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jellyfish

Canadian Student w/low GPA - 2nd degree, Masters, or tough it out in undergrad for longer?

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Hi all,

This has been asked tons of times before and is definitely not an uncommon topic, but I've done enough scouring over the years that I finally decided to make an account and ask for some personalized advice. As the title says, I am a Canadian student with a low cumulative GPA, and I was looking into doing either a 2nd degree or a Masters...or just staying in undergrad for longer. I am not looking to apply to USMD/DO schools, as I cannot afford to. I am a BC resident. Additionally, I know that I am basically out of the running for Alberta, Sask, Manitoba, MUN, Dal, and UOttawa. Also possibly Western (unless I somehow manage to do 2 years with an OMSAS GPA of 3.7+), and Mac (unless my CARS is stellar). I am mainly aiming for UBC and Queens, but if anyone has other information then please correct me!

My cumulative GPA by the time I finish my degree will be about 3.0 (on a 4.33 scale - so a B average). I'm currently finishing a BA in Health Sciences (HSCI, so, social determinants of health, population/public health), and my HSCI GPA will be about 3.9 ish by the time I'm done. 

Here's my academic journey so far: The reason for my GPA woes is that I started off in the general sciences, and my family's financial circumstances were horrible. I had to take on tons of hours of work (I worked about 30-40 hours a week, most of the hours being overnight shifts) to help support my family, along with having to transit about 2 hours to school each day because we couldn't afford a car. I was diagnosed with severe GAD (I mean....severe) and unexplained chronic pain which severely impacted my physical and mental health- I wasn't able to sleep or focus due to the pain, and I often had to leave lectures or not show up at all from how worn out my body was. But due to lack of a diagnosis, I was not given any accommodations. I had to remain in full time school to be eligible as a dependent under my mother's health insurance, so taking easy semesters wasn't an option for me unless I wanted to pay out of pocket for therapy. Unfortunately that began happening, and so my health dipped further.

It wasn't until 4 years into my degree that I sustained a serious injury, and I finally switched out of general sciences and into Health Sciences. My injury was the catalyst for me to cut down on work, and by then my family's financial situation improved enough for me to afford going to therapy and focus on healing.....lo and behold, my grades shot up, and my overall health became so much better. I pulled far higher than the average in all of my HSCI courses, and I was on the president's honour roll for a semester (5 courses, 4.11 GPA). I can no longer retake any of my bad science grades, so at this point I have a bunch of choices but I'm still very puzzled on what to do.

As for ECs- I have a pretty lengthy list of volunteer work, all of which I have done for at least one year. I have 4 years of volunteering in a community health initiative for drug users (I am in direct contact with the population, and I do harm reduction presentations, engage with them in recreation activities, and help out with basic case managing). Prior to that I did one year at a needle exchange (which was how I was referred to my first listed volunteer position). I also work with overdose prevention services, and I am narcan trained. I am also a provincial delegate for a national mental health organization, a public speaker for said organization, a pediatric hospice volunteer (Direct engagement with children), 2 years at a senior home as a physiotherapy volunteer, and one year at a hospital in a geriatric psychiatry ward also involved with recreation for patients. I was involved in a semester long program in which we did a deep dive into the Canadian healthcare system through alternate methods of learning, and I was able to complete a project with 3 of my peers in the program which won us an award at a civic innovation showcase. Within that program, I received the highest grades in the cohort. I am also currently shortlisted for a community engagement award at my home university, so I'll have to see what happens with that. 

As for research experience, I am currently finishing up a project that will put my name on a publication, and I am currently doing a semi independent research project which, if published, will have me as first author. 

Now.....I have a choice to make. After reading across multiple forums, it became clear to me that the general sentiment was if you had anything less than a 3.5, don't even bother with an MSc- and if you really wanted to pursue more research, you could do it in med school. With that....what are my options? I know that no one else could really answer that for me, but having a second opinion would be great. I have not yet taken the MCAT, but after having taken science courses in my most recent semesters (like virology and pathophysiology) and after boring over MCAT prep books for quite some time, I am mildly confident that I can do decently. Aside from the MCAT, the biggest thorn in my side is my GPA. Next term, unless I decided to spread out my courses, will be my last term of my degree, and I am unsure if I should just continue to stretch out this degree, apply to a second degree program, or pursue a masters and boost my research experience along with doing well in the courses I would have to take in the masters. Also for some context- I have currently secured Masters supervisors under UBC Medicine, and SFU Health Sci. 

