When To Retake Undergrad Coursework or Take Grad Classes?

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Session 250

When should you retake undergraduate coursework? Or is graduate-level coursework sufficient to not retake those courses? Also, how does the MCAT factor in?

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at premedforums.com. Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.

This podcast is brought to you by Mappd, a new technology platform that I co-founded specifically for premeds (and in the future – for pre-PA, predental students, and all prehealth students). Sign up for a free two-week trial today!

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

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

[02:20] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“Hi, I’m currently in my first semester of a master’s of science in biology program. Throughout my undergrad career, I was earning As and Bs with about one C a year on an upward trend, with the junior year being the worst year due to working and personal issues. 

In the end, I earned a 3.11 cumulative GPA and 2.9 science GPA, 5 Cs (Chem II, Physics I, Genetics, Biochem, Organic I), and 1 D (Organic II). I calculated that retaking all these classes with an A would bring my cumulative up to 3.25 and my science up to 3.15. 

I would like to apply to osteopathic schools. Would I need to retake all of these classes or just a few? Or is doing well in my grad-level science courses sufficient? (i.e. taking grad-level medical biochemistry means I won’t need to take biochem again during my postbac). 

If I do need to retake all/some of the 6 classes, should I enroll as a degree-seeking student and just not graduate since undergrad students are given registration priority over postbac students?”

[03:38] What Schools Prioritize

At the end of the day, it comes down to a few variables. The biggest variable is what do the schools want? What are the schools prioritize? Do the schools prioritize undergraduate GPA? Or do they prioritize recent grades and GPA?

If the schools don’t care if your GPA is from a master’s level coursework, or if it’s from undergraduate coursework, then you may be fine doing your master’s degree. Then do well in that and prove that you can handle the academic rigors of medical school.

There are lots of reasons why schools prefer undergraduate versus graduate. I actually had this conversation with the VP of Academic Advising at Mappd, Dr. Scott Wright. He’s the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern Medical School. He’s also the former executive director at TMDSAS, which is the whole application service for Texas medical schools. And we had this discussion over at Ask the Dean on Mappd.tv. So go there and hear his viewpoints on why master’s degrees are usually seen less than undergraduate coursework.

[04:47] Different Variables to Consider

Can you afford to go back and do undergraduate classes? Or did you do a Master’s because you had the financial aid to be able to support you in that? If that’s the case, then apply to medical schools. Hopefully, you’ve done enough in your master’s level coursework for each of the schools that you’re applying to.

You could also reach out to some of the schools you’re planning on applying to. Tell them about your situation and why you think you can’t or don’t want to go back to retake these undergraduate courses. And ask them if your master’s coursework will help the school overcome the fears around whether you’re academically qualified for medical school. At the end of the day, it really is up to you. But let me give you one caveat to that.

'It's very common for schools to have a very easy cutoff of 3.0 for their undergraduate GPA.'Click To Tweet

If you can take two or three or four of those classes to get your science GPA above a 3.0, while also improving your upward trend, then that will probably help a lot. Hopefully, it will open up the doors for you in terms of schools that may have been closed because your science GPA is less than a 3.0.

If you can get that science GPA above 3.0 along with a strong Master’s program, that will probably open more doors for you. Rather than just doing well on the Master’s and applying with a less than 3.0 science GPA.

There’s really no right or wrong. There’s just what may work and where you may struggle or where some schools may potentially keep you back or keep you out of the running. So you have to do what is right for you.

At the end of the day, you need the best grades possible and the best trend possible. Get as strong MCAT as you can to improve your chances.

[07:46] Degree-Seeking versus Non-Degree-Seeking

Registering as a degree-seeking student usually affords you opportunities of an enrolled degree-seeking student. It means that you probably can register for classes before other students.

It really depends whether you should register as a degree-seeking student at the institution or not. 

I recommend you look at the institutions, their rules, regulations, and their processes in place. See if they give much higher priority to degree-seeking students. What is the process if you are a degree-seeking student and drop out after a semester or two because you took the classes that you needed and you’re done? If you register as a degree-seeking student, are there mandatory general education courses that they’re going to make you take before other courses?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you are degree-seeking or not. The only caveat is that a lot of times, degree-seeking students are given priority from a registration standpoint to get the classes that you need for your postbac. And that’s a big benefit to being a degree-seeking student.

[09:27] What If You Don’t Finish Your Second Degree?

If you get a second degree, that doesn’t obligate you to finish that degree. A lot of students are scared to go in and declare a major or to declare another degree. They think it’s going to be some red mark on their application if they do not finish that second degree.

'Students drop out of school all the time without finishing their first degree. All you're doing is gaming the system to get the classes you need.'Click To Tweet

There all these loopholes for students to take the classes they need and get what they want by registering as a degree-seeking student and then dropping out. The schools should likely have pathways for students to do this kind of thing without being a degree-seeking student. Why? Because that actually hurts the school. It hurts their stats. And they don’t want to be seeing students getting a degree and only to drop out of it.

Schools should have better options for non-degree-seeking students who just need a few extra classes to improve their GPAs and trends.

 [11:11] Mappd.com

Again, please don’t forget to go check out Mappd.com. Sign up for a free two-week trial (no credit card required). Start entering your courses to see where your GPA is.

Remember that the GPA you’re’ seeing on your transcript may not be the GPA that is calculated for your medical school application purposes. And using Mappd, you can calculate your TMDSAS, your AACOMAS (DO) application, and your AMCAS (MD) GPA.

As well, you can see all your trends and track all of your courses. We have probably over 2 million courses at this point inside of Mappd.

You can also track your MCAT score, including your practice tests, and much more. This is just the beginning of Mappd. We now have about 2,000 students who are actively using the platform. Ad we hope to continue to improve the experience so everyone can use it, including your advisors.


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