How do I get out of this low GPA mess?
May 17, 2012 11:32 AM   Subscribe

End of junior year in college, biology major, low GPA, just feel miserable. Is there any hope left for me?

I have just finished my junior year at a "well-ranked" college but have not at all enjoyed my time here. My GPA was barely over 3.0 first semester freshman year and never again reached that level. Currently it sits around 2.7.

I'm a biology major and HATE it. It's too late to change. Why did I choose it? I always liked science but was terrible at math - hence, I though bio would be good for me.

I have only a few friends there, and it's hard for me to find someone to talk to about my problems.

What's frustrating is that I did all the "right" things. Seeking help from professors, going to counseling...I tried EVERYTHING.

In the middle of this past semester, I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. I didn't get everything arranged until about a WEEK before the end of the semester, though. I had extended time since the beginning of the semester (since this condition was originally misdiagnosed as something else) - but it has in no way been a magic bullet.

The ADHD has been there all along, of course, and made it hard for me to finish studying/assignments and participate in extracurricular activities that everyone else seems able to do.

I always wanted to go to medical school (even if it's osteopathic school) - but hope is running out as time goes on. I really just want to continue my education, but nobody will want me.

I just need some hope, because it's hard to find around here.
posted by Seeking Direction to Education (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It isn't necessarily too late to change majors, it may just tack on an extra semester before you can finish. Presumably all or most of your gen eds will be done, and many majors do not have stringent sequence requirements, which means you could blow through the upper-division courses simultaneously.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:43 AM on May 17, 2012


Okay, you're feeling miserable, but you'll be wanted elsewhere, especially if you're in the US and you want to transfer to a Community College.

It's not too late to change your major. I'm thinking that medical school might be out due to your GPA and your unhappiness in your current program. (why compound your misery?)

So, what could you do in the medical profession, that will allow you to move your current college credits. Here are some thoughts:

Nursing
Radiology Technician
Physical Therapy
Occupational Therapy

Those are just a few high salary options that won't tack on too much time to your current degree. The good news is that if you've done a bunch of science coursework, you'll be ready for practicals. Now, some programs require a certain GPA, hows your GPA in your major?

Also, if you've been assessed at your school, ask for the accomodations you'll need going forward. My sister has dyslexia and it got her out of some classes that would have made her miserable.

Another option would be to switch to Education, if you think you'd like to teach science. There's a bunch of grant money out there for people, and while the news is bad for finding new teacher positions anecdotally, there's Teach for America and teaching overseas, either with the Military school system or in Abu Dhabi.

If your school doesn't work for you, find one that does. If it's a huge state school and you feel lost in the crowd, go to a smaller school. While your g.p.a. isn't stellar, it's far from failing. Shit, after 7 years of undergraduate school, I finally graduated with a 2.1 I'm not bragging, it's a fact. It didn't keep me out of an MBA program (honestly, what would?) It didn't keep me out of any of the other Masters programs I applied to (and decided not to do.)

If you want to ditch Biology all together, then great do that. Transfer to a community college, they're a lot smaller and cheaper than universities. Most of your credits will transfer and you can get the other coursework for your new degree out of the way for dirt cheap. Also, you will feel SO SMART! Trust me on this.

So, what would you like to change your major to?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:44 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Medical school is only one of many options available to you if you want to go into a helping field. Some of them are just as lucrative, with less time in school (good if ADHD is something that you struggle with) and much less student debt. Talk to the medical fields advisor at your school about your options. Then give yourself the summer to adjust to your meds, and prepare to bring that gpa up next year.
posted by pickypicky at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2012


What do you WANT to do? Are you going to spend the rest of your life doing something you figure might be an okay fit just because there's not a lot of math involved? Pro Tip: you get one chance to spend those 40 or 50 years working at a job that basically defines your life.
posted by sopwath at 11:52 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


What do you hate about biology?
What do you like in a subject - if you were thinking about changing majors, what might you think about changing to?

The reality is that medical school is not a good fit for most students, even students who are very bright. It is completely okay to adjust your plans accordingly. If you don't go to med school, what kind of jobs do you think you might like to have in the next five years? Do you want to work with people, or work with microscopes, or do work that involves writing about medical issues....?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Question: What kind of school are you attending? Is this and Ivy or other top-ranking school? If so, that could help with job prospects and even grad school/med school prospects. What kind of summer internships, jobs, or practical experience have you had to supplement your education?

