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LOW GPA/MCAT Success Stories (Posts by Nontrads Already Accepted to Med School)

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Nasrudin, Oct 29, 2009.

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  1. treecat

    treecat 2+ Year Member

    Jun 6, 2014
    @AtLongLast Can you please please PM me the schools that accepted you or "did not screen you for your GPA?" It would be a great help <3
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  3. onefuturedr

    onefuturedr 2+ Year Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    Same here... Me three!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile
  4. SailorHg


    Aug 28, 2015
    1. Your age and GPA and MCAT if you have it.

    Age: 26, will be 27 at matriculation
    cGPA: 2.98
    sGPA: ~3.3
    MCAT: 513
    pbGPA: ~3.5
    (all according to AACOMAS)

    2. Your financial and work situation.

    Worked in healthcare finance for about 2 years, but quit my job to do a post-bacc full-time.

    3. Your family and significant other situation.

    Support from family who live nearby. I am dating someone in academia but not married/engaged.

    4. Your plan or your path to success.

    I barely graduated with a 2.37 gpa with no pre-reqs and very few BCPM classes. After getting a job at a hospital, I started to get the idea I would like to be a doctor. My first step was to start volunteering at a hospital, which I did while still in undergrad. After graduating, I applied to jobs exclusively in the healthcare sector and was lucky to have a few offers, one near a great post-bacc program. I started out by taking a healthcare sociology class while working full-time and then enrolled in gen-chem and physics the next fall. This was a mistake, and I ended up dropping physics (luckily before the drop deadline so no W). I did ok in gen-chem and with the financial support of my family, decided to quit my job the following year to take bio, physics and orgo. Bio and Physics were fine, and I earned mostly A's, but orgo gave me trouble and I ended up retaking a C+ the following year. I also took upper-level bio classes that next year as well. In between, and before retaking orgo, I spent the summer taking bio labs and studying for the MCAT. My post-bacc was pretty rigorous so I felt well prepared for the MCAT, but I knew I needed a lot of dedicated study time. I studied for about 3 months and was actually slightly disappointed by my 513. I took a Kaplan class and recommend it, if you have the resources.

    What I did right:

    - G0t used to the idea of going DO. When I first got the med school idea in my head, and found SDN, I thought "oh I won't need to consider DO, I'm MD or bust. I'm not like those other low gpa-ers." This is wrong. Grade replacement in non-science courses brought my cGPA within spitting distance of not being auto-screened. Even with grade replacement and a decent (but far from perfect) post-bacc, I still got screened and instant rejections from several DO schools. Oddly, it was the newer DO schools that gave me the axe right away.

    - Respected the MCAT. I think it was my saving grace. I proved in one fell swoop that I can handle the material and that I belong in this arena.

    - Found EC's that I am passionate about. I volunteered at a few hospitals for about 60 hours each until I found one I really liked. I also found a non-clinical volunteer opportunity that I've been doing for 3 years now, working with underserved populations. This gave me a lot to talk about in my personal statement, and it was all genuine.

    - Shadowed! Find out if this is really a hole you want to dig yourself out of. This is not an easy path. Friendships will fall away because you won't have time for people, and this is just the pre-med stage! I found that every step I took towards medicine, every new volunteer gig, every shadowing opportunity, and even biochem, made me fall in love with medicine and science even more. This is the career for me and I am willing to make huge sacrifices to work in this field. It's ok to not feel this way. There were times when I wish I could let go and just go back to my (well-paying) job, but like most older pre-meds, I'm stubborn!

    - Your application essays are of crucial importance. If you had a 4.0 and a 520 I imagine adcoms might be more forgiving, but you must craft a compelling narrative. Know why your EC's inspire you to become a physician. Start writing your PS early and get feedback on it. Ask people what they think of your story and if it sounds compelling and convincing. I was lucky enough to have a professional editor in the family, so this helped immensely.

    - The interview. This is your chance to define yourself as a remade applicant. Prove you're a normal person who has made some mistakes. Or if you're lucky enough like I was, you'll get a blind interview where your interviewers do not have access to your grades.

