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You have C’s and W’s on your transcript and are worried about your chances of getting into medical school.
Maybe you did poorly the first couple of years in college or decided you want to be a physician later on in life.
Despite the reason, you understand you need to repair your GPA to increase your chances of getting into medical school.
As someone doing an informal post-bacc for this exact reason, I’m here to explain how you can overcome a low premed GPA.
Get ready; it will be an investment of your time and money!
Overcome a Low Premed GPA
1. Retake Classes
The minimum passing grade for most college classes is a C. If you receive below a C, especially in any science-related or medical prerequisite course, you need to retake it!
Though your college may offer grade forgiveness for failed or repeated classes, the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) does not. They will average all your attempts for a class.
Withdrawals and incompletes are not considered repeats. Does this mean you should retake classes you’ve already passed to get a better average?
Not necessarily. If you received a C or higher in a course there’s no need to retake it.
Why? Because it’s WAY more impressive to take upper-level science courses that imitate medical school curriculum than to repeat lower-level science classes you’ve already taken.
I would only advise students to repeat a course they’ve previously passed if they’ve been out of school for many years and are weak on the material and need it for the MCAT.
Your ability to show an upward trend and demonstrate academic success will be the most important key to overcoming a low premed GPA.
- Everything You Need to Know About Doing a DIY Post-Bacc
- The Best Premed Resources to Help You Succeed
- Why I’m Doing a Special Master’s Program Before Medical School
2. Show an Upward Trend
Medical school admissions committees look at far more than your cumulative GPA. And they look at trends too!
Showing a strong upward trend is extremely telling of your academic performance and whether you can handle medical school, regardless of a low premed GPA.
A strong upward trend will show that you’ve improved your study habits and overcame whatever was holding you back.
You might have had trouble adjusting to college, or you just weren’t passionate about what you were studying.
Here’s the thing, the more credits you have, the harder it will be to raise your GPA. I want you to focus on taking it one semester at a time.
If you have a 3.2 cGPA when you graduate but you got a 4.0 every semester of your senior year, well, THAT’S AMAZING.
Medical schools will love that upward trend despite a low premed GPA.
What happens if you have a low GPA when you graduate AND don’t have an upward trend?
A downward trend and low premed GPA isn’t the end of the world.
You can take another route to show medical schools you’re ready, but I’ll be honest with you, it’s not going to be easy or cheap!
3. Do a Post-Baccalaureate
A post-bacc is the BEST option (IMO) for premeds to complete any remaining prereq classes and boost their GPA.
There are two types of post-bacc programs: 1) formal and 2) informal.
Determining if a formal or informal post-bacc is right for you will depend on your goals.
A formal post-bacc falls under two categories: 1) career changer 2) academic enhancer.
In a formal post-bacc, you will have a ton of guidance and structure.
Formal programs are usually more rigorous and expensive. However, you’re provided great resources, MCAT advising, and premed guidance.
Some formal post-bacc programs are “linkage” programs where that school has ties to a medical school in which they’ll guarantee you an interview (based on your academic performance).
It’s important to research each program diligently because they vary in curriculum and services.
For students wanting to make their own schedule, choose their classes, and take the less expensive route, an informal “DIY” post-bacc is the way to go.
In a DIY post-bacc, you’re your own boss.
You can be a part-time or full-time student and have full control over your classes and schedule, which a formal post-bacc typically lacks.
However, you’re not going to receive a ton of guidance like you would in a formal post-bacc program.
I’m doing a DIY post-bacc because I only had a few prerequisites left to take, and my GPA wasn’t high enough for most formal post-bacc programs (they’re pretty competitive too).
I also love the flexibility and control that a DIY post-bacc allows.
Although a master’s program wasn’t in the cards for me, it could be the right move for you, given my situation.
4. Special Master’s Program (SMP)
A Special Master’s Program (SMP) is a graduate program designed for students looking to enhance their academic profile before medical school.
SMPs are both expensive and academically challenging but have their advantages.
Some programs offer MCAT test prep, research opportunities, and committee letters and are generally affiliated with a medical school in which you may be guaranteed an interview.
If you google “Special Master’s Program with linkage to med school” you will find many programs across the U.S.
SMPs are said to be “high risk, high reward”, meaning if you work hard and do well you can substantially improve your chances of getting into medical school.
If you crash and burn, it will hurt your chances of getting into medical school, and you’ll waste thousands of dollars.
But that won’t happen because you’re focused, determined, and are going to absolutely crush it, right?! Right.
Many SMPs have specific admission requirements such as a minimum 3.0 GPA, completed med school prerequisites, LORs, and a GRE or MCAT score.
Do plenty of research into any program you’re interested in.
If you don’t meet the requirements of a program you’re highly interested in, call or email admissions and ask what you can do to increase your chances.
Advocate for yourself!
Remember that doing an SMP does not count toward your undergraduate GPA but will be a separate graduate GPA.
Therefore, if your undergraduate GPA is lower than a 3.0, an SMP might not be the best option, but that will be for you to decide ultimately!
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, shall we?
5. Crush the MCAT
Dominating the MCAT is crucial for premeds with a low GPA. A high MCAT score could potentially make up for a lower GPA but it will not help much with a GPA below 3.0.
Of course, there are always exceptions, and your GPA and MCAT aren’t everything. It’s essential to have great extracurricular experiences and a compelling personal statement.
All these factors will help your application if you have a low GPA. So, don’t beat yourself up for failing a class and not doing better. Perseverance and resilience will get you to the next level.
To overcome a low premed GPA, you might have to implement more than one strategy, but don’t let that deter you from pursuing your dream of becoming a physician.
Retake any classes you didn’t pass, focus on showing an upward trend, do a post-bacc/SMP to prove your academic abilities, and crush the MCAT!
Learn from your mistakes and take many gap years to repair your GPA. A few extra years don’t matter when you can finally call yourself a doctor.
Looking for MCAT resources? Check out the ultimate list of premed resources here.