Please keep in mind that if you actually want to go to med school, there are other options. Namely, there are a myriad of post-bacc programs designed to help people with so-so to low GPAs improve their records. You'll be near the cut-off for them, so this is where the caliber of your school and outside activities can do wonders. Do some research on it and see if it fits.

However, if you hate bio, you are not likely to like med school and medical training is a long, hard road. You may want to consider public health (health education fits in with clinical work although it doesn't tend to pay much). There is also some of the other fields named above, but keep in mind that several of them require the same sciences you seem to dislike right now.

Good luck and don't worry- this isn't the end of the road. There are always options.
posted by superfille at 11:54 AM on May 17, 2012


To clarify, I asked about your school even though you said it was well-ranked, because I'm curious if we are talking Stanford/MIT/Amherst/actual Ivy or if we're talking about like George Washington/Emory kind of well-ranked.
posted by superfille at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2012


One feeling that keeps coming back to me is a desire to go two or three years back in time, where I could "start over" and be accepted for doing so.

The school I go to is a large private "liberal arts school" that everyone seems to love, but I more or less hate.

Thanks for the responses so far, by the way.
posted by Seeking Direction at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2012


I have struggled academically because of my mental health. And, my overall GPA isn't great either.

I pursued four different majors throughout my undergrad until I found one that worked for me. I will only be graduating a semester later than expected because I stayed in Arts the entire time. And, while I won't have the honours distinction, it's still something to be proud of.

You should be proud of yourself for making it through these years of college despite having ADHD.

But, why pursue this major any longer? If you hate your major and have ADHD, then you are going to find it incredibly difficult to complete the requirements. It doesn't matter how many semesters you have left. Having ADHD basically means that you are going to struggle when it comes to working on things that you dislike. However, you will be able to excel once you find a different major.

Sure, med school is probably out of the question. This is because there are already so many people competing with much higher GPA's, extra curricular experience, and volunteering for hospitals as well. This doesn't mean that you should give up on this. But, you have to be realistic about your plans. You can still find a rewarding and well-paying job in the medical field even if it's not what you initially wanted to pursue.

Change your undergraduate major now. Find something that you like, then continue pursuing that through graduate studies or completing a certificate for the work world. You don't have to go to medical school in order to work in a hospital or help people. You have options. All is not lost. Maybe you can pursue something in a different faculty while getting a minor in Biology if you have completed the necessary credits.

Good luck!
posted by livinglearning at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2012


No, it's not Ivy League. It is "superfille"'s latter kind of well-ranked.
posted by Seeking Direction at 11:57 AM on May 17, 2012


I averaged below a 3.0 in my undergrad. I was perpetually on academic probation, and failed 2 courses my last semester, with a D or a C in the third. I had to "graduate deficient" and finish up a few courses at night school while I worked my first job.

After working a few years, I contacted one of my old professors. He'd given me plenty of F's D's and C's on assignments, but he'd also seen me shining at my brightest. I asked him to be a reference, and then applied to, and was accepted into a graduate program. Last year I earned my masters degree.

GPA isn't everything, and people are starting to realize it more and more. The way our schools are set up is to reward certain types of people with good grades, and unfortunately, the types of people that don't easily make good grades often are among the most brilliant, creative, and energetic people around. Research is backing this up, and people already know it on a personal level. You have talked to professors and got counseling--you should have a lot of people that know you well enough to write a great recommendation--one that addresses your low GPA and highlights that you are more than it indicates.

If I were you, I wouldn't worry about med school. I thought you hated what you were doing and want to change majors--why then, do you want to go to med school? Nobody should ever, ever consider going to grad school--especially med school--without a very clear understanding of exactly why they need the degree they are pursuing.

You can to TONS of stuff with a Biology degree--and most people don't end up working in a field related to what they studied in undergrad anyway.

My advice is to forget your GPA, just keep it high enough to graduate. Nobody has asked me about my GPA in years, including at job interviews. Do focus on studying things you love, and do work on good mechanisms to deal with your ADHD and concentration. Do take classes that look fun to you, and do spend time on projects outside of class. Don't make what you are doing now bigger than it really is. It's sort of like planning a wedding. Everyone gives the same advice, and it's true: all the little details that you stress out about, and that seem so big don't matter. Nobody cares. Nobody will notice. You can flip out and become a nervous wreck if the flowers are wrong, you can let it ruin your day if the groomsmen put their ties on wrong, or don't come in the right door, or if the table decorations somehow didn't make it to the reception. But in the end, nobody cares. You won't care, your parent's wont care. You will look back and remember the important things: the people that came to the wedding, the vows you said, the way that your life changed forever on that day.

