What Should I Do to Make Up for a Lower GPA as a Nontraditional International Student?

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Session 206

This nontraditional Canadian student’s GPA wasn’t great. He wants to know what he can do to improve his overall application.

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[00:20] International Student with Low GPA Looking to Apply to a U.S. Med School

A Canadian student who graduated in 2017 wishes to apply to a medical school in the United States. The student’s undergraduate GPA is 3.0 but with an upward trend, reaching 3.5 in the last two years.

Additionally, the student has extensive clinical experience, including 8000 hours of clinical patient work and involvement in five clinical trials, including randomized controlled trials, with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease.

Considering the student’s lower GPA, this student asks for some recommendations to enhance their chances of getting into a US medical school

Being an international applicant is one barrier. Also, another big issue is your GPA which is around 3.0. While a 3.5 GPA in the last two years is good, it may not be enough to offset the lower overall GPA.

The breakdown GPA calculation (2.5 2.5 3.5 3.5) assuming all of your credits are equal poses a question of whether they have shown enough academic ability to be competitive for medical school in the U.S.

[03:16] Postbac Work in Canada vs. U.S.

Moreover, postbac work (post-baccalaureate programs) in Canada is different from the United States, and there aren’t as many opportunities to improve GPA through such programs. Some students in Canada pursue master’s programs or even a second bachelor’s degree to enhance their academic profile.

Whether you have demonstrated enough academic ability with a 3.0 GPA can only be determined by the feedback received from medical schools upon application.

The second concern is your MCAT scores, there is the need for consistency. The range of scores (505 to 515) without context doesn’t provide a clear assessment.

Another challenge for you is finding Canadian-friendly schools; some schools will consider you an international student others may consider you an out-of-state student.

Having clinical experience and research from the same job is great since most Canadians struggle to find clinical experience and shadowing experience.

Additionally, funding can be a significant barrier for international students. Canadian applicants are not eligible for financial aid.  Some individuals in similar situations as you opt to bypass both Canadian and US applications and go straight to the Caribbean for medical education.

[06:06] Caribbean Medical School – What to Watch Out For

The student is asking about what would be the things to watch out for if he takes the Caribbean approach.

The Big Four Caribbean medical schools are often considered if you choose to attend a Caribbean school. However, it’s important to be cautious about their match rate claims and statistics. First and foremost, it’s crucial to recognize that you are a capable student who can succeed in the Caribbean.

Contrary to popular belief, Caribbean medical schools are not easier. If you believe you have demonstrated academic capability despite a low GPA caused by a rough start, that concern becomes less significant. Strong performance in the MCAT can help showcase your academic abilities and alleviate concerns.

Additionally, considering your interest in psychiatry, it is important to note that psychiatry has become increasingly competitive in recent times. It is difficult to predict the competitiveness of the field by the time you apply in four or five years.

Therefore, it is essential not to make assumptions and remain open to the possibility of changing your career path during medical school. However, returning to the United States to practice medicine can be challenging.

Moreover, if your goal is to pursue Canadian residency, it’s worth noting that they prefer Caribbean MD students over US DO students. Understanding these nuances is crucial depending on your desired practice location.

“It's medical school, you are learning up to a standard because you have to take the board exams, it's not easier.”Click To Tweet

[09:18] The Easier Path

The student is asking if looking at the top four Caribbean schools would be a better alternative for  him and if should he look into it more

The top four Caribbean medical schools as a potential alternative could offer a relatively easier path for the Canadian applicant. 

While this route is not typically recommended, given the challenges the applicant may face in terms of GPA and limited opportunities for post-baccalaureate work, the Caribbean option may present a viable alternative due to certain advantages and nuances.


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