Cornell University

"Michael: An Alternate Path to Medical School"

A discouraging beginning

Michael came to Cornell with an excellent high school record. At Cornell he dove into activities, joining two student organizations and an intramural team. He was taken aback when his first semester GPA at Cornell was a 3.0 and his spring semester GPA was 2.4. As he headed off for the summer after the end of his freshman year, he was very discouraged and seriously believed that his goal of becoming a doctor would not be realized because of his poor academic record. Over the summer he worked in a camp for children with cerebral palsy, a familiar setting where he had experienced past success, having worked there previous summers. His summer job reconfirmed his desire to become a doctor.

A new resolve

When he returned to Cornell in the fall he had a new sense of determination and felt he was better prepared to balance his academic and extracurricular activities. His prelim grade in Chemistry 2070 soon had him back to a near hopeless feeling about his chances of going to medical school. At the suggestion of his advisor he took the Chemistry supplemental course and began going to the instructor's office hours. He also used Learning Strategies Center services. This helped him salvage his chemistry course and go on to Chemistry 2080. Nonetheless his grades: 3.2 for fall semester and 3.1 for spring semester, made medical school still seem impossible to him. He attended the Premed Sophomore Orientation spring semester of his sophomore year. After the Orientation he decided he wanted to find some ways to further check out if being a doctor was what he really wanted and what his Plan B might be if he didn't attend medical school. That summer he worked in a hometown business and volunteered evenings and Saturdays at a nearby nursing home, which he enjoyed immensely. He also decided to resume playing the saxophone, an interest he had set aside after high school.

Things begin to improve

He returned for his junior year thinking this was the year he was "supposed to" begin the process of applying to medical school. At the Students Applying Orientation (for juniors and seniors) he learned that about a third of Cornell students apply to medical school at the end of their senior year, not as juniors. This was not an option that he was willing to consider for himself. He also felt more determined than ever to become a doctor.

A hard decision pays off

Things seemed to "click" his junior year. He earned a 3.5 GPA fall semester. He continued with his extracurricular interests and also began playing saxophone with a small group. He arranged "concerts" for the group at local after school programs, scout programs, day care centers, and nursing homes. Spring of his junior year he registered with the Health Careers Evaluation Committee (HCEC). His cumulative GPA was 3.04. When he approached his advisor for a letter of recommendation, she said she was willing to write for him, but she expressed concern about Michael's being able to be accepted to medical school. A friend mentioned a premed briefing he'd attended, "Considering a Gap Year and Its Options." Michael listened to the audio of the briefing which he found in the Media Programs link in the Health Careers web page. He followed up with a premed advising appointment. His spring semester was going well. He learned if he waited to apply until the end of his senior year, he stood the chance of having a higher, more competitive cumulative GPA. He would also have four semesters of an upward trend, and this would improve his chance of acceptance.

Though it was very disappointing to him, he concluded he should wait to apply at the end of his senior year. Spring semester of his junior year he earned at 3.7. He had 3.8 GPAs, including a number of strong science grades both semesters of his senior year, giving him a 3.31 with which to apply to medical school. This was considerably more competitive that the 3.04 he had at the end of his junior year.

Michael applied to medical school after graduation and was successful in being admitted to medical school for the following year.


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