In four years, you will look back to undergrad, and you won't remember the assignment you didn't turn in, the C you got in that class, or how little you read. You'll remember that you got a degree, and that you graduated and your life was different after that. D's make degrees. And they don't put your GPA on your degree.
posted by brenton at 11:58 AM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was in a very similar boat. I have since brought my GPA up to a 3.2. Is there any way you can modify, or create-your-own major? This will enable you to have flexibility towards the types of classes you take. You should seriously consider less rigorous subjects, including anthropology, cultural studies, or psychology.

If this is not an option, I think you should think about changing your major and your mindset. I do not have ADHD, but I often become discouraged when faced with difficult tasks. I tried EVERYTHING as well and still had trouble getting A's. I then began to:

-audit difficult classes the semester before and study course materials over break
-complete 90% of my homework over the weekends. This will free up to your time tremendously and allow you to attend more study groups, go to office hours, etc.
- Shop around for professors. Although the course number may be equal, some professors are more invested in your education than others. Seek them out!
-Again: Attend office hours!!! (Just introduce yourself!)
-get involved on campus! All you need is one organization. I am an intern for the First Generation Network. Is there something you're passionate in? Do you have the energy to plan one major event on campus?
- Find advocates. I'm serious. Talk to your counselor, seek out mentors, and any seniors who have been in similar situations. They can help you craft a plan of least resistance.

I regret not changing my major earlier, because my transcript is filled with A's and C's (C's from my engineering classes). Here's some anecdata for you. A classmate of mine dropped biology and majored in Latino and Caribbean studies. She minored in Portuguese; joined the Brazilian house; and will be attending Columbia's post-bach in the fall. Sure she got a lot of flack for it..but look who's winning.

Me, on the other hand, I decided to stick out my major because of the lure of engineering. I've worked two jobs; learned three languages; and planned a slew of events.

But guess what?! I'm--more or less--unemployed, just starting to create my architectural portfolio, and I am watching all of my less hard-working (but more realistic) design friends attend GSD or Stanford D school in the fall. I will need at least 2 years to pay down these loans, find a secure job, and craft a compelling story before I can even consider these schools.

Learn to place yourself where you will best succeed. And if it doesn't work, try again...
posted by nikayla_luv at 12:00 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


College can be very different than high school, but how did you do in high school?
Were you able, despite the un-diagnosed ADHD to do well in your classes?

What were your favorite classes, groups, activities?
Where on your college campus can you find similar classes, groups, activities?

How interested are you in osteopathic medical school?
Are you interested in working with people or mastering the subjects taught at an osteopathic school?
posted by calgirl at 12:01 PM on May 17, 2012


In high school, I was never valedictorian, cum laude, etc. My GPA was 3.4-3.5-ish. I did, however, win awards in some "niches" such as music, Spanish, writing, and Envirothon. It was actually pretty clear even in elementary school that I had ADHD (yes, it was reported, but budget cuts where I went to elementary school essentially cut off any help).
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2012


There are different areas of biology. Maybe you're a flora bio person instead of a fauna bio person. Also there are all grades of allied health things where you can get skills you can take anywhere. Histo tech, Rad tech, Med tech, Sonograph, Phlebot, training may be offered at your school or as an add on at your local community college. With a BS or BA first you'll be able to command a better salary. Good luck. You can do it.
posted by PJMoore at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2012


Also, how do I stop feeling inferior about myself, seeing how "everyone else" finds time to do well and volunteer everywhere?
posted by Seeking Direction at 12:08 PM on May 17, 2012


You really don't know the feelings of "everyone else" that seemingly does well and volunteers. I used to be an overachiever in college and I'm sure others thought that I had it all, when there are many points in which I felt miserable or inferior, as well. As they say, the grass is always greener.
posted by xtine at 12:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Medical school is awfully hard to get into these days, but the system rewards obsessive persistence and focus. If you are willing to apply as many times as it takes to get into a med school in the Caribbean or head to Osteopath school, you have a shot, assuming you can get high MCAT scores and somehow improve your grades, maybe by doing well in a (funded!) Master's program.