    Overall: I am living proof that coming back from a 2.37 cGPA and getting into a DO school is possible, but I will say that the stars aligned and I got very lucky. I submitted in November and am now sitting on an acceptance less than a month later. I think my high MCAT got me noticed. I was SO lucky that my interview was blind because I think it allowed they interviewers to get a very positive impression of who I truly am personality-wise without seeing my sordid past. So do not despair if you're in a similar situation, but know what you're getting into! I remember being in your situation a few years ago and it feels incredible to be able to relax for the rest of the application cycle.
  5. WGSgrad


    Nov 25, 2015

    May I ask why you waited to apply so late? It seems like with those stats, even after GPA repair, you might have wanted to apply early... I guess if you were applying MD first and then using the later DO app cycle to get your stuff together, that makes sense, but it seems like you didn't apply MD...
    SailorHg likes this.
  6. wanderedtoolong

    wanderedtoolong 5+ Year Member

    May 22, 2011
    Thought I'd give an update for you nontrads on here with low GPAs worrying about how med school might go for you. I matriculated at a middle tier school in the Northeast after interviewing on their very last day and being waitlisted for about 3 weeks. Fast-forward 3.5 years and I'm AOA, killed step 1, and have residency interviews at all of my top programs. Moral of the story, your LizzyM score does not define you or your chances of success in medical school. Get into one, and then show up ready to work your tail off. Best of luck to all! Feel free to PM me with any questions.

  7. SailorHg


    Aug 28, 2015
    I actually did apply MD. Purely because I had help paying for it. Wild guess how many II I have so far :p. It was great practice for DO secondaries, if nothing else.

    The November submission was an accident. I had an online, open-enrollment retake going that I expected to finish by August. This would have boosted me over 3.0, so l figured it was worth it to wait for August. I ended up getting a job and the class fell to the way side. I regret taking the job as early as I did, I should have just focused on the class. I ended up not finishing the class before the deadline in December so I submitted as soon as I realized I wouldn't finish on time. I almost wanted to wait until the next cycle but figured I'd give it a shot, and if I didn't get in, my GPA would be over 3.0 and 0.15 points higher next time around.
    WGSgrad likes this.
  8. Labrat07

    Labrat07 2+ Year Member

    May 20, 2013
    Well, my app cycle is at the end. The result's beyond my expectation. I feel I owe a lot from this forum. So I will write some valuable advice I accumulated on the way. Here's some stats
    4 years ago:
    2.55 cugpa
    2.81 sgpa
    BS in Biology

    4 years later:
    64 credits of As
    504 MCAT

    3.11 cugpa
    3.45 sgpa

    2.9 cugpa

    1 MD acceptance
    Multiple DO acceptance

    Some tips:

    1/ Determination/ Will to do it: You need to have this mind set. It's not an easy path. You'll suffer sleep deprivation. You won't have time to go social with your friends.... In addition, there will be people who don't believe in what you're doing and they will say it to your face. Believe in yourself and embrace the adventures. Example: I had two jobs while going to school. Some days, I didn't even sleep. I slept in the car to save time ( even in some extreme cold winters). But I kept going because I'm willing to really die for it. At first, you won't believe in yourself but after some minor success it become a part of you. You will continue on. For the people that make it harder for you, really understand them and forgive them. Just know you're different and nobody is the same. You're ok with it. There's only one you. Make it different.

    2/Ask for help / listen to your mentors: There are so many wonderful people in the world that are willing to help your journey without any expectation. Ask them for help. They will help you a lot. Especially if they saw your determination and your actions. Your actions will speak volume. Appreciate these angels!! Always sir, mam, and thank you. They go out of their way to help you. Respect that. Remember it for the rest of your life. Example: I got help from every single thing. From class schedule, plan, personal statement, secondary essays, MCAT.... You name it. One of my wonderful mentor on here is @Goro. and others @caffeinemia, @nontrad1986 , @bon22, @femmegoblue, @Eccesignum , @Moko.... Too many to mention

    3/Don't half ass anything. Remember you only got one chance at this. Make it count. Ex: I took 1/2 classes per semester to make sure I got all As. Don't rush. Every secondary essay, I review with everyone I know. I applied to almost all DOs (except 2/3) and some MDs. Apply early on first day ( I cannot stress how important this is) Why give it to chance?? Give it your all and you will have no regret. I still regret not quitting work and focus on my MCAT (despite my mentor's advice, I needed to pay bills ) . Remember this lesson well.

