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iWizard

Advice - Low Gpa, Lots Of Ecs - 2Nd Degree, 5Th Year, Master's?

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Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some advice about what to do to improve my chances to get into med school in Canada. My OMSAS GPA for my first three undergrad years are as follows:

 

Year 1: 3.40

Year 2: 3.52 (I only took 7 instead of 10 courses because of a health issue)

Year 3: 3.60

 

I've been struggling with time management and test anxiety issues, which is partially what I attribute my low grades to. I know that I am capable of getting better grades, I just have to develop better study skills. I'm finally starting to get treated for the anxiety (I was blanking on tests), but I'm still trying to get better about using my time more effectively.

 

My ECs:

-1.5 years as a volunteer writing tutor (5hrs/wk)

-2 going on 3 years as a Residence Assistant (~15 hrs/wk)

-Will have 1 semester of research experience next year

-Recipient of a humanitarian scholarship

-Next year, volunteering to support Syrian refugees (5hrs/wk)

-Next year, an executive of a campus club, planning volunteer activities in the community (5hrs/wk)

 

I'm obviously not applying for medical school this year because of the low GPA, but I was wondering what advice you guys might have for me for after I finish my undergrad in a year? I can't afford to apply to international med schools, the Caribbean or the U.S., so Canada is pretty much my only option.

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Cut down on ECs (by a lot, it looks like) and focus on your GPA. Aim for 3.9+

 

It's not fun, I'm guessing it's not what you want to hear, but it's the one thing you need to do before worrying about anything else. All the ECs in the world won't matter if they screen you out automatically. You need to be doing less, not more, next year.

 

Time management is cutting back, saying 'no', and making sacrifices to get what is most important, done. There is no magic tricks, you just need to put more hours in. Then the grades will come

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Cut down on ECs (by a lot, it looks like) and focus on your GPA. Aim for 3.9+

 

It's not fun, I'm guessing it's not what you want to hear, but it's the one thing you need to do before worrying about anything else. All the ECs in the world won't matter if they screen you out automatically. You need to be doing less, not more, next year.

 

Time management is cutting back, saying 'no', and making sacrifices to get what is most important, done. There is no magic tricks, you just need to put more hours in. Then the grades will come

 

Thanks, Sunny. I was planning on getting a work study position, so that's probably not possible, eh? I think I could stop doing the tutoring - I'm not going to be getting a reference letter from my supervisors and the work isn't as fulfilling as it used to be. Do you think that's enough? I need my job and the Syrian refugee volunteering is important to me..

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Thanks, Sunny. I was planning on getting a work study position, so that's probably not possible, eh? I think I could stop doing the tutoring - I'm not going to be getting a reference letter from my supervisors and the work isn't as fulfilling as it used to be. Do you think that's enough? I need my job and the Syrian refugee volunteering is important to me..

To be perfectly honest, no. I think that's still too much. 

 

If time management is the issue, but those things still matter to you, you need to think long and hard about what matters more to you: going to med school (without doing 2-3 more years of undergrad, assuming you're in ON) or doing those extra-circulars. It's possible for some people to balance that much, but not everyone. 

 

Again, reference letters and 'enough' ECs mean nothing at all without at least 2 strong GPA years. Generally, 3-4.

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Thanks, Sunny. I was planning on getting a work study position, so that's probably not possible, eh? I think I could stop doing the tutoring - I'm not going to be getting a reference letter from my supervisors and the work isn't as fulfilling as it used to be. Do you think that's enough? I need my job and the Syrian refugee volunteering is important to me..

The jump from a 3.60 to a 3.9+ is huge in terms of effort put in. I would eliminate everything and spend 100% of my time on GPA. Things like volunteering and work study can come later once your GPA is under control (but you said you need your job so for the sake of finances if it makes more sense to keep this work study position, then keep it). But what sunny was trying to say was that if you spend your time doing EC's and don't have a 3.9+, it means essentially nothing.

 

Forget about the reference letters, forget about the volunteering (unless this is genuinely your way of "unwinding" then keep it because you obviously will need some down time, but for most people it isn't), forget about everything that isn't your GPA. After you get a solid year of 3.9+ and actually prove to yourself that you are capable of it, then reflect on what EC's you can add as you prepare for more studies (because you are most likely going to need a 2nd undergrad).

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The jump from a 3.60 to a 3.9+ is huge in terms of effort put in. I would eliminate everything and spend 100% of my time on GPA. Things like volunteering and work study can come later once your GPA is under control (but you said you need your job so for the sake of finances if it makes more sense to keep this work study position, then keep it). But what sunny was trying to say was that if you spend your time doing EC's and don't have a 3.9+, it means essentially nothing.

 

Forget about the reference letters, forget about the volunteering (unless this is genuinely your way of "unwinding" then keep it because you obviously will need some down time, but for most people it isn't), forget about everything that isn't your GPA. After you get a solid year of 3.9+ and actually prove to yourself that you are capable of it, then reflect on what EC's you can add as you prepare for more studies (because you are most likely going to need a 2nd undergrad).

I understand what you're both saying...I can justify dropping everything, even my job, to get the good grades..

 

Do you think I'll need the 2nd undergrad or would two years of a 3.9+ GPA be sufficient? 

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I understand what you're both saying...I can justify dropping everything, even my job, to get the good grades..

 

Do you think I'll need the 2nd undergrad or would two years of a 3.9+ GPA be sufficient? 

