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BipolarBearr

'Special Student' status in fifth year?

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Hi Everyone!

A little while ago I made a post asking whether a 5th year would benefit me more than a Masters would in my pursuit of med school. I have been looking into what a fifth year would look like for me (Currently in health sciences at Western) and a counselor had told me that next year I would be registered at a "Special Student". I would technically graduate this year since I satisfied all of my degree's criteria but I could come back with this new status. I have never heard of this new status as a special student before and was wondering if med schools do in fact consider this in their GPA weighing. Can anyone confirm that this adds to my GPA? I don't want to spend a year and $7,000 only to find out that medical schools dont even consider that year.

 

Thanks!

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14 minutes ago, BipolarBearr said:

Hi Everyone!

A little while ago I made a post asking whether a 5th year would benefit me more than a Masters would in my pursuit of med school. I have been looking into what a fifth year would look like for me (Currently in health sciences at Western) and a counselor had told me that next year I would be registered at a "Special Student". I would technically graduate this year since I satisfied all of my degree's criteria but I could come back with this new status. I have never heard of this new status as a special student before and was wondering if med schools do in fact consider this in their GPA weighing. Can anyone confirm that this adds to my GPA? I don't want to spend a year and $7,000 only to find out that medical schools dont even consider that year.

 

Thanks!

First off they are forcing you to graduate? I mean there are often advantages to not letting them if you can ha (with respect to course selection)

This is where it gets a bit mess as there are is not official talk that some schools won't accept a year that does not contribute towards a degree (to prevent people from doing years basically to boost their GPA outside of a structured program). Some people have claimed that for Ottawa - not sure if it is actually true. 

Western of course will consider the special year - you do have to follow their restrictions very closely though - particular with respect to first and second year courses. 

Many of the others don't seem to care as well, taking it as just another year. 

To answer your question we probably need more information - what is your current GPA by year? your mcat scores? basically what exactly are you trying to correct :)

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Hey!

 

They're not forcing me to but unless there are great benefits to delaying graduation I would love to graduate this year and then take the fifth. I just want to make sure there arent negative repercussions if I do so. I'm not applying to Ottawa, but that's good re: Western.

 

cGPA is around 3.0, obviously it varies from school to school but its not particularly competitive anywhere and many have suggested that a strong fifth year could make a huge difference. MCAT scores are also mediocre but I'm planning to rewrite so thats unrelated to the original post.

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Why would you "love to graduate this year and then take a fifth" ? Just so you can have your graduation ceremony or something? I would strongly encourage you to just delay graduation and make sure the 5th year is just an extension of your degree. If your school is like mine(and many others) a senior student in the degree program usually has best priority for picking courses. Special, unclassified, non-degree students usually pick up scraps.  

You can wait a year for the overpriced gown and cap if that really matters to you.  No point risking it.

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I would definitely pick a 5th year over a special year. At least at my school, being in a special year means you get absolute last pick of courses and can make it very difficult to take courses you're interested in/fit with pre-reqs at the 3/5 rule. I chose to delay graduation, despite being done my degree, instead of doing the special year and I am 100% happy with that decision. 

If you choose to not graduate you and your school is like mine, you get to choose courses in early July with everyone else vs. end of August as a special student.

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From what my academic counselor told me, I'd be able to pick courses at the same time as the 4th years would and yes- the benefit of graduating this year is that my degree is done and I graduate with people I know. She called it being a special student but I have no clue what that means, is there even a difference between a continuation of the degree and graduating but continuing?

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17 hours ago, BipolarBearr said:

From what my academic counselor told me, I'd be able to pick courses at the same time as the 4th years would and yes- the benefit of graduating this year is that my degree is done and I graduate with people I know. She called it being a special student but I have no clue what that means, is there even a difference between a continuation of the degree and graduating but continuing?

