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Does taking more undergrad classes post-master's look bad to competitive PhD programs? Would it improve your application if it improved your GPA?


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Although I haven't been rejected from all of my programs this year, my current backup plan is to take more undergraduate classes next year for pretty much the sole purpose of improving my GPA (I'm applying both to medical school and PhD programs, and though my GPA is pretty good, it is definitely borderline for medical school). I will also be graduating with a research master's degree this year. I think going back to do undergrad courses is pretty common to try to improve your chances at medical school (and I know people who have done just that), but doing it to improve your chances at PhD programs seems pretty uncommon (they care more about your research ability than your grades, to a point).


Even though my main reason for doing this would be medical school admissions, I would still like to reapply to PhD programs as well (if it comes to that). Assuming I do very well in all of my classes (and improve my current undergrad GPA), do you think this would look positive, neutral, or even negative to competitive PhD programs? (Negative in the sense that it might look like a "step backwards".)


Thanks a lot!

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Well, if you're taking undergraduate courses to satisfy medical school prerequisites then the medical schools most probably wouldn't care as this is what's necessary. As for the PhD admissions committees, they may see this to mean you're capricious. Although, I will say most individuals who hold a PhD were once in your shoes. Hopefully we can assume intelligence brings with it a slue of other "traits" if you will, which will act as some sort of cushion.  All in all this WON'T make or break you. You'll have to keep in mind the many other factors. For example, all the other applicants who's application demonstrate a more "put together" sales pitch to admissions committees. I can think of a situation where it may help you, although this would depend on your GPA for your masters degree. If you have an excellent GPA in your MA then I'd say taking more undergraduate courses may hurt.


In my opinion the most likely scenario: this appears neutral.

Second most likely: negative impact.   

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I probably wouldn't make a big deal of it in my SOP, if I mentioned it at all, but I think people will still wonder what I've been doing for the past year (and why it involved taking undergraduate courses).


@Tenacious, why do you think this would be related to my master's GPA? For a bit more context, I expect to do very well in my master's program from a GPA perspective (close to 4.0). My cumulative undergrad GPA is about 3.6 (>3.8 in last two years, but most schools don't care about this), which is not bad at all, but unfortunately not really cutting it for med school.


I agree that it might make me seem capricious, though I don't think I am. I am genuinely interested in both research and medicine; if I were to get into med school, I would probably specialize as a psychiatrist, and if I get into research, I want to do something with clinical relevance. I think I could take courses that I haven't taken yet and are related to both of these pursuits, and though the primary goal would be improving my GPA for med school, it would also give me a stronger knowledge base to work from for research. Though I agree that if I truthfully explain my primary motivation for doing this is med school, PhD programs will wonder why I haven't simply committed to research (the answer being that both fields are insanely competitive, and I'm trying to cast my net as wide as possible).


Thanks for the replies; any other input would be appreciated.

Edited by essequamvideri
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I was going off the assumption that you had already completed a Masters program. Anyhow, you can always apply to joint MD/PhD programs. As according to your most recent response it would seem to fit you best.  Although they are generally more competitive. However there are ways to give yourself a better chance. 

If you are a minority and have not yet started your masters one option could be to NOT pursue a masters and apply to what are called PREP programs funded by the NIH. These are post - bac research education programs. There are some great schools which house these programs and as I've been in told, in person by the director of the program at Yale, they want the individuals they take in from their PREP programs to attend graduate school/med school at Yale. 

Oh and if you have a masters or have began any type of graduate study you're disqualified from applying. 

Also, being white doesn't necessarily disqualify you from participation in the PREP program. What they don't want isn't white people, it's majorities in science, so Jewish, some middle eastern/asian populations. And probably a few others. However there are white minorities in science so that counts. 


Edited by TenaciousBushLeaper
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