Applicant GPA is one of the most important factors for medical school admissions, which is why many students worry about medical school GPA requirements. Admissions committee look at your GPA and to assess your academic prowess and to judge if you have an aptitude for medical sciences.
So, just how important is your GPA? What should you be aiming for? How does your score compare with the score of others? Fear not, this blog will answer these questions and will go over common medical school GPA requirements to help you determine how your GPA holds up against other applicants and matriculants. We will also provide strategies to help you if you have a low GPA.
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Your GPA is an important consideration for medical school admissions committees. Each university will have its own set of and many set minimum medical school GPA requirements to filter out applicants. Admissions committees have thousands upon thousands of applications to review each year, so setting minimum requirements helps to weed out those they do not feel are best suited to handle the rigors of medical school. While there are some, many schools do and also set minimum MCAT scores required for consideration, often along with the minimum GPA requirements.
Some medical schools, however, don't believe in assigning a minimum acceptable GPA because these schools place importance on reviewing applicants holistically and consider every application they receive regardless of GPA and MCAT scores. In line with these views, some schools send out to every single applicant, whereas others may screen using GPA and MCAT scores before sending out secondaries. It's important to note that just because a school doesn't set minimum GPA or MCAT requirements, it's not necessarily easier to get into and most accepted students still have very competitive scores.
In general, setting the minimum GPA requirement at 3.0 seems to be a common practice between medical schools that assign these standards. It's also common to see different GPA standards in place for in-state vs out of state applicants. For example, the sets different GPA requirements for in province vs out of province applicants, requiring a higher GPA for the non-resident group. There are also medical schools that set much higher minimum GPAs, like Virginia Commonwealth University, which sets their medical school GPA requirements at 3.3.
The following table shows the average accepted GPA for last year’s applicants, according to AAMC data (for medical schools in the US) and AFMC data (for medical schools in Canada).
Keep in mind that these numbers represent mean statistics, meaning that there were accepted students with both lower and higher scores than these. Also, matriculant data is always higher than applicant data – for example, the mean science and cumulative GPA of last year's applicants to US medical schools was 3.45 and 3.56 respectively. This shows how competitive medical school admissions are!
Also, calculating Canadian medical schools’ “average” GPA is a little difficult, as they tend to have different GPA requirements for out-of-province students and some schools have their own GPA scales. They re-calibrate student GPAs based on this scale, so it's difficult to calculate a precise average that takes all schools into account. The given figures are a rough estimate.
So what does this all mean for you? That if you have a low GPA you won't be accepted and that if you have a high GPA you will be accepted? The truth is, yes, your GPA score is a very important factor when considering whether or not you will receive an interview and acceptance letter. However, just because you have a certain GPA, whether it's a 3.5 GPA, 3.9 GPA or 3.0 GPA, it's impossible to determine your exact chances of getting into medical school. That's because numbers are just numbers, and most admissions committees are interested in a variety of factors outside of your academics. There are students with low GPAs that are accepted and students with near-perfect GPAs that are rejected. Each applicant is unique, both in their academic record and. There is no exact formula that says x and y will equal admission. Instead, admissions committees focus on admitting applicants with good grades and test scores, strong dedication for helping others and those that can demonstrate suitability for the profession.
Check out our video to find out how you can get into medical school with a low GPA:
You may have heard that a 3.5 GPA for med school is competitive, but that's not entirely accurate. What may be competitive at one school is not necessarily competitive at the other. Indeed, applicants with GPAs above 3.5 who score well on the MCAT have better chances of acceptance than those with lower GPAs, even if they did exceptionally well on the MCAT. For example, students with GPAs between 3.40-3.59 who scored greater than 517 on the MCAT have a 70% acceptance rate compared with the 49.8% acceptance rate of those who scored the same on the MCAT but had GPAs between 3.00-3.19. While you can still , it's a lot more difficult, and all other areas of your application need to really stand out.
