AudiologyDentalMedical

Staying the Course: A Guide to Messing Up

As I peruse the SDN pre-professional forums, I routinely come across threads of a similar theme: “My GPA is shot; is my chance at a career in ________ lost?” While I don’t want to give anyone false hope, since GPA is certainly a major indicator of admissibility, I’m here to tell you that it can be done. In fact, I did it.

In the Fall of 1998 (yes, I’m that old!), I left my home town and enrolled as a full-time student at a Big 10 university, ready to start pursuing my career as a physician. I’d always done well in school without having to put forth much effort. It seemed as though I retained enough material just sitting in class that I didn’t need to apply myself much at home in order to do well on exams. Assuming I could do the same in college, I didn’t go to class much, hardly ever did homework, and just showed up for exams. The funny (or, in retrospect, sad) thing was, I wasn’t out partying, being wanton and reckless with friends, or anything like that. I was riding on the university ambulance as much as I could, having fallen in love with what had recently become my new passion: Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Although all things EMS seemed to come naturally to me, Chemistry, Biology, and Algebra did not. In short order, my magnanimity was overshadowed by the three F’s, two D’s, and a lone A (in my Emergency Medical Technician course) glaring on my report card. I was extremely disappointed in myself, and my parents were visibly upset, to say the least. Ashamed and humbled, I returned to school to take another swing. …and had similar results. I simply could not force myself to get up in the morning and go to class. The repercussions of my choices were painfully obvious, yet I still opted to hang out with friends or go into town for dinner rather than study.

After a second semester of dismal performance, I requested a leave of absence and returned home with a dismal outlook and a 1.68 cumulative GPA. Certainly, I thought, my dreams of being a doctor had been dashed. I’ll be honest with you: I gave up. And doing so may be exactly what got me into school. Although I wasn’t thinking this way, I needed to put some distance between myself and my first year grades. As I contemplated alternate careers, I completed paramedic school and worked a handful of EMS jobs. After the novelty of “not having any real goals” wore off in 2001, I admitted needing an undergraduate degree. When I returned to academia at a different school, it was like another world. I was going to class, performing well, and enjoying myself! When I graduated three years later, I had a 3.79 GPA – and none of it in science.

Having definitely shrugged off medicine, I entered a graduate program in Criminology in 2004 and worked nights on the ambulance to pay the bills. It was then, in the summer of the subsequent year, that I admitted to myself that I truly loved medicine and had to give it a serious try. I knew from the beginning that my past was going to be a serious obstacle to admission. As soon as I graduated, I began a formal post-baccalaureate program at my undergrad alma mater. Here are some of the tips I received along the way, many of which I believe helped me land an acceptance:

  • Apply early, for crying out loud!
    I can’t even count the number of times people told me to apply early. This is probably one of the most important aspects to your application that is entirely within your control. I submitted AMCAS on June 5th (the first possible day) and turned every secondary around within 24-48 hours. Sure, it’s a pain, but completed files get looked at first.
  • Don’t be cocky
    As a paramedic, I had a lot of exposure to medicine that other applicants may not have. That said, I’m sure I’ve also picked up some bad habits along the way that medical school will have to “fix”. In my personal statement and interviews, I talked about my experiences in EMS and how they humbled me, really revealing just how much I don’t know.
  • Think about why you did poorly in school to begin with
    In my case, I just didn’t go to class. It was a maturity/responsibility issue. If you have a learning disability or would benefit from a tutor, get the help you need. Get your studies back on track and keep them there. Examine your motivation for medicine and make sure all the work you’re going to have to put in will be worth it to you.
  • Apply more broadly than you think you need to
    I applied to over 30 allopathic and 10 osteopathic medical schools. Was this inexpensive? No. Was it fun? No. It did, however, increase my odds of success ever so slightly and each rejection hurt a little less.
  • “Rock the MCAT/DAT/OAT/PCAT/etc.”
    A common phrase in our forums, and often easier said than done. I was fortunate enough to have a competitive score on the MCAT. This can help prove to a school that your past academic misdeeds are over, but it will not give you a tabula rasa. Make sure your recent grades (post-bac, Special Masters Program, etc.) reflect an upward trend and that you have retaken any prerequisite science courses in which you did poorly before.
  • Don’t underestimate your state school
    Many, if not most state schools give preference to state residents. Use this to your advantage. If you want to stay in the area, make mention of that during your interview or allude to it in your personal statement.
  • Step up to the plate
    That is, take responsibility any poor grades. Don’t blame them on a “bad professor” or anything else that shifts responsibility away from where it really lies – with you. Medical study is about self-directed learning, responsibility, and maturity. Show them you have all of those through your extracurricular activities (which should be meaningful, diverse, and long-term). Sell yourself as a total package.

