit, but it stayed constant. I was at 3.48 in both semesters. Last summer, I did end up getting a 4.0 with three classes that I took online.
I was just wondering how to go about that, because I was thinking about maybe doing a DIY postbac, taking a couple of classes somewhere, not like a structured one at all.”
[01:55] Sorting Out Her Credits
Our student says she’s graduating next summer, and she plans to apply next cycle. She’s also taking a six-credit course because her major requires them to get 270 hours related to their field. And so, these summer grades probably aren’t going to be on her application. But the spring the grades before summer will be in and finalized to be part of her GPA.
As we’re talking, it is the end of October 2021. She has the rest of her Fall grades this semester as well as her Spring grades next semester, and then one six-credit course. And she has 4.0 from the Summer here before this Fall semester with 9 credits. And 17 more credits for the ones she’s taking now, and then 12 credits for next Fall. So it’s a total of 38 credits.'The medical schools aren't going to know which student they're getting when they look at your GPA.'Click To Tweet
She’s the perfect example of a student where the medical schools would have to weigh things out whether they’re getting you or not. And so, a do-it-yourself postbac may be the right thing to do. She doesn’t even need to do a postbac. She just has to delay her graduation and take more classes.
Maybe a different setting will help her have more of a stable academic life so she can get more consistent grades and finish out where she’s at now, and get as close to a 4.0 as possible to get those trends up.
[06:35] Don’t Apply with a Half-Baked Application
I would recommend not applying to medical school if you’re also working on grades. What’s the point of applying to medical school with a half-baked application? You’re only telling them that your grades are not very good but you’re working on it. Medical schools don’t have time for that.
And so, I recommend applying to medical school when you’ve already done the work to show a good track record of academic ability. Don’t rely on the ability to send in updates and medical schools caring about those updates and using those in their admissions decisions.“Apply to medical school when you've already done the work to show a good track record of academic ability.”Click To Tweet
[07:57] Taking the MCAT
Our student was wondering whether she should still take the MCAT if she’s not applying this cycle. Now, you don’t have to take the MCAT if you’re not going to be applying. You don’t really need to rush the MCAT because that’s just another distraction from your ultimate goal right now, of showing academic capability with your grades.“Getting good grades should be your number one focus. Everything else is a distraction.”Click To Tweet
Hence, the MCAT doesn’t have to be taken now as you can take it later. It’s not something you should necessarily rush into knowing that your grades come first if you’re also in this student’s specific situation.
[09:01] What Classes to Take
In terms of what classes to take, go for the upper-division stuff that you haven’t taken. Going and repeating courses doesn’t do a lot of good because it shows less academic ability since you’re just repeating content you hopefully already know.
And so, try to take higher-level courses such as medical genetics or upper-division classes like cell bio. Consider random stuff that maybe you haven’t had the opportunity to take because it wasn’t part of your major. So go and find those types of courses.
[10:11] Get a Longer Track Record“Applying to medical school, it's hard. It's expensive and it's long. It's a waste of time, energy, and money to apply with an application you already know has issues.”Click To Tweet
The first question medical schools are going to ask themselves is, are you academically capable of doing well in their medical school? And when you have a roller coaster GPA, they don’t know. Who are they getting? Are you going to be a student who’s going to do well in the first year and then fall out second-year and then need to repeat the second year? They just won’t know that.
Get a longer track record without the ups and downs, but only ups. It doesn’t have to be a perfect 4.0, but as close to 4.0 as possible before applying the following year.
[11:37] Early Decision is Not the Solution
Our student mentions that she got advice from her mentor that if she takes the MCAT and gets between a 500 and a 510, then maybe she can do an early decision to a certain school. But this is horrible advice!
The advice she got was that early decision is a way to get into a school with bad grades and bad stats. And that is 1,000% what early decision is NOT about.
[12:30] How Many More Credits to Take
Q: If I would take classes all of next year, and I have good grades with around 30 credits or so, would it be viable for me to apply? Or do you think I should just keep going with classes?
A: You still have four semesters worth of classes, including that summer of potentially taking 10 or so credits and another 12 in the spring of 2022. So you have 18 already lined up. You potentially can have another 18 or 20 or so in the two bigger semesters left. That’s usually not tremendously hard course-wise.
If you’re taking 17 credits a semester, that’s a lot of credits. But if you take 12, that’s not horrendous. Then you’re looking at 24 credits on top of the 18, so a total of 42 credits. That’s a decent amount of credits that you could go ahead and apply with.
[14:53] Do You Need to Explain Your Dips?
Q: How do I explain those dips?
A: You don’t have to explain the dips. But you prove that that was just that. And now, you can do better when you’re focused and you have all your faculties about. There are some secondary prompts that will ask about explaining grades less than a B minus or less than a C.
In that case, just talk about what happened. It’s not something you need to throw into a personal statement or anything else so don’t worry about it. However, be prepared to talk about it in an interview. At the end of the day, you just tell the truth, whether you got overwhelmed because of this, or struggling because of that.
In my personal statement book, I talked about putting in red flags, but I don’t think one semester with a 2.8 is a red flag to put in your personal statement.
[17:54] Putting Your License on Your Activity Description
Q: Should I put my EMT license as an activity on my application?
A: The license doesn’t mean anything. What did you do with the license? That’s the activity that actually matters. So if you have a national certification as an EKG tech, that doesn’t mean anything. But if you do end up going through with it, that’s 100% clinical.
Our student also says she has 75 hours of shadowing. Just remember that you have to be consistent with your activities.
There are some schools that will see that you’ve only shadowed ortho or whatever it is. Then they say they focus on primary care, so you’re probably not a good fit here. So if you can, try to get some shadowing with primary care. You don’t have to get 75 more hours in primary care, but get a day at some month in the next year.
[20:28] Is Lack of Research a Red Flag?
Q: Is lack of research a red flag?
A: Some schools will want to see research. But at the end of the day, research is there to show that you’re inquisitive and you’re asking questions. You want to challenge what’s out there.'Research is one of the most overrated parts of an application when it comes to premeds thinking about what makes a good application.'Click To Tweet
Research is there to show your ability to think and ask questions. Some schools will want to see it and may just flat out reject you if you don’t have research on it. But that’s few and far between.
If you have other things on your application that shows that inquisitive side, great. Now, if you are interested in getting into research, then try to get into research.
[23:36] Her MCAT Prep
Our student consulted with someone at Blueprint MCAT and she likes the idea of the live online course with office hours and she thinks it’s very conducive to her learning style. Hopefully, she can use them and go crush the MCAT with them.
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