Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: Masters vs Postbac to Raise Your Premed GPA

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: Masters vs Postbac to Raise Your Premed GPA

Session 80

How do you decide between a special Master’s program (SMP) and a postbac? Today, I share why I think a postbac is the better choice for this student.

Our episodes are recorded live on Facebook at 3pm ET on most weekdays. Like the page to be notified.

For more help on your medical school application, specifically in improving your MCAT skills, check out The MCAT Podcast. For more resources on YouTube, watch

[00:21] Question from Gina

“I’m at the point where I need to start getting my story together because I do want to apply and I’ve been holding off on applying. This is my second cycle. I have not clicked submitted. The first time around, I opened the application and I didn’t feel ready. And then with this application, I actually started like three drafts of personal statements, went over her ECs, and wrote them down. I went over my CV with medical students to see what I’m missing. But I’m still not quite ready. And I don’t know how to kind of go about my story.”

So Gina thinks she’s not ready because she’s missing stuff. She applied for master’s programs (biomedical science and math programs) and got denied to all of them. The other one was humanities, which is from the University of Rochester. She’s doing the master’s do boost her GPA.

Her undergrad cumulative GPA is 3.03 and her science GPA is 3.0. She’s right on the cusp of needing to improve that.

As to why she’s denied from the master’s programs, she was told it’s because of her GPA and that the program wasn’t a fit for her. Gina also applied to New York Medical College to have an SMP program, there was a traditional pathway.

She spoke to the Dean of the actual program, and he told her it was a great fit for her. She applied and didn’t get an acceptance letter. He called her and told her she’s a great person with positive attributions but it’s because of her grades.

She did have an upward trend. Her lowest was 2.5. Then she started taking summer classes and retook classes. She ended up with a 3.2. It’s still not outstanding.

[04:17] English as a Second Language

One thing is that Spanish was Gina’s first language. So it was hard for her to study and understand the concepts because her High School wasn’t really much of a science base. She didn’t really have that foundation. She was born in the States but they have spoken Spanish at home.

I truly believe for her to maximize her abilities in the classroom and especially on the MCAT. The more that she can speak English more than Spanish, the better she will be. She could suggest to her family to have an English night only. This could help her with her study skills.

'If you're attributing your GPA struggles with being a second language student then to fix that, speak more English.'Click To Tweet

[06:02] Figuring Out the Real Issue

But the bigger issue for me here is not that English is your second language. There’s potentially something else because there are plenty of ESL students who do fine in their classes. They struggle on the MCAT where that usually shows their head.

With Gina’s 3.2 GPA, she was taking 18 credits. It’s a full load of classes. She wasn’t working. So that’s a bigger concern for me that she’s still only at a 3.2 and she was fully dedicated to school.

“The question is, are you utilizing all of the services available to you?”Click To Tweet

I’ve done a YouTube video that talks about resources for studying. So are you utilizing resources? Are you going to your professor’s office hours? Are you going to your academic advising center and talking to the advisors there and looking at tutoring options, whether they’re free or paid?

Are you forming study groups with other classmates? Are you going on YouTube and utilizing all of the free resources on YouTube and videos on YouTube?

How are you studying and how have you as you’ve gone through this process and have continued to struggle? How have you changed what you’ve done? Or have you at all?

[09:09] Doing a Postbac over Master’s

You’ve kind of taken everything that you can take at your current school. Personally, I think a postbac is something that you’ll probably need to do. Whether that’s a do it yourself postbac at a community college or another four-year university that has options for other classes. And I probably recommend that over a master.

A postbac where the classes are undergrad classes, they’re going to count towards your undergrad GPA on your application. This will benefit you more than doing a master’s.

“It just seems like schools are valuing more and more undergrad GPA even if you have a strong masters GPA, so I would look at a postbac.”Click To Tweet

It doesn’t have to be a formal postbac. It doesn’t have to be something where you’re spending 30, 40 $50,000 for a year or two at a formal postbac place. If you think you need extensive premed advising, then I would potentially look into that.

But you could easily just go to your local community college and take the classes that you need, potentially repeating some classes at some point. 

Maybe you’ve got Cs or Ds and you already retook that one F which is great. But taking more classes is going to be important.

Check ou AAMC’s postbac database to check on possible postbac programs you can take. You can filter them out by an academic enhancer program which is what you need.

[11:47] When Should Gina Apply?

That said, I don’t think Gina is ready to apply just based on grades. If she could do like 20 or 30 hours over the next year and get as close to a 4.0 as possible, then great. Go ahead and apply. I don’t think she needs a two-year postbac. Maybe she could just do a year of classes ad she’d probably be ready to apply next year.

Obviously, apply with a strong MCAT with shadowing and clinical experience and all that other stuff that you need on your application to prove to yourself that this is what you want to do. 

“You want to apply with the best possible application.”Click To Tweet


Meded Media

The Premed Years Podcast

MSHQ Facebook Hangout Group

Check out more resources on YouTube

AAMC’s postbac database