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What You Need to Know About AACOM Killing Grade Replacement

Session 216

In this episode, Ryan talks about last week’s news that hit the premed world specifically for nontraditional students. The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) announced that starting May 1, 2017, the AACOMAS application will no longer use grade replacement for GPA calculation.

A little back story…

There are 3 different application services to medical schools in the United States:

  • TMDSAS – for most of the Texas schools
  • AMCAS – MD schools
  • AACOMAS – DO schools

How GPA is calculated for AMCAS applications

Historically for the AMCAS application, if you repeated a course, all grades would be counted. (All credit hours earned will be counted and averaged for your final GPA.) They have always taken into account all of the courses you’ve taken, regardless of repeating courses.

How GPA is calculated for AACOMAS applications

In the past, AACOMAS has always allowed you to use grade replacement. For example, if you failed your Chemistry 101 and retook it the next semester or during your 2nd year and you got an A, then you would have an A for your GPA calculation, and the failure would be replaced. (It didn’t necessarily count the better of the two grades, just the newest of the two grades.)

[Related episode: What MCAT Score Do I Need If I Have a Low GPA?]

New Policy: No More Grade Replacement

As per AACOM.org:

Effective May 1, 2017, AACOMAS will include all course attempts in the GPA calculation. This change applies to students matriculating into the 2018-2019 academic year. In the event of multiple attempts of the same course, AACOMAS will no longer drop initial course attempts from the GPA calculation.”

  • Individual osteopathic medical schools may continue recalculating and weighing applicant GPAs per their established admissions practices.
  • In the upcoming 2017-2018 AACOMAS application cycle, applicants will continue to identify repeated courses during coursework entry, but they will no longer enter 0.00 credit hours for initial attempts. Credit hours for all attempts will be entered as they appear on the official transcript, and all grades will be averaged.
  • The AACOMAS application instructions will be updated in advance of the 2017-2018 application cycle to reflect this change in policy.

Read full notice on AACOM.org

How the AACOM announcement affects reapplicants

So if you applied previously to DO schools through AACOMAS, your GPA may be different if you have to apply again because they’re going to apply the new standards to your transcript and to your grades, assuming you’ve repeated coursework.

If you're in a premed postbac program right now to improve your GPA, and you were assuming that you were going to use the repeat coursework policy that AACOMAS always had... you're out of luck. Not cool at all.Click To Tweet

Effective immediately: no transition period!

If you’re in a premed postbac program right now to improve your GPA, and you were assuming that you were going to use the repeat coursework policy that AACOM always had… you’re out of luck. Not cool at all.

When the AAMC switched to the new MCAT in 2015, they worked closely over the course of several years with schools and students to let them know that the MCAT was changing. It had a smooth transition.

This, however, was a soccer punch out of left field. For students taking out loans for postbac programs, trying to improve their grades, assuming they were going to use AACOMAS grade replacement, they basically have been lied to.

[Related episode: Can I Get Into Med School with a Low GPA?]

This change won’t hurt most medical school applicants

AACOM talked about data from 2010, and the research department at AACOM researched the impact of the new policy on overall GPA from 2010 using a “statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants.” They said the repeat policy raised the mean Science GPA by 0.03 and the non-Science GPA by 0.01 on a 4.0 scale. This sounds good, so maybe this change won’t affect most applicants that much.

However, the grade replacement policy wasn’t there for the “statistically significant sampling of AACOMAS applicants.” This policy helped the outliers, who are the non-statistically significant sample of students, those who started school 10 years ago and didn’t know what they wanted to do, failed out of school, or left school because of financial constraints. Regardless, they had poor undergrad GPAs and are now working toward improving those GPAs because they’ve found the passion to become a physician. Now, AACOM is saying you’re out of luck.

This change hurts nontraditional students with life experience

This policy is going to hurt the people we want in medicine. They are the nontraditional students with life experiences who will make great physicians. But now they’re going to struggle to get into medical school.

Osteopathic schools historically have said that they wanted nontraditional students who have life experience. This is the core of what they’ve been searching for. But now this is gone.

What are your chances to get into medical school with a low GPA?

Each medical school decides for themselves how they want to process applications. Every school can look at your application and look at your trends and GPA. The problem, though, is they get thousands of applications, so it’s hard to do that for every application. The way schools can manage that is with the software available that filters out applicants based on scores. Now if your GPA drops, there’s a good chance that schools are not ever going to look at your application.

[Related episode: If I Can’t Get a 3.0 GPA, What Should I Do Next?]

What do you do? Advocate for yourself.

You can send a letter to the admissions office to ask for an interview. Now the school is going to hand-pull your application and evaluate it on an individual basis.

Schools love reporting on their stats (Average MCAT, Average GPA)

They love showing that their matriculating class has an average MCAT score of x or y. If DO schools are going to open up their doors to students that have a 2.6 GPA, that’s going to hurt their numbers. Are they going to want to do that?

What happens to the postbac programs now?

AACOMAS is now making liars of the postbac programs. What is the point of going to a postbac program now? (It still makes sense if you are a career changer and haven’t had many or any sciences in your undergrad years.)

What’s next? What do you do now?

Just keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re truly meant to do this and sacrifice four years of your life to go to medical school and another three years for residency, do the best you can to boost your GPA.

Push forward. Advocate for yourself. Get that clinical experience. Crush the MCAT. And just do it!

Keep your head up. It’s a long journey. It always has been. AACOMAS is no different than the AMCAS GPA calculation now.

Keep your head up. It's a long journey to medical school. It always has been.Click To Tweet

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