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amalficoast

Masters Or 5Th Year

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Hi All,

 

I know this topic has been discussed quite a bit on the forum but I just wanted everyone's 2 cents especially considering the fact that it seems U of A (and U of C for a while now) is starting to favour more "mature" students recently. I'm having a hard time deciding whether I should go for a 5th year or a 2 years masters. My gpa is 3.70 right now and MCAT scores 510. Other then that I would say ECs are pretty average. I'm not sure what would be more productive: (hopefully) boosting up my GPA with a fifth year through open studies or getting some solid research experience through a thesis based masters.

 

Does anyone have past experiences going through either of these routes? I know there probably isn't a wrong decision but I just want to be realistic. 

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Previously I would have said do something to boost your GPA, but since I've heard rumours about changes, a Masters might be more beneficial since it'll contribute to your non-academic as well?

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Hi All,

 

I know this topic has been discussed quite a bit on the forum but I just wanted everyone's 2 cents especially considering the fact that it seems U of A (and U of C for a while now) is starting to favour more "mature" students recently. I'm having a hard time deciding whether I should go for a 5th year or a 2 years masters. My gpa is 3.70 right now and MCAT scores 510. Other then that I would say ECs are pretty average. I'm not sure what would be more productive: (hopefully) boosting up my GPA with a fifth year through open studies or getting some solid research experience through a thesis based masters.

 

Does anyone have past experiences going through either of these routes? I know there probably isn't a wrong decision but I just want to be realistic. 

 

 

5th year.  A higher GPA is always better. You can do a masters after that, but you can't go back and do a 5th year once you've already graduated.

UofA and UofC look at masters GPA just like undergrad GPA I think. They add your master's GPA and weigh it as an additional year of UG. In this case, the EC benefits and potential GPA increase are more beneficial via a masters. Also I hear that it's easier to get good grades in MSc courses than undergrad courses, but of course that depends on the course.

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Hi All,

 

I know this topic has been discussed quite a bit on the forum but I just wanted everyone's 2 cents especially considering the fact that it seems U of A (and U of C for a while now) is starting to favour more "mature" students recently. I'm having a hard time deciding whether I should go for a 5th year or a 2 years masters. My gpa is 3.70 right now and MCAT scores 510. Other then that I would say ECs are pretty average. I'm not sure what would be more productive: (hopefully) boosting up my GPA with a fifth year through open studies or getting some solid research experience through a thesis based masters.

 

Does anyone have past experiences going through either of these routes? I know there probably isn't a wrong decision but I just want to be realistic. 

 

UofA and UofC look at masters GPA just like undergrad GPA I think. They add your master's GPA and weigh it as an additional year of UG. In this case, the EC benefits and potential GPA increase are more beneficial via a masters. Also I hear that it's easier to get good grades in MSc courses than undergrad courses, but of course that depends on the course.

 

If you do a course-based masters you should commit to finishing it before applying to medical school (I feel personally that this is common courtesy to respect your program that took you). If you don't want to commit then do a 5th year for your GPA. 

 

I can help answer other questions if you wish. Best wishes, 

 

- G

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Looking at it strictly from a strategic standpoint- the 5th year makes very little sense. Most schools give extra points for an MSc. or PhD when you apply to medicine, which would likely eclipse any potential benefit your increased GPA would provide if it goes up after your 5th year. Furthermore, other than potentially increasing your GPA slightly, you're absolutely wasting your time. Between the time spent doing courses which wont count towards a degree, the money spent on tuition, and the lost wages, I really don't understand how people think a 5th year is a good option. If you're that concerned about upgrading your GPA, do a course based master's which will count towards it, or do another 2 years and get another bachelors degree. Think of it this way- you are considering paying >$6,000 to slightly increase a portion of your application score worth 20-30% (depending on the school) when you could be saving that money and using the time more effectively to gain work experience ($$$ AND 4/17ths of your EC score @ UofA) and volunteer experience (4/17ths of your EC score @UofA). 

When it comes to a thesis based MSc.- go into it with the mindset you will be committed for a minimum of 2 years. Many schools (i.e. U of C) don't allow graduate students to apply if they wont be finished by the fall. I believe faculty members are pushing for the same at U of A, because they often have students trying to fill a year of downtime while they reapply for med after their undergrad. I can tell you that many profs rant about students who ditch grad school a year in if they get an MD program offer- you've not only wasted their time, but also their money since they would have paid you a stipend (usually). I echo GH0STs comment, although I would say it is an even larger problem to leave a thesis based program part way through compared to a course-based program. That being said, graduate school isn't a filler while you wait to get into medical school. If you aren't interested in your project you won't get very far and you will be miserable. 

