How Important is GPA for Med School?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

On a table, medical textbooks with multicolored bookmarks, pencil, and stethoscope.

How Important is GPA for Med School?

Grade-point averages (GPAs) play a crucial role in the college admissions process. The higher your GPA, the higher likelihood you have of getting accepted into the school of your choice. Of course, there is a range of other factors taken into account when your application is reviewed, but the importance of solid grades can’t be understated.

This leads many applicants to wonder, “how important is GPA for med school?” Well, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, it’s very important! A large survey of medical school admissions officers showed that these gatekeepers viewed GPA as one of the most critical factors when determining a student’s eligibility.

A medical student reading a book with a stethoscope in front of them.

It’s understandable that applicants might have questions regarding the differences between standard college admissions and medical school admissions. Here, we’re going to take a closer look at why GPA is so important when applying to med school along with some tips to help you improve your grades overall.

How important is GPA for med school?

Getting into the best medical schools in the country requires excellent academic performance on your part. Not only do these med schools set high standards themselves, but the tight competition further increases their selectivity.

When your academic performance suffers, so do your chances of getting into med school, especially if it’s a highly sought-after institution.

So how do schools determine whether an applicant’s GPA is sufficient? In reality, there’s no GPA cutoff that immediately disqualifies a candidate. The med school admissions process isn’t that cut-and-dry which is good for students who might be struggling with a lower GPA as there are other ways you can impress admissions officers.

A group of medical students reading textbooks while sitting at a desk.

Many medical schools compare applicant GPAs against national averages as a sort of baseline comparison. Students with performance above the national average are considered more academically suitable than those that fall below this line. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is by means the only metric med schools use.

This national average or whatever initial cutoff is used, only serves as one of many metrics by which admissions officers judge your application. If you happen to fall below the average GPA, a med school wants to see, that doesn’t mean you’re immediately disqualified. Of course, the rest of your application will have to make up for the slack, but your GPA doesn’t seal your fate.

GPA is important for med school because it’s an accurate representation of your academic performance overall. It succinctly demonstrates your academic prowess in all the courses you took. This is a short-hand method for admissions committees at med schools to gauge how you would fare at their institution.

Getting into med school isn’t a lost cause when you have a below-average GPA. However, you should always strive for the highest GPA possible. So long as your average falls near what admissions officers at your desired med school are looking for, you shouldn’t have to worry too much.

Do admissions officers view all GPAs the same?

Admissions officers at top-tier med schools are knowledgeable about college curricula and grading standards from across the country. When reviewing the GPA scores of applicants, admissions committees take this information into account to gain a complete picture of a student’s GPA.

You can expect med schools to consider your GPA in light of your college’s grading policy. If there are inflation standards, they’ll know how to “translate” your scores for a more accurate perspective of how you performed. Of course, you can’t control your school’s grading standards, but you do have an impact on the courses you choose.

Med schools might view two applicants holding the same degree very differently, depending on the path each took to achieve that diploma. Admissions officers understand that there are different ways to achieve the same degree, some of which are less academically rigorous than others. This information will definitely be taken into consideration when viewing GPAs.

In some cases, an applicant with a lower GPA will be viewed as a better candidate than another student with higher scores. How? Well, a student that chooses the path of least resistance on the route to graduation that receives a higher GPA won’t impress admissions officers as much as a student who challenges himself or herself with difficult courses, even if the final GPA is lower. Generally, med schools will want to go with the student who pushed themselves.

Admissions officers love to see applicants with majors considered more academically rigorous such as physics, mathematics, and engineering. However, applicants of any major have the opportunity to get accepted into medical school if they’re able to achieve the required MCAT and GPA scores.

How do you calculate your GPA?

If you’re wondering “how important is GPA for med school?”, you’ll want to learn how to calculate your own GPA. Not only does this keep you from relying on your college to provide you with this information, but you can also learn more about the math behind this important academic metric.

There are several online tools you can use to calculate GPA automatically, but there’s nothing more accurate than doing the calculation on your own which is exactly what we’ll explain how to do here. So, get your college grades, open up your calculator app, and grab something to write with.

Reference the table below to see how letter grades correspond with the grade-point scale. For every letter grade you have, simply write down the number of points it’s worth. Then, multiply those points by the number of credit hours you receive from the course. Perform the same calculation for every course you’re taking for the amount of time you want to calculate.

Finally, add up all those calculations and divide the sum by the total amount of credit hours you’ve taken. The resulting score is your GPA. Pretty easy, huh? You can perform this calculation at any point in the school year to see how your GPA is trending.

Letter Grade Grade Point Score
A 4.0
A- 3.7
B+ 3.33
B 3.0
B- 2.7
C+ 2.3
C 2.0
C- 1.7
D+ 1.3
D 1.0
D- 0.7

No discussion explaining “how important is GPA for med school” is complete without stressing the importance of tracking your grades throughout high school. It’s easy to only focus on letter grades and wait until report cards to see how it converts into GPA.

However, only looking at letter grades can lead to an inaccurate view of your overall grades. It’s advisable to routinely calculate your actual GPA score so you can see how your performance compares to your overall goal. You should also calculate your individual GPA for each course to see where you need to improve.

Can I go to med school with a low GPA?

Yes, it’s possible to get into med school with a below-average GPA. No conversation about how important GPA is for med school would be complete without discussing some ways you can compensate if you find yourself struggling in the GPA department. There are some effective strategies you can use to increase your chances of getting into med school even with a low GPA.

Improve other parts of your application.

Fortunately, just like colleges, med schools take a holistic approach to their admissions processes. This simply means that they take a wide range of factors into account – not just your GPA. Phew! When your GPA is dragging down your application, you’ll need to rely on the other parts of the application to pick up the slack.