If your GPA falls between 3.4-3.6, you can still get accepted, but in these cases, a can improve your chances of acceptance. Some of the report mean matriculant GPAs between 3.5-3.65 which means that even with a lower GPA, you can still be competitive at these schools. What's important is that you determine what the mean GPA and MCAT scores are at the schools you're considering so you can target your applications appropriately. Review our blog to find this information at all medical schools in the US.
Admissions committees highly value an applicant's transcript because to them, how you perform academically in your undergrad studies is an indication of how you may perform in medical school. If your science and cumulative GPA are on the lower side, it will be difficult to convince the admissions committee that you are a strong candidate. The pressure, stress, and difficulty of medical school isn't for everyone, so in the admissions committee's eyes, if you struggled with your undergraduate coursework, you're likely not capable of handling the medical school workload. The good news is that many medical schools realize that assessing candidates based solely on GPA isn't effective for selecting the best applicants.
Many students have a hard time adjusting when they first attend university so a few lower grades here and there at the onset of your studies isn't as serious as low-average grades throughout your entire studies. Similarly, some students choose to enroll in notoriously difficult courses because they think it will look better to the admissions committee when really, these courses weren't required and only served to pull down their overall GPA. While medical school GPA requirements are still an important part of the admissions process, many schools realize that there is so much more to candidate selection than grades and test scores.
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Even though there is no magic number corresponding to how much weight is placed on GPA in the selection process, it is undoubtedly important. The conducted a that surveyed admissions officers at 113 medical schools across the US to find out which areas of application data are important when determining which applicants should be invited to interview and which should be offered acceptances. Admissions officers ranked personal statements, community service, letters of recommendation, MCAT score and both the cumulative and Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math (BCPM) GPA as the top 5 most important factors for interview invitation. Of these 5 aspects, cumulative and BCPM GPA top the list. When it comes to offers of acceptances, both cumulative and BCPM GPA remain in the top 5 most important considerations, as does community service and letters of recommendation. However, GPA is less important and interview recommendation takes the number 1 spot when committees begin sending acceptance letters. From this study alone, it's obvious to see that both your cumulative and science GPA are essential in the admissions committee's decision, both for interview invitation and offers of acceptance.
If you have a low GPA and are worried about your chances of acceptance at medical school, there are a few different strategies you can try to help your case. The avenues open to you will depend on where you are in the . If you’re still in your undergrad or completing an alternative postgrad degree, you can focus on strategies for improving your GPA. Remember, schools look at the overall “trend” of your GPA as well, and if you can show a steady improvement, that works in your favor with admissions committees. Here are some strategies to improve your GPA:
Be strategic about your classes
Many students are under the mistaken impression that they need to focus only on challenging, high-level science courses to get accepted into medical school. While science courses do form a large part of common medical school prerequisite courses, there are also a few programs that do not ask for any coursework prerequisites or have a broader, more interdisciplinary coursework requirement. Even schools that do ask for science coursework won’t necessarily be impressed with you just because you took challenging courses. Admissions committees look at the GPA as well as the level of difficulty of the course. If you take on too many challenging courses and achieve average to poor results in all of them, that’s not really likely to impress anyone. In fact, your low GPA may even disqualify you from secondary applications in a few medical schools!
That’s why it’s important to be strategic about the types of courses you pick. While making sure you meet the requirements for your chosen medical schools with important science subjects, keep your overall GPA in mind and mix in a few “easy” courses. Most medical schools appreciate students who combine academic excellence in science subjects with an exposure to other humanities and social science disciplines. Also, if you’re really struggling with your workload, think about choosing some courses that you are already familiar and comfortable with, such as subjects you covered during classes in school. This can help you get an easy “A” and improve your overall GPA.
However, as you employ this kind of strategic thinking, make sure you also consider your own interests, and the requirements for medical school. You don’t want to go too far in the other direction and end up with a high GPA but a course load that doesn’t meet minimum requirements. Having a balanced undergrad curriculum is critical.
