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 studied biology at a great school for four years. You worked your butt off pursuing impressive extracurriculars for medical school, earning research publications, playing 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 semester’s 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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Medical Schools with the Lowest and Highest GPA Requirements
Firstly, it’s important to remember that your stats are relative. Depending on the schools you’re applying to, your GPA may indeed be competitive. So before we discuss how to get into medical school with a low GPA, check out this list of schools with the lowest GPA requirements. Perhaps your stats can be competitive there:
10 US Medical Schools with the Lowest GPA Requirements
1. Meharry Medical College, TN
GPA requirements: 3.46
2. University of Houston Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine, TX
GPA requirements: 3.59
3. Howard University College of Medicine, DC
GPA requirements: 3.61
4. Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
GPA requirements: 3.61
5. Washington State University Elson S Floyd College of Medicine, MO
GPA requirements: 3.61
6. University of California, Davis School of Medicine, CA
GPA requirements: 3.63
GPA requirements: 3.63
8. Tulane University School of Medicine, LA
GPA requirements: 3.65
9. Anne Burnett Marion School of Medicine at TCU, TX
GPA requirements: 3.67
10. University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine, CA
GPA requirements: 3.68
5 Canadian Medical Schools with the Lowest GPA Requirements
1. University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine
GPA requirements: 70%/B min in prerequisites
2. University of Saskatchewan School of Medicine
GPA requirements: 75% (in-province) 85% (out-of-province)
3. Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine
GPA requirements: 80% (in-province) 85% (out-of-province)
4. University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine
GPA requirements: 88.14%(overall)
5. Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine
GPA requirements: 3.8
In comparison, let’s check out medical schools in the US and Canada with the highest GPA requirements, so you understand what kind of grades you will need in order to be a competitive candidate to some of the best medical schools in the world, including Ivy League medical schools. If you are still in the process of preparing your application and have time to improve your stats, we will be providing more tips on increasing your GPA below.
10 US Medical Schools with the Highest GPA Requirements
1. NYU Grossman School of Medicine, NY
GPA requirements: 3.96
2. Perelman School of Medicine, PA
GPA requirements: 3.95
3. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, MD
GPA requirements: 3.95
4. Harvard Medical School, MA
GPA requirements: 3.95
5. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, TN
GPA requirements: 3.95
6. University of Virginia School of Medicine, VA
GPA requirements: 3.94
7. Yale School of Medicine, CT
GPA requirements: 3.93
8. Washington University at Saint Louis School of Medicine, MO
GPA requirements: 3.93
9. University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences in the Pritzker School of Medicine, IL
GPA requirements: 3.93
10. Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, MN
GPA requirements: 3.93
Canadian Medical Schools with the Highest GPA Requirements
1. University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine
GPA requirements: 4.18
2. University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
GPA requirements: 3.94
3. McGill University Faculty of Medicine
GPA requirements: 3.9
4. McMaster University Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine
GPA requirements: 3.88
5. Western University Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry
GPA requirements: 3.87
Want to get into medical school with a low GPA? Here's how:
Why is GPA Important for Medical School? And is it Really?
Do we think that GPA is the be-all, end-all of your academic abilities? No, certainly not. In fact, we at BeMo believe that GPA and MCAT should not be used at any stage of the admissions process, let alone to weed out applicants in the initial stages of the selection process. If we could, we would abolish every kind of standardized test and situational judgement test out there. But the current medical school admissions practitioners think differently.
So why is GPA really important for medical schools? Simply because that’s the current measurement of our academic abilities – or in other others, because we are told so.
The situation is so absurd that having a couple of B’s can really hurt your chances of medical school acceptance. Current medical school acceptance rates demonstrate that it’s nearly impossible to get in, so if you're wondering "how hard is medical school?" the answer is that while studying in medical school may be challenging, it’s much more of a hurdle to simply get in.
But the reality is that medical school admissions officers do take GPA very seriously, and they provide several explanations as to why GPA is one of the most important components of your application:
1. Some admissions officers see it as an indicator of how seriously you take your studies
Admissions officers believe that your GPA is a score of your performance in individual classes, semesters, and overall credit progress. One of the reasons why medical schools care so deeply about GPA is that it shows them how much effort you put into your studies; in other words, they can access qualitative information about you, such as attitude and commitment, from quantitative measures like GPA. This is why schools have specific cutoffs for GPA, usually around 3.5.
2. GPA is conjectured to correlate with medical school performance
Some medical schools often overemphasize GPA because they think it correlates with medical school success. Although this view is outdated (though unfortunately persists in some cases) schools will use GPA in part, to determine how well a candidate will fit. According to a study there was no strong correlation between undergraduate GPA and motivation. It’s impossible to infer motivation from GPA, so schools ought to rely more on other aspects of an applicant’s profile to evaluate this trait.
