Should I Leave the Military to Go Back to School Full-time?

Session 100

The military, like the any job, can get in the way of you achieving your goal of becoming a physician. Our question today revolves around what to do to make it work.

I take questions directly from the forums and answer them here on this podcast. But soon OldPreMeds will be moving to its new home site, which is also home to all our other podcasts including The Premed Years Podcast.

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[02:06] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

Sanity Check Needed

Looking for sanity check because I’ve almost convinced myself to take the plunge and start attending school again full-time.

I’m 30 years old and been in the Marine Corps for about eight years and I’m currently a Captain. I graduated in 2009 with a Degree in Criminology from a state college with a 2.7 cumulative undergrad GPA. I only took a few science and math courses. But that GPA is 3.65. I did the math and if I get all A’s in my prereq courses, it will be a 3.89. I also have a negative trend GPA during my undergrad years with my freshman, sophomore years being my best.

Grades were not a priority for me at that time and I did not have any aspirations of doing any postgraduate work. I knew I was going to join the Marine Corps after my junior year. I always was going to join the military. So my senior year grades went out the window.

Fast-forward eight years from my undergrad and I just finished the Master’s Program at Marshall University where I got an MA in Leadership Studies. Some credits from a year-long military school where I applied to the program but I took six classes and finished the program with a 4.0 GPA.

I realized that this program does not carry much weight. I have also taken some prereqs at a local community college and I’ve received A’s in Gen. Bio 1 and 2 and Gen. Chem 1. I definitely had the ability to earn these grades the first time around but lacked the motivation and passion.

My end goal is to get accepted into the Uniformed Services University or receive an HPSP scholarship. I would like to retire from the military. I can discuss why I’m interested in switching careers in another post, if anyone’s interested. But had a very inspirational medical situation that happened to me a few years ago that completely changed my life.

From here, I see a few paths that I could take and would appreciate some honest feedback:

The first one is whether I should take the plunge and get out of the Marine Corps to start attending school full-time. I’m applying to postbac programs in my area but think it is a long shot because my GPA is under the recommended minimums. If I got into a postbac program, I would definitely leap at the opportunity.

The second one that I am a little more hesitant on is whether or not to go back to school full-time and earn a second Bachelor’s Degree, likely major in Biology. The good thing is that the GI bill pays for both of these options.

Path three is to stay in the military and continue taking prereq courses at a local community college. I am coming up on a PCS (Permanent Change in Station) next summer. So I need to either get out Summer 2018 or I’ll be transferring to a new area. the problems I see with community college are that they aren’t looked at as competitively as four-year schools. But they are truly my only option at this point in my career with work.

I have to take classes on the weekends because of work. And I’m worried about information retention for the MCAT and actually being able to finish in a reasonable amount of time. I already had to drop a semester in Summer of 2017 due to exercises and training. I know that I need to go to school full-time to really make this happen but my wife thinks that I’m not being realistic about my actual chances of getting into the Uniformed Services University or getting and HPSP scholarship or even getting into medical school.

As a side note, she’s supportive and can financially sustain us so that isn’t an issue. I would be giving up a very promising military career so I’m not taking this decision lightly so please give it to me straight. Thanks for reading.”

[05:56] Join the Reserves and Do a DIY Postbac

If you really want to be a physician and if this is what you want to do, I would seriously think about getting out of the marines. Maybe go and join the Reserves so you don’t have a gap in your service.

Your grades are not going to hold you back. Cumulative 2.7 GPA is not great. But you can go back to school and get a postbac, even a DIY postbac. You don’t need to spend $60 on a formal postbac. Go and do a DIY postbac. Register as a degree-seeking student. But don’t actually finish the degree. Take the classes that you need and do well in them. Continue this trend of a 4.0 GPA. And you’re not going to have an issue getting into school.

[07:01] Getting into USUHS or HPSP

It’s not the end of the line if you don’t get into USUHS (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. It’s not the end of the line if you don’t get an HPSP scholarship. You can always join after. So not getting your training through those services isn’t a bad thing. In USUHS, you get paid and that’s great and it counts towards retirement. But one of the best things is that with all of your past experience, you’re going to be looked at favorably.

This year, I helped a student get an acceptance to USUHS. He’s a former army medic and wanted to go to USUHS and so he got in. He had a similar story. He wasn’t a great student and went off to the military. He had some life-altering experiences and decided to go to medical school. He’s going to start there in August of 2018.

[08:07] My Recommendations

You have to ignore your original GPA. Yes, it’s there. Yes, it’s going to bring you down. But you have to look at where you are now moving forward. Get that grade upward trend coming back. Finish off if you can with a 4.0 GPA. Get a great MCAT score. Go do your shadowing and volunteering and all of that fun stuff.

You are a huge asset because of your military career. With your background, you’re going to be looked at very favorably for many schools.

So if this is what you really want, I recommend getting out. Do not a formal postbac unless you really want to, but it’s going to be more expensive. I recommend doing a DIY (do it yourself) postbac at a four-year school where you register as a degree-seeking student. But you don’t actually need to do all four years and get a degree. Just take the classes you need. Take a little of the extra classes to boost your GPA as much as you can and go from there.




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