Build good study habits
If you’re happy with your overall course load, and still find yourself struggling to improve your GPA, consider if you need to put in some work towards revamping your study habits. Remember, you will need good study habits and a disciplined, focused outlook to handle the challenging medical school curriculum. Review your study schedule and make sure you are optimizing it for efficiency. Make use of different types of learning resources such as flashcards, guides, question banks, videos, and webinars to help you study more quickly and retain knowledge longer. Consider what kind of learner you are, and which type of learning environment suits you. Are you a visual learner? Try to find videos and webinars related to your coursework to aid you in your study plans. Do you prefer one-on-one studying? Consider taking on a tutor for your toughest subjects.
Your grades could also be low because of poor test performance due to stress, bad health, or any other reason. It’s important to maintain your health despite the challenging and busy premed schedules. Cultivate good habits of sleep, rest, nutrition, and exercise that will help to improve your focus and make you more productive and engaged with your coursework.
Not happy with your GPA? Improve it in three easy steps here:
The closer you get to the actual medical school application season, the less time you have for improving your GPA. The next few tips are applicable for students who are approaching or already in the medical school application season and don’t have much scope to improve their GPA before the application deadline.
Do well in your MCAT
This is absolutely critical to keep your application competitive despite a low or average GPA. Medical school admissions committees are looking for proof of your academic prowess and ability to handle the tough medical school curriculum. Your GPA and MCAT are the two most important indicators of this ability, so if one is low, the other should be, at the very least, above average.
To get a good MCAT score, make sure you prepare well in advance for this challenging exam. Create an effective that helps you not only gain knowledge about required scientific concepts, but also hone the specific critical thinking skills required for this exam. Don’t forget to use question banks and take periodic practice tests in mock exam conditions so you can get used to the grueling MCAT format. You can also consider taking on an or completing an . Experts such as these can help you identify effective strategies for handling different types of MCAT questions, reading complex passages, improving your , etc.
Complete advanced research work
Another avenue to help show your academic prowess and ability to handle advanced scientific work is to complete high-level research experience. This could be in the form of work experience on research projects in clinical or academic settings or work towards a research paper or presentation over and above your academic requirements. Develop your own research interests and focus on honing your research skills. The more rigorous and demanding the experience, the better.
Gain outstanding healthcare experiences
Remember, with a low or average GPA, your best chance of acceptance is at schools that give more importance to a “holistic” application review. This means your medical school extracurriculars need to be spectacular and make you stand out from the crowd. Don’t just meet the minimum shadowing hours or clinical hours requirement. Take on additional responsibilities and complete more hours than the average premed student, and try to cultivate the critical skills related to future success in medicine that admissions committees look for: leadership, empathy, performing under pressure, quick problem solving, and so on. Make sure your volunteer experiences also help demonstrate these qualities. A robust helps to show your interest and aptitude for medicine beyond the statistics and numbers. It can also help you get glowing letters of recommendation for medical school, another important aspect of a successful medical school application.
Once you’re in the “end zone”, the final few weeks before your application is due, you might want to consider the following tips:
Use your essays/personal statement/activity descriptions to communicate your strengths
If you have a low GPA, but plenty of other “strengths” in your application such as a good MCAT score, stellar extracurriculars, impressive research experience, great letters of recommendation, and so on, then make sure your application clearly highlights your greatest strengths. For example, if you started with a low GPA of around 3.2 and then improved your grades over the years to achieve a 3.8 in the final semester, with an overall average of 3.5, make sure your and clearly point towards a journey of growth and learning. If your GPA took a dip due to some specific personal circumstances, use the accommodations or diversity essay (as applicable) to talk about the extenuating factors. If you have some really impressive extracurriculars, your activity descriptions and personal statement /essays should emphasize the skills, achievements, and qualities related to those experiences.