However, there are studies that refute a correlation between high GPA/MCAT and future medical school success. It may be that there is more correlation between successful test-taking in college, medical school, and residency exams like USMLE or MCCQE.
3. It allegedly demonstrates your ability to prioritize, manage, and work efficiently
Having a high GPA with strong extracurriculars, clinical experience, and excellently written personal statements/secondary essays, shows the admissions committee that you can balance academic performance with other pressing obligations/commitments. However, to bring context to your GPA, the schools you apply to should also look at these other aspects in a more honest review of you as a candidate.
The problem is that some schools will not look beyond your GPA if it’s too low. This means that the rest of your application will go unnoticed Which means loss of time, money, and effort. So when you search for schools to apply to, make sure to research whether the school has a strict cut-off or whether they go for a more holistic approach.
4. It enables schools to look at your application more holistically
The truth is, as we already mentioned, that 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 GPAs and MCAT scores right away. 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 minimum expectations when they apply – this way, the admissions committee might still look at the rest of the application and be impressed by other important factors
5. It’s the only quantitative measure besides MCAT
First, your GPA delineates your academic history and your ability for improvement. Other than the MCAT, your GPA is the only numerical indicator of your academic ability in the med school application. 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. So even though GPA doesn’t say much about how well-suited you are for a particular school or program, schools will look at it to put other pieces of your application in context.
How do Medical Schools Evaluate GPA?
To truly understand the weight GPA has on your potential to get accepted, you should know how medical schools use the different GPA scores you submit. Here are the different types and how medical schools evaluate them:
How to Improve Your GPA if You Still Have Time
You need to figure out why your GPA is low in the first place. This is an important step, especially for those who still have time to improve their academic standing. If you are still in your undergrad, take a moment to brainstorm a list of factors that are affecting your grades. Consider some of the main reasons why your GPA might be low:
1. 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? Do you often feel overwhelmed by your workload? Issues with time management stem from a lack of organization. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to address this problem:
- Buy yourself an agenda or even a wall calendar. Using an agenda to track deadlines and important dates will help you start plan 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. 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”.
- Make goals. Creating goals at the start of the week is a great way to find new ways to improve and organize your productive life. For instance, you can have the broader goal of improving your overall GPA, with a series of sub-goals such as getting a stronger grade on the next quiz or trying to participate in class discussions more frequently.
- Divide tasks into smaller ones. Dividing tasks like writing an essay can sometimes help you feel like you’re progressing at a more agreeable and productive pace. For instance, if you’re writing a research paper, divide that task into three parts: the introduction, the findings, and the results/conclusion.
2. Difficulty understanding 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 the following steps:
- Consult with your professors and TAs during their office hours. If you’re having trouble improving your grades in certain classes, you need to get extra help and ask for advice.
- Set aside time in your agenda for doing extra reading and reviewing for subjects you find challenging
- Seek out a tutor or peer mentoring if you require more one-on-one guidance.
3. Poor study habits
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 these important ways to gain or sharpen important skills:
- Attend workshops: schools will typically host workshops for a variety of activities, such as interviewing or essay writing. Refer to your school’s resource database to find out workshops they offer and make time to attend the ones that you can benefit from.
- Join a study group: 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.
- Eliminate distractions: when you’re preparing for a significant test or assignment, you need to focus; you will need to put yourself in an environment that allows you to focus on the material for a set amount of time to improve the quality of your studies. For example, go to the school library or rent a study room in one of the designated quiet rooms on your campus.
Getting into med school with a low GPA is possible! Watch this testimonial from one of our student success stories:
4. Lack of motivation
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, here are some tips to help you gain motivation and maintain it:
- 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!
- Recognize strong performance: getting into medical school is hard work. Recognize and take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments as you pursue this goal. When you’re facing an academic setback, the best way forward is to write down the lessons you learned and the ways in which you succeeded so you can apply what you learned to future tasks/assignments.
- Don’t make excuses: medical schools won’t tolerate excuses, why should you? Focus on the ways you can improve without ruminating about a bad performance. This will demonstrate grit, persistence, and resourcefulness in your application materials.
5. Other external factors impacting performance
Sometimes, there are non-academic factors in your life that can have a negative impact upon your performance. 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: Talking to a support network is a great way to address discouragement and recuperate after a setback. You can find campus wellness services on the website of your institution, in most cases.
- Discuss external factors 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.