But you hate biology.

There's also being a physician's assistant.

I mean, you say you want to be a doctor, but you don't explain why, and you hate studying biology.

There's also a lot of health care consulting work to be done, and lots of people are getting MPHs and going into hospital administration, if your interest in the health care industry in general.
posted by deanc at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2012


Also, how do I stop feeling inferior about myself, seeing how "everyone else" finds time to do well and volunteer everywhere?

Even if you were doing very well and running the pre-med hospital volunteer program club, there would be someone else even more brilliant than you were. You just have to be the best person you can be and get satisfaction out of that.
posted by deanc at 12:18 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You sound like me a number of years ago. I took a deans vacation, fell into information security, and finished up my degree 10 years later. I thought I wanted to work in a bio lab at the time. After a few years away I realized that I really, really didnt.

What you need to do is look at what you're passionate about. Do you read about medicine in your spare time? Good. Grunt out the degree and get into osteopath school. If not, you need to figure out what you'd do even if you weren't getting paid. Then you either find a way to do that, or find something that's not soul sucking that supports you financially to do that thing during your downtime.

Life is not a zero sum game. The success of others is something to be celebrated while we work at improving ourselves. Don't ask yourself what you want to do. Ask what you can do that will make you a better person.
posted by bfranklin at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


My bf graduated from a good school with not the best GPA in the world. He got accepted into grad school. There is always hope.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:23 PM on May 17, 2012


Also, how do I stop feeling inferior about myself, seeing how "everyone else" finds time to do well and volunteer everywhere?

This is a hugely common problem for folks with ADHD. I have two suggestions:

1) Pursue treatment. You're frustrated with yourself because you have a hard time doing the things you want to do. There are techniques and systems that can make it easier to manage the symptoms of ADHD, and there are medications that can also help. ADHD is going to be with you your whole life, so figuring out how to live with it in a way you are happy with should probably be your biggest goal right now.

2) Practice healthy self-talk. When you are able to successfully achieve a goal, give yourself a pat on the back - this stuff is extra hard for you but you did it anyway! Good job! When something slips, don't beat yourself up. Instead of asking unhelpful questions like "what the heck is wrong with me?" ask "how could I have set things up for a better outcome?" Variations in environment can make a huge difference in ADHD people's productivity, and a lot of that stuff you can control.

You need to find your own standards for what you consider enough activities, instead of comparing yourself to "everyone else". Because even if you could do so accurately (you can't) it wouldn't be helpful. There'll always be people who do more crap than you. This is basically true no matter how much you overextend yourself. Don't worry about it.
posted by aubilenon at 12:41 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are there forestry or environmental studies programs that might be interesting to you?
Interesting enough to motivate you through the math portion?
And please review nikayla_luv's advice on what YOU can do with the tools/challenges you have at your disposal.

In case you haven't noticed yet, we're not going to let you use ADHD as an excuse.
Yes it is important for you to have mentioned to us and yes, it means you have to do work differently but you do need to continue to reach out for help until your support system is more robust.

I found this site,-- maybe others can provide other sources.

I think that might be the difference that you "see" in other people-- their support system is more defined, more robust, more effective.

Let's see how to get yours to that level.
posted by calgirl at 12:51 PM on May 17, 2012


Why do you want to go to med school or osteopathic school if you hate biology?

What do you like to do?

I struggled in school due to ADHD too--but I found I struggled a lot more when I didn't know why I was in school and wasn't 100% passionate about what I was studying.
posted by schroedinger at 12:58 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


One might also note that med school is tremendously difficult to get into. If you have never been a 4.0 student nor been able to balance volunteering and all that crap along with school, then it is quite possible you wouldn't be able to cut it in med school anyway. Med school is incredibly demanding, and the difficulty of the application and acceptance process itself reflects only a fraction of that.
posted by schroedinger at 1:00 PM on May 17, 2012


Consider going to therapy to help you start feeling better!

Maybe transferring to your local state school (if it's any good) would be a nice change of pace. Tuition would likely be so much cheaper that you could change your major even if you had to stay an extra semester or two without it costing any more.
posted by callmejay at 1:00 PM on May 17, 2012


It is highly likely that nobody will care about your GPA after your first job. Also, very few jobs actually ask for college transcripts. I'm not telling you to lie about your GPA but um...