    4/ Adaptation/Change strategy: Make sure you're flexible to change. Don't be too rigid. If thing's not working, change right away. Ex: I got over 8 II first couple months. My first 4 II were all rejections/hold. I knew there was something wrong. I changed the whole approach. All my interviews after that were acceptance. Here's what I changed: At first, I was being really chill/not excited about the school (I'm kinda a quiet person). I thought I'm being myself. After, I did a lot of research about the school. I came in there really excited about the school. I asked genuine questions. Before any 1 on 1 , 2 on 1... interviews, I took the time to tell them how I'm excited to be there and I'm really grateful to be there. It worked. I taught this to one of my friend ( he failed like 7 interviews before this). After, He got accepted to KCU.

    5/ Your story: I believe my non traditional background helped tremendously. I had my own story and owned it. Know your story and why. Own it and tell it. There can only be one of you. Be proud of yourself.

    Good luck!
    P.S please do not pm me with questions. I have a lot of adventure I'm planning. So I won't have time to answer your questions.
    Live your life to the fullest!

    From a non-trad adventurer.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2017
  9. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2004
    Just wanted to make everyone here aware of a phenomenal acceptance story after four application attempts that was posted last week in the Re-Apps forum by @keepontruckin04. This user is a Canadian nontrad who also provided their thoughts and tips regarding applying to US schools as an international re-applicant. Well worth reading, particularly for those of you who need some inspiration or are also international and/or re-applicants.
  10. bearbear33


    Dec 15, 2016
    Finally posting on this thread brings me such gratification that it is second only to actually getting accepted. :) So here's to a future me that will also read this thread endlessly while deciding whether to apply

    1. Your age and GPA and MCAT if you have it.

    24 years old (23 when applying)
    Overall GPA 3.35, BCPM GPA 3.41, AO 3.29
    MCAT first attempt 30, second attempt 515

    2. Your financial and work situation.

    I'm not poor but I couldn't afford certain resources while applying (no MCAT classes, no application counseling, limited number of applications, etc.). I work full-time as a research coordinator. I didn't take time off to apply, so I had to start every process way earlier to account for the fact that I could only work on my application after work.

    3. Your family and significant other situation.

    I've been in a committed relationship for 4 years with someone in a 4-year graduate program. I chose to only apply in the region we are currently living, because I was not willing to do long distance during medical school. We've done it before and I have realized I need the social and emotional support system to succeed at school and still feel fulfilled. This limited my application to 8 schools.

    4. Your plan or your path to success.

    During undergraduate I had a tough bout of depression that resulted in a 2.5 GPA early in my 4 years, and a lack of motivation. I made a huge effort to turn things around, and my GPA increased each semester, ending in a 3.8, and I got a volunteer job doing undergrad research, which I absolutely loved. Before graduating, my GPA was 3.2 and I decided to try to apply to med school. A class advisor basically ripped apart my application and chances of getting in, and I ultimately decided not to complete my secondaries and make sure med school was really what I wanted. So I ended up applying for full time jobs in research and started working right after I graduated. My intention was to work 1 year in research and then do 1 year as a scribe to decide whether I wanted an MD or PhD. My research job ended up involving a lot of work in the hospital, so I decided to stay for 2 years as I was already getting a lot of experience. I ended up deciding I couldn't see myself as a PhD (as much as I adore research - you can still do research as an MD), and after shadowing a ton of physicians I just felt really at home.

