Students often wonder how to get into medical school with a low GPA. Well, buckle up, because you are about to get some very honest advice! Let’s set the scene: you’ve just spent four years studying biology at a great school. You worked your butt off pursuing impressive extracurriculars for medical school, earn research publications, play on the soccer team, and have even stuck to your MCAT study schedule. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into your experience over the past four years. But your GPA is just…meh. Maybe a 3.0, 3.2, or even 3.6. You could get mostly As, but a few semesters worth of Bs will tank your GPA. Do you want to learn how to get into medical school with a low GPA? Continue reading our blog to find out!


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Having a few Bs is not going to get you onto a straight path to medical school. People with GPAs in the 3.0-3.6 region do get into medical school but they’re less likely to get in on their first try and it may take a complete overhaul to make up the time. All of the extracurricular activities in the world won’t grant you access to medical school if your grades are not up to snuff. Take a look at our medical school acceptance rates blog to see how your stats compare to what medical schools are looking for. If you're wondering about the difficulty of medical school, you can visit our previous blog where we answer the common question "how hard is medical school?"

Why is GPA Important?

We need to start with a couple of important notes about GPAs. First of all, your GPA demonstrates your academic history and ability for improvement. Other than the MCAT, your GPA is the only indicator of your academic prowess in the med school application.

But that’s not all. Most importantly, meeting the GPA and MCAT score thresholds of the schools you’re applying to eliminates the chance that you will be removed from the applicant pool at the very beginning. While med schools boast about their holistic admissions review, most weed out applicants with lower GPA and MCAT scores right away to make the pool of applicants more manageable. This means that even if the rest of your application is absolutely stellar, your extracurriculars and essays will not be looked at. This is why students are encouraged to at least meet the set expectations when they apply – this way, the admissions committee might still look at the rest of the application and be impressed.

If you are wondering how to get into medical school with a low MCAT score, make sure to review our blog to find helpful tips.

Reflect on What's Holding You Back

The first thing you need to do is figure out why your GPA is low in the first place. This is an important step, especially for those who still have time to greatly improve their academic standing. If you are still in your undergrad, take a moment to sit down and brainstorm a list of all the factors that are affecting your grades. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I have issues with time management? Are you always up late the night before a test, trying to cram in your studying? Are you struggling to complete assignments on time, or even handing them in late? Do you often feel overwhelmed by your workload? The solution to time management issues is better organization. Buy yourself an agenda or even a wall calendar, and start planning out when you will complete each task on your To Do list. Mark down important deadlines in your agenda and/or in your phone calendar for easy reference. But recording deadlines alone isn’t enough. For each assignment, work out when you will set aside time to complete it, and create an actionable timeline for doing each step, e.g.: “Tuesday: Start research for Biology assignment. Wednesday: Start first draft of assignment. Thursday: Do draft revisions”. 
  2. Do I struggle to understand the course material? A low GPA may be a sign that you are finding your courses too hard. If you often feel lost during your lectures and struggle with your assignments due to a lack of understanding, then you need to take action. Consult with your professors and TAs during their office hours to get extra help and advice for material that confuses you. Set aside time in your agenda for doing extra reading and review for subjects you find challenging. Seek out a tutor or peer mentoring if you require more one-on-one guidance. Consider finding a study buddy or group for your courses so that you have someone you can regularly discuss the course material with – sometimes discussion can help make difficult concepts easier to grasp.
  3. Are my study habits poor? Bad time management isn’t the only ineffective study habit that can hold your GPA back. Do you know how to take good notes, how to study effectively for tests and exams, how to properly review material? These are all essential skills you need in order to have good study habits. Check out the academic advising department or writing center at your school to see if there are workshops available to help you develop these skills. You can also speak to your academic mentors, such as professors and TAs, for tips.
  4. Do I feel unmotivated/uninterested in what I am studying? Maybe you are capable of getting high grades when you’re interested in a particular course, but find your grades drop the minute you feel bored or detached from what you’re studying. If that’s the case for you, you need to review the courses you’re taking and even the program you’re in. While you do have to pay attention to the medical school prerequisites your schools of choice require, you should aim to play to your strengths as much as possible during your Bachelor’s. Make sure you are studying subjects you are genuinely interested in whenever possible. Motivation is an essential ingredient for a high GPA!
  5. Are there external factors impacting my performance? Sometimes there are non-academic factors in your life that can have a negative impact upon your performance at school. Things like illnesses, personal problems, or struggling to adjust to new circumstances can make it harder to concentrate on your studies. If any of these factors are affecting you, it is important to address them. Seek support from friends, family, and counselling services when necessary. Sometimes academic accommodation is also available for students dealing with factors beyond their control, so speak to your professors. You should also keep in mind that you can address any external factors that impacted your performance in your personal statement for your medical school applications. You can check out some of the best medical school personal statement examples to learn more about making the most of your essay.

