How to get into medical school with a low MCAT? How to get into medical school with a low GPA? These are some of the most commonly asked questions we get from our students. There is no denying that your MCAT score and GPA have a huge influence on whether you get into medical school, but having a low MCAT is not a death sentence.

In this blog, we will discuss what you can do to get into medical school with a low MCAT score, how you can use other application components to boost your chances, and share tips for what you can do if you decide that your MCAT score is totally non-competitive. 

Disclaimer: MCAT is a registered trademark of the AAMC. BeMo and AAMC do not endorse or affiliate with one another.


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What is a Low MCAT?

Firstly, we should discuss what is considered a low MCAT in the current application cycle. Simply put, a low MCAT score is a score that does not get you into your desired medical programs. Each school has its own medical school requirements, and having a competitive score means that your MCAT results at least meet the school’s standard.

However, if we want to be more specific, let’s examine the latest statistics to see what kind of scores are considered non-competitive in this application cycle. An MCAT score is considered non-competitive when it is below the matriculant average. In other words, your score is not very competitive as it is around the mark of those who applied, but did not get in. This score is usually around the 75th percentile overall, so about 507-509. This does not mean that you have no chance of getting into medical school with a score of 507 or 509! In some medical schools, this score is quite competitive! It simply means that, statistically, on average, students with this score do not get into medical school. According to the latest statistics, students with a score of less than 506 have even less of a chance of getting into medical school. And students with scores around 501 should really consider retaking the test.

As you can see, statistics do not really clarify what it means to have a low MCAT. Having an MCAT score of 506 does not guarantee you acceptance, but neither does a score of 509. And neither does a score of 511! Simply put, no matter how high your MCAT score is, it does not guarantee you a spot in your chosen medical school.

In other words, while your MCAT score is an important application component, it does not predetermine your chances of getting accepted. This is why getting to medical school with a low MCAT is possible if you apply strategically. In this blog, we will discuss how you can increase your chances of success with a low MCAT, assuming that you do not intend on retaking the exam.

In the end, after we go through our strategies point-by-point, you can decide whether retaking the test is something you should seriously consider. But do us a favor and read through the blog carefully first. You might find that your MCAT score can be quite competitive.

Now let’s begin! 

Why is the MCAT so challenging?

Rule #1: Be Strategic

Here’s the truth: every single student that applies to medical school does it strategically. Every student is careful to choose which schools they apply to and analyze where they are a good applicant. Only unsuccessful applicants apply blindly. There is no student out there that has the golden combination of perfect stats, perfectly fitting extracurriculars, stunning essays, and stellar medical school recommendation letters. Everybody has areas of improvement to work on or application components they wish were better – it’s normal. This is why applying strategically becomes so important when you are choosing which schools to apply to, how to prepare for your medical school application, and what experiences and skills to highlight in your application components and interview answers.

Your first step should be research and analysis of the schools that you have a chance of getting into. This is where the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) can be a great help.

MSAR

Not all medical schools post recent admissions information on their websites. This is where the MSAR portal has a great advantage over individual school websites. The MSAR database provides information about the most recent matriculants’ admissions data, such as the average accepted GPA, average accepted MCAT score, matriculant profiles (age, race, background, extracurriculars for medical school), required medical school prerequisites, and more.

How can this help you apply strategically? If you have a lower MCAT score, search for medical schools in MSAR that accept matriculants with similar MCAT scores to yours. This is easily done by setting the search criteria on the left side of the portal.

Look through the search results and compare your other statistics and experiences with those of recent matriculants. Does your profile seem like a good fit with this school? Do you have similar experiences to those who were recently accepted? Does your GPA match or exceed the average accepted GPA of this school? Have you completed all the required prerequisites listed by the school? Carefully go through the information available on MSAR and make a list of schools where you would be a good fit with regards to the MCAT score and other application elements.

Remember what we said at the beginning of this article – your MCAT score is not everything. So even if you find schools that typically accept students with your MCAT score, other aspects of your application must also be a good fit to increase your chances of success, so consider them carefully. Even the easiest medical schools to get into want to see well-rounded applicants, rather than applicants with simply good statistics.