I know, you’ve heard all this before. Why do you think that is? Perhaps because it works! My path to medicine has been arduous and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. That said, it is entirely possible to gain admission with a 3.22 cumulative and 2.86 science GPA. How likely it is, however, is really up to you.

Founded SDN in 1999. Serve as volunteer IT director for the site.
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    Space Ghost
  • December 30, 2007
I think the message is that you need to study in college, . . . I studied very hard because I thought the stuff taught in college would make me a better physician (I had thought about research), plus I loved to study and got good grades, i.e. 3.9 MCAT 35, . . . but it took me reapplications to get in, I guess the morale of the story is to be persistent, I do think that medical schools unfairly discrminate against students with high grades as we are seen as less well rounded than other students, (not to knock the above poster), if the above poster proved that they were deligent then good, but medical schools should admit people with good grades too as we need more people in med school who are deligent with their patients, the vast majority of residents I have worked with DO NOT read about their patients or read at all and do alot of social things to excess and I guess are "well rounded" but don't seem to know what they are doing
  • Anonymous
  • December 30, 2007
Getting discriminated against in medical school admissions because you make high grades??? Thats a first
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    Space Ghost
  • December 30, 2007
I have heard of others with high grades pre-medical school i.e. >3.8 or >32 MCATS, with lots of extra-curricular activities who don't get into medical school with applying to lots of places, I think that there is the perception that if you like to study then you will aim for a specialty, in reality I want to do primary care even though my boards are commensurate with someone who did well in college, i.e. >20th pecentile, . . . I think that medicine requires one to be intellectually curious to keep up with the reading required, some studies show that a patient's risk of dying increases by about 1% for each year their physician has been out of school, so obviously more needs to be done. I knew several people who applied to the University of Arizona medical school in Tucson who had excellent grades, ~3.9 and good MCATS and extracurriculars and were very dedicated to medicine, at least as far as I could tell, and never got in there, so some schools do sort of aim for lower gpa's and mcats, in a way medical school is more of a social thing i.e. maybe one year they want students who all are into some certain extracurricular activity, . . . I wouldn't hold it against anyone who had low grades and got into medical school, but credit should be given for students who care to learn and don't blow off studying,
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    Mark Stam
  • December 30, 2007
Thanks for your comments. I'm not writing to say that medical schools should ignore those with good numbers. My post-bac grades were excellent, and my MCAT was very good as well. The moral of the story is that a bad grade, bad semester, or, in my case, bad year will not keep you out of school if it's what you want. Turn yourself around, prove yourself, and it can happen. Mind you, almost 9 years elapsed between my "bad year" and my post-bac science grades.
I do not, however, feel that numbers alone should dictate admission. We've all heard stories of the "3.9, 37T" who wasn't admitted. This could be due to a myriad of factors, including poor clinical experience, lack of extracurricular activities, or a poor interview. ...they could also have a very poor motivation for medicine. Admissions is a cruel game we play, and there will always be those some perceive as less deserving that are accepted over those traditionally "more qualified". I've seen plenty of residents who don't know what they're doing. I've also seen plenty of residents who were clearly in the top of their class who can't interact with people to save their lives. The door swings both ways. :)
Thanks for reading!
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    Anonymous 2
  • December 30, 2007
Space Ghost,
From reading your posts, I can easily think of one reason why an admissions committee might be turned off by your application despite your numbers.
  • Anonymous
  • December 30, 2007
Yeah, you just dissed social activities that's a big no no!
-_-
  • Anonymous
  • December 30, 2007
Congratulations on reaching your goals and not giving up! I have a similar story... My first year of college was horrible, my gpa was
  • Anonymous
  • December 31, 2007
Great column. what if you have the problem the other way around. Did well in school with great gpa, but low MCAT is what is keeping me back??
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    Space Ghost
  • December 31, 2007
I think it is an exaggeration to say that some residents couldn't interact well with a patient to save their life . . . most, i.e. >95% of residents seem to know how to take a good history, sometimes the more experienced residents know what specific questions to ask, most residents I have seen have really good bedside manner, sometimes you have a patient who is just plain angry at everyone on the medical team, so I would caution anyone who says that residents who studied well can't interact well with patients. We have all seen a surgery resident have a bad interaction with a patient, which often boils down to not having enough time to spend with patients and patients will and do interpret this in a negative light. I have seen medical students who made it into Dermatology (a hard to get-into specialty) be stoned by their peers as not having common sense or street smarts, . . . in the end it is a little bit of jealousy and shows that they enjoy cutting down students who like to study. I am sure that others who got good grades or are extra motivated to learn have seen the counterintuitive reaction happen on the wards. Obviously the writer of this column realizes that studying medicine is what is important and if he applies himself in medical school then this will benefit his patients and he will do better on third year clerkships. If you have the clinical knowledge then you know what questions to ask, what tests to order, and how to better manage your patients. I have seen many medical students and residents with bad bedside skills and they were most certainly NOT top of their class, so I think patient interaction is independent of grades.