I am graduating this summer with a biochemistry degree and I went through a similar situation as you. I was an overachiever in high school, super active in a million extra-curricular activities, worked a lot, and graduated valedictorian. During college I struggled with severe somatic anxiety and episodes of depression that made my work suffer.

If you haven't noticed yet, the people in university who get the highest marks usually aren't the people who are the smartest or most creative or most interesting. They are the ones who figured out the system. It's a game, that's all. Your grades are not reflective of your intelligence, your overall knowledge, and certainly not your worth as an employee or human being.

I don't suggest you ditch your major and start over at this point if you have only one more year to go. Because, very few people actually work in an area relevant to their degree. The degree is important not because it trains you for your future career, but because it indicates you had the persistence to set a goal and follow through with it.
posted by WhitenoisE at 1:09 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


It took me 5 years to finish undergrad at a highly competitive, well-regarded school. I changed my major multiple times, ending up mostly back where I started (physics, though I subbed out some of my most hated classes) and also picking up a double major in studio art. My GPA in my physics major was 2.67, I think? Though my cumulative was 3.14, which shows how poorly I did in my science classes. Everyone else at my school seemed very focused and driven and successful, and I was the opposite, and I was sooooooo depressed by this.

Personally, college radio saved my life. You might see if you can find some people at your school (or community outside your school) who are just plain interesting. Who are doing what they do because it's fun, not because they're trying to ACHIEVE ACHIEVE ACHIEVE. Keep in mind, you might have to spend a bit of time looking, precisely because they're not doing this stuff so that you will notice.

The idea described in this post has proven very true for me: interestingness is as important as credentials. I absolutely agree with their advice: "1. Do fewer structured activities. 2. Spend more time exploring, thinking, and exposing yourself to potentially interesting things. 3. If something catches your attention, use the abundant free time generated by rule 1 to quickly follow up." This process/worldview has generated way more opportunities for me than a good GPA would have.
posted by unknowncommand at 1:18 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd like to finish my degree. It's just frustrating how I was always thought of as "smart" in my own way, yet it's so hard for me to succeed in life.

And it is true that I have found myself attracted to creative, original types more than "perfect 4.0 and extracurricular" zombies who, now that I think of it, are just excelling at being cookie-cutter people.

(I'm not, of course, trying to put down people with a 4.0 and every extracurricular - it's just that many aren't very interesting people.)
posted by Seeking Direction at 2:05 PM on May 17, 2012


(I'm not, of course, trying to put down people with a 4.0 and every extracurricular - it's just that many aren't very interesting people.)

In fairness, there are plenty of people with low GPAs who don't do any extracurriculars who aren't interesting people, too.

The first step is getting treatment for your ADHD.

But digging through your post, the question is this:

Is there any hope left for me?

What do you mean by that? What do you want to do? Where do you see yourself in life? What are you hoping for that you're worried that you won't get? The simple answer is, "yes", there is in fact plenty of hope for you. You're not going to be lying in a gutter, starving, assuming you focus on doing something other than ending up there.

It sounds like your issue is that you haven't had time to reevaluate your goals and focus. So I think that's what you should do.
posted by deanc at 2:21 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hi there! I graduated as a bio major with a 3.25. I squeaked through physics and calc, and while I don't have an ADHD diagnosis, my grades as an undergrad correlated ridiculously highly with my level of engagement with the subject. (I didn't do that studying for the sake of grades thing very well, although I've gotten better over time.) I'm currently in a master's program in biotechnology, and was watching a lecture recently from Jonathan Pevsner, Director of the Bioinformatics Facility at Johns Hopkins' Kennedy Krieger Institute. The first 8+ minutes are him talking about the challenges and changes in bioinformatics, and the textbook he's authored on the subject, but at minute 9, he shifts gears to career directions with this transition:

"I can tell you what I'm looking for when I try to guide [students] and what kind of advice I try to give. A sort of traditional, conservative in a sense kind of academic path would be to take an undergraduate degree, perhaps get a Master's degree, enter a PhD program, do a postdoctoral fellowship, and perhaps go for an academic faculty position, and from there, many doors are open as far as what happens next. But there are many, many different options. In my case, I was asked to leave my undergraduate institutions because I'd failed my science classes, and they told me to go somewhere else. And so I did that; I came from Haverford down to Johns Hopkins. And that was really great, to come down here, but I struggled at every step. I essentially failed out of grad school and went to a company, and they said to me 'we'll give you a job, but we think you should stick it out and get a PhD.' And so I'm someone who struggled as a student at every step, and I'm aware of what it's like to have a path blocked, and to feel like I don't know how I'm going to get to the stage that I want to get to. And yet there are ways to do that, and to keep defining what your vision is, and defining ways to get to where you want to go..."

