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How to Get Into Medical School With a Low GPA
Medical school has a notoriously competitive admissions process, and for good reason. Medical professionals hold a lot of responsibility in their hands, so it is only natural that schools would be selective about who they admit. As a result, earning a low GPA in undergraduate can limit your med school options. Nevertheless, a low GPA does not eliminate the possibility of med school. Here’s our guide on how to get into med school with a low GPA:
How low is low?
Before we dive into our suggestions, you might be asking yourself, how low is low for a GPA? For the purposes of this article, we’re going to consider a “low” GPA to be between a 3.0 and a 3.5. We have calculated this number based on the average medical school applicants GPA, which in the 2022-2023 school year was 3.75.
If you’re looking at those numbers and feeling discouraged because your GPA is lower than that, that’s okay. Having a lower GPA than what we said does not mean that medical school is not for you, but it may mean it is a little farther off than you had hoped. We still highly recommend that you read this article and discover what steps you can take!
Debunk the myths
It’s hard to accomplish anything when you have a bunch of negative or untrue thoughts in your head. Applying to medical school is nerve racking, but if it’s something you feel passionate about doing, you shouldn’t feel nervous about it. Put your best effort into your application and into silencing those voices in your head. Understand that you’re not the first person to have a low GPA and want to go to medical school. When the voice in your head sounds negative or tells you that can’t do this, don’t listen!
Focus on your whole application
It’s easy to get caught up on numbers. Your MCAT score wasn’t high enough or you have a lower GPA than you wanted. While those things can be important, so are all the other parts of your application, which is where most of our suggestions will come in. Remember that medical schools are looking at you as a whole person. You may have a lower GPA, but that doesn’t mean that you still won’t look much more desirable compared to other applicants in a lot of other application areas. Okay, let’s get into each of our suggestions now!
1. Earn a stellar MCAT score
One of the best ways to compensate for a low GPA is to earn a great score on the MCAT. This helps demonstrate that you have a strong academic potential, even if your GPA doesn’t indicate it. Study early and often, and consider hiring a test prep tutor if you can afford it. The MCAT is very challenging for any student, which means that any high score that you achieve will be all the more impressive.
2. Write powerful essays
Everyone knows that it’s impossible to reduce a person to a set of numbers. As important as factors such as GPA and test scores can be, essays are what make an intimate connection to the person reviewing your application. Make sure to write essays that demonstrate your passion for medical science, your work ethic, and the way in which you learn from experience.
As a student with a low GPA, you’ll be relying heavily on your essays, so make sure to start them early and get insight from friends, family, and if possible, admissions professionals! It can be hard to talk about yourself in an essay, but it is critical that you do so here!
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3. Identify what caused your low grades, and explain it in your application
As you write your essays, don’t just gloss over your low GPA. You should be sure to address your GPA from a positive perspective, and show how you have grown in the meantime. Before you begin writing, take some time to think about what caused your low grades. If you had family difficulties, financial strain, or other extenuating factors, make sure to explain it to the admissions professional. This may seem personal to share, but it is important to communicate. If the person reading your application only sees the low numbers, they will have no context for them.
Remember to write about your past in a way that reflects positively on your future. Discuss the steps you’ve taken to improve your academic performance since then. This is especially relevant if you had one or two semesters in college which dragged your GPA down. Make sure that you treat everything as a learning experience, not as a failure!
4. Gain relevant experience before applying
Relevant experience between undergraduate and med school can take many different forms. For the most part, it will fall into one of two fields: research and hands-on. While experience in either will help your chances, it’s a good idea to try to find the one that is most relevant to the field you hope to pursue after graduating med school.
At the end of the day, med schools are not training you to sit in the classroom. They are training you to go out and help people. So, if you demonstrate success in a relevant field before applying, they will likely lend less significance to your grades.
Hands-on jobs to help prepare for med school can include being a personal care assistant, a home health aide, or a medical scribe. You could also become a nursing assistant. These jobs could help you prepare for a medical track in which you interact directly with patients.
Working as a lab technician, a research assistant, or a medical market interviewer could demonstrate your interest in the behind-the-scenes elements of medicine. Generally, these jobs and internships are obtainable for those who only have a bachelor’s degree.
5. Apply to reasonable schools
While it is possible to get into med school with a low GPA, your options will be different than those of a student with a high GPA. So, make sure to apply to a wide range of schools, and include safety, reach, and match schools. Find schools where your GPA is not a great outlier, and test your luck at all of them.
Also see: Top medical school scholarships
6. Send out a lot of applications
As a student with a low GPA, you’ll be relying more heavily on the subjective elements of your application than other students. Essays and personal statements are up to the interpretation of their reader; they are not a one-size-fits-all metric like test scores and GPA. As a result, your application will have widely varying success among its readers. Some admissions professionals will fall in love with your essays, while others might not.
So, you’ll want to make sure to put your application into as many hands as possible, in order to maximize the chance of an amiable reader. The average med school applicant sends out around 15 applications – this may seem like a lot, but you’ll want to send out even more. Start your applications early and put a lot of effort into those supplemental essays!
Also see: Grad school financing options
Frequently asked questions about getting into medical school with a low GPA
Can I get into medical school with a low GPA and high MCAT score?
What is the minimum GPA for medical school?
What is the lowest MCAT score accepted for medical school?