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Med school after a PhD in Physics?

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Hello everyone!

 

I'm hoping for some perspective. I've been considering applying to medical school for several years, but am only now in a position to consider it seriously. However I'm getting older and have been in school for many years, so I'd like to have at least some idea of whether my chances of admission are realistic before I invest a significant amount of time and money in this pursuit. My situation is less common, and so I haven't found much relevant information online. I'm hoping to hear the opinions of some of you who have been through the application process and know it more intimately.

 

 

My history:

-32 years old, recently graduated with a PhD in Physics.

-Finished undergrad 8+ years ago with a cumulative GPA of 3.15 (OMSAS scale) in an engineering program.

-After my 3rd undergrad year, my grades have been much better:

-3.83 in my final undergrad year

-95% average over 8 courses during my masters and PhD

programs in physics (3.99 GPA by the OMSAS scale, but don't

know if this applies to grad school)

 

 

I know my relatively low cummulative undergrad GPA might hurt me, but it was quite long ago and I'm hoping my more recent performances might better demonstrate my academic abilities. I'm considering taking the MCAT, and then re-assessing my situation from there. What I'm hoping to know from some of you is:

 

1. Will my relatively low cummulative undergraduate GPA be a significant factor in preventing me from gaining admission to med school, even though these marks are 8+ years old, and even though I have achieved very good grades since then?

 

2. If I manage to score significantly high on the MCAT, could that greatly improve my chances of admission despite these other circumstances?

 

3. (being hopeful) Would my PhD in physics be looked upon favourably by admissions committees?

 

4. If my chances of admission aren't very good, what would I need to do to improve my chances?

 

 

Thanks for your advice! I appreciate any insight you can give.

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Hey here are some answers I came up with to your questions. Hopefully they are of some help :)

 

Hello everyone!

 

I'm hoping for some perspective. I've been considering applying to medical school for several years, but am only now in a position to consider it seriously. However I'm getting older and have been in school for many years, so I'd like to have at least some idea of whether my chances of admission are realistic before I invest a significant amount of time and money in this pursuit. My situation is less common, and so I haven't found much relevant information online. I'm hoping to hear the opinions of some of you who have been through the application process and know it more intimately.

 

 

My history:

-32 years old, recently graduated with a PhD in Physics.

-Finished undergrad 8+ years ago with a cumulative GPA of 3.15 (OMSAS scale) in an engineering program.

-After my 3rd undergrad year, my grades have been much better:

-3.83 in my final undergrad year

-95% average over 8 courses during my masters and PhD

programs in physics (3.99 GPA by the OMSAS scale, but don't

know if this applies to grad school)

 

 

I know my relatively low cummulative undergrad GPA might hurt me, but it was quite long ago and I'm hoping my more recent performances might better demonstrate my academic abilities. I'm considering taking the MCAT, and then re-assessing my situation from there. What I'm hoping to know from some of you is:

 

1. Will my relatively low cummulative undergraduate GPA be a significant factor in preventing me from gaining admission to med school, even though these marks are 8+ years old, and even though I have achieved very good grades since then?

 

In all honesty this will be your number one burden as many medical schools list cutoffs for GPAs that they use to weed applicants out. The PhD will be helpful for Toronto the most because they lower their cutoff to 3.0 for individuals with grad degrees and they are a grad degree friendly school. Do you have many publications because I think that could go a long way for Toronto specifically. For Mac I think you are a long shot because they look at the cGPA and yours is pretty low, but if you look at their entering class statistics there are some people who get in with GPAs in your range (I suspect these individuals are grad students--PhD gives you a 4% advantage in the Mac app) but more importantly they probably are the odd people who got a 14 in verbal on the MCAT and did really well on CASper for Mac (An online speed typing component where you provide answers to various videos that depict ethics-oriented scenarios).

 

How are your 3rd and 4th year of undergrad? If they are both 3.7+ then you have a chance at Western/Queens/Dalhousie off the bat. Queens says specifically that if you are near the GPA cutoff and met the MCAT cutoffs as a grad student then they will consider you separately. Dal will take all your marks from your grad degree, combine them, and make that into one year's worth of GPA (Which they will then combine with 2 years of undergrad GPA). I wrote down that 26/108 students in the class entering in 2011 had or were completing a grad degree so there could be a significant preference for graduate students there if you are nearly competitive in other areas.

