Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: Should I Retake My Old Prerequisites?

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Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A: Should I Retake My Old Prerequisites?

Session 96

Our caller’s prereq grades were pretty bad—but he’s in a Special Master’s Program doing much better now. So does he still need to retake old prerequisites?

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[00:37] Question of the Day

“I am a nontrad and did my undergrad over about a decade ago with a very low GPA of 3.0. A couple of years ago, I made a decision to go back and try for med school. I took some classes at community college. It’s a long-winded story, but I did well enough where I contacted the director of our master’s program that I’m in now. And she said they have a spot for me because they aren’t based on GPA. It’s based on a case by case basis.

It’s an anatomy-based program, which I love. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten A in a science class in undergrad. The closest I got was a B+ in Anatomy. There’s a lot of Pathology as well. So it’s like system-based. 

And I’m wondering, the prereqs are over a decade ago for myself, and they weren’t very good. So I’m wondering if it would be beneficial for me if I were to take those prereqs whether at the current school I’m in now, or community college, or wherever. I know that the MCAT kind of represents your prereqs a little bit because the subjects are the same, but it’s very superficial compared to the coursework and it’s not the same essentially.”

[02:11] Should You Take Prereqs?

The question comes down to whether this student should repeat his prereqs and his foundational knowledge for the MCAT. He said he didn’t want to take classes with 18-year-olds. Interestingly, he’s the oldest person in his Master’s as well.

You should reach out to some of the medical schools whether it’s a school you’re at now for your master’s program or any other schools that you are planning to apply to. Just tell them your story and that you’re in a master’s program right now and you’re doing well. Then ask them if you need those prereqs. Or if you can just use your master’s program and your MCAT score, or whatever else they need.

Go right to the horse’s mouth and go ask them. Ask a few schools and see what the general consensus is. After that, I would probably start digging into the MCAT and seeing what that prep is like. But now that comes with the knowledge that you’re getting now through the master’s program and with the knowledge that you’ve gained previously from your undergrad and everything else that you’ve done.

'The motto of the MCAT is a mile wide and an inch deep.'Click To Tweet

You don’t have to know a ton for the MCAT, but just very superficial stuff about a lot of stuff. And so retaking the courses probably will over-prepare you for the MCAT. And maybe all you need to do is just retake, read some books, or take a course that will have some video content or whatever to help you relearn that content. Then use practice tests and Qbanks to really drive home your studying to the finish line.

Being in an SMP now means you’re already proving academically that you can do what you need to do. The biggest question for is whether schools are okay with that, and they’re probably fine with it.

[06:18] Check In With Yourself

Our student’s concern is that the spring semester is always the most difficult so it’s not recommended to study for the MCAT at this time.

So, with the SMP, doing that, and prepping for the MCAT, what you don’t want to happen and what happens a lot to students is to let something falter. You’re juggling everything you’re doing now whether it’s extracurriculars, SMP MCAT, all of it. And on top of that is a job too. Then something drops and hits the floor – and a lot of time, it’s grades. And so now all of a sudden, you are in this SMP program, which for a lot of people is this last ditch effort to prove your worth to medical school. But then all of a sudden, you’re stumbling down on that. Or your MCAT prep suffers.

Students are so fixated on having to apply because they’re doing their SMP and they need to finish that and then apply to medical school. They have this goal to start medical school before they get any older, but their MCAT suffers. Yet they still take the MCAT and apply with a bad MCAT or they’re not getting the extracurriculars they need. Now, you just have decent stats from your SMP and decent MCAT score. And the rest of the story isn’t lining up with your activities and your actions about you wanting to be a physician.

There are lots of things that have to be juggled. And at some point, the question comes to do I need to press pause on one of these things, and usually, it’s the MCAT. Maybe just take it at a later date.

'As you go through this process, just continually check in with yourself – am I letting something falter?'Click To Tweet

So try to check in with yourself and figure out if you’re doing a disservice by not taking a break with classes and MCAT and everything else? Or maybe you should just ultimately delay a year?

[09:33] Thinking of Himself as a Failure

After undergrad, this student graduated with a 2.5 GPA and he just found himself in a downward spiral. So towards the end of undergrad, he feels he was a failure. It took him six years to actually send an email to the one of the professors. He said he had a D in the class and asked if there was anything he can do to make up for it. He never responded and the professor gave him a C. So he graduated after six years.

He wasn’t doing well in premed. In his first semester, he got a 1.7 with a drop. And he got it back up to 2.7 But after that, he thought maybe it wasn’t for him. So he tried engineering because he likes math and just got his butt kicked as equally. Then he tried doing something a little more fun, like doing film. Eventually, he came back to microbiology, something science-related and with the hopes of going to medical field.

After thinking that he was a failure for 10 years, something clicked at work. His boss says they test medicine to make sure it’s safe for people to use. We’re helping people indirectly. At that point, it just clicked on him that he didn’t want to help people indirectly.

[12:00] A Little Background About Our Student

Our student explains that there were a lot of factors that contributed to his failure. He was financially struggling. He slept on the floor at his sister’s apartment. He was an overrepresented minority so you’re either perfect or you’re not a doctor. But I had to stop our student at this point because that was just his assumption because it’s not the truth.

His high school advisor told him that he wasn’t going to get into the University of Florida because they’re very strict on their requirements. She told him that they’re not really looking for Asians and they’re looking for Black and Hispanic. 

And to him, something like that sticks with you. He’s a first-generation college student aside from his sister. He didn’t have any motivation and he didn’t have that mindset. For him, it was already extremely difficult to get into. Plus, there’s stress at work.

So he was disappointed in himself. He didn’t even talk to the advisors in undergrad because he already knew what they were going to say according to his numbers. So at that point, he just took whatever job he could get after undergrad. He was making $8 an hour autoclaving trash.

10 years later, he’s a senior scientist in his lab. He got a good job and a beautiful, smart wife who takes care of him. So he was happy with everything but that.

And I think that’s the perfect story that really highlights the idea of not having a plan B because your plan B has turned into this life that you don’t want and you’re not happy. You’re not settled and you want more. You want to go back to where you want it to be. And now this student is making it happen.

'Timing doesn't mean anything. It just means you may have to take a different road and learn a little more about yourself.'Click To Tweet


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