Medical School Admissions, Explained

The Significance of GPA in Medical School Admissions

Thinking about how to get into medical school with a low GPA requires that you first understand the significance of your GPA within the medical school admissions process.

Often analyzed together with the MCAT, the GPA tells medical school admissions committees whether or not you can handle rigorous medical school coursework. When describing the role of GPA in the medical school admissions process, I like the hurdle metaphor. Once you have passed the academic GPA bar set by admissions committees, the rest of your application then becomes more important. Jump over the GPA hurdle and move on down the track to other significant and often more interesting items, such as your personal experiences, life goals, and character. What is the GPA bar set at exactly, you ask? Answer: it depends.

Each medical school sets a different GPA bar. In addition, the GPA hurdle height moves depending on your race, gender, age, disadvantaged status, undergraduate institution, and life experiences. In general, I suggest a 3.0 GPA is the lowest viable GPA for US medical school admissions. Do some applicants with 2.9 GPAs get into medical school? Yes. But this is very rare and usually involves extreme and unusual circumstances. I cover how and why this happens in great detail in my ebook How To Get Into Medical School With A Low GPA

So what’s the GPA level where you probably don’t have to worry? Achieve a 3.7 GPA or higher and you probably don’t have to worry about your GPA holding you back in medical school admissions. Of course, this doesn’t mean a 3.7 GPA is enough to get you into medical school. An applicant with a 3.7 GPA with a 25 MCAT likely won’t be accepted. In addition, a premed with a 3.7 GPA, 37 MCAT, and no clinical experience likely won’t gain admission. Medical school admissions committees are looking for the whole package. If you are like most applicants, and hover in the 3.0-3.7 GPA range, there are certain strategies you can employ to mitigate the effect of your GPA in the medical school admissions process. The lower your GPA is within this range the more likely you need to think about how to get into medical school with a low GPA.

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As you well know, academics are a huge part of the medical school admissions process. This Academics Bucket is filled with items weighed by the medical school admissions committees when assessing your readiness to excel academically in medical school. These include: GPA, MCAT, undergraduate/graduate school strength, course strength, and major. I am often asked, “What GPA and MCAT do I need to get into Harvard Medical School.” I always answer, “It depends.” Many pre-meds think it takes a 4.0 GPA and 45 MCAT score to get into medical school. They are wrong. Pre-meds with 4.0 GPAs and 45 MCAT scores used my consulting services after they were NOT accepted to medical school. Sure, you generally need good grades and a decent MCAT score to get into medical school, but there is no exact GPA or MCAT score that guarantees admission. Medical school admissions committees look at a pre-med’s "whole package" when deciding who gets into medical school. Great grades and MCAT scores, a top-20 school pedigree, upper level classes, and a challenging or unique major are not enough to get into medical school. You need to be well-rounded and stand out among the other 40,000 applicants.