If you want to evaluate your chances of acceptance using your current statistics and experiences, make sure to use our MD Chance predictor to see where you would be a perfect candidate and what you can improve.

Consider DO schools

Many of the best osteopathic medical schools are just as competitive as MD programs, but generally speaking, DO schools tend to have lower GPA and MCAT requirements. This is why considering DO schools might be a good idea if you are looking to apply to schools where your MCAT score is competitive.

While there is a lot of debate about MD vs DO, the truth is, the gap between these two degrees is closing rapidly. DO grads still have lower matching rates to some of the most competitive residencies out there, but their number and reputation are growing every year. A typical patient cannot tell the difference between DO and MD physicians, as they have the same responsibilities and duties.

When it comes to the DO school application process, you will not face any surprises. The process is very similar to that of MD programs in the United States, which includes an online application process, DO personal statement, list of activities, medical school secondary essays, and so on. The only real difference is that instead of answering "why do you want to be a doctor?", your application will answer the question "Why do you want to be a DO doctor?".

So, if you are looking for schools where you have a higher chance of acceptance based on your stats, make sure to look into DO programs.

Are you looking for the best osteopathic med schools?

How to Use Other Application Components to Outweigh a Low MCAT

Once you make a list of schools where you can be considered a competitive candidate, it’s time to strategize the rest of your application components to make up for your low MCAT. But keep in mind that you are not only planning your application this way because of the MCAT – truth be told, you would be doing this even if your MCAT score was high. In the case of a lower MCAT, however, we want to be specific with what you can emphasize to “smooth over” this application setback.

GPA

The GPA and MCAT are often considered in tandem. They are both viewed as indicators of your academic abilities and prowess. And this is why most schools will forgive a lower MCAT score if your GPA is outstanding. If your MCAT is on the lower end of the spectrum, meeting and exceeding medical school GPA requirements is strongly encouraged. The AAMC provides a correlation chart that shows what GPA you need to achieve based on your MCAT – check it out here. Carefully examine what GPA you need to have, based on the MCAT score you have, to have a higher chance of acceptance. This correlation can help you decide whether applying with your current stats is advisable.

The bottom line is this – if you have a low MCAT you must do your best to balance it with a high GPA. While these stats are not the be-all and end-all of medical school admissions, some schools will not continue the review of your application if you do not demonstrate strong academic history via your GPA and MCAT. If you have a low MCAT, do your best to outweigh it with your GPA.

To really compensate for your lower MCAT or GPA, your stats should be accompanied by outstanding application components. Many schools will review your application holistically, so to overshadow less than stellar grades and scores, you must impress with other application elements.

Wondering how to get into medical school with low GPA?

Extracurriculars

Your AMCAS work and activities or the Experience section of the AACOMAS application should be methodically planned. These sections must include only the most impressive activities that demonstrate commitment, skill, passion, leadership, and suitability for the medical profession. Remember that you have a limited number of entries allowed, so you must be extremely selective with your choices.

In the case of a lower MCAT score, your most meaningful activities must be especially impressive. Impressive clinical hours are considered as some of the most important extracurriculars for med school, so if you include a significant clinical activity with a great description, this might well outweigh a lower GPA or MCAT. It might be a good idea to include impressive academic or research experiences that compensate for lower grades or test scores. For example, maybe you presented your research and findings at a conference or worked on a course project that received high praise, or maybe even awards? This way, you can demonstrate that your low grades or MCAT are not indicative of your academic abilities.

And keep in mind that you want to include activities and skills that relate to your chosen schools’ mission and the profile of their recent matriculants. This is why the selection of your activities and their descriptions must be planned meticulously! A great activities section can really bolster your profile in light of a low MCAT.