Finding out what the root causes of your low GPA are is the first step to addressing whatever issues may be holding you back. Be honest with yourself and commit yourself to proactively addressing the issues you are facing.

We will now take a closer look at what your game plan for improvement should be depending on where you are in your Bachelor’s degree.   

How to get into medical school with a low GPA: After first year

It’s still early in your academic career, so you’re going to be ok if you make the right changes. If you rolled out of first year with a 3.5 or below, you’ve got to really settle in and alter your priorities. Here is what you need to do:

How to get into medical school with a low GPA: After second year

If you’re still hanging out in the 3.5 to 3.6 region, there is even more pressure for you to do well on your MCAT. So that’s our first piece of advice. And I would like to reiterate the importance of the time diary, the tutor and improving your efficiency. Changing majors is less appealing at this juncture. Review our medical school GPA requirements blog so you know what you should be aiming for. 

At this point, you need to start taking a very serious look at how you’re spending your time. You can’t pare down too much on your extra-curricular activities because they are important and schools need to see that you can manage a high volume of disparate activities. But you need to cut away the fat and make sure every hour you spend has a purpose. Now more than ever, make sure that you are creating an efficient schedule for getting all of your tasks done per week, and that you are sticking to it.

The other thing you need to do is start looking at which schools fit the bill for your GPA. For those applying to the US, learn how to use MSAR to find the right school for you. The schools that have lower GPA requirements should start to become your target. Figure out which ones work for you.

In Canada, your options will start to get limited to schools with very low GPA requirements, such as McMaster Medical School and the Cumming School of Medicine. But, in reality, those schools take very few people with GPAs under 3.7 but you won’t be excluded from the pool right away.

Canadian students with lower GPAs need to start considering taking medical training in the US or overseas. This comes with its own set of complications, but if you’re committed and driven, it is possible to get back to Canada to practice medicine. It is, however, getting more and more difficult to do so.

Check out this video about getting into medical school with a low GPA and MCAT score:

How to get into medical school with a low GPA: After third year/applying to med school during this cycle

You’re applying to medical school this summer/fall, depending on whether you are in the US or Canada, and your GPA is 3.5. You must prepare yourself to put in a lot of applications to a lot of schools. And make sure that you have fantastic applications so you are not giving the heartless admissions committees any more reason to reject you. Click here to schedule your free initial consultation today to find out how we can help you make your application stand out. 

You should also consider your back-up plans, which could involve post-bacc programs, special master’s programs, graduate degrees, a second undergraduate degree, and additional courses. The additional courses option needs to be considered specifically at this juncture, because the extra courses will not be considered in your GPA calculation once you complete your undergraduate degree. 

If you choose to do extra courses, consider turning this into a Minor specialization or – even better – a second Major. You must get all As. Otherwise, it’s barely worth it. Ensure the school knows your plan to defer graduation until the next year, and discuss your options with an academic counsellor so you don’t make any fatal errors with your course selection. 

Are you considering a Special Master's Program? Check out all the advantages of SMPs:

How to get into medical school with a low GPA: After a completed undergraduate degree/applying to med school during this cycle

These back-up plans don’t take away from the fact that you need to also ace your final year. If you have a 3.6 GPA in your first three years and your fourth year is awesome, you have a much better chance of sneaking in with an offer after 4th year than if you just keep humming along getting the same grades as before. Many medical schools pay attention to progress and GPA increase over the years, so make sure to demonstrate improvements in your transcript. Take our study advice above. Again, you'll have to make sure that your application is outstanding. Consider scheduling a session with an academic advisor or a medical school advisor to make your application as strong as it can be. 

