Should I Get a Second Degree or Just Take More Classes?

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Should I Get a Second Bachelor's Degree or Just Take More Classes?

Session 110

This week on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our student is trying to raise her GPA to be more competitive for medical school. She’s questioning if she should start another degree or just take more classes as part of her first degree.

This is actually a very common question among nontrads, especially for someone who is a pseudo-nontrad—they’re still in school but made a last-second decision to enter medical school.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

[01:50] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

As usual on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question is taken from the Nontrad Premed Forum:

“I’m currently in my last year of biology and have recently decided to apply to medical school. My GPA is not as high as I want it to be.

When applying to the school I’m in right now, I had one year worth of transfer credits. So I entered basically in the second year of my program and spent four years in this program, pursuing prerequisites to graduate from the biology program. I also took many psychology courses due to personal interest.

I decided a couple of weeks ago to apply for a second Bachelor's Degree in psychology to both increase my GPA and to pursue my interests.Click To Tweet

I decided a couple of weeks ago to apply for a second Bachelor’s Degree in psychology to both increase my GPA and to pursue my interests. This way, if I stay longer as an undergraduate, I can explain it to the medical school committee that I was pursuing two degrees, rather than staying longer in my current program of five-plus years to take more courses to increase my GPA.

I have contacted a couple of medical schools. Some of them say that they count all undergraduate course grades when calculating cumulative GPA. Some say they only take into account grades from one degree.

I don’t know what to do after finding this out. Should I still pursue the additional psych degree or should I graduate later with only one bachelor’s degree?”

[03:05] Do Medical Schools Only Look at One Degree?

When you enter your grades into the medical school application services, every grade goes in. They’re not separated by degree or anything else. All your credits are put in there: Fails, pass/fails, withdrawals, etc. Everything goes in.

It sounds you’re taking the second degree to avoid the question of why it took you so long to graduate. But that’s not a problem, either. You could technically graduate now and just take more classes afterward. This is considered a postbac. And you can do this after already getting your first degree.

[04:20] Downsides of Doing a DIY Postbac

Being a non-degree-seeking postbac student at a large university can pose a challenge for you since schools will usually give preference to degree-seeking students. They will only let you register for classes after all the degree-seeking students have registered. So you might not be able to take a class you want.

That said, there are ways around this by claiming that you’re going to get a second degree, and then you drop out when you have the specific credits you wanted.

There are some potential downsides to the do-it-yourself postbac.Click To Tweet

[Related episode: What Can I Do If My GPA Is Too Low for a Postbac Program?]

[04:45] The Number of Bachelor’s Degrees You Have Doesn’t Matter

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you have two bachelor’s degrees or one. Take the classes you need, and get as close to a 4.0 as you can going forward. Raise your GPA as much as you want. Do well on the MCAT. Write your personal statement. Check out my Premed Playbook guides to the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT. And then apply to medical school.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter to medical schools if you have two bachelor's degrees or one. Click To Tweet

[05:15] Getting Your GPA Up

After four years of school, that denominator in your GPA calculation is so big. You have so many credits that the needle doesn’t move much when you take more classes. If you’re at a 3.3, trying to get at a 3.4, it’s probably not worth it. Check if you have a strong upward trend already. Are your recent grades good? If so, you might not really need more classes.

Lastly, if you have questions about your nontraditional journey to medical school, go to the Medical School HQ Forums. And if you’re a nontrad premed, go check out its Nontrad Premed Forum. Join the community and ask a question. Collaborate, don’t compete!

Links and Other Resources