 

Calgary does the same thing as Dal where they take all your grad work and average it to one year's worth of GPA, but they also look at your cGPA and they have a cutoff of 3.6 if you're not from Alberta so that would probably be a long shot.

 

Alberta drops your lowest gpa but the cutoff is still at 3.5 and they have specific prereqs if you haven't completed them (English and physics).

 

Lastly UBC considers grad courses in cGPA but you need 80%+ if you're from out of province so a long shot as well.

 

2. If I manage to score significantly high on the MCAT, could that greatly improve my chances of admission despite these other circumstances?

 

Note: My answers here consider the fact that you have a grad degree. Meet Toronto's MCAT cutoffs and who knows where you stand, but I think it would be a long shot for a competitive school like Toronto. Get a high verbal at Mac (And do well on Casper) and your chances there improve. Depending on your two final years and whether they are both 3.7+ then with a good MCAT you can apply to Western/Queens/Dal.

 

3. (being hopeful) Would my PhD in physics be looked upon favourably by admissions committees?

 

No.

 

4. If my chances of admission aren't very good, what would I need to do to improve my chances?

 

I think you would be best to either do another year of undergrad under continuing education (Take 10 courses and just get a good gpa), which would definitely give you two years above 3.7. Also, my cGPA was only around 3.3 after my FIRST undergrad, so I decided to do a second undergrad rather than grad school (4 years honours condensed into 2 years). I got 3.95 and 3.9 for the two years which made me theoretically competitive at a lot of schools, and I know meet the wGPA cutoff of Ottawa (They look at your last three years of undergrad GPA and apply a weighting formula). You know at 32 doing a second undergrad seems probably impossible, but if you want to study medicine in Canada then it is something you should really consider.

 

Thanks for your advice! I appreciate any insight you can give.

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Thanks for your reply. It really does help to hear your perspective. Unfortunately, my 3rd year of undergrad was a GPA of 2.95. The problem was that I picked a very tough undergrad program (Engineering Science at U of T: 50% dropout rate when I was there). My 4th year was a lot better because my courses were mostly combined with the pure physics program, and so good marks were easier to come by. My grad-school GPA is high for the same reason.

 

At my age, I don't think I'd be willing to start another undergrad degree. At this point, it's a sacrifice of too much time and money for something that may not work out anyway.

 

From what you told me, it seems that my best option is to try (and hope) for an awesome MCAT score, and maybe to pick up a few extra undergrad courses (I may need certain pre-reqs for some schools anyway). However, I'll still need to pursue other career options simultaneously since there's a significant chance that my efforts will be for naught.

 

In the best case scenario, if I were to apply next year and get admitted, I wouldn't be starting med school until September 2014, so either way I still need to find something else to do to support my family for at least two more years. :P

 

That's life... Thanks again for your input. :)

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It's definitely not just a passing fancy... I've been wanting to do this for years. Now that I'm done with the PhD, I'm only just starting to research the feasibility of it. I always figured that my undergrad performance wouldn't make it easy.

 

Thanks for your frankness. I'll probably try the application process next year just to see what happens. It seems worth a try, and not too much cost to do so. However, I don't see doing more fulltime undergrad as a worthwhile decision. It's too much sacrifice for something that's probably a longshot anyway.

 

Cheers!

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In the best case scenario, if I were to apply next year and get admitted, I wouldn't be starting med school until September 2014, so either way I still need to find something else to do to support my family for at least two more years. :P

 

That's life... Thanks again for your input. :)

 

I think this sentence is what it comes down to. You realize that you wouldn't get in for another two years anyways so I would consider completing at least one year of undergrad during those two years. You already have your 4th year at 3.8+, with another you would meet a lot more schools' GPA requirements. I am 26 myself which is relatively young compared to you and the other posters but still definitely nontraditional so don't feel so hopeless as if your time has passed. If you're going to write the MCAT that itself is already a significant investment so why not do whatever you can to give yourself the best shot and if doesn't work out at least you won't regret not doing so in the future. The family is the biggest factor for sure but people on here have posted that they have worked 60 hour weeks and completed the MCAT so it is manageable with the most hectic of schedules, it would just take all of those words that future_doc posted. If you consider it maybe talk to your spouse and see if it is realistically feasible for you guys.

