Category Archives: Weekend Inquiry

Weekend Inquiry: Studying Abroad in Undergrad


Dear Naomi,
I am a high school senior, have been accepted to where I want to go* and want to plan all four years of college because I hate not having a plan, I want to know exactly what I am going to take, when and why.
I am completely confused on whether or not a study abroad program would fit in with my undergraduate requirements for medical school. I have read on google that the AMCAS only records grades from study abroad programs as pass/fail, but I have also read that some programs will be excepted as normal grades. i have always wanted to do study abroad and thought it would even help my application if I could do some hospital volunteering in the country I end up in, which at the moment would be England.
I would greatly appreciate any thoughts you may have on the matter.

* I have been accepted to Florida Atlantic University and decided on this school because it is close to my home and I have a full-ride there.
*The study abroad program I was looking at was at NYU, I am going to put the web page below-please read the small passage on the top right just under the “apply now” button.


Sorry for such a large amount of crap but I would really appreciate some help here 🙂
I know what you are thinking… freshmen these days.. lol

Hey Joanne,
I can feel your excitement and ambition through the text: it’s great! I think a study abroad option is always a good thing. It boosts your resume for medical schools big time, and it is a great life experience. You don’t need to be worried too much about the grades you get there, especially if AMCAS only looks at it as pass/fail; I think the reason medical schools aren’t too concerned about what grades you get abroad is because they look at the program as an experience. I know there are plenty of study abroad programs in England where grades do transfer over though, so be sure to put in your best in class, as well.

England obviously isn’t a third-world country, which are often the places where students can make a big difference when studying abroad, so make sure you connect with some organization in England. Try and find a non-profit medically related program or a hospital you can volunteer in regularly (weekly) while you’re there. Medical schools will love that, and so will you! Don’t forget to keep track of your hours and write down any really touching or obscure experiences – they may make it into your personal statement or be topic for discussion at your medical school interview a few years from now!

Congrats on getting a full-ride to Florida Atlantic University! Make sure to keep that scholarship, if possible, because that’s an awesome resume booster. The program at NYU looks excellent. You could call them to ask how transferable their program credits are and whether or not they know if medical school applications see individual grades. It looks like you could do a year or just one semester, so keep in mind that pre-med requisites in undergrad usually build on themselves and may only be offered sequentially and in just the Fall or just the Spring (e.g. Organic Chemistry 2 is taken after 1 and may only be offered in the Spring). You’d have to choose the right semester to do this program, but I definitely encourage applying at the least.

Best of luck,

Weekend Inquiry: 3.5 GPA Good Enough for Medical School?

Here is a question I received from a student a while ago. I’m sure it will also help others with similar questions.

Weekend Inquiry GPA

Well I guess what I am wondering is just about your experience in applying. I think I read that you applied to 15 schools? Where did you end up deciding to go? Also, have you discussed undergraduate GPA’s and test scores with your fellow classmates? I have received reassurance from my pre-med committee that I will be a competitive applicant, however I still feel that my GPA ( 3.57) may hold me back. From your experience does this seem like a very low number or somewhat average?

I have worked extremely hard in undergrad and have taken on a lot of responsibility in many more aspects that simply academics but I am still worried about my odds of getting into my number 1 choice (UCONN med). I am in my last semester as an undergrad and am also taking an Examkrackers course for the MCAT.
Once again I think the blog is a great resource for someone like myself and people who are just starting to think about medical school. Thanks a lot for taking time out of your busy schedule to help others, this is a quality that I think will help you become an incredible physician.

Hey Fred,
Pre-med committees are sometimes completely out of touch with reality. However, with a 3.57 you are definitely in the potential pile of competitive applicants. About UCONN, you might get in, but make sure you apply to many schools. At least 10-15. I know it’s expensive but if you are at the cut-off, which you aren’t necessarily, make sure your MCAT score is good (30+) and apply as early as possible. Make sure your resume is decked out and give your essays (primary/secondary) to 2-3 very competent peers or professors that have experience and can help you to create the best literary piece possible.

If your MCAT score ends up being bad, take it again before applying to medical school. It gets harder every time you apply because their scrutiny increases. With a 3.57 you can certainly get into a DO school even with a mediocre MCAT score (26-29).

EK is great; I would also use TBR. I don’t have a high opinion of courses, because the learning will depend on you. Make sure you focus on both knowledge and thinking. What I am reading and the impression I am getting makes me certain that you will get in somewhere good but keep on working hard. Otherwise a DO school is a great option as well.

To reiterate, as long as you get a decent MCAT score (30+), have research/volunteering/medical experience and good LORs, you should be fine with a 3.57 GPA. Do apply early and retake the MCAT if your first try isn’t good enough.


Weekend Inquiry: When in Doubt & Caribbean Medical Schools

weekend inquiry

Thank you in advance for reading and analyzing this long diatribe. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and best of luck in the upcoming year.
I will try to keep my intro as short as possible to get in to the specifics, in the interest of saving time and yawns. Please be as honest as possible, I may need the reality check.

I started college at the age of 19 in 1998 in St John’s of New York for all the wrong reasons. I saw college more as a party and ultimately was kicked out because of my grades.
In my 4 semesters there, I managed to amass roughly 20k in private loans, as well as 22 credits and 1.69 GPA. There was also four F’s and 6 withdrawals.