If you read through all of this, thank you! I greatly appreciate any responses. 

 

 

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40 minutes ago, JohnGrisham said:

Masters will not help you. Do more undergrad, delay graduation. Your problem at the current moment is GPA. You need to fix that first, before even worrying about MCAT or non-academics.

Thank you for the response. Do you have any feedback regarding EC's? I understand that GPA is my biggest problem. I'd also like some feedback on the other components of profile as well, as I'd like to still maintain/improve them as I bring my GPA up.

Also, do you have some suggestions as how to boost GPA? I know second degree is an option, but I wanted to be as informed as possible about all of my options, including things such as TRU-OL/Athabasca online learning, etc, while also being practical about where I have the best shot in the future. UBC is my first choice and on their website it mentions that they take into account ALL courses, regardless of if they're repeated. Say if I went the online course route, would you say it would be a decent choice to take science courses I did poorly in to show improvement? Or that I should just take the second degree route and hope that my science grades during my period of illness won't come back to bite me in a full file review? 

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Your focus needs to be to significantly raise your GPA. You are likely out of the running for schools that only look at cumulative GPA. Some schools use a weighted wGPA which lets you drop some years or grades.  Examples include: Western (best 2), Queens (last 2),  Ottawa (last 3), UofT (drop xx credits),  Dal (last 2 years +).   Maybe your current year GPA is usable in some cases.  You need atleast 2 years with a great GPA (+3.85) to start opening up some application doors.

If you want a little deeper dive, breakdown your GPA (out of 4)  by year and how many courses taken in each year.

Your ECs sound appropriate and that they could be written up against CanMeds categories (Google it).    

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6 hours ago, Meridian said:

Your focus needs to be to significantly raise your GPA. You are likely out of the running for schools that only look at cumulative GPA. Some schools use a weighted wGPA which lets you drop some years or grades.  Examples include: Western (best 2), Queens (last 2),  Ottawa (last 3), UofT (drop xx credits),  Dal (last 2 years +).   Maybe your current year GPA is usable in some cases.  You need atleast 2 years with a great GPA (+3.85) to start opening up some application doors.

If you want a little deeper dive, breakdown your GPA (out of 4)  by year and how many courses taken in each year.

Your ECs sound appropriate and that they could be written up against CanMeds categories (Google it).    

Thank you Meridian! That is a good idea, to take a look at CanMeds competencies. 

I'm not sure to aim this at you or to anyone looking at this thread, but I'm a little confused on how OMSAS GPA is calculated. One of my semesters was done with full time status, but technically only 3 'courses'. Meaning, from January to April I was technically enrolled in 3 courses, but the amount of credits for those courses added up to 15 credits (each course was worth 5 credits). I am a little confused as to how they would fit into OMSAS and the full year/half year designation. I still did 15 credits of work (and not 9), so my GPA would be decreased if it was treated as just three 3 credit courses....

Plugging in my grades into my home institution's scale, my semester GPA ends up at a 4.11. Plugging into a random GPA calculator that only goes to max 4.0 puts my semester GPA at roughly 3.9, would this be correct? Or around the 3.8 range?

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1 hour ago, jellyfish said:

Thank you Meridian! That is a good idea, to take a look at CanMeds competencies. 

I'm not sure to aim this at you or to anyone looking at this thread, but I'm a little confused on how OMSAS GPA is calculated. One of my semesters was done with full time status, but technically only 3 'courses'. Meaning, from January to April I was technically enrolled in 3 courses, but the amount of credits for those courses added up to 15 credits (each course was worth 5 credits). I am a little confused as to how they would fit into OMSAS and the full year/half year designation. I still did 15 credits of work (and not 9), so my GPA would be decreased if it was treated as just three 3 credit courses....

Plugging in my grades into my home institution's scale, my semester GPA ends up at a 4.11. Plugging into a random GPA calculator that only goes to max 4.0 puts my semester GPA at roughly 3.9, would this be correct? Or around the 3.8 range?

 

Full course load is across a full academic year - not a half year.  It excludes summer courses.  That is usually 10 credits in a year or 30 credits in terms of your school.       if you did 15 credits in the term then it is full course load which is good.  Not sure about how the GPA would be handled, but sounds like you only have 3 grades to average.  

This table shows OMSAS conversion.  Look up your school in the table.  Take  % or letter grades from each course and convert them individually to a GPA out of 4.  Then average to get a gpa for each year.  

    https://www.ouac.on.ca/guide/omsas-conversion-table/

 

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