  • Anonymous
  • January 1, 2008
thanks for the post. i feel like more articles such as these should be written to motivate students who truly love medicine but have a few glitches on their transcript. i have met one too many people tell me or my friends we didn't have a shot at all and we're all admitted and going strong.
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    Ella
  • January 1, 2008
I'm inspired by what you did to get into Med school. I hope that when the time comes, I'll be able to get in too.
And I hope the same for all the pre-meds who really want to be doctors someday and who really care for their future patients. :)
  • Anonymous
  • January 1, 2008
Space Ghost -
I can see two very clear reasons why you would not have been accepted. You are very argumentative and confrontational. No patient wants a physician telling them where they hurt.
Secondly, a lot is two words. Not alot. If I were on an admissions panel and saw alot typed, your paperwork would have been tossed into the round file cabinet.
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    Ryan
  • January 1, 2008
I really like this article. So many people have told me that unless I have "perfect" marks I don't have a chance of getting in to med school. I realize now that if I am dedicated I'll make it.
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    lostlsot
  • January 1, 2008
space ghost,
what is required to succeed in admission game is not necessarily the indicators for success in medicine...one has to constantly learn the rules of the game... don't be so bitter. With your stats you definitely should have get in first time but you either applied late or applied too narrowly?
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    Mark Stam
  • January 1, 2008
Ryan, Ella, Anonymous'...
I am glad you enjoyed the article and found my story at least somewhat uplifting. I wrote it not to spotlight failure or expose ways to sneak into medical school when your academics are sub-par. Rather, I hoped to illustrate how a bump or two in the road won't veer you off course forever. With determination and just a little bit of fire, you can make it happen.
Space Ghost, I wouldn't presume to have any insight as to why you weren't admitted. I hope your apparent contempt for those with inferior numbers didn't shine through during any interviews. I wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals.
-Mark
  • Anonymous
  • January 2, 2008
typo in the article: "asmissibility"
  • Anonymous
  • January 2, 2008
The people who are concerned with gramatical errors should have been english teachers.. ha-ha
Why do you bother worrying about a lot or alot?
What a shame to see people make a fuss about dumb things like that.
In medicine, VERBAL communication is much more important than making stupid gramatical errors.
I read and edit reports for a Pathologist and he is thankful when I pick up mistakes because NO ONE IS PERFECT.
The story was inspiring, please don't ruin it with stupid remarks.
Best of luck to those who see the bigger picture.
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    Arc
  • January 2, 2008
Funny thing is that I'm going through the same thing. To an even more extreme, I was taking college classes while in high school. Now my time in junior college is almost up, but I'm only managing a 2.6 GPA, with multiple C's D's, possibly an F somewhere along the line, and a few A's and B's. Even with such a bad record, I don't regret a single grade I gotten. I think its a learning experience. Will I get to med school in the first try? I don't know. Let's see how I do for the next school year when I transfer.
Good luck to all you guys applying, or taking the MCAT this session.
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    Anonymous
  • January 2, 2008
Congratulations on your success! I couldn't help but keep reading your story because it reminded me so much of my own college experience and my path into medicine. I entered college the same year too! I know it can be done, as we both achieved our goal, and I keep giving pretty much the same advice to others as what you wrote here. Keep up the work and follow your vision!
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    Anonymous
  • January 2, 2008
Mark,
I would definitely think twice before you start to criticize residents you've observed in practice. I can recall as a medical student thinking that I had some idea of what residency was like. In retrospect, I realize I had absolutely NO idea what was to come. I'm currently an intern (in peds), and believe me, being a medical student is a walk in the park compared to how grueling intern year can be.
You may think that you've observed residents you deem to know very little, or others who, in your arrogant assessment, cannot interact with patients. Think twice, buddy. Have you ever been up for 40 hours, then asked to discuss a complicated and difficult diagnosis/prognosis with a family of a sick child? Have you ever been pimped about an intricate biochemical pathway post-call, with no caffiene or even breakfast on board?
You come across as very presumptuous, and for that reason, I would take a look in the mirror before you feel qualified to critique residents. Good luck in intern year!