 

As a side note I think for McGill you shouldn't bother applying to unless you complete a second degree because they will look at your cGPA from your first degree which is not good enough unfortunately but they will look at your GPA of your second degree on its own provided that it has at least 45 credits = > 1 year. McGill also looks at your science prereq average which is likely low for you, and they also have an 8 year rule where any prereq courses completed more than 8 years before the time of application would not count and would need to be repeated. You could ask for exemption as a PhD student and say that you worked with basic sciences throughout your PhD, but they would only likely exempt you from physics and possibly chemistry if you used it much in your grad degree. If you didn't do biology at all during your PhD then you would have to retake first year biology which could be burdensome. I say this because if you take a second degree like me, the 4 years will be condensed into two, but you won't have as much room to play with for electives as most of your classes would be core requirements. However, since you did engineering, you might be able to complete a science undergrad in 2 years, which would allow you to take the science prereqs over. I'm just speaking from my experience because I completed a science degree and then had to do a social science degree for the second one because I already took too many science courses to complete another science degree.

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Thanks everyone for all your input! It seems like the general consensus is that a strong undergraduate GPA regardless of any other considerations.

 

While I realize that this may be the fact, it's a difficult point for me to accept. It seems like a fundamental flaw in the philosophy amongst admissions committees to weight undergraduate GPA so highly for even non-traditional applicants. I understand that it is an important indicator of academic ability for people taking the traditional route to med-school, since it is a very recent measure of their success and abilities. However, most of undergrad is done in one's late teens and very early twenties, and for the most part people mature drastically throughout their twenties in terms of their work ethic, interests, and maturity, among many other things.

 

For someone applying to med-school after nearly a decade or more of finishing their undergrad, why wouldn't an admissions committee consider more strongly what these people have done in the time since completing undergrad? Wouldn't that be a better indicator of their mindset and abilities? I don't understand the reason for this philosophy.

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It's definitely not just a passing fancy... I've been wanting to do this for years. Now that I'm done with the PhD, I'm only just starting to research the feasibility of it. I always figured that my undergrad performance wouldn't make it easy.

 

Thanks for your frankness. I'll probably try the application process next year just to see what happens. It seems worth a try, and not too much cost to do so. However, I don't see doing more fulltime undergrad as a worthwhile decision. It's too much sacrifice for something that's probably a longshot anyway.

 

Cheers!

 

Go for U.S med schools man. There's hundreds of em down there!

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While I realize that this may be the fact, it's a difficult point for me to accept. It seems like a fundamental flaw in the philosophy amongst admissions committees to weight undergraduate GPA so highly for even non-traditional applicants.

 

Fundamental flaw or not, it's a reality of the system. And I think one could certainly make a strong argument that undergraduate GPA is a reasonably good evaluation tool given the inability of most schools to holistically evaluate their entire applicant pool (there are certainly a number of papers that suggest this).

 

And on the bright side, at least you're in Canada, one of the few countries where you can surmount poor academic performance and enter medical school (versus Europe or the US, where poor performance in secondary school or university respectively make it impossible).

 

Anyway, as posters above have mentioned, it is possible. You'll need at least 1 more full year of undergrad (for Western/Queen's), or 2-3 years (for Ottawa and second degree schools).

 

I think as a first step though, I'd move back a little. Why medicine? Do you have much experience in the field? If not, I would recommend finding ways to shadow doctors for a little while. Make sure that you're not pursuing it because you're in a post-PhD graduation funk. Getting that experience will motivate you to take the steps you need to to enter medicine, or show you that it's not all it's cracked up to be.

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I just wanted to add my 2 cents to this - I think that Mac is a worthwhile option to look into. Even with your low cGPA, you will get a bonus of 4% for you interview consideration with a PhD. If you have a good VR score, I would say that you have a decent shot at getting an interview provided you do well on Casper.

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Hi guys,

 

I almost have similar condition; I would appreciate it if you could help me out understand where I stand. I am 29 years old, have PhD in engineering with lots of publications and patents. My undergrad cGPA is 3.7 (last two years 3.9). Although I work full time I dream to get into med school. Do I have a chance? I need to take some prerequisite courses like biology, can I take them online?

 

Appreciate your help. Thanks

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Hello

 

Most schools have got rid of pre-reqs (excluding U of A and one other I can't remember which though). So taking biology would only be able to help you with the MCAT unless you plan on applying at these schools. What I am saying is that you don't necessarily need a formal course, you just need to be able to get a good MCAT. That being said if you want to take the prereqs online that won't count against you. It also wont help you all that much unless you are taking them full time GPA-wise.