Medical School Personal Statement

Even with a great activities section, the question of why you have a low MCAT may still linger. You can use your personal statement to briefly explain why your MCAT is not as great as the rest of your application components. If you have a reason other than “I just didn’t study enough”, this extenuating circumstance can be incorporated into your medical school personal statement. If you come from a socio-economic background that did not allow you to prepare for the MCAT properly, you may be able to briefly explain how this hindered your score. If you have medical conditions that prevented you from achieving the desired score and you did not get proper MCAT accommodations, you may succinctly indicate this in your essay.

But do not, – I repeat – do not focus your statement on your low MCAT. Your explanation should just be a quick footnote that is expertly infused into the rest of your essay that presents your candidacy from the best angle. Remember that your statement should focus on demonstrating what a great applicant you are and why you want to be a doctor, not on explaining away gaps or weaknesses of your application. This is what secondary essays are for…

Secondaries

Many medical school secondary essay prompts specifically ask you to discuss any gaps or setbacks present in your application. Even if an essay prompt does not ask for this specifically, you can use a prompt such as “What else would you like us to know about you?” as a chance to discuss your setbacks. A variety of prompts can be your perfect chance to discuss your lower MCAT. To inspire yourself, think of these prompts as a diversity secondary essay or an adversity secondary essay. As long as your MCAT score is not explained away by the fact that you were simply too lazy to study, you can use a secondary prompt to discuss your low MCAT and explain why you did not achieve a higher score.

Remember not to play a victim. Even if the circumstances were out of your control, take responsibility for your low score. For example, if MCAT costs and other medical school application related costs drove you to have several part-time jobs that took away from your study time, demonstrate that you worked hard to put yourself through the application process and the lessons you learned about priorities, dedication, and pursuing your dream of becoming a physician.

Always remember that a low MCAT score is not a death sentence. We all face challenges that prevent us from being our best selves, but we can overcome these challenges given the right tools and circumstances. Your secondaries are the last application component to demonstrate what a great candidate you are for your chosen schools. Use them to the best of your ability! 

Looking for more MCAT tips?

If Your MCAT is Still Too Low…

If you go through all of the tips above and still think that your MCAT is too low to let you be a competitive candidate, then you may consider the options we outline below.

Apply to Schools that Do Not Require the MCAT

This is probably the simplest solution. You can limit your applications to medical schools that do not require the MCAT or make them the majority of medical schools that you apply to. If you are looking to apply to Canadian medical schools, keep in mind that some medical schools in Ontario and all medical schools in Quebec do not request your MCAT score for admission.

Should You Retake the MCAT?

Retaking the MCAT is more common than you think! According to the AAMC, 95% of students have tested once or twice. Unfortunately, there is no official information regarding the exact percentile of how many students take the exam twice. However, about 5% have sat the MCAT three times. So if your score is not salvageable by a higher GPA and other application components, you can certainly choose to re-sit the exam.

Deciding to retake the test is a big decision. Not only will you be required to go through the entire MCAT prep process again, but you will have to pay the MCAT fees again. MCAT prep is a tremendous undertaking, so do not choose to start another MCAT prep process lightly.

It’s important to remember that using the same MCAT prep strategies the second time is a very bad idea. If they did not help you get the desired score the first time, they will not help you get it the second time. This is why preparing to retake the exam is a big decision – organizing a new prep methodology and collecting more study materials can be a great strain on your already busy premed schedule.

If you are serious about drastically increasing your score, you might want to hire an MCAT tutor or join an MCAT prep course. These professionals can help you pinpoint your areas of weakness and devise strategies that will help you overcome your setbacks.

Most importantly, remember that if you do decide to retake the MCAT, your second attempt must result in a higher score. If your score is the same or lower, this might hurt the impression you make on the admissions committees. 

Check out some tips that can help you decide whether you should retake the MCAT:

Post-Baccalaureate Programs for Med School or Special Master's Programs

If you decide to take a gap year before medical school to increase your MCAT score, you might want to consider enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program or a special master’s program. Most post-baccs are specifically designed to help students increase their GPA or MCAT, and gain additional extracurricular experiences. In short, post-baccs are there to help you bolster your applications. This is done via extra coursework and prep courses, as well as workshops on taking the MCAT and applying to medical school. So if you want some additional help with improving your overall application, a post-bacc may be the perfect choice for you.