  • Anonymous
  • January 2, 2008
Mark,
I liked your article and all the advice that you have given are helpful, however, the comment that you made, "I’ve seen plenty of residents who don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve also seen plenty of residents who were clearly in the top of their class who can’t interact with people to save their lives" is arrogant. I agree with the previous post that you are in no place to criticize residents. I assume that you just got into medical school and have not even started your clinical years. You still have no idea what it is like being a physician/resident. That are a lot of factors that contribute to being a good resident. As a medical student, you really don't appreciate what it takes to get through a tough residency. Before you open your mouth to criticize the residents that you have worked with, try to spend a week working 80-90 hours, seeing patients, making decisions at night that will actually have an impact on people's lives, taking call every 4th night and be up 24-30 hrs streight, go home at night and with the 1-2 hrs that you have left to read about what conference or your cases for the next day, then coming back in the morning at 5am round and operate on patients for the whole day. Repeat this cycle x 5 yrs.
I can tell you that you got very lucky to get into medical school. Next time before you start criticizing people, look into the mirror and appreciate what you have. Oh, and just a piece of advice, if you carry that attitude as a 3rd year medical student on the wards, be prepared to get chewed out by plenty of people from attendings to residents. Good luck matching.
Orthopaedic Surgery Resident - PGY 3
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    jen
  • January 2, 2008
Hi there
I think your article and story is very nice, however I agree with the residents that posted. I am only a medical student, but I have top grades. I am also very VERY friendly, and easy to get along with. I am so sick of people with lackluster grades try who put down those with high grades (usually without merit). I also would never think to judge residents at this point, who I know work very hard.
Anyways, that is my 2 cents.
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    Space Ghost
  • January 2, 2008
Mark,
I am not criticizing you specifically at all, I'm glad your pursuit for medicine was fullfilled, I think my post would actually give hope to those who have had setbacks and can overcome them as medical school admissions is about more than numbers, likewise for those with high numbers they should realize that medical schools admissions can be arbitrary. I would agree with the above posts that until you have walked in the shoes of a resident you don't know exactly what their job and demands are. As someone who has been through medical school you will really go up on a learning curve. I have seen some less that tactful medical students taking consults or on a medicine rotation wondering outloud why the medicine residents did something "stupid" on admission that didn't make sense, well . . . they are residents and have more training than you and it is arrogant to assume that you can judge the clinical skills of someone who may have 4 years of clinical training while you have been on the wards a couple months! What until you get chewed out for that H and P you do where you forgot to ask x,y and z, and then you will realize how far you have to go. I don't have "contempt" for anyone with inferior numbers if you read my posts which talks about admission in general terms, you however are making a personal attack and as the poster above points out you seem to have "contempt" for residents who aren't up to snuff, which is laughable coming from a basic science student who has probably never been pimped and felt their knowledge dribble out their ears under a whithering glare, you still have premed syndrome if you feel the need to attack people like that.
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    HereYe HereYe
  • January 2, 2008
I am going to have to agree with the posters that are defending the medical residents.
Professionals always make the game look easier than it is to the spectators.
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    George
  • January 2, 2008
According to your post you realized in summer of 2005 that you wanted to be a doctor, so you must have at the earliest applied to medical school to enter in Fall 2006, actually I assume you recently were accepted for Fall 2007, so you basically don't know anything about pathophysiology or pharmacy and probably zelch about treating diseases, yet you claim you realized you "loved medicine" and that you obviously see residents who aren't where they should be as physicians, this from someone who basically didn't study although they knew they should have?
Residents aren't attendings because they are still in residency, not because someone is holding them back because they can't "interact well with a patient to save their life" and it doesn't matter if that is "OK" with you or not, you don't have any say now (and hopefully never will in the future) about what type of doctors our country produces, and certainly don't have any say about residency. I doubt if you have worked directly with residents, I mean really work with residents, I had much more and varied clinical experience than you and I never worked with residents so I don't get how in the world you claim to know about how residents are performing, I think more likely this is something you made up as no one who is really in healthcare would say such baseless things about residents. It seems ludicrous that you are asking residents to take a "hard look" at their peers because some "folks need a lot of work" I am 99% sure this is a first year medical student, if so please tell us how you know about these "peers" of ours who need to be scrutinized? If you are a first year then you really don't know diddly about clinical medicine and can't make an informed opinion about residents amigo. PLEASE STOP PRETENDING LIKE YOU HAE A GOOD GRASP ON WHERE RESIDENTS SHOULD BE IN THE EDUCATION AS A FIRST YEAR MED STUDENT!!!
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    Mark Stam
  • January 2, 2008
Points taken, folks. My comments were premature and misguided. Clearly, I still have a lot to learn. Thank you.
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    victoria Brinson
  • January 3, 2008
Thank you for this article.. I feel uplifted..