Consider if you need a gap year
If your overall application components are strictly average or poor, and your GPA is low as well, and application season is rapidly approaching or already here, it might be time to consider if a gap year before medical school is actually the best option for you. Remember, applying to medical school is a costly and time-consuming process. You want to be sure of at least a reasonable chance of success if you’re applying in the current cycle. You can check the admission statistics in or use the to identify the schools where you have a competitive chance of acceptance based on your current stats and resume. If you’re not happy with the final list, consider taking a gap year to work on your application and make it more impressive.
For instance, many students opt to complete a or complete a to complete medical school coursework prerequisites and/or to improve their GPA. If you have such a postgrad education with excellent grades, it can help to counter an average GPA record from your undergrad.
1. How important is my GPA for medical school admissions?
Your GPA is one of the most important criteria for your medical school application. Some schools even use a minimum GPA requirement (often along with minimum MCAT scores) to filter out applicants at the primary application stage. So, with a low GPA you may not even get a secondary application for some schools! At the same time, remember that GPA is not the only thing that matters. Schools consider your MCAT score, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, CASPer test result, personal statement, secondary essays, and other such application components in conjunction with your GPA. Some schools prioritize “holistic” admissions, considering these other factors as important as your GPA. Once you’re past the primary application stage, most medical schools consider the larger context of your GPA as well as the specific figures. They give importance to your overall GPA trend, as well as the range and difficulty level of your courses.
2. What is the average accepted GPA for US medical schools?
According to the AAMC, the average accepted GPA for medical schools in the US is 3.71.
3. Can I be accepted to medical school with a low GPA?
While there’s no doubt that a high GPA can give you a competitive edge for medical school, it’s still possible to get into medical school with a below average or average GPA if you can prove your academic prowess and suitability for medical school via other application components. This includes your MCAT score, letters of recommendation, research experience, clinical and shadowing experience, medical school extracurriculars, personal statement, secondary essays, interview performance, etc.
4. Is my science GPA more important than my overall GPA?
This depends on the schools you’re applying. While some schools ask for and emphasize the importance of your science GPA, others only look at your cumulative GPA. Some programs have unique requirements and in fact calculate their own GPAs, after asking you to input your transcript, based on various factors. Check the admissions websites of the schools you’re applying to so you can keep track of what kind of GPA they require.
5. What is considered a competitive GPA for medical school?
A GPA of 3.5 is the “average” for medical school so any GPA of 3.6 or above would be above average and hence, competitive. However, keep in mind that this number is not universally applicable, and the actual expectation can vary widely between schools. The most elite, competitive programs such as the ones at Ivy League medical schools would have higher average accepted GPAs, and to be competitive at such schools, you would need a GPA of 3.7 or above. On the other hand, the easiest medical schools to get into have lower average accepted GPA and a 3.5 GPA could be competitive for such schools, in combination with other impressive application components. You should check MSAR or the admissions websites of the medical schools to know the average accepted or matriculating GPA. This is what you can consider “competitive” for that medical school.
6. What GPA do I need for Canadian medical schools?
The average accepted GPA for medical schools in Canada is 3.62. Keep in mind that many Canadian medical schools have higher GPA requirements for out-of-province students. Also, some schools have their own GPA scales and re-calibrate student GPAs based on this scale, so it's difficult to calculate a precise average that takes all schools into account. The given figure is a rough estimate.
7. Should I take a gap year if I have a low GPA?
It depends on the strength of the rest of your application and the medical schools you’re targeting. If you have an overall weak application, with an average MCAT score, and you are not a competitive candidate for all the schools you’re targeting, then a gap year could provide you the opportunity to work on your application, and especially to improve your overall GPA. In the gap year, you can complete a post-bacc course, or additional postgrad coursework or degrees to boost your overall GPA and academic standing.
8. How can I improve my GPA?
If you want to improve your GPA, focus on building good study habits and pick your courses strategically so you can meet medical school requirements while also achieving and maintaining a high GPA. For example, consider taking on courses where you’re familiar with the subject matter or mix in a few “easy A” options. If your GPA is low and it’s too late to improve it, make sure you do well on other med school application components such as the MCAT, extracurriculars, the interview, and so on.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo