Is it possible to get into medical school with a low GPA?

August 6, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

Students listening attentively to their mentor If your grades are less than stellar, you may think that medical school is not an option. While grade point average is important when applying to medical school, it is not the only factor schools take into consideration.

How low is too low?

It is difficult to say exactly what your grade point average needs to be to get into med school. Remember, you should never say never when it comes to achieving your goals. But if your grades are low, you may need to take an honest look at your situation. Let’s face it, if your grade point average is a 2.0, medical school may be tough to get into without doing something to improve your grades.

Medical schools expect high grades because they show you can handle the work. If your college grades are low, that does not mean you can’t make it in medical school—but you need to consider why your grades are low.

A combination of factors may be affecting you. Maybe you’ve been having too much fun and your studies have fallen by the wayside. Maybe personal problems affected your grades for a while. Once you give some thought as to why your grades are low, figure out how you can improve in the future. You will need to develop better study habits when you do start medical school.

If you are a junior or even in your senior year, use what time you have left in school and try to improve your grades. Even if your overall grade point average is not greatly improved, obtaining high grades your last few semesters can show increased maturity and the ability to improve.

It’s not all about the grades

On the bright side, if your grades are not that impressive, they are not the only factor medical schools consider. Admissions committee members are human, and they understand that grades don’t tell the whole story—they may consider several other areas where you stand out.

Medical school admissions panels consider your extracurricular activities and community service. Be sure to participate in a variety of activities that show you have strong leadership skills and work well with others. Medical schools also want to see you have diverse interests and skills. Participating in anything from sports to student government is a good idea.

If your grades are not your selling point, it is even more important to have other strong points, such as clinical experience. Clinical experience can be paid or volunteer work. Consider what area of medicine interests you the most and try to gain some experience in that area. For example, if you enjoy working with the elderly, consider volunteering in a nursing home. If you are interested in research, look for a job or volunteer to assist in a research lab. Other ways to gain clinical experience include shadowing a physician, such as a pathologist or surgeon, and volunteering at a health clinic.

Speak to your academic advisor about your interest in gaining clinic experience. He or she may have contacts and be able to set something up for you. In addition, you can call local hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices.  Many healthcare facilities are happy to have a pre-med student volunteer.

You will also be required to take the MCAT, which is the medical school admissions exam. Even if your grades are not the best, you can still score high on the admissions test. Make sure you go into the test well prepared. Get out old textbooks and class notes and review concepts in chemistry and anatomy. Take practice tests. The Association of American Medical Colleges has practice tests on their website you can take for a fee.

Strong letters of recommendation will also help you overcome low grades when applying to medical school. Ask professors, physicians who have observed you in a clinical setting or a supervisor at work for recommendations. Your referee should be someone who will provide information on the qualities you have that will make you a good doctor.

Most medical schools also require applicants to write a personal statement. This is your chance to show what makes you a good candidate. It is also an opportunity for you to explain your grades. Don’t make excuses, but if there is a reason your grades were low for a period of time, consider explaining the situation.

Don’t forget that your personal interview is another great chance to prove your grades alone do not represent the type of physician you will be. It is one thing to “meet” an applicant on paper, and another to meet a medical school candidate in person. Think about how you will answer common questions. Dress professionally, be yourself and answer questions sincerely.

If all else fails…

You have additional options to make your medical school dream come true. If you don’t initially get into med school or just want to increase your chances, you may want to consider some of the following suggestions.

Get a master’s degree first. Earning a master’s degree before applying to medical school may add an additional few years to your plan, but it can greatly increase your chances of getting accepted. A master’s degree will provide you with the chance to show you can get good grades.

As an alternative to a master’s degree program, you can attend a post baccalaureate pre-medical program. Post baccalaureate pre-medical programs vary in length, but most are between one and two years in length. A post baccalaureate program may be an especially good option for students who were not science majors. Not only is it a chance to improve your grade point average, but you will take the science classes required for medical school. One advantage of a post baccalaureate program over a master’s program is that it may be completed in a shorter time frame.

Keep in mind that medical schools may have different admissions requirements when it comes to grade point averages. Research schools and consider applying to programs that are a little more lenient regarding grades. Regardless of your grade point average, the best thing you can do when it comes to applying to medical school is never give up.


Chat with us on Facebook or Twitter, or email

Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.