Getting into medical school is a dream for many. That's why it can be crushing to finish school with a low GPA and worry that you won't be able to fulfill your dreams. But, having a low GPA isn't the end of your medical career.
Why is GPA important?
Your GPA (Grade Point Average) is important when considered by admissions officers because it shows your academic history and ability. It also shows how well you improve, your dedication, and how you cope with studying. Your GPA and MCAT score are used to see how well-suited you are to the college you're applying for.
Having a good GPA and MCAT score increases your chances of a successful application. Remember that medical schools can be very competitive, so schools will immediately reject applicants who don't meet their GPA requirements. Luckily, there are some ways you can avoid this.
What's considered a low GPA?
Every medical school has different GPA requirements. Most schools show their GPA and MCAT score requirements on their admission pages, so you can easily see what to aim for. You can also look at the average GPA of applicants for the school you're considering.
I'm still an undergrad, how do I improve my GPA?
If you're still an undergrad, you still have time to work on your medical school GPA goal. Assess your progress and study habits, considering how you can improve them. Make a list of what issues could be harming your GPA and work on addressing them one at a time.
Poor time management
When you're studying, time management is important. From tests, and assignments to classes, and social life, it can be daunting. It's normal to struggle a bit to manage your time, but it's important to remember that school should be your main priority. It's no good to be cramming for a test the night before or late handing in assignments.
Plan out your week ahead of time and stick to it. Note when you'll do different stages of projects and allocate studying time for tests. Try different methods to see what works best. Some people find phone calendar notifications easiest to track, while other people like physical calendars and wall charts.
Wrong choice of major
You might feel shoehorned into a specific major because you want to go to medical school, but studying something because you feel you should isn't going to have the best results. If you've chosen the wrong major for your skills and interests, you'll often find your GPA dropping. If you pick something you're interested in, then you'll put in more effort and get better grades. There are always required modules or courses for your chosen med school, but try to make it fun and easy for yourself wherever possible.
Illness, relationships, family issues, job loss, financial troubles, or any other crisis is going to hit you hard when you're studying — and it can hit your GPA hard, too. If this happens, address the issue. Get help from friends and family, and ask your school if they have any support on offer for difficult circumstances.
Difficulty with course material
If the drop in your GPA is purely related to academic issues, you might be struggling with the course materials as they are being presented to you. If you think you're struggling to understand, contact your professor or tutor to see if they can give extra help. It's also a great idea to do extra reading or to find a study group to join. Putting in the extra effort can make all the difference in your understanding of a tricky course. Remember, don't let one bad grade get you down.
Poor study habits
There are plenty of ways to study and it's important to figure out what works for you. If you're a visual learner, consider adding diagrams to your notes. If your notes are too sparse, expand on them to cement ideas in your mind. It's also important to know how to revise and review material properly. If you're struggling, you can often get help from your mentors and other learners.
I'm ready to apply for medical school but my GPA is still low. What do I do?
If your GPA is still less than ideal, you might be wondering how to get into med school with a low GPA. Don't give up, there are ways to make sure your application stands out. Expect to put a lot of work into your application and also nailing your MCAT exam, to make it worth it. The main things to consider for your application are:
Apply to multiple schools
No one likes to hear it, but with a low GPA you increase your chance of being rejected before the admissions officer reads your full application. Applying to multiple schools, rather than just banking on one or two, can make all the difference and get you that coveted place in med school. However, don't apply somewhere you don't want to study. If you're not motivated, you're more likely to do badly.
Make sure your application reads well
A badly written application won't make the admissions officer forget your low GPA so make sure to put effort into writing a compelling application, free from errors.
Get good references
Getting a good reference from someone who has taught you or worked with you will show your dedication, commitment, and work ethic.
Add any voluntary experience
If you have relevant volunteer experience, include it. Everything that helps to bolster your application is a good idea, so consider getting volunteer experience in advance.
Aim to stand out from the crowd of other applicants with lower GPAs. Focus on studying hard for the MCAT exam and make sure that you meet the school's minimum score. Med school GPA and MCAT score requirements are quite firm, so failing to meet both can be a big obstacle to getting in.
There are ways you can improve your chances if you get rejected. Take courses to build your skills and knowledge and make your application shine when you re-apply.
Focus on a positive narrative
You can put a positive spin on initial academic disappointment, turning it into a story of resilience. This will demonstrate to application boards that you have the ability to address problems in a responsible and mature way. The key thing to emphasize is that you have learned from the challenges you have faced. You can discuss how improving your academic performance has helped you better yourself through better time management and good study habits. These are the qualities that you should draw attention to when discussing having a low GPA.
Alongside this, your medical school personal statement will give you ample opportunity to address the external factors that may have impacted your GPA.
Apply to St Matthew's University School of Medicine
Applying to medical school is a lengthy process, and it's important to get the admissions process right, especially if you have a low GPA. If you're determined and put in hard work, a low GPA doesn't have to be the end of your medical school dreams. Just remember to focus on raising your GPA if you haven't yet graduated, and work on polishing your application.
At St Matthew's University School of Medicine, we look holistically at your application so you can pursue your dreams of becoming a doctor. Look at our admission requirements for more information, or try our webinars to see what life is like when studying with us.
Get in touch today if you have any queries.