Premed Myths Part 1

Premed Myths

As a premed, you may get various advice from counselors, friends, family, websites or anybody else who is willing to help you. But how do you know what is true or not? Here is a list of premed myths that should be clarified.

You’re a freshman in college and you decided to pursue medicine as a career. But you have absolutely no idea how to go about doing it. Then an older friend (let’s just say he is a junior) who is also premed takes you under his or her wing and starts to teach you about being premed. Little do you know that he has absolutely no idea what he is doing either. He is leading you astray. How do you avoid this? How do you know what advice to follow and what to ignore?

Here is a comprehensive list of common premed myths:

*The facts stated below are specifically meant for U.S. allopathic medical schools

Myth 1: Freshman year grades do not matter.

Fact: The grades from any post high school institution matter when you apply to medical school. That means even if you took community college courses in high school, you will have to submit those transcripts when you apply. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) lists your GPA’s in this order:

1. College courses taken during high school

2. College (each year is listed separately)

3. Postbaccalaureate Undergraduate

4. Cumulative Undergraduate

5. Graduate

Your grades from any of these levels of education, if taken prior to applying, will be counted towards your GPA. So yes, your freshman year grades do matter.

||Read: Overall and BCPM GPA||

Myth 2: A high MCAT score will make up for my low GPA, or vice versa.

Fact: This myth is true at a certain level but only in extreme cases. For example, a student who has a 3.4 GPA (which would be considered a low GPA by premed standards) but a 39 MCAT has a decent chance of getting into an allopathic medical school. That is mainly because a 3.4 is not a terrible GPA and 39 is in the 99th percentile and only 0.4% of test takers achieve that score. Nevertheless, for the majority of people, a high MCAT score (34-38) will not make up for an abysmal GPA (for premeds, this would be anything below 3.2). For example, if your GPA is a 3.0, even a 36 will not mean very much to admissions committees. Lastly, if you’re a B average student, what evidence is there that you will do extremely well on the MCAT? There are probably very few people who can pull that off.

On the flip side, having a high GPA does not make up for a low MCAT. For example, even if you have a 4.0 GPA, if your MCAT score is 23, you will have a very difficult time getting into a school. Admissions committees always look at GPA and MCAT together. Course difficulty varies by institution, but the MCAT is the equalizer. That is why medical schools want students who can do well both in the classroom and on the MCAT.

Myth 3: I can retake a class and medical schools will only see the newer grade.

Fact: For all medical schools under the AAMC (which is almost all MD medical schools), All classes taken for a letter grade will be counted in the GPA that medical schools will see. For example, if you received an F in organic chemistry and then retook it and got an A, medical schools will count both the F and the A into your final GPA.

||Read: FAQs on applying to medical school||

Myth 4: I can take my pre-requisite courses abroad.

Fact: You need to take your pre-requisite classes at an accredited U.S. or Canadian college or university. Medical schools do not accept premedical classes taken abroad especially because those classes are usually taken in series.

Myth 5: I should just take my pre-requisite courses at my local community college because they are too hard at my school.

Fact: Medical school admissions committees are fully aware of this strategy and do not look favorably upon it. If you are a life science major at a university, this is usually not possible because you would need to take required classes at your own university in order to graduate. If you are a non-science major, however, especially if you have already graduated and decided to pursue medicine after graduating, this could be done more easily with fewer questions asked.

Myth 6: I just got a C in a class. I should give up my dreams of becoming a doctor.

Fact: One bad grade does not ruin your chances at becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, many bad grades do. As long as the bad grade is a deviation rather than the norm, you can still have a very competitive GPA with a C or below on your transcript.

||Read Dropping Premed Because of One Bad Semester||

Myth 7: Medical schools will cut me slack if I have a lower GPA because I’m in a harder major.

Fact: Your major is your choice and medical schools really do not show much sympathy when it comes to your GPA. This is usually the reason why it is not a good idea to be an engineering major while pursuing medical school. You might be given a little leeway (0.1 to 0.3 grade points), but at the end of the day, a hard major does not excuse poor grades.

||Read: Does Undergraduate Reputation Matter For Admissions?||

Myth 8: Admissions committees will think I’m a quitter if I drop classes.

Fact: Having a few dropped classes on your transcript is fine. Special circumstances that require you to drop a class can always occur. Nevertheless, you cannot make dropping classes a norm.

Myth 9: If I take a lot of classes in one term and do poorly, admissions committees will show me mercy because I took a heavy load.

Fact: Once again, medical schools show little mercy when it comes to poor grades. If you did poorly simply because you took too many classes, that is your fault. You need to be wise about how much work you can handle.

Myth 10: Having a double major will give me an advantage over other applicants.

||Read: What is the Best Major For Premeds?||

Fact: A second major by itself does nothing to improve your chances over other applicants. Sometimes it can even be detrimental because trying to finish two majors may take a toll on your GPA. However, if you can maintain a high GPA and both your majors significantly tie into your application story, that might help you stand out.

Myth 11: I need to finish every premed pre-requisite course before I apply to medical school.

Fact: Some premeds overload their schedule in their first two years of college because they think they need to finish all their prerequisites before applying to medical school. As a result, their GPAs tend to suffer. There is no rush to finish all your premed requirements. As long as you have the majority of them done when you are apply and are planning to finish to the rest before you start medical school, you will be fine.

Read: Premed Myths Part 2 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter @ProspectiveDr

About Edward Chang

Edward Chang
Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of ProspectiveDoctor.com. He is a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact him at edwardchang@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.