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    Karen, MS-3
  • January 3, 2008
I got a good laugh out of you being so "old" because you went to school in 1998......I went to undergrad in 1988 (that's an eighty!) and had a similarly dismal performance, but went fwd in another career and had kids. Then, I decided to go back to school when the youngest was 5 and had to do what you stated in your suggestions, re-take basic sciences, study for the MCAT after a dozen years out of school. School the second time around was so much more interesting and I had much more maturity and focus. It can be done.
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    Jessica
  • January 5, 2008
This story is great, except I have the opposite problem. I did good my first 3 years in college, and did AWFUL the last year. So a big downward trend.
I've been out of college working retail for a year 'cuz I needed a break away from school to re-focus and get my priorities straight.
What advice does anyone have to fix a DOWNWARD trend in your application? I know med schools really hate it.
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    Nancy
  • January 5, 2008
Thank you for your great article. I am currently a second year resident in an internal medicine program. My path to med school was very similar to yours and I had to work hard to overcome my early college years when playing was the priority over studying. I think those of us who actually went through the mental gymnastics to figure out that being a doctor was the dream career are often more motivated. I know several residents who glided through undergrad with one-minded determination of getting in, but never really stopped to understand their own reasons for going through. I am amazed at the number of other med students and residents who told me that if they had to do it over, they never would do med school. Now they feel they are faced with paying too much in school loans or don't feel they can let down their parents or spouses. Also, although people appear offended by your statement about some residents, it is actually pretty accurate. I think the point you were making is that not only those at the top of the class in terms of grades and scores are worthy of being residents. There are several people who have photograpic memories and can perfom exquisitly on tests. Personally, I don't think it is those with an excellent memory for details who make the best internists. It is those who have the capacity to see how all the data fits together in a bigger picture. The top person in my med school class was brilliant in terms of her knowledge base, but was one of the worst residents ever and almost got kicked out of residency. She has gone on to become a pathologist, a profession where this type of attention to detail is invaluable. The point: there is room for everyone and your specific type of skills should direct you to the specialty best for you. Good luck to you!
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    Jess
  • January 5, 2008
Thank you for this article. I also come from a very complex background wanting to be a physician and now I am still pre-med but a nursing student. I work at an ICU at a top hospital in the country, which is obviously affiliated with a very good medical school and I see both medical students and residents as they rotate through our unit on a monthly basis. When we work as a team, it doesn't require me to like them or not like them, what my job requires me to do is gain respect for a resident/medical student and agree with what they say (because if I don't, I do not have to do what they say, even if it is an order).
My have met a very good mix of physicians (residents and attendings included) and those who pretend to be physicians (medical students mostly and some nurses). It is my goal to learn from these people how to be successful among the attendings (and among nurses.. and ahem.. not be like those who get paged the most at night ;) ) are those who can achieve respect from the nursing staff and still provide excellent patient care and finish the wads of paperwork that permeate our healthcare field.
Again, thank you for the article. I think you have learned a lot from your experiences and you are totally right. I know residents who were nursing assistants who tell me stories about emptying Foley bags in nursing homes. My ex-roommate (who is a 3rd year medical student now), used to work in a paper factory that manufactured paper towels and toilet paper. I truly believe there is hope for everyone... including myself.
  • Anonymous
  • January 6, 2008
"studying is hard, lonely and depressing" - Body Of Knowledge
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    Sam
  • January 6, 2008
I don't really quite understand what Nancy means by "mental gymnastics" to decide on medical school and feel that it might be a naive to assume or conclude that people who "glide" through college somehow don't have as good a grasp on their choices as people who were more ambivalent. Regardless, I think everyone has deficiencies and we all are able to identify with people who are similar to us be it a struggle with grades or not, and hence it is very self-serving to cut down residents/medical students with high grades by saying they can't interact with patients because what you are really saying is that while YOU didn't study your hardest you can somehow grasp the "big picture" and therefore you deserve to be in med school and will make a good doctor. I would say that details ARE very important for physicians to have a big grasp on in addition to the big picture. Having a good idea about the big picture will be all you need in 80% of patients, but for the other 20% that present with an atypical presentation of a serious illness a detailed history and physical is of paramount importance. I think that most students with excellent grades in med school and college have great odds of being excellent physicians, a one example of an IM resident who perhaps didn't like IM and went into pathology can be countered by the hundreds of interns fired each year for incompetence, and the majority of them are probably sub-par academically.
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    Donna
  • January 6, 2008
Sam,
I think you are misunderstanding Nancy. I believe what Nancy means by "mental gymnastics" is a re-assessment of one's goals in life, gauging one's strengths, weaknesses, desires, and determining one's future plan, if it be medicine. "Gliding" refers to the single-mindedness of some individuals, not necessarily their work effort. At that, the single-mindedness is marked not by a thorough assessment of one's personal desires to truly dedicate one's life to medicine but by outside influences, ie. parents or prestige, and/or a lack of dedication to medicine over other priorities, like a spouse.