 

Your GPA is competitive and your PhD will be icing on the cake. I think you would be a successful candidate depending on where you apply and what you get on the MCAT. GL

 

Hmm makes me wonder if I should just major in some arts program that I find easy, and take science courses during the summer...GPA wise that is...especially if I'm going to a school which has a notoriously highly curved GPA.

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Hi guys,

 

I almost have similar condition; I would appreciate it if you could help me out understand where I stand. I am 29 years old, have PhD in engineering with lots of publications and patents. My undergrad cGPA is 3.7 (last two years 3.9). Although I work full time I dream to get into med school. Do I have a chance? I need to take some prerequisite courses like biology, can I take them online?

 

Appreciate your help. Thanks

 

Hi there,

I'm a non-trad myself (Software/AI) and applying this cycle - so wish me luck. Some schools still require you to have some pre-reqs. In Ontario, it is a requirement to have some pre-req courses for UofT and Ottawa. Check their websites, the courses don't have to be only in biology, but could be in biochemistry -and in UofT case humanities.

 

Where do you live? If you live in Toronto, I can recommend some amazing evening (6:30pm-9:30pm) courses at Ryerson which will help you so much for the MCAT as well as counting towards your pre-reqs. As I said, I've done software and AI for my undergrad and research-based masters in AI, so I virtually had no background in biology, chemistry or physics for that matter (it's been almost 10 years since highschool). But I feel pretty confident now, specially in biology - if you really want it that bad, you'll make it work :)

 

As for distant education (online) courses... I don't know. You should check that with the addmission offices of the schools you wish to apply to. But make sure you check with each and every school separately as they may have different policies. I've heard there is a school in another province that provides online courses that do count as degree-credit for pre-reqs - sorry, don't remember the name of the school now, but have it written somewhere. I can dig it for you if you want.

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Hello everyone!

 

I'm hoping for some perspective. I've been considering applying to medical school for several years, but am only now in a position to consider it seriously. However I'm getting older and have been in school for many years, so I'd like to have at least some idea of whether my chances of admission are realistic before I invest a significant amount of time and money in this pursuit. My situation is less common, and so I haven't found much relevant information online. I'm hoping to hear the opinions of some of you who have been through the application process and know it more intimately.

 

 

My history:

-32 years old, recently graduated with a PhD in Physics.

-Finished undergrad 8+ years ago with a cumulative GPA of 3.15 (OMSAS scale) in an engineering program.

-After my 3rd undergrad year, my grades have been much better:

-3.83 in my final undergrad year

-95% average over 8 courses during my masters and PhD

programs in physics (3.99 GPA by the OMSAS scale, but don't

know if this applies to grad school)

 

 

I know my relatively low cummulative undergrad GPA might hurt me, but it was quite long ago and I'm hoping my more recent performances might better demonstrate my academic abilities. I'm considering taking the MCAT, and then re-assessing my situation from there. What I'm hoping to know from some of you is:

 

1. Will my relatively low cummulative undergraduate GPA be a significant factor in preventing me from gaining admission to med school, even though these marks are 8+ years old, and even though I have achieved very good grades since then?

 

2. If I manage to score significantly high on the MCAT, could that greatly improve my chances of admission despite these other circumstances?

 

3. (being hopeful) Would my PhD in physics be looked upon favourably by admissions committees?

 

4. If my chances of admission aren't very good, what would I need to do to improve my chances?

 

 

Thanks for your advice! I appreciate any insight you can give.

 

Please see my post above.

 

Also, regarding your situation I'd like to say that none of us here are on the committee so we don't know exactly what they see or like to see in an application. To me, someone who's managed to finish a masters and a PhD (and in physics at that) is far more capable of doing an undergrad with a superb GPA, if given the chance again. I'd very much like to think the committee people see it the same way, it's just simple common sense!

 

And besides, as others suggested, non-trad schools are famous for being non-trads for a reason. I believe they tend to see the applicant beyond their application. The decision is yours and you should only decide what to do. But if I were you and really wanted this, I'd take the MCAT and take some courses this year (so to apply for the next cycle). I'm not saying take courses to top your GPA (which wouldn't hurt anyway). I'm saying so just to be on the safe side for pre-reqs' sake, help with the MCAT and lastly to update the GPA if need be.

 

Again, since you have a masters and a PhD, I couldn't care less about your GPA. At the end of the day, the GPA cutoffs are to assess your initial abilities. I think you qualify there. Every med student, once in, has to take exams and at the end the bar exam. The committee is well aware of this. So if they think you are capable, you're in - low GPA or not. So I think your PhD does indeed matter.