He keeps going from there, but I found that anecdote really heartwarming - and the sort of thing you don't hear enough of in academia. I also think that undergrad biology programs are still struggling to shift from the idea of their students being either premed...-->physician or undergrad research...-->academic faculty. There are more choices out there, and folks above me have started listing out some (but not all) of those options. You didn't address why you hate your bio major (and perhaps it's beyond the scope of the question), but if I were you, I'd explore that more, and particularly, whether you find the fundamental concepts uninteresting, or just the rote work of being a student. Because if it's the latter, there are certainly possibilities for someone with a GPA like yours that don't involve leaving the sciences.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:42 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is not too late to start over. I wish so much I was in my Junior year of undergrad recognizing that maybe medicine wasn't for me. As it stands now I am two years into practicing as a PA with a shit-ton of debt from a very good but very expensive university and I'm miserable. I was always attracted to the more creative types too and god-help me, I ignored that because I thought going into medicine was a more pragmatic decision.

So, you need to think real hard about whether or not you want to continue with a degree in medicine. Look at this like an opportunity and something that could possibly save you many years of heartache. If you don't want to continue down this road, then cut your losses now and find what makes you happy. You will be a better person for it.
posted by teamnap at 3:39 PM on May 17, 2012


I was in a similar position to you, pored over the college catalog to discover that I could finish an English major in a year, which I didn't hate. It hasn't done a whole lot for me, though.

I should have taken time off to work and/or do anything but continue to flail in college, lonely and miserable and unable to take advantage of the opportunities that being a student provides. Think about it, but make sure you do something with the time off--even a menial job can be educational and motivating, but don't fall into the ADHD weed-and-video-games trap.

Finally, being smart is not that important. It's largely a matter of luck. Work on things you can change and don't obsess about intelligence or other people who have different circumstances.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:41 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Take some time off. I went to a state university and, after some bad stuff hit me, my GPA crumbled, but I stayed in school. Someday, I'd like to go back to a state school in a new state (where I live now), but my low GPA will require me to go to a community college to get accepted — if, by then, state universities in my state (California) are accepting transfer students again.

If you're not in a school you love in a field you rock at and you're financing your education with student loans you're going to have to pay back, you should take some time off and sort out your life. Throwing good money down the hole when you're adrift is counterproductive.

Ask a former music major with $60,000 in student loan debt, no degree, and a GPA under the transfer minimum how he knows.

(It's never too late to go back. I'm eventually going back and I'm pretty confident I have more than 15 years on you. There's more than one road to where you want to go.)
posted by phoebus at 4:54 PM on May 17, 2012


With out a doubt I know that there is hope for you. I am sorry to hear that you're struggling. I really hear where you coming from with this. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and have struggled academically. People tell me that I am "the smartest high school drop-out" they know, which is a pretty weird thing to hear (thanks, I think?). But I know several fiercely intelligent people who have ADHD and have struggled with school their entire livess. I earned by GED, was accepted by highly competitive and well respected college with aspirations of eventually earning an MFA in writing. I ended up on a completely different track, one that is highly scientific and technical, and incredibly rewarding.

Why do you want to go to medical school? What kind of medicine do you want to practice? What do you hate about biology?

I ask, because yes, it will take a lot of work to get you back on track to the road to medical school (and will start with you getting a handle on your ADHD), but I don't think it's impossible. So if you have a real passion for science and medicine I don't think you should give up. But that is not what I'm taking away from your post since you state that you “hate biology”.

Look, not everyone graduates in four years. A 2.7 GPA does not automatically make you an idiot. You need to get your ADHD treated and work on strategies that help you succeed in and out of school. This is not the end of the world, and your future is bright!
posted by OsoMeaty at 5:25 PM on May 17, 2012


Also, I've found this to be really accurate:

Having ADHD basically means that you are going to struggle when it comes to working on things that you dislike. However, you will be able to excel once you find a different major.

