SMPs for Low GPA & MCAT

Updated: May 29

Now that I have literally gone through it and come out the other end as a student doctor, I want to share with you my thoughts on why doing a special master's program is a great choice for so many aspiring physicians and how to go about choosing an SMP.

As I came upon the end of my undergraduate era, I had a typical series of pre-medical advisory meetings and sincere evaluation of my candidacy as a medical school general applicant. I knew I wasn't a great catch, but I didn't think I was at the bottom of the barrel. So, I immediately discounted the brief suggestion that perhaps I ought to consider a post-baccalaureate program for academic enhancement. No way was I hearing about even more school, sandwiched in between my long undergraduate studies and before my long (did I mention... long?) medical studies ahead.

I applied. Not only did I apply broadly, but I cast a nation-sized net. I figured if I just threw everything I had at the wall, something would stick.

Guess what?

Not a single one stuck. Not even one interview invitation.

The application cycle closed and as it tends to do, life kept on.

I continued to work in pharmaceutical research and hoped this experience would be enough to earn me some sugar on the next application cycle.

With my lack of interest from medical schools on my first cycle and acknowledging my unfavorable 3.19 GPA and a 498 MCAT, I started researching postbacs.

I decided to play the numbers in a different fashion this go around--I applied to about half as many medical programs and then also applied to a handful of special master's programs.

Since you know the outcome, I don't need to tell you that, once again, I got no love from MD and DO programs. But I was offered interviews at several SMPs.

One year later, and having been able to skip the application cycle altogether, here I am in medical school.

If this story sounds familiar to you, hang tight with me here so we can explore some of these preparatory programs that only cost you one year (and related tuition)--the same single year you'd be gambling on through another general application cycle. Not to mention the relief of a concrete goal of benchmarks to work toward instead of the abstract hopes that depend on how an admission committee reads the paper version of you.

Let's get on with your dreams!

So, so many of these programs exist and vary by length, whether they are undergraduate or graduate level... you might prefer a program that incorporates research or community service... a thesis, capstone, or neither. Some are offered by DO schools and, yes, some are available at MD schools. Maybe most importantly though, you definitely want to figure out the linkage to a medical program.

After all, that is your ultimate goal, right?

To help you out, I've curated a list of 1-year, graduate-level, SMPs with medical program linkages.

Undergraduate-level programs exist and I'm sure can be fantastic. Personally, there were several reasons I specifically sought graduate-level:

  • I took so long in undergrad to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up that I maxed out undergraduate financial aid (but hadn't yet touched graduate). I couldn't afford to pay out of pocket, so this was a reasonable benefit for moving up into the graduate league.

  • If you want to utilize postbac coursework to beef up future medical school applications, undergraduate grades will get lost in the sea of your previous GPA calculations and make a meager impact. Whereas graduate coursework and GPA are clearly displayed separately and clearly show a continued perseverance.

  • Lastly, graduate level coursework is perceived as being more rigorous. Rigorous. A word that admission committees love to pair with medical school academic aptitude.

Most of the programs on my list have linkage verbiage that guarantees an interview to the medical school. Exceptions to this include: Touro, which guarantees DO program admission with a 3.45 SMP GPA; and Bluefield that offers DO admission to VCOM with a 3.6 SMP GPA.

Bluefield also offers a 100% online SMP that can be completed from anywhere you can comfortably hook up to the internet.

Tuition for these 1-year programs ranges from about $20,000-40,000. But ARCOMs new-ish MSB is practically giving away their master's degree for the exceptionally low price of only $5,000!

Generally, expect these programs to admit only one class each year, in the fall, with application deadlines in the spring or early summer. But if you're looking to start a program in the spring, LMU-DCOMs BMS admits twice a year and the spring deadline falls in mid-December.

You might have noticed that so far these programs are all offered at DO schools. I had a personal preference for DO, but MD schools are also playing the SMP game--like the University of Toledo's MSBS.

While a handful of schools don't require an MCAT score to matriculate into their SMP, they will stipulate that you need to meet the medical school's minimum MCAT score before you can be considered as a prospective med student. If the MCAT monster haunts your dreams, LECOMs AIS alternative might be worth exploring.

Speaking of MCAT, be sure to investigate any discrepancy between the master's minimum and the medical school's. Marian requires a 491 for their BMS but the linkage specifies a required 497... which means that you'll be prepping and retaking the MCAT during the SMP.

A couple of others that made my list of interest include Incarnate Word's MBS and Kansas City's MSBS.

Head over and snag my complete list of 1-year, graduate-level, SMPs with linkages. Every data field with published information has a direct link that you can click to follow--you don't have to just trust what I threw in there.

Download your own copy, below, and use it as a place to start your own research and evaluate what matters most to you.

Would you rather tackle less credit hours or test your fire hose-drinking capability?

Is it important that you live in a particular state or region of the country? Moving east has been great for my daughter's eczema.

What does a dollar mean for you, with tuitions running a continuum?

My point is this: SMPs aren't so difficult to get accepted into. So, choose one, or a few, that fit your desires... since (hopefully) that's where you will end up for a bonus four more years.

Remember, if this mom can do it, so can you.

Click HERE to open in Google Sheets and download your own copy.