I feel that you are making overly heated generalizations about people's remarks.
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    Sam
  • January 6, 2008
I think that Nancy is making a lot of assumptions about the motivations of others, and when reading her statement again she talks about how she mistakenly prioritized "playing" over studying, until she gleamed that she needed good grades to enter her dream profession. As I stated in my comment that I don't understand Nancy's comments, (because perhaps she is not exactly 100% clearly expressing herself). I think that someone who pursues medicine with "single-mindness" is committed to medicine, i.e. we have all seen surgery resident who live and breath surgery. You seem to state that such "single-minded" applicants aren't dedicated to medicine because of their spouse?!? A lot of people in medicine think residents with spouses do better, anyway how can someone be both "single-minded" and have a lack of dedication? I could easily interpret Nancy's poor performance in college and then "awakening" to a medical career as someone who just used studying as an ends to means i.e. medical school and residency, what about the applicant who has high grades because they are inquisitive and then gets turned on to medicine? I just think it is self-serving about how some people believe that other don't have as noble goals as themselves to enter medicine, oh sure Nancy who slacked and then went into medicine must have more noble goals, give me a break!
  • Anonymous
  • January 7, 2008
You have to be likable in medicine and ANYTHING for success. Without that your words on here mean very little and you won't get very far.
With that said, I've been through something very similar to the writer and everything he said was 100% correct.
Those of you with perfect grades and perfect scores... beware of the intangible factor of likability and charisma.
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    Jim
  • January 10, 2008
I want to get into medical school. I live in oklahoma. I am a first time freshmen. Last semester, I got 2 "B" i thought of dropping out with a withdrawal on transcript. Good or bad idea?
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    Jim
  • January 10, 2008
anyone on this comment live in oklahoma? i am thinking of applying there to OU.
Also, like when in high school, The ACT, the only section, you had to know to do good was the math part. The other sections you couldn't really study a lot for.
same way, what courses should i put a lot of emphasis in so that i can do excellent on the MCAT?
what courses do i have to have before taking it? hope someone can help.
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    Natassia
  • January 14, 2008
I really appreciate this article. It gives me hope!
I have a relatively low GPA right now, but I'm determined like heck to get into medical school. As it stands, I have a couple of Cs, one D, and two Fs, which KILLS me, because, like you, I was a great high school student.
Now, I'm in AFROTC, doing volunteer work, holding leadership positions, participating in a wide variety of activities(like pageants), and looking forward to getting more medical experience later on in the year.
I've not taken my MCAT yet, but I'm also graduating in 2010, so I still have 3 semesters to raise my poor GPA (2.61, can you believe it?!), PLENTY of time to study for my MCATs (a little over a year, as I'm taking it Feb 2009), and unlimited time to read the posts in this forum, make SURE this is what I want to do with my life (which it absolutely is, otherwise I would have abandoned the idea long ago, as I'm normally the type of person to take the path of least resistance), and focus focus focus.
I wish more people like yourself would openly admit to their faults so that the rest of us wouldn't feel like such losers when it happens. If there were more posts/stories like this, it would give those that truly have their heart set on it some hope, just as you've given me.
This article has proven to be invaluable to me, and it just makes me want to try even harder. I can't thank you enough!!!
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    Natassia
  • January 14, 2008
Oh, and to Jim in Oklahoma: a "B" is MUCH better than a "W" on a transcript. I don't know why you're freaking out so much over a "B". If you withdraw from a class, you risk looking like a quitter, and, if you've read the above article, you'd know that med schools want people that will persevere over people that freak out, give up, and start all over again.
They want someone that will push through obstacles and get to where they want to be.
If you're not happy with a grade you receive, the best advice that anyone can give you is to retake the class. If you receive a lower grade than the first attempt, it won't hurt you.
My pre-medical advisor made me feel horrible about some of the grades I've received and she told me to retake them... just gotta try harder the next time!
Hope it helps, Jim.
Take care, and good luck!
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    Jim
  • January 15, 2008
i am not freaking out, but i did get a "C' in chemistry and so i withdrew and am taking it this semester. i thought of staying with that C but knew that would kill my gpa. was this a good or bad idea? anyone know anyone here in med school? if peoople posted here, it would help. hope to hear from someone in medical school.
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    bezoar
  • January 17, 2008
please cite whatever sources were quoted by the individual who wrote
"some studies show that a patient’s risk of dying increases by about 1% for each year their physician has been out of school.."
was this age-sex & acuity adjusted prospective research? this sounds pretty unlikely. if it's true, please cite the source.thanks.