    So here's what I was thinking about my application at the point when I applied the second time (this time). My GPA was slightly better than my first application, so I could highlight the upward trend. I didn't have the money to do an extra post bacc or a masters to get my grades up. I decided to retake the MCAT to prove I had really mastered the basic science material. I studied for 6 months after work (about 3 hours a day). I ended up with a great score and schools I got feedback from commented that I made sense of my grades on my application and they weren't worried about that - I had a strong upward GPA trend and my MCAT demonstrated mastery of the material. After all, as crushing as the numbers can be for a pre-med, it really is only one part of the application.

    I asked for my letters of recommendation in January before I applied, while my professors were on break. This allowed us time to have a real conversation, and when a million students were requesting letters in May, they prioritized mine. Picking letter writers was difficult for me because I went to a huge school and had no meaningful relationships with professors for the first 3 years. My last year, I really made a point to get to know one or two professors I really liked, and was fully present in class and made a lot of extra effort. I still talk to these professors to this day (because I actually like them, not because of my application anymore). I think it worked out well that I did this in my "depth" courses because they knew my work on a deeper level than they would have in gen chem for example. If you're in this situation, remember you only need 3-4 letters to apply (if you go the individual letter route). You don't need to become BFFs with your teacher in every class. That would be exhausting. I ended up getting a letter from my undergrad professor and research advisor, my current boss who is an MD/PhD (I shadowed her too), and another professor that I got on with very well in a tough bio course.

    So I think there's some common saying about med applications that you need to balance 6 things: GPA, mcat, research, volunteering, clinical exposure, and extracurriculars. I think my mcat and GPA balanced out, but they were nowhere near enough to carry my application.

    Research: I've already mentioned I've done a lot of research; 3 semesters in undergrad and 2 years now full time. I believe it's extremely important to have an in-depth experience in research rather than a series of shallow ones. So in my opinion, commit more time to one lab rather than switching between a bunch every couple semesters. You want to show that you've actually been engaged in the research, contributed to it somehow, and can talk about it articulately. If you're having trouble getting started in a lab, try offering to volunteer at a lab first. If you're doing well, it will be worth their time to keep you on and offer you credit or hire you, because they've already trained you. I volunteered for 6 months at my first research position and ended up getting to do really cool stuff (brain sectioning for example) instead of just administering questionnaires all day. I think it was because the lab wasn't responsible for keeping me or putting me through some run-of-the-mill program. My current full time job is in clinical research, so I spend half my time in the office, and half my time running studies in the hospital. I can't say I'm really working with patients, but I'm very comfortable in the setting and working with nurses. Technically I also work with some clinical populations so I could say that on my application as well. Mostly what I've done is take every minute opportunity to learn new skills, and do data analysis. At this point I can explain my research inside and out, and I've done a poster presentation and worked on some smaller data analysis projects. I don't have a paper in my name (yet), but I can clearly articulate what I've learned and the interprofessional skills I've developed. Take comfort in the fact that not everything has to be about what's on your CV - they do interviews for a reason.

    Clinical experience: all I've done is shadow for 75 hours. I shadowed in sleep medicine, neurology inpatient and outpatient, diagnostic neuroradiology, interventional neuroradiology, and neurosurgery. My job was a huge asset here, because I could tell the physicians I already had clinical privileges at the hospital I work at. I also got to shadow my bosses. Next, I literally cold called (cold emailed technically) physicians I looked up in the directory in specialities I was interested in. A lot of them love interested students and are happy to help. Sometimes you need to follow up once or twice because they're busy. But what ended up happening was I got to know them, told them what I was all interested in, and some of them would refer me directly to another physician I could shadow in another speciality. Never hurts to ask. If you're struggling, start with the people you know, including your family physician. One common criticism on my application after following up with rejections was my lack of clinical experience. To this day I think that is highly subjective. I know people who've volunteered in hospitals for years and have no experiences with patients. Or people who've gone to Haiti for 2 weeks and that's it. It all counts, but there's no way to get REAL "clinical experience" as a pre-med. That's what doctors do. Just do what you can and try to show what you learned from it. A great option if you have time is to become a CNA.