- Get accommodation: if you’re still struggling despite making an effort to amend some of the complications you’ve been experiencing, you can talk to your professors or other faculty members to inquire about accommodation. This might include a note-taking service, permission to record lectures, or course modifications.
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.
Want to know the secret to getting into med school with a low GPA? Watch this video!
How to Get Into Medical School with a Low GPA: Yearly Calendar
What To Do After Freshman Year
It’s still early in your academic career, so you still have plenty of time to make the right changes. If you rolled out of first year with a 3.5 or below, review and implement the following items on this list:
What To Do After Sophomore Year
If your cumulative GPA is around 3.5 to 3.6, 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. Here are a few general tips for how to navigate GPA in your sophomore year:
Don't have perfect stats? You can still make your medical school application stand out!
What To Do After Junior Year
Imagine you’re applying to medical school this summer/fall and regardless of 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 admissions committees a single 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.
Are you considering a Special Master's Program? Check out all the advantages of SMPs:
Applying to Medical School with a Low GPA
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. Next, we'll look at five application components you can use to address a low GPA or balance out a low GPA.
A high MCAT score can help neutralize a lower GPA score. For example, the admissions committee might overlook a GPA below 3.5 if the candidate has an MCAT score of 520. However, an outstanding MCAT score alone cannot make up for a very low GPA, and it may not be enough to sway medical schools with more rigid minimum GPA requirements. Still, scoring well on your MCAT adds another strength to your med school application and can make up for, in some cases, a lower GPA.
2. Personal statement
Your medical school personal statement is not usually the place in your medical school application to address a low GPA, unless it is relevant to the story you’re telling in this personal essay. For instance, if you overcame significant academic hardships, have struggled with a learning disorder, or made significant improvements to your academic performance during your undergraduate years, this could demonstrate your resilience and perseverance to the admissions committee. Focus on what you’ve done to overcome your academic struggles and the lessons you learned throughout your undergraduate years. Frame this weakness in your application as an opportunity for growth and better understanding of yourself and relay this self-reflection in your personal statement.
Read the sample paragraph below to get an idea of how to address a low GPA in your medical school personal statement.
3. Work and Activities
Your AMCAS work and activities section can be another place where you can draw attention away from a low GPA with your extracurriculars. Medical schools are looking for well-rounded students, so showcasing your skills, experiences, and diverse interests through your extracurriculars may sway an admissions committee’s decision, even if your academic performance is below average. Your work and activities section of your application should highlight your leadership, community connections, collaborations, passions, and dedication to your extracurriculars. As always, quality is better than quantity, so choose the best non-academic activities you’re involved in. Read the AMCAS work and activities sample entry below, which emphasizes shadowing and clinical experience.
4. Secondary Essays
Often, the medical school secondary essays prompt list gives you at least one opportunity to address weaknesses in your application, including a low GPA. This is your chance to directly address a low GPA in a mature and forthright way. Again, focus on what steps you’ve taken to improve your GPA and what you have learned in the process. The goal is to convince admissions that you are a worthy candidate, despite an unsatisfactory GPA. Demonstrate that your academic shortcomings have pushed you to work harder, to learn more about yourself, and to truly work on improving yourself. This essay is a nice bonus tool to use to explain a low GPA, so if you’re given the option to write one, do it!
Read the sample paragraph below to learn how to address a low GPA in a secondary essay:
Lastly, your medical school admissions interview can be the place to talk about your GPA and your efforts to improve it directly with the admissions committee. If you need help formulating answers to questions about your GPA, you can talk to a medical school interview tutor or medical school advisor. Discussing your shortcomings or struggles may actually help you stand out in a medical school interview, since it shows you are dedicated to becoming a doctor and aren’t afraid of the hard work necessary to do so. As we’ve mentioned, it’s more about how your frame your answer to any question about your low GPA, so don’t be afraid to be genuine and personal in your response. Read the sample interview answer below for an example of how to talk about a low GPA in the admissions interview. If your GPA isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, but you still get invited for an interview, you have to prepare to answer questions about academic performance. Here are a few tips:
Check out this interview answer sample to see how to address a low GPA in a medical school interview:
While a low GPA is never ideal, it can become less of a disadvantage if you know how to address it in your application materials. 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. Above all else, you need to emphasize is what you 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 self-reflection and performing necessary corrective measures reveal your determination to succeed. Make sure that these are the qualities you draw attention to when discussing a low GPA.
Creating back-up plans doesn’t remove 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 even better, you have a higher 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.
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 gamble with 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!
1. Why is GPA important?
GPA is important because alongside the MCAT, it is an indicator of your academic readiness. 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 getting accepted is 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.
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