 

And lastly, as someone else mentioned it too, sone universities such as UofT value research capability, history and experience very much. Keep that in mind.

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Sorry, just noticed somebody else had already pointed this out above!

 

Just a little correction to what and659 said about Dalhousie's admissions process for PhD applicants:

 

Dal combines all courses from a PhD program into one year's GPA and then combines that with EITHER your 3rd or 4th year's GPA from your undergrad, so you'd have a decent GPA from Dal's perspective (4th year + PhD).

 

Ph.D.:

ALL courses from the PhD program will count as one year's GPA PLUS one senior year (year 3 or 4) of the completed undergraduate program. You must meet the stated requirements in EACH of these two years for the applicant pool you are applying in order to be considered eligible. These two years will be averaged together to determine your overall GPA.

 

Even though 30 (10/10/10 or one 9 compensated for in another section with 11+) is the minimum score for OOP applicants, I'd aim for 33+ since the OOP pool is so competitive. 35+ would be ideal, but probably not necessary.

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Hmm makes me wonder if I should just major in some arts program that I find easy, and take science courses during the summer...GPA wise that is...especially if I'm going to a school which has a notoriously highly curved GPA.

 

Do what you enjoy and are interested in! Not all arts programs are easy!! I'm taking some women's studies courses and one was so brutal I dropped it for fear of affecting my GPA lol! Definitely take something that interests you and you know you can do well in, that's what I'm doing! :)

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Hmm makes me wonder if I should just major in some arts program that I find easy, and take science courses during the summer...GPA wise that is...especially if I'm going to a school which has a notoriously highly curved GPA.

 

In my experience, it's pretty difficult to get 90%, A+, 4.0 types of grades in lots of Arts courses. Science subjects tend to be more conducive to the process of mastering the subject matter and getting those 4.0's.

 

Clearly this could be different for different people, but I think it's probably true in general. It's hard to pull out a 3.90+ cGPA in the Arts. Some profs flat out do not give 90's on essays.

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In my experience, it's pretty difficult to get 90%, A+, 4.0 types of grades in lots of Arts courses. Science subjects tend to be more conducive to the process of mastering the subject matter and getting those 4.0's.

 

Clearly this could be different for different people, but I think it's probably true in general. It's hard to pull out a 3.90+ cGPA in the Arts. Some profs flat out do not give 90's on essays.

 

Yes this is what I have been thinking lately.

 

I think Psych will be the closest I come to a writing-heavy major.

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In my experience, it's pretty difficult to get 90%, A+, 4.0 types of grades in lots of Arts courses. Science subjects tend to be more conducive to the process of mastering the subject matter and getting those 4.0's.

 

Clearly this could be different for different people, but I think it's probably true in general. It's hard to pull out a 3.90+ cGPA in the Arts. Some profs flat out do not give 90's on essays.

 

It's a different learning style but not impossible. I finished with a 3.9+ GPA in my second UG (BA). However, I stressed major over certain courses where teacher subjectivity played a role. In one class, after repeatedly not making her expectations clear, a teacher returned our essays stating "You guys are forcing me to give you bad marks". Didn't go over so well with the class...

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Thank you so much for your answer. I would like to have some more information about Ryerson courses.I do live in Toronto. How can I get these courses? How can I register for them?

 

Thank you again:)

 

 

Hi there,

I'm a non-trad myself (Software/AI) and applying this cycle - so wish me luck. Some schools still require you to have some pre-reqs. In Ontario, it is a requirement to have some pre-req courses for UofT and Ottawa. Check their websites, the courses don't have to be only in biology, but could be in biochemistry -and in UofT case humanities.

 

Where do you live? If you live in Toronto, I can recommend some amazing evening (6:30pm-9:30pm) courses at Ryerson which will help you so much for the MCAT as well as counting towards your pre-reqs. As I said, I've done software and AI for my undergrad and research-based masters in AI, so I virtually had no background in biology, chemistry or physics for that matter (it's been almost 10 years since highschool). But I feel pretty confident now, specially in biology - if you really want it that bad, you'll make it work :)

 

As for distant education (online) courses... I don't know. You should check that with the addmission offices of the schools you wish to apply to. But make sure you check with each and every school separately as they may have different policies. I've heard there is a school in another province that provides online courses that do count as degree-credit for pre-reqs - sorry, don't remember the name of the school now, but have it written somewhere. I can dig it for you if you want.

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