Hope this (perhaps biased) perspective helps!

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Looking at it strictly from a strategic standpoint- the 5th year makes very little sense. Most schools give extra points for an MSc. or PhD when you apply to medicine, which would likely eclipse any potential benefit your increased GPA would provide if it goes up after your 5th year. Furthermore, other than potentially increasing your GPA slightly, you're absolutely wasting your time. Between the time spent doing courses which wont count towards a degree, the money spent on tuition, and the lost wages, I really don't understand how people think a 5th year is a good option. If you're that concerned about upgrading your GPA, do a course based master's which will count towards it, or do another 2 years and get another bachelors degree. Think of it this way- you are considering paying >$6,000 to slightly increase a portion of your application score worth 20-30% (depending on the school) when you could be saving that money and using the time more effectively to gain work experience ($$$ AND 4/17ths of your EC score @ UofA) and volunteer experience (4/17ths of your EC score @UofA). 

 

When it comes to a thesis based MSc.- go into it with the mindset you will be committed for a minimum of 2 years. Many schools (i.e. U of C) don't allow graduate students to apply if they wont be finished by the fall. I believe faculty members are pushing for the same at U of A, because they often have students trying to fill a year of downtime while they reapply for med after their undergrad. I can tell you that many profs rant about students who ditch grad school a year in if they get an MD program offer- you've not only wasted their time, but also their money since they would have paid you a stipend (usually). I echo GH0STs comment, although I would say it is an even larger problem to leave a thesis based program part way through compared to a course-based program. That being said, graduate school isn't a filler while you wait to get into medical school. If you aren't interested in your project you won't get very far and you will be miserable. 

 

Hope this (perhaps biased) perspective helps!

 

Wholeheartedly agree. Do not waste your time and anyone else's effort if you aren't interested in research or doing something with your graduate level degree in the future. 

 

Let's talk about the numbers though to be fair..... just so we can lay it all out. 

 

Assuming you get a 4.0 GPA for 30 credits and you currently have 3.70 for 120 credits >>> your average GPA becomes 3.76, which is a significant improvement, but still below the average currently and when GPA is 27% of the UofA application... even a significant improvement won't necessarily have a strong impact on your GPA

*** note: I don't know if 3.7 is your cGPA or adjusted GPA after removing your weakest year, which will change calculations. I also don't know every single med school's GPA criteria so it may weigh much more at other places. Regardless I hope I've demonstrated how hard it can be to improve your GPA after finishing your undergraduate degree (and we're not even talking about the money, time, and other potential investments that are basically sunk into this plan).***

 

With a course-based masters assuming you take ~ 18-30 credits worth for 2 years, you can also use that towards boosting your GPA and having an extra degree under your belt to use for another career or apply the skills in medicine (I apply statistics all the time when it comes to human trials or understanding yield of physical exams/labs from a numbers point of view). Note that with a course-based masters you aren't eligible for the +1 point for the UofA application. However, your time spent on both your degree, potential for more ECs, and developing yourself as a person is a benefit. 

 

With a thesis-based masters, you'll unlikely have enough courses to put them into the GPA weighting, so your GPA in most situations won't move from 3.7. However you will get the +1 point on your UofA application. 

 

I wrote a detailed post comparing thesis vs course based masters programs a while back. 

http://forums.premed101.com/index.php?/topic/86360-course-based-vs-research-based-masters/#entry960539

 

This is what I did before getting into medical school 

http://forums.premed101.com/index.php?/topic/41062-success-stories-non-trad-style/?p=953358

 

Regardless of your choice...... please please do not do any masters/Ph.D program if you don't really care about the field and are just using it as a stepping stone for MD admissions.

 

Lastly, you can spend the time working and developing your ECs, maybe even write the MCAT again. 

 

There are benefits and consequences to any of these options. Think about what benefits are important to you and what consequences you cannot tolerate. Also look at your resources available (money, time, interest, other supports etc...) when making such a critical decision. 

 

Regardless of these options, you'll need to improve your critical thinking and broaden your perspective, among many other things to improve yourself and your future interview. I made some comments on preparation here http://forums.premed101.com/index.php?/topic/86211-is-it-too-early-to-prepare-for-interviews/#entry959565

 

Best wishes to you and as always I'd be happy to answer any other questions you may have. 

 

- G

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