I go to Western and I highly suggest you do a 5th year and not register yourself as a "special student". Taking a year to just "boost your gpa" after you have already graduated just tells medschool admissions that you're only doing it to boost your GPA. Taking a 5th year means you may not have completed all the prerequisite courses so you decided to do a 5th year to do so (essentially to graduate). Make sure you do the 3/5 rule where you take 3.0 courses 3rd year and above, and the other 2.0 can be 2nd year. Also, never take a 1st year course in your last year. 

Also I have heard from many people at Western that you would have the last course selection date. You should probably double check this with your academic counsellor because its the first I've heard that they let you do your course selection in the same slot as 4th years. 

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28 minutes ago, caramilk said:

Not to go off topic, but why not? What if you need it for your degree still or are taking first-year English to apply to UBC?

the point is you cannot do that in a special year. Western simply doesn't allow them if the year is to be counted. 

That is the problem with special years - sometimes you lose access to courses as mentioned about, sometimes schools won't count them at all as they aren't a part of a degree (some schools don't like people taking a year basically solely to boost the GPA - and if you graduate it is obvious), you do lose access to some courses - like first year ones - that may make a year easier and thus generate a higher GPA. Finally off the top of my head the other issue is you can simply only have one special year - but you can actually have a 5th, 6th.... standard UG year. Not that you should plan for that ha - but usually if you don't have to restrict yourself you have to think hard about why you would.

I think it is usually better to think what is the actual advantage of doing a formally defined special year? The only "major" one is that you aren't locked in the 3/5 rule - you could take more 2nd courses that have a prereq for instance. I put major in quotes as graduating with your friends is not insignificant from an emotional point of view separate from your goal of medical school. There is a risk either way but you need to be provided with all the facts to help you :)

 

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18 hours ago, BipolarBearr said:

From what my academic counselor told me, I'd be able to pick courses at the same time as the 4th years would and yes- the benefit of graduating this year is that my degree is done and I graduate with people I know. She called it being a special student but I have no clue what that means, is there even a difference between a continuation of the degree and graduating but continuing?

Always fact check advisors with the source, i.e. school website. 

Hopefully you don't get burned, because you felt the need to "graduate with people you know".  Undergrad grad ceremonies is highly overrated, and I say that as a first generation who only went so my parents could see me. That said, there is no reason you cant go take pictures and celebrate with your friends on their grad day. That is what i did, since i delayed graduation.

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oh and general advise to who ever happens to be reading this - don't ever fully trust an university guidance counselor (or anyone else for that matter) with respect to this sort of stuff - there are so many programs they have to manage it is extremely hard for them to know them all. They always do their best but I can only imagine how hard that would be - mastering all the rules, tricks and unofficial policies of every single professional program out there plus the rest(!?) Sounds worse than completing medical school, ha. 

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7 hours ago, Logic said:

Also I have heard from many people at Western that you would have the last course selection date. You should probably double check this with your academic counsellor because its the first I've heard that they let you do your course selection in the same slot as 4th years. 

Also at Western - I am in my fifth year and got to choose my courses in the same dates as the 4th years. I did get stuck with the last date for fourth year course selection (as Western varies their enrolment dates between individuals), but I had other 5th year friends that got a day or two earlier than mine. 

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41 minutes ago, buttercream said:

Also at Western - I am in my fifth year and got to choose my courses in the same dates as the 4th years. I did get stuck with the last date for fourth year course selection (as Western varies their enrolment dates between individuals), but I had other 5th year friends that got a day or two earlier than mine. 

so if I am understanding this correctly - in your special year you didn't find any particular disadvantage in course selection at Western? (I hate the term 5th year as it can be confusing which pathway you are one :)

I know at some other schools - Waterloo for instance - you aren't so favorably positioned  

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17 hours ago, rmorelan said:

so if I am understanding this correctly - in your special year you didn't find any particular disadvantage in course selection at Western? (I hate the term 5th year as it can be confusing which pathway you are one :)

I know at some other schools - Waterloo for instance - you aren't so favorably positioned  

Nope, no disadvantage. You're essentially just a fourth year all over again.

 

EDIT: I misread, I mean I chose not to graduate.

