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Third Time's the Charm? (low GPA, but good HCE)


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Hello Everyone!

 

So, after my second round of applying, I was not accepted into a program, and I am feeling a little discouraged and at a loss of what to do right now. My first time applying, I applied to 15 programs, interviewed at 1 and was waitlisted (I knew I wasn't ready to apply at that point, but I was just so anxious to get started). My second time applying, I applied to 6 programs, interviewed at my top choice and was unfortunately not accepted, and rejected by the others. This is probably going to be lengthy because I don't know how else to shorten it so bear with me! I know my issue is my GPA, but I will give a breakdown of all of my stats.

 

I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Cell Biology and Neuroscience, and here is the breakdown of my application stats.

 

CASPA Cum. GPA: 3.19

Science GPA as a 3.11

HCE:

   Shadowing: 200 hours

   Medical Assistant for an OB-Gyn: 2000+

   Volunteer Work: Various organizations totaling to approximately 250 hours

 

I know right off the bat my issue is my GPA, but let me explain my dilemma. My freshman and half of my sophomore year of college, I did very poorly due to the fact that I was suffering immensely with anxiety and self doubt. I changed my outlook and started to manage my anxiety better and gradually increased my GPA each semester from a 2.8 (freshman year) to 3.0 (sophomore year) to 3.5 (junior year) to 3.9 (senior year). My junior and senior years I was taking all upper science electives. I took Human Anatomy, where I later became a TA for the cadaver dissection lab, Systems Physiology, Biochemistry, Advanced Developmental Biology, Advanced Neuroscience, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and many more. In each of those classes I received A's and only 2 B+'s. I understand that I need to take more science courses and gladly will do so to bump up my GPA, but I'm having a really hard time finding courses that I haven't already taken, and many of my programs say that re-taking courses would not benefit me in any way. I know my healthcare experience is really strong. I work with a Doctor and a PA as a medical assistant at an OB-Gyn where I'm responsible for patient intake and accurate medical history intakes, accessing vitals, drawing blood, giving injections, assisting with procedures, scribing and more. I am also very confident in the quality of my LORs. If anyone has any insight on what I should do at this point I would be so grateful. Thank you guys and good luck to all of my fellow pre-PAs!!

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Your GPA isn't that bad with the story. I'd look at your PS and LORs, and avoid application to schools with average GPA stats above 3.5. Make sure the HCE story is clear in your application as MA may not be automatically considered direct patient contact.

 

For reference to GPA, my CASPA cum was 3.1 with science 2.95 due to poor performance out of high school. My current college transcript many years later is cum 3.9. I have about 30,000 hours HCE as a paramedic though, got accepted at both places I interviewed, rejected at 1, and wait listed for interviews at 7.

 

Good luck!

 

Ps

What about the GRE?

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I agree that your GPA is a little on the lower side, but if you have made Ds or Fs, you should retake those courses to bring the GPA up to may be to a 3.3 especially if they are science courses. Also, if I were you, I would talk to someone in the admissions where you were wait-listed after the interview or rejected and ask for feedback. Plus, you should apply broadly and may be even consider newer programs because the competition is just getting tougher each passing day. I had 3.6+ (science and cumulative), decent GRE (300 I think....don't remember exactly. lol), 2000+ hours working as a MA, 120+ hours shadowing PAs and MDs, 500 hours volunteer work, leadership positions, great recommendations and personal statement and it still took me 2 tries to get into a program. Applied to 30 programs in two years, 18 interviews, out of which 6 wait-listed me and one program finally accepted me (my top choice after the interview). Therefore, I know it can be frustrating, but just don't give up. Hang in there, you will get in sooner or later. Good Luck!

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I'm sorry, but 2000 HCE hours as an MA isn't "good HCE".  Or more directly, it's not better enough vs. an average applicant to make up for your mediocre GPA compared to the average applicant.  If you had 8,000 HCE hours as a nurse, RT, or Paramedic with those GPA scores, I expect you would already have been admitted into a program.

 

Other than that, you're getting good advice from the previous replies.  Add to your HCE, improve your GPA, and try again next year... :-S

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As the others have said, your GPA really isn't the issue. I just got accepted first try with GPAs right around that area with significant improvement over the last 60 sh and a GRE score probably on the low side. It's about your LOR's and interview.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Oops hit send early.. AnywAys, you probably do need more hce to add what you got already. I don't care what anyone says. Your interview is most important thing. A lot of it just boils down to the fact that " they gotta like you" and like what your personality and experiences can add to their program.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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All of the above is spot on.  I'll add: make sure you are applying to the right programs.  You reduced the # for your second round, but with your stats (low GPA, low HCE) you may have to cast a wide net.  It's great to have 'dream schools' but unless you are the pick of the litter, sometimes it's better to aim for schools where you have a realistic chance.  Or, you just keep applying year after year.

 

The fact that you aren't getting a lot of interviews means it is definitely your app - and probably on the whole.  Nothing is standout.  Unless your PS is some groundbreaking information that makes you vastly different from other applicants, your app doesn't scream 'we NEED this person' to adcoms.

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I agree that I think the HCE is more of a problem than your GPA. Your GPA is high enough that it is not auto-rejecting you, and from your description it sounds like it shows an improving trend. Schools that calculate your last 60 or so credits likely have a relatively strong calculation there. If your GPA was your problem, you never would have gotten those interviews you did get.

 

Medical assisting isn't considered particularly strong HCE at most schools, especially since the duties can vary widely. I would advise racking up some hands-on patient care hours - EMT/paramedic would be the easiest way to do this.