    Volunteering: I really didn't have any. It shocks me that some students have like a million hours and their application looks perfect. When I was in school, I was so busy I had no free time to volunteer. Same with my current job. And I couldn't afford not to work after school in order to have time to volunteer. So I just tried to beef up those random few things I did as an undergrad - relay for life, fundraisers for clubs I was in, etc. I think they care more about seeing that you actually have ties to your community and care about people to the extent that you'll donate your time. I felt I was doing this, but not in ways that allowed me to note a hundred hours on my amcas.

    Extracurriculars: I didn't go crazy with this because I really wanted to focus on my grades and my research. But I was part of a co-ed fraternity that focused on agriculture/community service, and I also helped start a student org that supported college students with chronic disease. I felt really passionate about this last one and we managed to give out a few scholarships before I left. My experiences with that org played a big role in my application - it fueled a lot of my desire to be a doctor.

    All in all I felt like a well-rounded applicant who could speak meaningfully about my experiences and qualifications. Having 2 years off really developed me as a person.

    Application timeline/numbers:
    Letters requested January
    MCAT taken May
    8 Primary applications: sent the day after the AMCAS opened (6/8/16)
    8 secondaries submitted within 72 hours of receipt. Finished all mid-July.
    2 interviews: 10/14/16 and 2/10/17
    Waitlisted at the first school 11/4/16 and accepted 12/15/16.
    Accepted at the second school 3/3/17.
    Rejected from 6 schools.

    APPLYING EARLY WILL ONLY HELP YOU. You're competing with thousands of students who will submit the minute amcas opens. Turn around your secondaries immediately (set a 2-3 day deadline for yourself). They are exhausting and you'll want to quit but send them all in - if you weren't going to finish the secondary why did you waste money on the primary? You can draft some of the major essays before you start secondaries - just Google it. Next, the silence will be deafening. Don't call a school every week because you think they forgot about you. They didnt. The interview season won't end until March or April and you have a lot of waiting to do. Send updates if the school accepts them (I didn't to be honest). Otherwise be patient. A year or more of your life will pass on this application - don't look back on a bunch of anxiety and application status-checking. Go out and have fun and keep working on yourself. When it pays off some day you will only have 4 years of hard work to look forward to. So enjoy your time now.

    In summary:
    SDN can be a very negative place to be while applying. It can also be a great source of information. Try to be honest with yourself. On one hand, be honest with yourself about your shortcomings and how you can improve them. You can ignore them all you want, but adcoms won't. On the other hand, be honest with yourself about your skills and why you think you'd be a great doctor (academically and in the field). Applying to med school is so freaking competitive that there will always be someone who will tell you that you won't get in or shouldn't apply. If you've been objective and think you'd be a great fit, there is no reason not to apply. Always be open to feedback. Take every rejection as an opportunity to get feedback and learn about yourself. Don't give up - learn more and make informed choices.

    When I re-read my post it doesn't feel like the odds were stacked against me on this last application. But from where I've started, I came a long way.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
    riches and kraskadva like this.
  11. Ad2b

    Ad2b SDN Gold Donor Gold Donor 2+ Year Member

    Nov 3, 2014
    @bearbear33 - break up that long paragraph(s) of text to make it easier to read. Want to read your story!
  12. bearbear33


    Dec 15, 2016
    Alas, it will not currently let me make edits... :( thanks though! I'll try again later.
  13. Xavieous


    Mar 7, 2017
    1. Your age and GPA and MCAT if you have it.

    Age: 27, will be 28 at matriculation
    Undergraduate cGPA: 2.4
    Undergraduate sGPA: ~2.3

    1 year masters GPA: 3.5

    +16 retaken courses-
    cGPA: 3.07
    sGPA: 3.01
    MCAT: 28
    (all according to AACOMAS)

    2. Your financial and work situation.

    Worked throughout undergradate education (5 years). Felt it was the reason I was a C+ average student and so did not work in graduate school, made a HUGE difference and was very validating. Post graduate school I work as a clinical researcher while improving my lowest science courses.

    3. Your family and significant other situation.

    Have a live in girlfriend of 4+ years (so kinda married?). 2 dogs, no kiddos.