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2 hours ago, buttercream said:

Also at Western - I am in my fifth year and got to choose my courses in the same dates as the 4th years. I did get stuck with the last date for fourth year course selection (as Western varies their enrolment dates between individuals), but I had other 5th year friends that got a day or two earlier than mine. 

Sorry, just to clarify because there seems to be some mixed opinions in this thread. You took this "special year" and still had the same enrollment dates and the whole 3/5 rule? I know technically wanting to graduate is overrated and not worth the hype, but if it's impact in terms of influencing GPA for medical school was the same, then I would much rather pick the one where I graduate with people I know. Also, someone above mentioned that it wouldnt look great if I took the special year since it would be clear that I was doing it to boost my GPA. Why is this bad... Does it not show determination to be willing to do an extra year just to increase my odds? And would a fifth year continuing my UG without graduation while having all of my credits and pre reqs not also look like I was just trying to boost my GPA? I don't get the difference and are they really considered differently by medical schools?

 

Someone else mentioned the websites but they arent the most clear... I have been researching this stuff a lot and I only heard about this special year from my one on one meeting with a counselor (but she knew nothing about medical school admissions)

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55 minutes ago, buttercream said:

Nope, no disadvantage. You're essentially just a fourth year all over again.

So you're saying you graduated and then decided to do a 5th year after? Or you did not graduate yet and then did a 5th year? 

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2 minutes ago, BipolarBearr said:

Sorry, just to clarify because there seems to be some mixed opinions in this thread. You took this "special year" and still had the same enrollment dates and the whole 3/5 rule? I know technically wanting to graduate is overrated and not worth the hype, but if it's impact in terms of influencing GPA for medical school was the same, then I would much rather pick the one where I graduate with people I know. Also, someone above mentioned that it wouldnt look great if I took the special year since it would be clear that I was doing it to boost my GPA. Why is this bad... Does it not show determination to be willing to do an extra year just to increase my odds? And would a fifth year continuing my UG without graduation while having all of my credits and pre reqs not also look like I was just trying to boost my GPA? I don't get the difference and are they really considered differently by medical schools?

 

Someone else mentioned the websites but they arent the most clear... I have been researching this stuff a lot and I only heard about this special year from my one on one meeting with a counselor (but she knew nothing about medical school admissions)

The medical school admission counsel does not know the pre-reqs you need to graduate, keep that in mind. By graduating and then taking an extra year, you just confirmed that you do have the pre-reqs yet you're taking an extra year to boost your GPA. 

There are many reasons why people do a 5th year (not a special year). Often some people may have not completed the breadth requirements, etc that they need to graduate. 

 

Also the reason why I believe buttercream may have done a 5th year and not a special year is because I personally know someone who did a special year and he got screwed over for course selection. 

 

 

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9 hours ago, caramilk said:

Not to go off topic, but why not? What if you need it for your degree still or are taking first-year English to apply to UBC?

I'm not too sure, you will have to ask the individual schools you're applying to. Some schools care, some dont. I know some schools in the states for sure care so if you're looking to that as a back up option, I'd stay on the safe side and stay away from doing 1st year courses in the last year. 

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On 1/29/2018 at 4:06 PM, BipolarBearr said:

cGPA is around 3.0, obviously it varies from school to school but its not particularly competitive anywhere and many have suggested that a strong fifth year could make a huge difference. MCAT scores are also mediocre but I'm planning to rewrite so thats unrelated to the original post.

Bearr  - what is your GPA in each of your individual undergrad years ?    The wGPA at each school depends on that info.

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35 minutes ago, BipolarBearr said:

Sorry, just to clarify because there seems to be some mixed opinions in this thread. You took this "special year" and still had the same enrollment dates and the whole 3/5 rule? I know technically wanting to graduate is overrated and not worth the hype, but if it's impact in terms of influencing GPA for medical school was the same, then I would much rather pick the one where I graduate with people I know. Also, someone above mentioned that it wouldnt look great if I took the special year since it would be clear that I was doing it to boost my GPA. Why is this bad... Does it not show determination to be willing to do an extra year just to increase my odds? And would a fifth year continuing my UG without graduation while having all of my credits and pre reqs not also look like I was just trying to boost my GPA? I don't get the difference and are they really considered differently by medical schools?

