Do I Need Another Degree or Can I Take Individual Classes?

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OPM 285: Do I Need Another Degree or Can I Take Individual Classes?

Session 285

This student has a 3.89 GPA with dual degrees in art and design and is trying to figure out the best way to get his prereqs in. Does he need to get another degree? Find out the 3 things medical schools really care about from an academic standpoint.

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.

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.

[01:15] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I’m just beginning my journey to medical school and want some input. Some quick background. I graduated 7 years ago with dual degrees both in the art/design areas. Because of this, I only have one true science class (astronomy). I did well in school with a 3.89 GPA and did well on standardized tests.

I know I can get all my clinical/shadowing/volunteer hours in. I’m really just trying to figure out the best way to get all my prerequisites in. The colleges I’m most interested in all seem to be competency-based prerequisites rather than strict class lists. 

I can do a DIY postbac and get the 11 or so classes I need to do well on the MCAT. Or one of the schools in my town offers biology bachelors which have the same 11 classes as requirements along with 10 or so others. 

Would it be beneficial to get the degree even though I don’t really need to improve my GPA much? Or would it look bad to start the degree and take the MCAT/apply to med school as soon as I can, even if it means not finishing the degree?”

[02:25] Why Prereqs Matter

This student is in a privileged situation where they don’t have to fix a poor GPA from undergrad, they just need to get the prerequisites in. This student already knows they have good grades. A lot of schools are moving to more of just seeing how well you do on the MCAT. They don’t care what classes you have. Unfortunately, those students forget about the MCAT having its own set of prereqs. 

'The far majority of schools still have a list of prereqs that they expect you to have coming into medical school.'Click To Tweet

It’s not like you have to take these prereqs but more of they’re like hidden prereqs that are associated with the MCAT. Because you need to know the information to be able to do well on the MCAT.

Now luckily, the far majority overlap with medical school prereqs. So preparing for medical school prereqs helps students do well on the MCAT.

What happens, however, is students apply to schools that don’t have set prereqs. Then they struggle with the MCAT because they don’t have the core science foundation to do well on the MCAT.

[04:49] The 3 Things Medical Schools Care About Academically

For this student, the question is whether to take a bachelor’s degree or another degree. Or just take these 11 or so classes that will help them prepare to do well on the MCAT. And the answer, almost always, is you don’t need a bachelor’s degree, or a second degree, third degree, or dual degree.

“The degree doesn't mean anything to the medical schools. The classes/GPA/MCAT scores are what matters from an academic standpoint.”Click To Tweet

Medical schools only care about the prereqs they require. They want to make sure you have a GPA that gives them enough confidence that you’re going to do well in medical school. And that you have a high enough MCAT score to give them confidence that you’re not going to struggle on your board exams. SO they only care about those three things.

Therefore, I don’t see any benefit of even going down the path of starting the degree other than this student registering as a degree-seeking student. Because that gives you some benefit from a financial aid standpoint and from a class registration standpoint.

A lot of undergraduate institutions will give preference to degree-seeking students, not just class seekers such as a do-it-yourself postbac where you’re picking and choosing the classes. 

And so, if you register to get that second degree, you can probably take the classes you want. Then take your MCAT and stop going to class. Because the schools aren’t going to care that you “dropped out” of your degree. That will not hurt you because a lot of students drop out of college. Anyway, you’ll just be another college dropout with two existing degrees already.

[07:44] The MCAT Minute

The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.

Many students who are in this situation think that they will manipulate the system in a way. They play this game where they’re only going to apply to the five or 10 schools they can find that don’t care about prereqs. They’re confident they’re a good student, and a good test taker. So they go and take the MCAT and they bomb it.

“The MCAT is a critical thinking analysis test but you still need that core science, thinking and logic that the arts and design aren't going to give you.”Click To Tweet

Remember that you can only take the MCAT three times a year, four times in two years and seven times in a lifetime.


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