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Thank you everyone for the responses! While I agree that my HCE may be average, I feel like I need to defend it a bit more. I do explain very thoroughly my duties as an MA in my essay and supplemental questions, and believe that what I am doing is pretty hands-on. As an MA, I am the sole person in my office (a private practice) responsible for the full intake and workup of a patient, I consistently draw blood, give injections, perform obstetrical duties such as measuring fundal height and using a doppler to measure the fetal heart rate, and am in with every procedure we perform (IUD insertions, endometrial biopsies, colposcopies, etc. ). I also am responsible for giving call backs for patient results in which I am trained to explain many abnormal results as well. I hope this isn't coming off as argumentative as that is not my intention, but I felt it was important to further explain my HCE. Also, to be clear I absolutely know that there are others who have better experience as well! As for GRE scores, I don't remember exact numbers but I was above the 50th percentile for math, 76th percentile in verbal and 93rd in writing. However, the majority of my schools don't even ask for the GRE! Also, I've set up meetings with both of the schools I interviewed at to talk about what exactly was missing for them.

 

Nonetheless, all of this feedback is incredibly insightful! I definitely am going to stop focusing so much on my GPA and see how I can improve my application in other aspects. I will absolutely continue to gain more HCE, volunteer work and most importantly work on my interview skills. 

 

Thank you everyone!

 

Kristi

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It's not necessarily the type of HCE, it's the # of hours.  2000 is often used as a minimum for most schools.  If you had a low GPA but 10 years of experience it would help offset it.  2000 hrs isn't even a year of full time work.  If you had 10,000 hours of MA, people wouldn't be as concerned about it being MA HCE.  (In my opinion)

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HCE is mediocre at best. Especially if this is your third round applying, you should have at least 6,000 hours at this point, and in a 3 year spam should have diversified your experience. Also your HCE has very limited responsibility for the patients you see in the office. Remember, you are competing with EMT's, paramedics, nurses, etc. That being said, it's never too late to improve. Keep working, and good luck to you.

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I know it sounds sort of silly, but I never really thought that diversifying my experience could make a difference. I'm really happy that I posted on this forum because I am getting the opportunity to talk to so many different types of applicants, whereas usually I have only spoken with those who are applying to similar programs to me and have similar stats and HCE. The schools I am applying to and those students who I have spoken to in the past about my HCE all have said that what I am doing right now is excellent, and I never questioned it, but now I am absolutely positive what I am doing is  not enough.  I will definitely diversify my experiences and branch outside of the OB-Gyn MA thing. You guys are all fantastic, and thank you for the words of advice and critique!

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1. Why do you only have 2000 hours HCE? What are you doing with your time? Have you been employed full time in a health care profession (MA) since graduation? 2000 hours is one year full time. People want to know how you are using your time and how you are improving yourself. If you have been traveling, or just sitting around taking a few courses, that looks bad.

2. Who is writing your LORs? ...and have you read them? It matters who these people are and how great the recommendations are. Some people have no idea how to write a positive LOR. A letter from a busy doc saying you worked there and did a good job is the kiss of death! An LOR should explain what a tremendous asset you are, how you take charge and get things done, how patients and colleagues love you, how much you have learned and why you would be a fantastic PA. Superlatives are important. Ask to see the LORs and make sure they say what you need them to say. Some writers will take suggestions and edits. You need to ask.

3. Post your PS here and let's have a look. I have read some really dreadful PSs. Don't focus on prose. Focus on why you would be a great PA and how your HCE and volunteer work has prepared you.

4. How are you on interviews? Confident and able to think on your feet or nervous and unprepared? Do you stumble over questions that you should be able to answer? It's important to be prepared, know your material, be able to speak in a friendly and convincing tone, smile, look at your interviewer and be engaging. Make a list of interview questions, or buy one, and practice answering. Don't memorize. Attempting to read back your memory tapes doesn't come across well. You should be able to answer most questions in an engaging and conversational tone because you know the material. Why did you apply to our school? Why would you be a good PA? How is the ACA affecting health care? If those questions make you freeze up like a deer in headlights, you will be road kill. Remember, every interview question has a purpose. Be able to immediately grasp that purpose and try to provide an answer that says you are a hero, not a zero, because the interview is binary. Great interview gets you accepted. Poor interview gets you sent to the rejection file or, at best, the deadly wait list from which few return.

5. Applying to PA school is serious business. Review and scrub every aspect of your application. You may not be able, short term, to improve your GRE or GPA but you have a lot of control over the rest of your application. Think of it as going to into battle. Check your guns, check your ammo, don't forget your knife, get new flashlight batteries. Leave nothing to chance. It is said that chance favors those best prepared, so be the best prepared.

6. I don't completely buy the lack of HCE. It matters a lot at some schools and relatively little art others. Apply to schools that don't make such a big deal of HCE. On this forum, there are some heavy weight HCE gurus. You have no chance of competing with the grizzled army medic turned paramedic with 10,000 hours or 15,000 hours experience. So don't try. I know people accepted to PA school and doing well academically with very little HCE because they applied to the right schools. Forget about dream schools. Just focus on getting accepted somewhere because this is your third try. You may be a bit green when you graduate, but you can always do a residency.

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JM2- I agree the hce isn't bad, the problem is the hce(which is avg hrs with slightly above avg responsibility ) with a subpar gpa. with a 3.5 and the same hce we wouldn't be having this discussion because they would be in a program already...ps by your definition I was grizzled at age 27.

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JM2- I agree the hce isn't bad, the problem is the hce(which is avg hrs with slightly above avg responsibility ) with a subpar gpa. with a 3.5 and the same hce we wouldn't be having this discussion because they would be in a program already...ps by your definition I was grizzled at age 27.

Wow! By now, you must be really grizzled!
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