How do I get into medical school with a low GPA?
To answer this question, we must first take a look at how medical school admissions committees evaluate candidate applications for acceptance and how your grades play into that. This means we need to talk about holistic review – aka, the process by which most medical schools evaluate applicants and their applications.
Holistic review means – in short – that medical school admissions committees will review all of the parts of your application before making a decision about you—meaning they look beyond one or two factors (ie, your grades and MCAT scores). They want to get a whole, fuller, more thorough understanding of who you are, your readiness, your commitment/dedication, how you fit with their program and mission … everything you have to offer … before they decide.
With that, let’s get back to that lower GPA. So in general, schools seek an average GPA (both science and cumulative) of 3.4. When you ask how to get into medical school with a low GPA, I ask, how low? And why is it low? Are we talking your science GPA? Your cumm.? Or both?
Holistic review is on your side. We need to understand why your GPA is low. Let’s say, for instance, that your GPA is low because you got sick with mono half way through the semester and you just couldn’t keep up. Your grades tanked for that semester, and the overall impact to your GPA hurt, big time. Okay. Life happens. So, then … What do the rest of your semesters say about you? Once you beat mono and got your groove back on, did your academic performance rebound? If yes, then that speaks well for you. It won’t get you off the hook, but it helps your committees understand and take that information into consideration when evaluating your application for fit-ness with their program.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you were an eager beaver your first semester and you decided you could handle 18 credit hours with Bio 1, Chem 1, and Physics 1, all with their labs, and a Psych course. Then once you really got into the semester, after the drop/add deadline, you realized you’d bitten off a damn big bite … and now what??? The end of the semester rounds out with you earning C’s across the board … and UGH! … now you have C’s in 6 of your science courses! Well, when evaluating your application as a whole, the big question becomes what happened after that semester? What did you do to address the challenge you faced? How did you overcome? How did you improve? What did you learn about your learning style and capability? And this list can go on. Again, the goal is to understand what happened and where that took you next.
The two metrics that go together in your AMCAS or AACOMAS application, complementing one another, are your grades and your MCAT scores. Together, admissions committees try to understand how you will cope with and respond to the significantly more rigorous academic program in medical school. So, if either/both of your GPA’s are low, what do your MCAT scores look like? Are they low as well? Or are they average? Or are they off of the charts! The thing to know is that where you will run into trouble, especially, is if your MCAT scores are low, seemingly reifying the message your GPA’s are sending – that you can’t handle the academic rigor. But if your MCAT scores are happy scores, they can strengthen your bid for acceptance. They can help to alleviate the concern that you aren’t prepared. Ready. Or able to handle the expectations of medical school.
Also up for review and consideration: what did you have to say about your weakened academic performance in your personal statement? Did you explain what happened with sufficient detail for them to know you and to understand the challenge that you faced? And did you sufficiently explain how you overcame the challenge and what lengths you went to to improve your future performance?
Also, how about your letters of evaluation? Are any of your evaluators discussing your performance, and expressing their educated and professional assessment of your capabilities in the affirmative and positive … with vigorous support for your being ready and capable? Or are you standing out there on your own with only your personal statement explanation, grades, and MCATs to support you?
The bottom line is this: medical school admissions committees bear great responsibility in seeking out candidates that have proven competence, confidence, and compassion. They need to know you have the competence, fortitude, aptitude, and willingness to do what it takes to honestly succeed in the rigorous demands of medical school. Ultimately, they are tasked with selecting candidates who are ready to take the next steps toward becoming actual healthcare providers to real people whose lives depend on their doctors being competent and able to care for them.
Plus, there’s that whole $50,000/year average cost of medical school. It would seem remiss to offer you a seat in a program that you are not ready for knowing that the washout comes with a hefty financial burden.
So in asking how does one get into medical school with a low GPA, if this is you, you must ask yourself:
- Why is your GPA low?
- Does it accurately reflect your current academic preparedness and aptitude?
- Do you feel academically ready for the challenges and rigor of medical school? If yes, why do you feel this way and what have you done to help ensure your success?
- What have you done to overcome and get back on track? How do you feel you will be able to excel in medical school?
- What study skills, techniques, etc. have you learned to ensure your success?
- What does the rest of your application package look like? Have you excelled in everything else?
- Are your MCAT scores stellar?
- Do your letters of evaluation make your admission committee reviewers wave aside the concerns they might be feeling about your grades and your ability to succeed?
- What does the whole of your academic performance look like?
- Have you demonstrated proficiency in the science coursework?
And not to be missed, because we’re over here focused on your aptitude and academic performance, but what other qualities and competencies do you have to offer?
- Are you committed to service? How have you demonstrated this?
- Do you have well developed social skills? How are you demonstrating them?
- Are you culturally competent? How are you demonstrating this?
- Have you demonstrated your ability to work well collaboratively in a team?
- Are you ethically responsible to yourself and others? What in your application package shows this?
- Do you have excellent oral and written communication skills? They’ll be combing over your personal statement and application prompts to evaluate this. And your interview, for the oral skills.
- Are you reliable and dependable? How are you demonstrating this?
- Do you show a capacity for improvement? What shows this in your application?
- Are you able to think logically and critically? How are you showing them? How have you presented yourself in your application, personal statement, and interview?
- How are your analytical skills? What in your application shows them your competence?
- Do you show aptitude and interest in scientific inquiry? How are you showing it? Science GPA? Research? Etc.
- Do you have demonstrated competency in the natural sciences and human behavior consistent with the expectations of becoming a healthcare provider? Again, they’ll be looking for proof.
- Do you demonstrate an understanding of the expectations of being a healthcare provider and working in the healthcare field? Hint, hint: your personal statement!!! And potentially in your secondaries. And your interviews!!!
- What are your reasons for wanting to be a doctor? Again. Your personal statement, secondaries, and interview are your chances to really demonstrate your reasons!
If you are bursting out of your seams with other goodnesses that can offset your low GPA(s) as demonstrated within all of the parts of your entire application – along with your interview – then there is a good chance you will still be able to get in with your lower GPA. However, if not, then you need to ask yourself what you are willing to do to establish and demonstrate your readiness. Your aptitude. Your preparedness. And your commitment and dedication to the needs and demands of caring for your future patients! Because after all, once you become a doctor, your actions – everything you do – is in service to your patients and their care, through helping them live healthier lives.
If you have encountered academic challenge that has resulted in your GPA(s) being lower than the average, and you want to determine what your competitive status looks like, I encourage you to seek out counsel. Check with a pre-health advisor, counselor, or coach. Reach out to your healthcare mentors. Have respected peoples in the know review your merits objectively to help guide your future actions and decisions. And know, at the end of the day, even if your GPA is low, if you really want to become a doctor, then the truth of the matter is you will take the necessary steps to prepare yourself and become ready, and then you will be a doctor. And your future patients thank you! Because no one else out there will care for them the way you will, because you are unique and special, and that wonderfulness will make your care perfect for them!!!
So don’t give up! Dig in!!! Make your future the success you dream of!!!
For more help from The Best You PAL Academy, check out the following informational offerings:
How Long Will It Take to Improve My GPA?
Kick-Ass Study Skills for Earning Those A’s!
9 Habits of a Successful Pre-Health Student
What is the Holistic Review Process?
The Application: Make Your Work/Activity Section Really Work for You
The Application: Making the Most of Your Secondary Applications
(and there’s so much more!)
If you’d like me to review your merits and evaluate your competitive status (I also provide you with actionable feedback), please contact me to schedule an appointment. Click here to learn more!
My best wishes to you always for your happiness and success!!!
Mary Kate :0)