Ask Dr. Gray Premed Q&A: I Have a Low GPA, Should I Do a Postbac?

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Ask Dr. Gray Premed Q&A: I Have a Low GPA, Should I Do a Postbac?

Session 72

What’s the magic number for an MCAT score that will outshine your low GPA (spoiler: there is none), and when is it time to do a post-bac degree?

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[00:24] Question of the Day

This student pretty much had a rough start during her freshman and sophomore year. She didn’t care much about school and was just trying to survive and try not to fail her classes. She didn’t see the significance of doing well because of her personal circumstances.

But she finally came back strong. The overall GPA is not competitive and she’s planning to do a postbac at UC Davis.

So she’s now torn between retaking two of her classes where she got a C– during her 1st year chemistry classes and taking a whole full load of classes for the entire year to prove to medical school that I can do well in medical school. Her GPA is a 3.0 and her science GPA is about 2.75.

[03:11] Understanding the Trend

Well, we don’t have to deal with exacts here. But it’s always good to have some concrete data to say, you need to take 20 more credits and get all A’s to get your GPA above a three. Or is it more like 50 or 60?

At some point, you may want to keep doing this for another three, four or five years while you’re working, volunteering, and doing all those other stuff. Or maybe do a special master’s program and say that your undergrad GPA is completely wasted.

Or you don’t want any more time on that and just do a special master’s program. So you’re proving almost without a shadow of a doubt that you can handle the coursework. 

“Obviously the MCAT is an important piece of the puzzle along with the rest of your application, your extracurriculars, and everything else that you're doing.'Click To Tweet

[05:39] Take the MCAT

Take the MCAT. Dwell on the MCAT. Don’t worry about your GPA. Your MCAT has nothing to do with your GPA. The MCAT and GPA are both individual pieces of your overall application.

“The MCAT does not make up for anything. It's just another piece of the puzzle.”Click To Tweet

[06:30] Doing a Postbac at UC Davis

Don’t just do a postbac and get a 3.4 and say it was mostly As and you’re doing great. They want to see if you can do it and prove it to them that you can get a 4, or close to 4 at least.

“Just leave no doubt in their mind that you can handle this coursework.”Click To Tweet

I’m not saying that it’s not worthwhile to do a postbac. I’m just saying that if you do the math and it’s going to require you to do 40-70 hours or more science to get above a three, then maybe it’s not worth it.

Or you do one year, for you to show that huge upward trend and get as close as possible to a 4.0. Then you do well on the MCAT, have good shadowing, good clinical experiences. You write a good personal statement, you have the letters of recommendation.

Then you apply and let the medical school say that they want you to do an SMP or do more post-bac work or whatever.

[08:53] Shadowing and Volunteering

It doesn’t have to be volunteer and non volunteer. You can work in a clinical related setting as long as you are continuing to put yourself around those settings around patients, around physicians. Do that consistently. 

“It's a big red flag if you go and focus on coursework for a year and you don't do any shadowing, you don't do any volunteer work. You don't do any clinicals.” Click To Tweet

[10:10] Reach Out to Schools

Go and reach out to the schools. If you are limited geographically for family reasons and you want to go to Davis, then call Davis and sit down with their ad com.

Lay it all out on the table and say this is who you are and what you’ve done. Here’s what you’re planning to do. And that you want to go there but this is where you need to go because of some restrictions. Ask them to tell you what to do.

“You need to go and talk to them and say, here's who I am, here's what I'm planning on doing. Tell me if that's good or bad because this is where I need to go.”Click To Tweet

[12:03] Medical Schools Set Their Own Filters

There’s a reason there’s this magical 3.0 line. I always talk a lot about how medical schools have the ability to filter out applications based on MCAT and GPA. 

And the 3.0 line is one of those mythical lines to say that medical schools are probably possibly filtering out applications less than a 3.0, whether it’s overall GPA, or science, or GPA. Nobody actually knows except that the medical schools set their own filters and thresholds. So when I talk about 3.0, it’s just a magical line to get over.

Just try to get above that line to prevent your application from getting the “digital shredders.”

Now does that mean that you can’t get into medical school with less than a 3.0, of course not. I know plenty of students who get in with less than 3.0 GPAs. But it’s just one extra barrier to help you get over.

“Medical schools set their own filters and thresholds.”Click To Tweet

Now, if you had a 2.9 GPA, but your last year was a 4.0 and you were just overcoming some initial struggles, this looks very different in the eyes of the admissions committee.

There are some schools where they look at the last 20 or 30 hours of your science courses.

I had the director of admissions for the medical school at University of Illinois College of Medicine back on The Premed Years Podcast Episode 19. She said they have the power to drop out one year of your courses. If you had a bad year, they can remove that from your GPA calculation.

Every school has the ability to be flexible with somebody. A student may have had a very poor start to undergrad, like yourself. And a lot of students start poorly, whether they’re homesick, they’re adjusting, or they’re getting wrapped up in the college life too much, whatever it may be. Students have their own struggles. 

And so if you think you can only do a do-it-yourself post-bac and you do the math and there’s no way you’re going to get above a three, then that’s okay too. Make sure that you’re getting as close to the 4.0 as possible.

“The longer that you go on with that positive upward trend, the better.”Click To Tweet

Finally, go and talk to the admissions committee members at Davis or whatever schools you’re interested in going to and try to figure it out.


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The Premed Years Podcast Episode 19: Interview with a Medical School Interview and Admissions Expert

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