Although specifics vary between each institution, most med schools require the following documents from applicants:

  • Transcripts (GPA, course load, etc.)
  • Extracurriculars
  • Personal statement
  • MCAT score
  • Letters of recommendation

If you have a lower GPA but excel in all other areas of your application, you can strengthen your application overall. With the best letters of recommendation, a stellar personal statement, an impressive MCAT score, and compelling transcripts, your chances of getting into will be much higher even with a lower GPA.

Apply to a good-fit medical school.

There are 155 MD-granting and 37 DO-granting medical institutions in the United States. Just because you can’t get into your first or second option doesn’t mean you can’t still fulfill your academic and professional goals.

Applying to med school is a significant investment financially, time-wise, and emotionally. It’s important to apply to good-fit schools where you can be a competitive applicant. Although med schools don’t generally publish information about the GPAs of accepted applicants, you can find helpful estimates online.

At a desk, a group of students are listening to a lecture.

If you notice that your GPA is significantly lower than those of accepted candidates, you might want to consider applying to a different medical school. The selectivity of medical schools varies greatly with some of the top institutions only accepting 2-3% of applicants.

It’s important to conduct some research to determine how your GPA stacks up against what various med schools are looking for from applicants. Applying to best-fit schools can make for an easier application process while increasing your chances of getting accepted.

Explain your GPA score to admissions officers.

The admissions process at med schools is comprehensive and personalized, meaning admissions officers look at various parts of your application and consider it within the context of your circumstances. This is good news for students who have low GPAs as it gives you an opportunity to explain the reason behind your academic performance.

A GPA that falls below the national average will catch the attention of med school admissions officers and not in a good way! But there might be a justified reason for a below-average GPA. You should address your GPA throughout your application to explain it to shed some light on the result.

Three students looking at a laptop screen.

Maybe you pushed yourself academically by taking rigorous courses or loading up on a significant number of credits to graduate quickly. Perhaps you experienced some unforeseen difficulties either personally or socially. Regardless of the reason, it’s typically a good idea to mention it in your application.

This ensures admissions officers don’t automatically attribute the low GPA to a lack of effort or laziness. When writing your personal statement, you have an excellent opportunity to address your GPA and other parts of your application that might be lacking.

Don’t let a lower GPA score get you down. It’s not the end of your chances of getting into med school. It just requires a concentrated effort to make up for a weak point on your application.

Enter into a post-secondary program.

Although it’s ideal for many students, you don’t have to enter into med school immediately after completing your undergraduate degree. If you don’t have the GPA needed to get into your top school choice and don’t mind putting off the application for a bit, entering into a post-secondary program is a great way to increase your prospects in the future.

A stethoscope on top of an open book.

There are plenty of medical-related post-baccalaureate programs and master’s programs that would further your understanding, skills, and capabilities.

During this time, you can focus on achieving higher grades and improving your overall GPA so that when you do apply to med schools again in the future, you’ll have a better chance.

This isn’t a fool-proof alternative and it does require a lot of time and energy, but it can be a great choice for ensuring you get into the medical school of your choice. Considering the amount of time it takes to graduate from med school, this short period of time will seem like a small sacrifice to get where you want in the future.

Work with a college admissions expert.

College entrance experts aren’t only experts in the standard admissions process. They’re problem solvers of all obstacles you might face on your path through higher education. Whether your goal is to get a four-year education at an Ivy League school or to get into one of the best medical schools in the country, working with an admission expert is a great way to increase the chances of reaching your goals.

At AdmissionSight, we’ve helped countless students overcome challenges on their way to achieving their objectives. We have a deep understanding of the various elements admissions officers take into account when reviewing applications.

This puts us in a unique position to be able to advise students on the most effective ways to custom-tailor their application to meet their ultimate aim.

If you find yourself applying to med school with a lower GPA than you might have hoped for, we can help! We’ll review your application in-depth and determine the areas in which you can improve your standing in order to improve your chances of getting into your dream school.

What are the best-med schools in the country?

If you’re interested in attending med school, you’re probably wondering what some good schools are to attend. The reputation of a college’s medical school can differ from the reputation of its undergraduate program.

You won’t be able to rely on the initial college research you did for your bachelor’s program. You’ll have to make a new college list. To help kickstart the process, we’ve provided the top 25 medical schools according to US News with informative links to each.

  1. Harvard University
  2. New York University (Grossman)
  3. Duke University
  4. Columbia University
  5. Stanford University
  6. University of California-San Francisco
  7. Johns Hopkins University
  8. University of Washington
  9. University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)
  10. Yale University
  11. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (Alix)
  12. Washington University in St. Louis
  13. University of Pittsburgh
  14. Vanderbilt University
  15. Northwestern University (Feinberg)
  16. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
  17. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  18. University of Chicago (Pritzker)
  19. Cornell University (Weill)
  20. University of California–San Diego
  21. University of California–Los Angeles (Geffen)
  22. Baylor College of Medicine
  23. Emory University
  24. University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
  25. Case Western Reserve University

Improve your chances of getting into your top-choice school.

Whether you’re applying to college or med school, you have a clear idea of which school you’d like to attend. It’s easy to see this goal as a pipedream when you start diving into the complexities of the admissions process.

But you don’t have to settle for a school outside of your top choices. With help from AdmissionSight, you can perfect your application to significantly increase your chances of getting into your dream school. How does it work?

Over the past 10 years, we’ve become well-versed in the application requirements of the top colleges and medical schools across the country. In other words, we know exactly what admissions officers are looking for in applicants. With this knowledge, we help applicants optimize their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers.

We offer a comprehensive range of services catered to your specific strengths and goals. Sound like a good match? Feel free to contact us to set up a free consultation. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!


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