Special master's programs (SMPs) are typically used by premeds to increase their research profiles. SMPs provide ample opportunity to participate in research projects, get to know medical experts in your chosen field, and gain more academic and extracurricular experiences. Additionally, some medical schools may give you additional points if you have a graduate degree, so having an SMP would give you a slight advantage.

Keep in mind that enrolling in a post-bacc or SMP simply to bolster your application is an expensive choice. These programs are not easy and they should not be taken lightly. If you decide to pursue a post-bacc or SMP, let it be for more than simply to increase your MCAT score. Make sure to participate in impressive research projects, publish your findings, make close connections with your supervisors and instructors – you must have more than your MCAT score as a reason to spend a year or two in these programs. 

Conclusion: Consider Hiring a Medical School Advisor

Last, but certainly not least, consider reaching out to a medical school consultant to help you get into medical school with a low MCAT. If it’s challenging for you to objectively see what can outweigh your score and what you can do to impress the admissions committees, a med school coach can truly make a difference. Admissions experts can identify the strong suits of your application that can help you overshadow a low MCAT – something that may be difficult for you to do on your own.

Remember, that a good advisor will not start promising you admission into Harvard medical school and asking you for money before they at least have an initial conversation with you. During this conversation, you should be able to explain your situation, and based on this information an advisor can gauge how they can help you. Be vigilant of those who promise you acceptance to all the Ivy League medical schools without even speaking to you first for free. 

Want to learn more about the MCAT?

FAQs

1. What constitutes a low MCAT?

A low MCAT is an MCAT that does not match the MCAT requirements of the schools you are applying to. More specifically, a score of 506 is considered to be on the lower end of the scale. With a score of 504-506 or lower, you are not going to be a very competitive candidate. But this score range is not absolutely out of the race!

A score of 501 or lower is typically considered too low to be competitive, so you might want to retake the exam or apply to medical schools that do not require the MCAT.

2. What schools should I apply to with a low MCAT?

Consider applying to schools with low MCAT requirements. You can find these schools using the MSAR database. Simply change your MCAT settings in the database to find schools where you meet or exceed the MCAT requirement.

Additionally, check out DO schools with lower MCAT thresholds and schools that don’t require the MCAT at all.

3. Should I apply to a Caribbean school?

Caribbean medical schools are certainly an option! Most Caribbean schools have very low admissions requirements, so you have a higher chance of getting accepted. However, keep in mind that attending a med school in the Caribbean may limit your residency options in the US and Canada. 

4. What can outweigh a low MCAT?

The most traditional strategy for outweighing a low MCAT is having a very high GPA. These two application elements are often considered in relation to each other. So having a high GPA can truly save a lower MCAT score!

5. I had extenuating circumstances that prevented me from having a high MCAT and retaking the MCAT. Is there a way I can explain why I have a low MCAT?

Yes. You can briefly explain this setback in your personal statement. Try to limit your explanation to 1-2 sentences tops. The best place to outline your setbacks is in medical school secondary essays since most schools give you the opportunity to discuss gaps in your applications.

6. Should I retake the MCAT if my current score is low?

Retaking the MCAT is a drastic step. Before you decide to retake the test, carefully reflect on whether the rest of your application can overshadow the low score and review schools that do not require the MCAT to evaluate whether you are a competitive candidate there.

If you do decide to re-sit the exam, make sure to develop new and improved study strategies. Additionally, look into getting help from MCAT prep experts. 

7. Can a post-bacc program help me get into medical school with a low MCAT score?

Yes. Many post-bacc programs offer MCAT prep seminars that can help you prepare for the test. Additionally, you can take courses that will cover much of the MCAT content in case you have not taken the required prerequisites in your undergrad.

8. What else can I do to get into medical school with a low MCAT?

Your best bet is hiring a medical school admissions consulting company. These experts can truly help you present your best self in your application. Having a low MCAT is not ideal and can hurt your chances of acceptance, but an expert can help you find the right points to offset this application setback.  

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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