Is it okay to take any of my main pre-requisite science courses in the summer at another school? Yes, it is perfectly fine to complete a pre-requisite science course (e.g. organic chemistry) in the summer at another school.
Do I have to take them at WashU or can I take them elsewhere? The class(es) may be taken at WashU or at an accredited college or university in the US. If possible, take them at a 4-year accredited college instead of a 2-year community college.
I am concerned that if I take organic chemistry over the summer at my home school that it will look poorly when applying to medical school. Is this the case? Does the prestige of the school where I would take the course significantly matter? This is a common concern of students. Taking one or two of your required pre-requisite courses during the summer at another school is fine. You just don’t want to take all of your prerequisite courses away. The prestige of the school doesn’t really matter but we recommend taking the course(s) at a four-year college or university.
I had a bad start in college but have done better with each semester. Do medical schools take this into account? Yes, they do. Showing a continued trend of improvement demonstrates that you are able to learn from your mistakes and grow as a student.
Should I try to explain my poor performance in a course or during a semester in my application? It depends on how poor the performance. If you received a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ in a course, then if makes sense to explain if there were any extenuating circumstances that played a role in your poor performance. Some secondary applications have a place where you can tell the school any additional information that you would like them to know. If you had a very poor semester or year, you might need to weave this explanation into your personal statement.
I was accepted to only one medical school but really don’t want to go to this school. What should I do? Personally I recommend accepting the offer. Unless you are able to do something that significantly improves your application for the next cycle, there is no guarantee that you will be more successful in the following year. Also, some medical schools may feel that it shows both arrogance and a lack of passion to forgo an acceptance to medical school simply because you felt you could get accepted to a more preferred school the following year.
My GPA and MCAT are not that strong. Will it hurt me to just apply and see what happens? Applicants should apply when they are the strongest candidate possible. While this sounds like an obvious statement, it isn’t to many applicants. Students should take a realistic assessment of their likelihood of acceptance before filing an application. This should be done by meeting with a Pre-Health advisor. Students should not apply “just to see what happens” if the likelihood of acceptance is low as this can make it more difficult to gain acceptance in the next application cycle. When a student reapplies to a particular school, that school will compare the current application with the previous one. Unless there is a significant difference in the applicant’s qualifications, it is unlikely that the applicant will fare any better in the second application cycle. And even if there is some improvement, an unsuccessful attempt in the first application cycle could negatively bias some schools on the next application attempt.