All of the same advice about back-up plans still applies when considering what to do after your undergraduate degree. You can also consider post-bac programs if they don’t include courses you’ve already taken and if you’re interested in taking the program on its own merits, not just to get into medical school. We speak about these programs in a recent post on how to avoid medical school rejection. The only difference is that your window to make an academic impression is going to be more limited, as most post-bac programs only last one or two years.

This is the year of reckoning. If your GPA and MCAT aren’t great, but not terrible, overseas options might be your best bet if you don’t want to wait to rebuild your GPA in country or if you are willing to risk the uncertainty of residency and employment after. Keep in mind there are some medical schools that don't require the MCAT, so this could also be an option. If you do have to write the MCAT, review our blogs that will tell you how hard the MCAT is and don’t forget to check out MCAT test and release dates.

If one of these profiles resonates with you, you should get in touch with us. Contact us today for a free initial consultation. We can provide really tailored guidance through a brainstorming session based on your unique set of circumstances. We look forward to meeting you!

Final Tips: How to address a low GPA in med school applications

Finally, if you’re worried about how to deal with a low GPA in your med school applications or interviews, we have some tips for you.

While a low GPA is never ideal, it can become less of a disadvantage if you know how to talk about it in a way that benefits you. Turn your story of initial academic disappointment into a narrative about growth and resilience. If you have taken the remedial steps outlined above and gained better grades as a result, you have demonstrated the ability to address problems in a mature and responsible way. What you need to emphasize is what you have learned from these challenges: talk about what improving your academic performance has taught you in terms of self-improvement, better time management, good study habits, etc. Showing the admissions committee or interviewer that you are capable of both self-reflection and of taking the necessary corrective action reveals your determination to succeed. Make sure that these are the qualities you draw attention to when discussing a low GPA.  

FAQs

1. Why is GPA important?

GPA is important because alongside the MCAT, it is an indicator of your academic prowess in your med school application. Most med schools will also weed out applicants with low GPA and MCAT scores at the very beginning to make the applicant pool more manageable.

2. What is a low GPA for medical school?

Different medical schools have different GPA targets for applicants, but anything below 3.7 is usually considered low. However, there is a difference in admission statistics between DO vs MD degrees. If you are struggling to find an allopathic school that fits your GPA, check out our DO school rankings to see if you can find the right school for you.

3. Can I apply to schools with GPA thresholds higher than my results?

While you can apply to a couple of schools with higher GPAs than your own, your chances of gaining admission are slim. Most schools weed out applicants with lower GPA and MCAT scores at the initial stages of the admissions process. You need to meet the minimum thresholds to be a competitive applicant.

4. Which medical schools should I apply to with my GPA?

Apply to medical schools where you meet the minimum GPA requirements. Check out the MSAR database to see how your GPA compares with the average entering GPA of the schools you’re interested in. This should give you a good indication as to which schools are suitable for you.

5. Will medical schools still accept me with a low GPA?

While your GPA is an important factor, it is not the only factor. To improve your application overall, you need to score well on the MCAT (if required by your school of choice), and to continue doing well in your extra-curricular activities to boost your profile. However, improving your GPA throughout your Bachelor’s will make you a far more attractive applicant, so it is important to address the issue.  

6. What can I do to raise my GPA?

You can raise your GPA using a variety of strategies, such as developing better time management and study habits, seeking extra help with challenging coursework, and choosing your courses with care. 

7. How do I address a low GPA in applications/interviews?

It is important to assure the admissions committee or interviewer that you have learned from your experiences and have addressed the challenges of your low GPA. Emphasize how you have developed better habits, or how you committed yourself to self-improvement and solved the issues that were holding you back.  As mentioned above, your medical school personal statement will also give you the chance to address any external factors that have impacted your performance.  

8. I have no time to improve my GPA before applying. What should I do?

Firstly, you can check out the easiest medical schools to get into. These schools tend to have lower GPA and MCAT thresholds, so you can see if your GPA matches those cut-offs.

Secondly, remember that you are not alone. We can help you optimize your application, address weaknesses of your application, and highlight its strengths! Many of our students had similar obstacles to overcome (you can check out their experience with us in our blog) and we were able to help them get in. If you are wondering if BeMo Academic Consulting is legit and worth your time and money, make sure to reach out to us for a free initial consultation.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

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