 

Someone else mentioned the websites but they arent the most clear... I have been researching this stuff a lot and I only heard about this special year from my one on one meeting with a counselor (but she knew nothing about medical school admissions)

With some schools it is bad because years where your sole purpose is to boast your GPA may give you an advantage they don't want you to have. You can structure that year by taking easier courses, you completely free to avoid in particular an required challenging ones, and you can take courses only in areas you already are strong in. They feel that year cannot be compared on an equal level with other people in standard programs (a lot of places talk about having a normal course progression for instance - an added on year wouldn't have that by definition - you aren't progressing towards anything). 

They aren't interested as much in your willingness to do things to get into medical school - that would be a subjective assessment, and GPA is an objective tool. They want to make it as standard as they can.

Part of this as well isn't what your transcripts show, or even what you did but what the rules are. Now to be clear ha not all schools will care. If you follow the rules Western won't care at all. TO and Ottawa make a point of looking at your transcripts and we are never completely sure what they do with them - both of those schools would be ones you would suspect not like it. 

It would also be good as Meridian points out to look at your yearly break down - you may not even be considering schools that would care about the year :)

 

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11 hours ago, Meridian said:

Bearr  - what is your GPA in each of your individual undergrad years ?    The wGPA at each school depends on that info.

My first two years were mediocre (~3.0), my third year was decent aside from one course I barely passed and that dropped the GPA of that year to around ~2.7. So far my 4th year is a 3.7-3.9 and Im really counting on an amazing 4th + 5th to make me somewhat competitive. Also, this was my original thread: which has more information, you actually advised me to do the 5th year in this thread

 

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16 minutes ago, BipolarBearr said:

My first two years were mediocre (~3.0), my third year was decent aside from one course I barely passed and that dropped the GPA of that year to around ~2.7. So far my 4th year is a 3.7-3.9 and Im really counting on an amazing 4th + 5th to make me somewhat competitive. Also, this was my original thread: which has more information, you actually advised me to do the 5th year in this thread

 

I would agree with the conclusion that a masters would not help you as much as a 5th year would (debate about whether it is a special year or actual 5th year aside). 

You would be planning to apply this coming fall under conditional acceptance I take it?  A lot of this is going to come down to the mcat.

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15 hours ago, Logic said:

So you're saying you graduated and then decided to do a 5th year after? Or you did not graduate yet and then did a 5th year? 

I did not graduate. To me, being able to spend a couple hours with friends and taking pictures at graduation wasn't worth the hassle of getting absolute last pick of courses (end of August), the constraints on the 2nd year courses you can take (must have pre-requisites). Additionally, in my degree, I know that the fourth year courses fill pretty much instantly and I would have way to hard of a time trying to enrol in them at the end of August. 

By taking the fifth year, it also allowed me to take some courses I was interested in before but unable to take due to other degree requirements, conflicts in schedule, etc. I was going to complete a minor but decided against it and instead took courses I (for the most part) really was interested in. Additionally, I was going to be running a club and I'm not sure if you're able to do that as a special student.

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15 hours ago, BipolarBearr said:

Sorry, just to clarify because there seems to be some mixed opinions in this thread. You took this "special year" and still had the same enrollment dates and the whole 3/5 rule?

Sorry, I misread the original post. I mean: no, I just didn't graduate and continued as a fifth year student. By not graduating, you get the same enrolment date as the fourth years and just follow the 3/5 rule. (For western anyways)

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3 hours ago, buttercream said:

Sorry, I misread the original post. I mean: no, I just didn't graduate and continued as a fifth year student. By not graduating, you get the same enrolment date as the fourth years and just follow the 3/5 rule. (For western anyways)

Spoke to my faculty counsellor about that. Special students get the same enrolment date as fourth years

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