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    jim
  • January 22, 2008
Also, like when in high school, The ACT, the only section, you had to know to do good was the math part. The other sections you couldn’t really study a lot for.
same way, what courses should i put a lot of emphasis in so that i can do excellent on the MCAT?
what courses do i have to have before taking it? hope someone can help.
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    Anom
  • January 23, 2008
I know I am a little late in posting, but I am going to defend the author of this article. Everyone should step down from their medical high horse. It is a fact that professional schools and major companies do not always hire or want people with all A's. I know everyone can relate to the reason even if it is not fair. Just because you made all A's in High School and College doesn't mean you will do as well in a professional school or in a major company. The biggest fear a professional school or company has with accepting you is they do not know how you will respond to adversity or failure. How will someone react when they make a C or fail their first course. That is why someone who starts off making C's and then matures or finds a way to make better grades is such an appealing canidate for acceptance because this person has shown committment and determination. The author was not saying that everyone that makes a 4.0 isn't qualified or doesn't have strong social skills, but their is a percentage of people who are extremely smart yet they do not interact well with people or patients. Interacting well with people and patients is a tough thing, and simply put not everyone does it well. Rounding this out my sister had a 4.0 in college and a 4.0 in grad school at Virginia Tech, finshed her accouting test all 3 parts in the first try( I think it's called the CBA test) and travels for her company and meets varous people. She studies hard and is also social. Just because Mark made the point of some people with 4.0 arnt passionate about medicine or good with patients doesn't mean everyone isn't. He has a valid point that some people feel the need to go to professional school because they do make better grades then everyone else. Sorry for the long post; Mark if you are going to be a Doctor you do not need to appologize for stating facts, you were not being narrow minded in your statement; plain and simple their are bad Doctor, Dentist, Lawyers, and teachers out their. Don't tell me about your long hours as a doctor either, you did the shadowing and talked to other doctors before you applied to medical school and you knew what it would be like. You get the benefits of feeling great about saving people's lives along with the long hours and unapprecation. In the end it was your decision and nobody else, so man up and don't whine about it.
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    Cindy Alcaraz
  • January 24, 2008
This was an amazing and uplifting story. This kind of story is perfect for people who think about giving up. At first, I was not doing good in the sciences, but now I am!!! I learned from my mistakes and I think people could too. Whoever has a career in medicine in mind or any other health profession, do not doubt yourself! You can make it! See, it depends how bad you want your career! This should be motivating, as well as this nice story.
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    Chris
  • January 28, 2008
I recently graduated and presently have a gpa below 3.0. Is there any way to boost this now that I have graduated. Could I possibly retake certain classes even though I have graduated?
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    anonymous1
  • January 28, 2008
Dear Sam, Space Ghost,
If there is a community college course around your town, take a philosophy class. You could benefit. try it you will be astonished at what is on the other side.
Craig
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    michael s
  • February 3, 2008
Hi,
Just wondering which post-bac program you got into considering the fact that you failed 2 classes during your undergraduate programs, because most post bac programs have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0....or was it the fact that you scored high on the MCAT which perhaps offset the GPA shortcomings?
  • Anonymous
  • February 4, 2008
I'm a first year med student at the school of my dreams. I graduated undergrad last spring with a 3.1 GPA. I think my science GPA was around a 2.8 with a healthy smattering of C's over the years and one F my freshman year. I did 'rock the MCAT' with a 33 but I didn't actually have much health care experience, just shadowing a doctor for a couple days. I think a couple things helped me out: 1. I was super committed to just two school activities. I stuck with them both the entire time I was in undergrad, only taking time away to study for the MCAT. This led to really good rec letters because people had worked with me so long. 2. I picked my dream school courted it hard. I visited the campus several times, wrote letters, got to know the people affiliated with the school and students currently there. The doctor I shadowed was on the admission committee. When my interview rolled around I could honestly look them in the eye and say I know what your school is all about and I would fit right in. I had an admission officer friend from undergrad tell me one of the tricks is to commit yourself to one school before you apply. Still apply to other schools but let your top choice know that if they accept you then you will come. (Don't say it if it isn't true, if it depends on financial aid make that clear.) If a school only has to offer a spot to one student it keeps their official admission rates low.