You're doing a 4 year UG correct? Then to get 2 years of 3.9+, you will at the least need a 5th year. My personal recommendation is to do a 2nd undergrad in something that can lead to an alternate career pathway after in an area that you are somewhat interested in/don't mind working in while you continue to apply to med school (eg. nursing). What you can then do is apply in your 5th year and if you get in then go to med school obviously and if you don't, continue doing the 2nd year of your 2nd undergrad (during this application cycle your only chance would be Western because they can provide a conditional acceptance based on your 5th year marks). Ensure you meet Western's courseload requirements, especially for the "special year". There is a slim but possible chance at McMaster during that cycle if you get a very high CARS and CASPer score.

 

With 2 years of 3.9+, you have a shot at both Queen's and Western (technically less than 3.9 is acceptable...but really at this point you should take it very seriously and get a 3.9+) depending on your MCAT score (both schools have high MCAT cutoffs, Western being higher). If you have 3 years of 3.9+ you have a shot at Ottawa (which at the moment does not use the MCAT score but it could change). You're not eligible for weighting at U of T so pretty much forget about it unless you want to apply anyway and explain how your health problems affected your performance. I would not expect anything from U of T though. I think Dalhousie also only looks at 2 years but I don't know much about applying there.

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I agree with the above posters, GPA means a lot here in Canada - if it is really the lack of time available to dedicate to your studies I would seriously cut down the ECs.

 

That being said, I would also reflect on your study habits. Many are capable of balancing a lot of things, academics, life, volunteering etc, the reason why this is so is because either they are genuinely really smart or they time manage really well. I myself fall on the latter, it takes me time to get things down, I cannot just sit in a lecture, absorb the material and apply it right away. I usually go home, study and reflect on the material until I have it down and I am confident in my understanding.

 

So maybe before dropping everything entirely, especially the things that matter to you in life, take some time to reflect on why you have been getting those grades.

 

My first year was 3.41 and I had virtually no ECs, however I had a strong upward trend and my last two years were 3.91, 4.0 - and I was taking on more ECs then I ever had before. I learned how to study the "right" way and had pretty good time management.

 

All the best with your academics, in the long run if you have to sacrifice a few more years to get that GPA up, IMO its worth it.

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I agree with the above posters, GPA means a lot here in Canada - if it is really the lack of time available to dedicate to your studies I would seriously cut down the ECs.

 

That being said, I would also reflect on your study habits. Many are capable of balancing a lot of things, academics, life, volunteering etc, the reason why this is so is because either they are genuinely really smart or they time manage really well. I myself fall on the latter, it takes me time to get things down, I cannot just sit in a lecture, absorb the material and apply it right away. I usually go home, study and reflect on the material until I have it down and I am confident in my understanding.

 

So maybe before dropping everything entirely, especially the things that matter to you in life, take some time to reflect on why you have been getting those grades.

 

My first year was 3.41 and I had virtually no ECs, however I had a strong upward trend and my last two years were 3.91, 4.0 - and I was taking on more ECs then I ever had before. I learned how to study the "right" way and had pretty good time management.

 

All the best with your academics, in the long run if you have to sacrifice a few more years to get that GPA up, IMO its worth it.

Thank you all for your help!

 

MDHopefullyMe, it isn't the lack of time, but using it effectively. I had no ECs in my 1st year, and that was the year I had my lowest GPA. I just don't know how to study, so I get anxious and then don't until the day before an exam (obviously a good way to get mediocre grades). I'm confident that I'm smart, I just never really learnt how to study effectively. What did you do to learn how to study the "right" way and how would you recommend getting better at time management? I'm really willing to learn.

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Everyone has their own methods of studying, finding the way that is best for you is what I meant by the "right" way.

 

In my UG studies I always kept up with all my courses, I would make myself do practice problems if the course was math/physics/orgo etc. and would focus more on repetition for the more memorization based courses, I would review these types of courses more often and days leading up to the exam I would make sure I had either fully understood something, or just plain memorized it if I couldn't truly understand it. I also put more of a focus on material I thought would be good exam content and this helped too. In first year I tried to read the entire textbook and didnt focus on the lecture material (I had this mindset that I had to know everything in textbooks and quickly learnt that this was not the way to go).

 

In my Graduate studies I had a few course based classes, I decided to try to take more a deep approach to learning instead of rote memorization and I found that this helped tremendously, I also used this approach when studying for the MCAT and I had been doing better on my practice tests this time around than when I took that exam 3 years ago.

 

Find the way that works best for you and if it works then stick with it!

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Everyone has their own methods of studying, finding the way that is best for you is what I meant by the "right" way.

 

In my UG studies I always kept up with all my courses, I would make myself do practice problems if the course was math/physics/orgo etc. and would focus more on repetition for the more memorization based courses, I would review these types of courses more often and days leading up to the exam I would make sure I had either fully understood something, or just plain memorized it if I couldn't truly understand it. I also put more of a focus on material I thought would be good exam content and this helped too. In first year I tried to read the entire textbook and didnt focus on the lecture material (I had this mindset that I had to know everything in textbooks and quickly learnt that this was not the way to go).

 

In my Graduate studies I had a few course based classes, I decided to try to take more a deep approach to learning instead of rote memorization and I found that this helped tremendously, I also used this approach when studying for the MCAT and I had been doing better on my practice tests this time around than when I took that exam 3 years ago.

 

Find the way that works best for you and if it works then stick with it!

 

Thank you for the advice. If you don't mind me asking, what do you mean by a "deep approach." The current method I have is trying to understand a pathway/concept, trying to recall it and then hoping I'll remember it on the exam. I'm a visual learner as well, so I'll draw pictures to symbolize concepts and try and recall that on a test.

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