Ask Dr. Gray Premed Q&A: Dual Bachelors, SMP, or Something Else?

Ask Dr. Gray Premed Q&A: Dual Bachelors, SMP, or Something Else?

Session 67

Today’s caller asks: if she has a long academic record, below-average GPA, and an average science GPA, should she take a leap and apply?

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[00:18] Question of the Day

Our student has credits from 2008-2010 that are dramatically dragging down her GPA. She is currently finishing her Master’s degree which she didn’t finish back in the day. Even if she goes forward and continue to get all A’s, her concern is that it’s still going to be very difficult for her to even maintain a 3.2 GPA.

Question: Should she go for a dual bachelor’s degree or an SMP?

[01:20] Show a Strong Upward Trend

Her classes are from 10 years ago. Out of those 50 classes, only 10-14 are only considered BCPM classes. So it’s not a ton.

If her overall GPA is a 3.2 and her science GPA should be much better than that eventually. If that’s the case, she could have a 3.2 cumulative GPA but around a 3.5 or 3.6 science GPA.

This is actually a pretty good number. And if you plotted it out, there’s a google doc out there that has trend lines built into the Google spreadsheet.

'Try to look at your trends.'Click To Tweet

The beginning trend may not be that good. But then your junior and senior classes should hopefully be pretty solid.

All that being said, just apply. The good thing is there is a great upward trend. There may be some bad grades from a prior attempt at undergrad. This is definitely going to show in your transcripts the difference in years.

And when an admissions committee looks at this, they’re going to assume you weren’t ready for college back then. Now, you are and you’ve proven yourself through your strong upward trend. Your science classes are now great and there are no more issues academically. 

Obviously, there are other things that go into the application process. You have to have a great MCAT score. Our student today is still preparing for it and that’s okay.

[05:00] Getting a Second Bachelor’s?

Based on the trend of our student today, her grades aren’t an issue. So I wouldn’t sink the money into the second bachelor’s, nor into an SMP or any sort of postbac.

Instead, take the classes and do as well as you can. Forget about what happened in the past. Sure, it’s going to be a part of your application. But moving forward, continue showing that upward trend. Do well on the MCAT. Do well on your extracurriculars.

'Put together a solid application.'Click To Tweet

Some students decide to do postbac instead of applying in the cycle because they’re scared of success and they’re scared of failure. But as long as you’re showing that upward trend, you should be fine.

[06:23] GPAs Aren’t Created Equal

GPA is not just GPA. What does the trend look like? What do your semester and year breakdowns look like?

'A 3.5 GPA for one person isn't the same as a 3.5 GPA for another based on trends and everything else.'Click To Tweet

As for this student, her trends are great so far. And her science GPA is going to be competitive enough. But everything else has to fall into place – great MCAT, good personal statement, great extracurriculars, etc.

[07:00] What to Do Next When You Don’t Get In

What to do next after your failure of getting in that application cycle is a futile experiment because you don’t know why you didn’t get in. Therefore, you have to get feedback from the admissions committees. Figure out what went wrong.

'What was it about your application that prevented you from getting that acceptance?'Click To Tweet

Let’s assume that your grades held you back. So you have three options:

  1. Do-it yourself postbac: These are classes that you take on your own either at a community college or a four-year university.
  2. Formal postbac:  You’re basically taking undergraduate-level classes and they’re going to go into your transcript as undergrad classes. This can take about a year or two years.
  3. SMPs (Special Master’s Programs): SMP classes are added to a Master’s or Graduate Level GPA for your application.

[08:40] When to Do an SMP

“An SMP isn't going to affect your undergrad GPA.”Click To Tweet

For most people, an SMP is not necessary. Most people can get by with a do-it-yourself postbac or maybe a formal postbac if they need that extra structure. The goal is to get that strong, positive trend going in your grades.

An SMP is great if you really struggled in your classes and even in your postbac work. This is sort of a last-ditch effort to show that you can handle the coursework.

“All SMPs are postbac programs, but not all postbac programs are SMPs.”Click To Tweet

An SMP is a type of postbac. Most people consider postbac to only be undergraduate. But for the purposes of improving your medical school application, I would throw SMP into the realm of postbac although it’s graduate-level coursework.


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