County College
Yes, those are the right years, not a typo. (Some years I didn’t attend, others were only partial semesters, and some were semesters where I dropped all my classes.)
During these years, I managed to hold two long term jobs, while taking classes here and there. At the end of this illustrious college career, I graduated with an associate degree in Business and a 2.81 GPA, along with 19 withdrawals, and 5 F’s. Now I am in a 4 year college, only a summer and fall semester away from a Bachelor’s in Special Education/Spanish. However this semester, I had a hiccup with college Algebra and I failed, I should have withdrawn but didn’t. I am more than confident that I will ace it once I take it again, and whatever my final grade is, will be combined with that F to give me a new final grade.
So to re-cap, I am about 35k in debt for my schooling, a cumulative GPA of 3.138 and a return feeling to practice medicine. There are also 25 withdrawals, and 11 F’s now.

I once was very interested in medicine when I was 23(now I am 32) to go to Dominican Republic for med school, and I guess that’s still an option, but such a tough road to hoe once I get back to states, and that was part of the reason of not pursuing it back then.
At this point, my college tuition isn’t too expensive, so I could afford the extra science classes and math classes. However, would a post- bacc be a better option? I was hoping I could just stay at my four year college, because post bacc is expensive. I know core classes should be at a 4 year school, and that’s where the majority of them would be.
I could theoretically still graduate a science major here still, although that would take about another year. Should I just take the basic science and math courses here and give MCAT’s a shot? Also the science courses (basics) are chem. and org chem., bio and organic bio, pre-calc and physics, correct? Please advise if I missed any. Finally, why do I feel I can make this change? How could I possible finish med school, if it has taken me this long for my bachelor’s?

I was diagnosed with adult ADHD, and ever since I have been diagnosed, I am making positive strides in school. I had three a’s in Spanish, a “c” in education, and “b+” in geography! Thoughts and advice please? It would be severely appreciated, and thank you for your time!

Hi Jeff,

It sounds like you’ve been through a lot. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot from all of that. Debt is never a good motivator, although a strong influence on any decisions that involve finances, including schooling.

It’s hard to say what you “should” or “should not” do. Generally speaking, I would do what you find the most joy in doing. If that’s medical school, you would really need to step up your game. Even in Caribbean medical schools, F’s are not commonly accepted upon entry. Even just one F would need to be explained at medical school interviews. Multiple F’s would be a major deterrent, and it sounds like you may have other career ideas up your sleeve. Also, residency spots are becoming more and more scarce in proportion to the amount of graduating medical students; it’s much, much harder for Caribbean med students to get physician residency spots in the US.

I would pursue a medically-related job for a number of years to decide if you want to further your education in medicine. You would need a lot of real-life medical experience to balance out those bad grades. Maybe you could go to tech school to be a phlebotomist or EMT. After or instead of that, a post-bacc program might be a good option, but you would have to perform very well. You may find out you like being a tech after all.

If I may make a suggestion, don’t pressure yourself with expectations higher than you’re comfortable with. If you spend a lot of money for schooling just to end up in a field you have no previous experience in and decide you don’t really get fulfillment from, it’d be awful. I know a first year med student who was pressured by his parents to go to medical school, did horribly the first trimester of school, and dropped out with a lot of debt and an empty heart. He could have saved himself a lot of stress and money if he followed his own dreams instead of his parents.

Lastly, I want to add that anyone who reads my advice should take it with a grain of salt. If what I write makes sense to you where you are in life, and it helps you to either get ahead or clarify something, then I am fully satisfied. I try to only make judgment calls in my area of expertise: getting into medical school.

Best of luck,

Weekend Inquiry: Applying to Medical School Years Later

medical school inquiry

This is a new series I am kicking off because I am getting tons of emails every day and I think other people might have some similar questions. Thanks to Raushanah for this email.

Hi I am so non-traditional! I am 33, 3 kids, married and want to go to medical school. I have a b.s. in biology, but I received it almost 12 years ago. From time to time every year I do review my sciences, but I have not extensively studied. I tried to get into medical school 12 years ago. Well not tried, i took the mcat and scored horribly after taking the princeton review, so i never applied to medical school. I am ready to go at it again, what do you recommend? Do you think reviewing using exam crackers on my own will help me to get better scores and get in? I just don’t want to re-take any of my pre-reqs.

There are a couple of things to pay attention to when answering this question. What have you done since graduation, and how does this make you a fantastic applicant (why now)?
Obviously medical school admission committees are always looking for great applicants with great answers. Raising kids is not a bad reason for taking off – it is honorable and understandable. However, you will have to tell them why raising your kids made you a better applicant, person and a better student. Every question should be answered with the intention to illuminate who you are and what you bring to the table. It is an opportunity for you to tell them why you will be a great medical student.

Make sure you use real life examples to show what you are saying. For example, saying “I have become extremely goal-oriented” is not enough, you need an example of how this strength is evident in your own life. I think these two essential questions are important for every applicant, but even more important for you!

I personally know first-year students in my class who are in their early 30s or mid-30s. Some had their own businesses or other non-medical careers. Fact is, medical schools really like mature students because they are reliable and know what they want.

Concerning your last question, you might have to retake pre-reqs depending on your level of knowledge. It would be important to know your GPA because it should be somewhere above 3.5 otherwise I would recommend you to apply to osteopathic medical schools, which is a fantastic option – unless your GPA is below 3.3, then I would not recommend applying to medical school altogether, unless you retake classes and boost your GPA. These classes will and do help you get through the first couple years of medical school; it’d be hard to go through medical lectures without liking the pre-reqs you took in undergrad. Your MCAT score will also be extremely important, because it will be the only recent measure of your academic and scientific performance.

Examkrackers are definitely great books, but I would also suggest you to get The Princeton Review books or The Berkeley Review books. Feel free to refer to my MCAT Study Guide.
Also, make sure you take a lot of full-length practice tests because they will show you, on average, if you are ready.

Feel free to submit questions to Naomi (at) I try to answer most of my emails but it’s not always possible.