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    FutureDoc
  • February 8, 2008
Hello there, I was wondering whether anyone knows what exactly the GPA/MCAT requirements were...are they posted anywhere...the averages perhaps?? Also, is there a certain major that someone must have to be able to apply for medical school? Is there a cap on the number of biology majors a school accepts? I'm currently a biomedical engineer w/ a pre-medical emphasis (freshman) What are the statistics on the number of each major which is admitted...Does anyone know any non-bio major med students? Also, can someone please explain what happens in medical school (like what you do first year, 2nd yr,..., after med school...if you want to specialize...)? Also, does research or internship experience look better on the resume? I know all of these questions may seem annoying, but I'm terribly lost and would like guidance from a pro. Thank you so much for your time (really...if there's anything I've learned from this 49-post forum, it's that you have got no time on your hands).
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    FutureDoc
  • February 8, 2008
Also, I'm sorry for posting this here...I realize my questions don't relate even a bit to the topic at hand.
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    jim
  • February 12, 2008
hello previous future doc:
i am also thinking of doing biomed engineer so that in case i don't get accepted into med school, i can be an engineer. my goal though is to get accepted. where u from?
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    Future Smile Dr.
  • March 2, 2008
Thank You!!! I needed to read your story. My academic challenges are similar. You have encouraged me to give it another try.
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    Anom
  • April 1, 2008
I get the feeling that some of the people posting here are posting under different names etc. I think it's called trolling?
I'm not a doctor but I sure have been to some bad doctors before with very little bed-side manner, etc. I work in two different hospitals and interact with many physicians and residents and while they definitely are under a lot of pressure, some just have better personalities than others. I'm entitled to say this even if I'm not a resident. Same as any profession. When I used to be a paralegal, some associates were awesome and some sucked - they were all under the same amount of pressure. George up there is an idiot. Anyone can make an assumption on the competance of a resident. My three year-old nephew can tell a jerk from a likeable person. I'd be willing to bet that George up there and Space Ghost are one in the same. Relax buddy!!! Did you go into medicine because you can handle pressure so well that you fly off the handle because of a posting from apparently a nice person?
Anyway, to the OP - good post!!! I'm sure you'll be a great resident.
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    Mandy
  • May 25, 2008
"Anom on Feb.4th" - your words have lifted my spirits. I am third year undergrad biology major with the goal of med school.I work in a childrens hospital and my fiance is a neurologist. I have constant support and it still gets hard to overcome a bad past in my first 1 1/2 of college. Its good to remember that if your heart is in it then your passion can shine through despite these obstacles...
What better way to live than to heal people of this earth.
Thank you!
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    August Cook
  • September 18, 2008
Thanks so much for the advice. It help so much. I have hope now. I was curious about one thing, I am a junior at Cal State Northridge in California and I am crazy about the medical field but I work at a bank at the moment because it is convenient with my school hours. I am so afraid that I am not going to have enough experience even though I do volunteer work at convalescence homes when I get a chance to get that exposure. I am just so scared of being over looked because I do not have that experience in an actual hospital, any advice?
-August Cook
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    Brinks
  • December 22, 2008
I personally don't think it's fair that the first determinant of whether or not I get into medical school is my grades. Personally I am not a good test taker. Back in high school I did well on my tests too without putting forth any real effort, but the basics were easy for me just listening to what my teachers said, and the tests in high school weren't synthesis challenging if that makes any sense.
For those of us out there though that aren't good test takers period, we're at a disadvantage from the get-go and I don't find that to be fair, but I also don't want to use my text anxiety as an excuse as to why my GPA is an amazing one.
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    Nehal Swami
  • December 28, 2008
Does anyone know the bare GPA minimum that OU will except, or any advice on how I can show them that I'm very much interested in there medical school?
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    Ariel
  • January 6, 2009
Mark,
Did you get into an allopathic or osteopathic medical school? Just out of curiosity.
Thank you!
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    Sarah
  • September 18, 2009
Wow, I stumbled across this article, and so glad I did!
I never did well in high school, and then some years after I really wanted to go to university. I got into university the long hard way, and really thought I could do well, but so far have such a low GPA, and its so disappointing. Being a doctor is like a far off dream, but its something that really interests me. I really felt like already my chances at that were shot.
The article, plus all the comments from people in similar situations, has been so great to hear. Its inspiring even if you don't wanna go to MedSchool.
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    we need dreams
  • October 30, 2009
Thank you SO much for writing this. And thanks to everyone's comments which have added a lot to think about, as well.
Your story... was extremely inspiring and motivating, and as crazy as it sounds, something I have saved to re-read.
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    Graciela
  • December 26, 2009
@we need dreams: I completely agree with you. Thank you SO much, Mark, for this article.
I am currently a premed who, like you, did wonderfully in high school (made all As, valedictorian of my class) but am struggling in my science classes, having only received an A in freshman general biology and no higher than a B+ in every other premed prerequisite. I also already have a W on my transcript. I hope to have a career in medicine one way or another.
PS. I read basically every single comment here; everyone's info is so helpful, especially from current medical students and residents!

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