The biggest things I've learned from getting a grasp (through therapy and medication) on my ADHD is that:

1. It can be harnessed for good!
2. Learning methods of dealing with work you don't like it hard work, but it helps when you're in situations that don't really turn you on mentally.
posted by OsoMeaty at 5:30 PM on May 17, 2012


Former biology major here. I loved my major, but didn't do that much better than you at it for most of my time at college. I still have some problems with "but everyone else is so much BETTER" feelings, but I have to ask--what are most of your friends majoring in? I got a huge confidence boost when I shifted from taking classes full of pre-meds to classes like herpetology. Most people don't actually have time to do everything AND volunteer AND have friends AND eat healthy/exercise...and that's okay. A lot of pre-med students like to pretend they can, though. Do you actually want to be a doctor, or is it just what seems like the only high enough status choice? I never wanted to be a doctor, did some research, and got a million funny looks over not applying to graduate or medical school when I finished my B.A.
Now I work in a law office and love my job. Turns out, getting a degree in something shows you're competent and (eventually) people will want to hire you for that.
posted by mismatched at 5:48 AM on May 18, 2012


tl;dr = Don't give up. You'll be fine.

I, too, majored in Bio at a non-ivy-but-still-highly-ranked school, and I didn't like Bio. It was acceptable for a few years, but it was not my passion. I don't know what my passion is yet.

My gpa was a paltry 2.9 by graduation (complete with a full semester of buffer courses at the end of senior year), and a lower gpa within the Bio department. None of my professors cared because, frankly, I didn't particularly want to be there. This GPA thing really bugged me because in high school, I was the cream of the crop, and now I was in the bottom 25% of my graduating class.

Many of my friends got double majors and were academically exceptional in many ways (many of them were Phi Beta Kappa, Fulbright scholars, and going on to fully-funded PhD programs). They were brilliant folks.

I found that I could write my papers and bias my thinking in class away from Biology because, really, who wants to do the same thing for 4 years? Examples follow:

Freshman year, I made some moss graffiti. It was a fun way to learn a bit about how to keep moss alive, their avascular transport systems, etc. This all came in handy when I had to take the required (and dreaded) Botany course the next year.

Sophomore year, nothing good happened. I transferred...twice. I REALLY didn't like my sophomore year.

Junior year, I took a course called "Advanced Geospatial Information Systems for Biologists" that focused on using maps and biology together. That was a fine course subject, but I was enjoying another course I was taking called "Art of the Andes" way more. I mixed the two big course projects together. (I had to ask permission from both professors to reuse the same work twice, but they agreed.) I took a huge database of species that were represented in pre-Columbian Andean art, and looked up where each artifact was made (or which Andean culture made it). Then I looked at how far a reasonable human could walk through the particular landscape that surrounded those locations. On top of all that, I looked at the current species distributions for the animals that were represented in the art. The goal was to create a biological-ish model to find where new archeological sites might be found based on the animals that are depicted on artifacts of unknown origin. Sounds crazy complicated, but it ended up being far more art history than Bio, which was fun for me!

Senior year, I brewed some beer in my dorm. I got approval from my university. (Thank you Code of Virginia for making me a resident for beer, but not for tuition!) I got a professor to help me change the DNA in the yeast so that it would turn blue if the beer got infected with bacteria (a common problem for brewers). It was a fun little experiment that taught me a bit about genetics, got me some "lab experience", and got me beer!

On top of all this, I joined a choir. I didn't sing before college. For all I know, my voice sounds like the flapping of a duck's butt sliding down an icy hill backwards. But I love those choir kids. I suggest you join some sort of group that you think you might enjoy, even if you haven't participated in similar groups before. Joining that choir was easily one of the best decisions of my life.

Upon graduation, I went on to a Masters program that was ranked #1 in its field. (My masters is not at all in Biology, so don't sweat it if you don't want to do bio the rest of your life.) I even got a fellowship. All with a 2.9 GPA and what had to have been lackluster recommendations (at best) from my professors.

You'll be fine. I had 4 years of self-doubt just like you, but you'll move on. The wheel of dharma turns.

And I'll leave you with my favorite lyrics my choir ever sang. From Bach's Fürchte dich nicht , "Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir" = "Fear thou not; I am with thee."
posted by cmchap at 6:27 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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