Can You Really Overcome 13 Failed Classes?

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OPM 256: Can You Really Overcome 13 Failed Classes?

Session 256

This nontrad veteran is changing careers but is facing an uphill climb after 13 F’s during their undergrad. What are their next steps on the path to med school?

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

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

[02:13] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I was the typical “I don’t know what I want to do” type of student in college and wasted a lot of years not taking school seriously. I failed and withdrew from so many classes and those decisions are coming back to haunt me. As a psychology major who finally figured out where I can serve best, I’ve displayed an awesome upward trend in my last credit hours.I took Biology and Chemistry and got an A and a B but my earlier nonscience failures are hanging over my head.  

I’m leaving active duty service to solely focus on postbac options and continue to build up my extracurricular activities. My question is, would a formal postbac offer more credibility and help me avoid doing an SMP? Would it be better to plan on doing a DIY postbac and do an SMP? It took time to make these mistakes, and it will take time to overcome them. Looking for the most efficient way to move forward. Thanks!”

[04:08] DIY Postbac vs. Formal Postbac

There’s some false logic that says if you do a do-it-yourself postbac then you’re kind of relegated to do an SMP. But an SMP is just like a postbac but just a different type of postbac.

There are undergraduate postbacs, which are the preferred route for most students. And there are some caveats which are mostly around financial obligations and being able to pay for a postbac.

[05:29] Special Master’s Program vs. Undergrad Postbac

An SMP is a master’s program. You can usually qualify for student loans for a master’s program. Whereas with a postbac, you typically can’t.

“A lot of students who need financial aid to go back to school to do this focus on SMPs because they can do the loans.” Click To Tweet

One of our hosts of the Ask the Dean podcast, Dr. Scott Wright is the former director of admissions at UT Southwestern and former executive director at TMDSAS. Scott had relationships with every medical school in Texas, all the public ones, at least. And the reason is that master’s programs are just typically at a different level in terms of what the grades are and who qualifies for it if you’re actually going to do well.

Now, for undergraduate postbacs, most medical schools look at your undergraduate GPA to determine your capability of doing well in medical school. An undergraduate postbac will help go toward your undergraduate GPA.

[06:42] The Difference Between DIY Postbac and Formal Postbac

At the end of the day, there’s not much difference. The biggest difference is you’re probably going to pay more for a formal postbac. So you will also have more resources, more test prep resources, more advising resources. But that’s not always guaranteed.

I’ve been talking to a lot of students at one specific school and they’re stopping their postbac program because they weren’t getting everything that has been promised o them because the program is dissolving. And so students are scrambling to figure out what they should do.

There are plenty of do-it-yourself postbac opportunities where you’re basically another student at a four-year university. You get access to the prehealth advisors there. And so you may get advising that you need even when you’re doing a DIY postbac. And this can be something you won’t be getting from a formal postbac.

So there are lots of caveats around this. Ultimately, it’s just going to come down to what programs work the best for you both location-wise, and in terms of timing of class and financially. All of those questions come into play.

[07:56] Is One Better Than the Other?

Maybe there’s a little bit more weight given to a formal postbac. The school understands what that formal postbac is, the requirements in place, what it took to be accepted to that formal postbac, etc. So maybe medical schools will give more weight to that.

Some formal postbacs even have linkage agreements with medical schools. Meaning if you do well enough, your GPA is good enough and your MCAT is good enough, you may get an automatic interview or maybe even an acceptance to medical school.

However, this shouldn’t be your only reason for applying to that program. You have to go to a program where you really think you’ll thrive. Otherwise, your grades will only suffer.

'Don't let the allure of linkage programs draw you to a school into a program that you may not do well at.'Click To Tweet

[08:41] Dealing with 13 F’s

This student is lucky that these failed classes are nonscience courses. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to talk about them somewhere in your application. You’ll be fine though. I have a friend who had 16 F’s and she is in medical school right now.

You can overcome them. There will definitely be questions about them, but you can overcome them. As long as you own your story and you own your journey, you’ll be okay.


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