When Should You Consider Retaking Classes

Session 181

Today, we tackle whether biomedical engineering can’t be listed under the BCPM classification. Find out how you can go about this to make sure you’re able to maximize this.

Your questions are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum. If you haven’t yet, be sure to register for an account so you can also begin asking questions and join a community of collaborative premeds and nontrads.

[00:48] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I graduated with a Bachelor’s in 2016 and a Master’s in 2017 both in Biomedical Engineering.

Currently, I work full time in the medical device industry as a development engineer working on a cardiovascular device and I am planning on applying to medical school for the 2021 cycle.

I originally planned on pursuing medical school the year after my Master’s, but a move away from home and adjusting to working full time caused me to get temporarily side-tracked. I also wasn’t premed for a majority of college, but began taking the remaining pre-requisites my Junior year once I began seriously considering medicine as a career.

“Due to this, I felt very behind the experience level of traditional premed students. Many of the pre-requisites were required by my major and I took them early on in college, before I had properly learned to study. I graduated with a 3.7 from undergrad and a 4.0 from grad school.

However, my science GPA is only a 3.4 since a majority of my classes in undergrad were BME and therefore it doesn’t seem as if they’ll count towards my BCPM (although many were heavily science-based including courses such as Human Physiology and Thermodynamics).

Included in this average is a C+ in Physics I, B- in Physics II, B- in Organic II, and a C- in Calculus II. The rest of my science grades are mostly A’s (Including Orgo I and Biochem) and a B+. I also had straight A’s my junior and senior year (mostly engineering and biology coursework) including upper-level physics-based engineering courses while taking over 18 credits a semester.

My question is, should I consider retaking courses such as Physics I & II to show a higher level of competency or will my upper-level engineering courses be considered and help to compensate?

I plan on taking courses at night at a local university this year to obtain recent letters of recommendation, however I was leaning towards taking a Pyschology course (since I only have an AP Pysch (5) transfer credit and a Medical Anthropology on my record for the social sciences), a Biology course with a lab (since I transferred a 5 in AP Biology and none of my upper level Biology courses included a lab), and an Inorganic Chemistry course (since I only have one semester of Intro Chem w/ lab).

I am trying to save money where possible, but I’m willing to do what it takes to ensure I can show I am ready for medical school.

Should I also consider a postbac program so that my grades are more recent since I will be applying four years out of undergrad? Also – I am planning on taking the MCAT for the first time this coming fall so I don’t have a score to share yet.

On the experience side, I have shadowed over 200 hours of orthopedic surgery (trauma, spine, joint replacement, pediatric, etc.) and neurosurgery during graduate school. I plan on shadowing several more specialties before applying, hopefully including emergency medicine and primary care (aiming for 30-50 hours in various specialties).

I was actively involved in professional societies in undergrad that included volunteer opportunities and I was the Community Service Coordinator for the Biomedical Engineering Society my senior year. I was a TA for team-based engineering classes my sophomore, junior, and senior year of college and in grad school.

I also currently organize volunteer activities at work in the nearby community. However, none of the hours were formally tracked and the only consistent volunteer position I had was once a week for four months in an outpatient orthopedic clinic (some patient interaction including transporting patients to the x-ray room). I am actively seeking clinical experience and volunteer experience (ideally weekly).

Do you think that adding a variety of shadowing experience and a weekly clinical experience with patient interaction spanning over the next year will be enough to show how serious I am about wanting to be a physician?

I know that my lack a patient-centered clinical experience is a major weakness currently. I am also prepared to switch to a clinically related job or work part-time to have more time to volunteer and gain clinical experience, although keeping my current job would allow me to save money and I am committed to finishing a project at work for the next few months. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this long explanation and thanks in advance for any advice you may be able to offer!”

[05:40] Listed as BCPM

If you look at the AAMC, they classify engineering and biomedical engineering specifically as an All Other – meaning nonscience. But for instance, for a class like Human Physiology, that seems pretty science-related. BCPM stands for Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math. Thermodynamics is listed under Chemistry and Physiology is listed under Biology.

So you can’t say that just because they’re biomedical engineering, they don’t count as they’re listed under All Other. You have to look at it class by class.

'If it is a science class, then use your judgment and if you think it would fall under BCPM, then list it as that.'Click To Tweet

You can call the AAMC beforehand to make sure, but personally, I would list it as that. Push that a little bit. You’re the only one who has taken the class and so you know what that class was all about.

This is one of the reasons it takes time to verify classes. There are a lot of nuances with all of these courses so getting them right is important.

See what else can you pick from your classes so you can list them under the BCPM classification.

[08:15] Should You Retake Classes?

Your grades are great. I personally don’t think you need to retake classes. Your grades are good enough, specifically because you had straight A’s. You have a very strong upward trend.

Make sure you’re prepared for the MCAT. You obviously have to do well on it.

Apart from that, you don’t need to take any more classes or a postbac. You don’t need to take night classes.

You don’t need to take classes to get letters of recommendation. Start right now in reaching out to your old professors. They can be your master’s level professors. Start building that relationship up for the next several months. When you’re ready to apply, then you can get those letters.

[09:30] Clinical Experience and Volunteering

This is where the majority of your time should be spent. You already have tons of shadowing under your belt. So just keep it up. You don’t need a ton more of shadowing but be consistent over the next year.

'It's going to be the clinical experience where you're actually interacting with patients.'Click To Tweet

For your clinical experience, you can do hospice or be an ER volunteer. Tell the people running the volunteer program that you want to be involved with patient care and not just stocking shelves.

You can also become a part-time scribe. There are lots of opportunities but they have to fit with your current work schedule and current life.

But you have to start doing this as soon as possible to really prove to yourself and the admissions committee that this is what you want.

Lastly, check out the AMCAS Course Classification Guide as they lay them all out for you in terms of what’s considered and what’s not. Remember, don’t just generically say it’s biomedical engineering, therefore, it’s not All Others and non-BCPM. You really want to maximize that BCPM as much as possible.

'Pick and choose each class as you go through your transcripts to figure out where you can categorize each one.'Click To Tweet

Links:

Nontrad Premed Forum

AMCAS Course Classification Guide

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