    4. Your plan or your path to success.

    I struggled all throughout my undergraduate education. I could never seem to get the grades necessary to be competitive and felt like I wasn’t cut out for medical school, felt that I probably wouldn’t be able to handle it as my grades didn’t reflect academic excellence. I decided to give myself one last shot after getting my second bachelors degree and enrolled in a Masters Physiology and biophysics program to see if I had enough smarts to handle it. I also quite my weekend job where I worked a 12 hour night shift every Friday and Saturday for my entire 5 years of undergraduate education.

    I surprised myself in how I was able to commit to my graduate education, it was far more interesting and applicable, plus the free time from no job was a huge boost as I could invest the correct amount into my academics. Let me tell you, if I can do the 360 confidence change on my abilities, anyone can. It just takes the correct environment for each of us to find success.

    After graduating I had a renewed burning fire to get into medical school, but knew I would have a brutal uphill battle as even with graduate GPA I still only had a 2.75 cgpa. I decided to give applying a shot, taking the very last MCAT in September. Got my 28 MCAT, applied last minute to 15 schools and received radio silence from all the schools. What a painful, humiliating, frustrating sound. So, after further review of my application I decided to give it one more go, but would take a year off first. In that time I took 9 credits per semester at my local college until I was above that ugly 3.0 threshold. In the 6 classes I took that year, I could only afford a single A- and was petrified of what it meant to get below that. So----I aced everything, further validation that I could do it. Finally, I got above the threshold and applied to 46 schools: Every DO school, 10 MD I had a shot at.

    More radio silence.

    But, finally, I started to get the interview invites! I had to turn some down I got so many after I got into my dream school, never thought that could have happened to someone like me! Apparently GPA isn’t everything, at least cumulative!

    What I did right:

    Refused to give up until who I truly was was reflected on my application. It took me a long time to figure out how I was seen by each school looking at my few flimsy pieces of paper, but when I did I learned how to show my strength underneath my weaknesses.

    I listened to those around me when I doubted myself. I had parents, siblings, friends, and an awesome girlfriend that saw in me what I often couldn’t see in myself: someone that was good enough.

    Did not believe the lies that come into your mind when you are not accepted. It is so easy to sink into frustration and acceptance of inadequacy when you get rejected. Why else would they say no, right? But no, the real truth is I was good enough, and I just had to fight my way over the walls that were keeping me from being seen my an actual human being. I now work next to a residency coordinator and every year she receives over 700 applications to this prestigious program. She does not have the manpower to look through them all, so filters by gpa, exam scores, and small other things until it is down to something more manageable, somewhere in the 300 range. I needed to get past the filter. I got my GPA up JUST above the 3.0 cutoff and instantly became visible.

    Read stories of success from people before me and gained encouragement from their struggles. I was not alone, you are not alone. If you have it in you (you do) you can overcome this barrier, just as I and others did.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly have a CLEAR view of your application. Don’t have it clouded by excuses, maybes, well possibly, or other half truths. They won’t help you. Know how you stack up to others, to your chances, and then set a plan that will lead you to your goal. Hone that skill of humility and use your failures as points of motivation. This will make you stronger than the person who has never failed. You have an edge, use it.


    This process is one I don’t wish on anyone, as each of our years are precious and limited. But, if you know your goals, don’t take an easier path just because the difficulty ahead. I choose a big dream not because it was easy and I knew I could do it, but because I knew it would make me into the person that I want to become. My process grew me into someone I respect and someone who will look upon the struggles of my patients with compassion and empathy. Hold onto your dreams, make a plan and stick to it. You can do it, I have faith in you. See you on the other side.

    P.S. this thread has helped me alot over the years and I am very happy to donate my own story to it, in hopes that someone else who is at the end of their rope will find this and get the courage to continue on into the unknown.
  14. Cbly4735

    Cbly4735 5+ Year Member

    Jan 8, 2012

    Did you only go through one application cycle? If so, did you lean more toward DO schools?
  15. LittlePuppy


    Jan 17, 2017
    Congrats on getting in med school! Did you get in at both DO and MD schools? And if DO, was the grade replacement still in place at the time of your application?

    Thanks and congrats once again!

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