How to Rock Your GPA for for your BS/MD

It’s no secret that colleges place a lot of importance on your GPA and SAT/ACT scores, but with BS/MD programs, their value is significantly more. With regular undergraduate universities, you can sometimes (but not always!) make up for a slightly lower GPA or SAT score with stellar essays and impressive resumes. With BS/MD programs, however, this is unfortunately not the case. The average GPA for successful BS/MD students is usually anywhere from 3.95-4.0 and SAT scores are usually 2500+. If your statistics aren’t within this range, then there is typically no way to “save” yourself with other notable accomplishments. BS/MD programs are really looking overachievers, and that means students who have high GPAs, above average SAT scores, convincing essays, and remarkable resumes. It’s never enough to just one or two from that list.

Having gone through the entire BS/MD process myself, I can tell you from personal experience that there might be times when the workload is overwhelming and your efforts seem fruitless. But if you stay organized and maintain a steadfast mindset, then it will all payoff in the long run. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s exactly why it’ll be so much more worth it in the end. Below, I’ve listed some of strategies I used that really helped me with my GPA scores throughout high school. Stay tuned for the next blog post topic being related to SAT tips!

Find a reason to enjoy studying

I’ve found that among my friends, the people who are generally the most successful are the people who actually do not mind studying all that much. Of course, there are probably a million other things they could be doing instead of studying, but when it’s something they have to do, they choose to make the best of it. And the most effective way to do that is to find something about studying that excites you. It’ll be different for everyone, and so it might require a bit of trial-and-error, but that’s okay!

For me, personally, something about studying that really excites me is color-coding my notes. I love having a system of highlighting that indicates to me which color is representative of what. So, for example, everything I highlight in yellow is a vocabulary word that I need to know, everything I highlight in pink is a “very important” note, and anything I highlight in orange is either a topic I don’t completely understand or a question that I need to remember to ask my teacher. To some people, this entire process may seem time-consuming and unnecessary, but for me it works. At the end of a study session, I love flipping through all the notes I took and observing all the pretty colors on the page. And not just that, but I’ve also found that it’s a great way for me to organize my thoughts. So when I go to talk to a professor, I don’t have to waste time skimming through all my notes just to find that question I wanted to ask. Instead, I’ll just look for the orange highlight, and voila, there’s my question! Again, to some people this process is pointless, but it works well for me so I stick with it anyways. Even if it’s a quirky habit of yours that makes study fun, use it! Because at the end of the day, it’s not other people who are going to be studying for you, so who care what they think of your study habits.

Choose your friends carefully

Now before you think “Wow this sounds exactly like something my parents preach to me,” try to understand the relevance of this statement. Sure, it’s good advice for the whole “Don’t do drugs!” conversation, but it’s equally as important in regards to your GPA.

In high school, everybody wants to fit in; the only problem is it’s a lot harder to fit in when none of your friends have the same priorities as you. So why not make it easier on yourself and associate yourself with people who understand why you spend so much time doing what you do. My closest friends in high school were people who had the same goals and interests as me; they too wanted to lock in research positions, secure high GPAs, and spend time volunteering at local hospitals. It’s not that we didn’t find time to socialize and have fun, it’s just that we chose to balance our lifestyle in similar ways. So when I had to turn down an invitation to hang out because I had a midterm to study for, my friends understood where I was coming from (because at some point in time, they had done the same thing).

Now don’t get me wrong and completely shut off the possibility of being friends with someone just because they don’t have similar goals or interest as you – it’s never smart to be closed-minded. Just be conscious of the factor of influence that comes with friendships. For example, I remember when I was in my second-semester junior year, I had all of a sudden developed really close friendships with a lot of people who were second-semester seniors. And while I valued their friendship and enjoyed spending time with them, I found myself neglecting work just to hang out with these friends. No one was really at fault here; it’s just that we were both at different points in our life. I was going through one of the toughest semesters of high school while they were breezing through one of the easiest semesters of high school. As a result, we had different priorities, but because I was spending so much time with them, I caught myself slowly wandering away from my priorities. Things like this will happen all the times when it comes to friendship and, well, just life in general. What’s important is that you’re able to catch yourself at the right time and make the necessary decisions and changes to find a balance between work and play.

Find a study buddy or study group

Coming into college, I have found that one of the best ways to study for exams is with other people. Now this doesn’t mean you put off studying until the very last day then go to a study group and assume they’ll teach you everything you need to know for the test (you’d be surprised how many people do this!). Instead, what you should do is plan ahead and try to finish up your individual studying at least one day prior to the exam. That way, when you go to your study group or go to meet up with your friend, you’ll be prepared to both ask and answer questions. If you go unprepared, then neither you nor your friend(s) will really benefit from the study session; instead, both of you will spend your whole time learning the material (which is something you can do on your own) instead of applying the material to test-like questions.

The benefit of having a study buddy is the variation in perspective. Perhaps your friend caught a detail that you didn’t, or maybe they didn’t understand a topic that you can now explain to them. Teaching is one of the best forms of confirming that you really know what you’re talking about, so by studying with a study buddy, you’ll actually be testing your own knowledge.

Make it an expectation, not a goal

By making a high GPA an expectation as opposed to a goal, what you essentially do is transform your mindset from “I want it” to “I need it”. When you’re thinking more along the lines of the “I want it” mentality, it’s easier for obstacles to get in the way of achieving your goal. If, however, you maintain an “I need it” mindset, then you are more likely to dig deep and find the inner motivation to overcome any obstacles that may try to hinder your success. You might still fall short, but your motivation will then only increase to make sure you avoid slipping up again.

Of course, some people might disagree with this approach, but from speaking from personal experience, I can confirm that this “expectation, not a goal” mentality has really geared me to achieve maximum success. Sure, getting one B on your transcript does not mean you are going to fail in life, but there is a possibility that it ends up being the difference between getting accepted or rejected by your dream BS/MD program, so don’t take it lightly!

Above I’ve listed three most important tips that helped me get the GPA I wanted. Stay tuned for part 2 of this topic, in which I’ll discuss two more GPA tips!

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