Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: Her 3.4 GPA isn’t the Problem!

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Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: Her 3.4 GPA isn't the Problem!

Session 86

Our caller today wants to know what she should focus on to enhance her med school application: GPA, MCAT prep, or clinical experience. I’ll help her prioritize!

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For more help on your medical school application, check out The Premed Years Podcast.

[00:47] Question from Olivia

“In my sophomore year, my dad got really sick. Basically, the financial burden was placed all on my mom. So I had to start helping out. I was able to look out and find the phlebotomy job here. But the job was very tolling. I hadn’t quite figured out the whole schedule stuff and work. 

It was supposed to be a part-time job, but with the mandating and on call, I was averaging about 30 to 32 hours per week. Because of that, I started off my freshman year really well. My science GPA was a 3.7 and then my non science GPA was 3.9. 

Then sophomore year came and my GPA dropped. Well, sophomore and junior year because I was still working a little bit of my junior year. My dad just got out of the hospital. So I was able to finally quit. I quit the job that I had and basically focused more on school. So my GPA then dropped to a 3.27 science GPA, but then I took a summer class and I bumped it up to a 3.31 science GPA and then I have about 3.4 overall GPA. 

Should I go back to getting another clinical job or a clinical type of position to show consistency? Or is it okay if I just really focus on school and study for the MCAT here on out?”

[03:05] Analyzing the Stats

Olivia actually extended her graduation by an additional semester so she has three more semesters. And if she wanted to apply next summer and get all A’s, she calculates her science GPA would be a 3.47. Whereas if she could get up to a 3.51 by extending it an additional semester wait an additional year before she applies. But I wouldn’t say this is worth it.

So her overall GPA would be around 3.5 to 3.6. This is awesome GPA-wise. MCAT-wise, obviously, that’s another big part of this whole journey. Olivia has started preparing for the MCAT and is shooting for a 528. She says she’s good with standardized tests so no major concerns for now. The MCAT is its own beast, as well as CARS. So be sure to listen to The MCAT CARS Podcast.

[05:04] Consistency in Clinical Experience is Key

If you have this one chunk of clinical experience from sophomore year to some point in junior year and nothing since, that’s a little bit of a red flag. It’s telling that you’re not engaged enough with medicine to really prove that this is what you want.

You have to really get your feet wet and jump in with both feet to say you’re around medicine and you’re around doctors and patients. And that’s a big aspect of this process that students miss out on.

“Students rely on this idea that they've always wanted to be a doctor and they haven't really proven to themselves that they do want to be a doctor.'Click To Tweet

While also maintaining your grades and maintaining time to study for the MCAT, go and get some clinical experience. Do it five hours every couple of weeks or five hours a month between now and next year when you apply.

Olivia basically still has 10 more months so if she can do 10 hours a month, she can accumulate a lot of hours for her clinical experience. She can then create a lot of lasting memories that she can talk about in her interviews and write about in her personal statement and activity list.

And if you get to a point where you start to add stuff to your plate and your grades are starting to trend downwards, then you need to press pause. Focus on the grades because overcoming a bad GPA, especially this late in the game is very hard and it takes a lot longer. Then just finish your classes and focus on extracurriculars, or focus on classes and extracurriculars. You may also push back the MCAT so you don’t have to study for the MCAT while you’re doing everything else as well.

There are lots of things you can move around and adjust to potentially push back your application but making sure that your grades are the main priority at this point. 

[08:24] What Qualifies as a Disadvantaged Student

For the AMCAS or the MD application, they have a question on whether you consider yourself a disadvantaged applicant? Whatever that language is, you can mark yourself Yes.

You have 1,325 characters to explain your situation and why you want to be considered a disadvantaged applicant. 

Now, when you actually look at their little help box of what is a disadvantaged applicant, it’s really super generic. They have two kinds of qualifying statements in there. One is if you’re from a disadvantaged area where there’s low access or limited access to health care, to medicine, to doctors, the hospitals, etc. So it’s health care disadvantage from that aspect.

Then they also have some language in there where your family was on food stamps or you got some sort of government aid.

“You can be disadvantaged living right next to the hospital and never having been on food stamps. It just depends on your situation and what you have gone through personally.'Click To Tweet

Looking at everyone else around all the other premed students, this is the only time where maybe a little comparison game may help as you go.

At the end of the day, if you feel like you’ve had to overcome some obstacles that have hindered your ability to do well and go out. If it has hindered your ability to get the experiences that other students are getting that you can’t get, then mark yourself disadvantaged and explain why. Don’t be afraid of getting pity. Don’t be afraid of coming off like you’re whining or complaining.

Just tell your story and what you’ve done to overcome and how you’ve succeeded even in the face of those obstacles and disadvantages.


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