How to Get Into Medical School With a Low GPA - 8 Tips

February 27, 2024
8 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 9/25/23

If you have a below average GPA but still have dreams of getting into med school, don’t fret! This article will cover some tips on how to get into medical school with a low GPA.

Med students operating on patient

Applying for college is a challenging time in any student's life, especially for those who dare to pursue a higher education in medicine. If you find your GPA taking a dip at this time, you wouldn’t be the first! Many students struggle to maintain a high GPA in their senior year.

If you’re an aspiring med student with a lower GPA, you might be feeling concerned about meeting medical school admissions requirements. Luckily, there are many other aspects of your application that admissions committees consider in their final decisions. 

This article will cover how to get into medical school with a low GPA–from what counts as a low GPA for med school to a list of medical schools that accept low GPAs. We will also be answering some frequently asked questions to help you get into medical school with a below-average GPA. 

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What is Considered a Low GPA for Medical School?

To get to the bottom of what a low GPA for med school is, let’s look at what makes a good med school GPA. According to US News, aspiring med school students should aim for a 3.5 GPA or higher to be considered for the top medical schools in the country. 

Getting into med school with a low GPA is certainly possible, but striving for a competitive score is always in your best interest. That said, anything below a 3.5 is considered a low GPA for med school.

Med school GPA requirements graphic

How to Get Into Med School With a Low GPA

While having a competitive GPA is a great way to boost your application, it’s important to understand that your college GPA is not the only determining factor in getting accepted to med school or nursing school. In this section, we’ll break down different aspects of your application that you should strengthen to make up for a low GPA. 

Extracurricular Activities 

If your GPA is on the lower end, it could be a good idea to lean on your extracurriculars in your med school application. While your extracurricular activities can be anything from sports to art clubs to volunteering, some activities look especially appealing to med schools. 

Some examples of extracurriculars that can boost your application include volunteering, clinical experience (such as shadowing a doctor), research, teaching, and community service. Having some hobbies that you genuinely enjoy can also show the admissions team that you’re a well-rounded individual.  

Personal Statement

Another aspect that you can focus on is your personal statement. During the application process, you’ll be asked to submit a personal statement, which will give you the opportunity to tell your story. 

This is your chance to make your case, tell your story, and write a compelling piece to accompany your application. Writing a stellar personal statement can heavily weigh on the strength of your application, so make sure you take your time and really think about how you want to approach this part of your application. 

Your MCAT Score

Getting an exceptional MCAT score is one of the best ways you can balance out a low GPA. Since the MCAT is designed to test your probability for success during your time at med school, it can be what makes or breaks the success of your application. 

If your GPA is on the lower end, you’ll want to aim for an MCAT score in the higher range. While you don’t necessarily have to aim for a perfect MCAT score, aiming for a score that falls into the 99th percentile of test-takers might exponentially increase your chances of getting into medical school with a low GPA.

Letters of Recommendation 

In addition to all the essential aspects of your med school application, it is absolutely crucial that you’re able to get strong letters of recommendation. Remember to carefully choose who you ask for recommendation letters when it comes to these letters, and ensure that they know you well enough to speak on your potential, dedication, and capability to excel in med school. 

Secondary Application

Once you’ve completed your primary application, you may receive a secondary application from your target schools. The requirements of these applications vary but usually involve essays. Dedicate as much time and effort as you can to perfecting your secondary essays, as this is an excellent opportunity to improve and personalize your application. 

While it might seem like a lot of work, tailoring your responses to each school is essential, as sending generic responses can weaken your application. Make sure to take your time to sincerely talk about your experience and why you would make a great medical school candidate.

Medical School Interviews

Never underestimate the power of a good interview! If your med school interview goes well, you can significantly increase your chances of getting in despite a low GPA. 

To make sure that your interview goes well, you need to thoroughly prepare. Research the school(s) you’re applying to inside and out. Practice common interview questions, conduct mock interviews, and be confident! A good impression goes a long way. 

AMCAS Work and Activities Section

To maximize your chances of getting into med school, you’ll need to ensure you can complete the AMCAS work and activities section. This section is significant because it demonstrates your passions, interests, and skills in a tangible way. 

Bulking up this section with a strong list of relevant experiences is a great way to boost your application. It shows your competence and proves that you have the skills and knowledge to help you succeed in medical school. 

Clinical Practice 

Medical students in OR

It’s essential to acquire extensive clinical practice if you want to get accepted to med school with a low GPA. Your hands-on experience will demonstrate that you are passionate about working in the medical field and have the drive to make it happen. 

It will also give you valuable firsthand knowledge of what being a doctor or a nurse is like. This looks great on your applications, regardless of GPA!

How to Address a Low GPA in Medical School Applications

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to addressing a low GPA on your medical school application. Even though you may be tempted to ignore or avoid the topic completely, the admissions committee will appreciate transparency from you.

Even though it’s important to be honest, you don’t have to go into detail about why your grades faltered. A simple explanation will do; your main focus should be on what you learned from the experience. 

For example, it’s alright if perhaps you had a difficult time catching up with your work due to time management issues or a lack of sleep; just ensure that you talk about the solution you have since found and how you intend to improve your grades moving forward. 

Unfortunately, some students have quite serious reasons for a drop in their academic performance. If you have experienced trauma, you are under no obligation to elaborate, although it may help you to plead your case. Keep in mind that your application is completely private and will not be shared with anyone other than the admissions committee. 

Medical Schools That Accept Low GPA

Regardless of what medical school you apply to, you’ll find that admissions will be competitive across the board–though there are some schools that are a bit easier to get into. Below is a list of some medical schools that accept students with a low GPA and schools with high acceptance rates that are more likely to accept low-GPA med school applicants:

Source: UAMS, Sanford School of Medicine, University of Nevada, East Carolina University, Mercer University, Augusta University, University of Mississippi, University of North Dakota

While some of the GPA averages for these medical schools are on the higher end, their acceptance rates are generally less competitive than most schools. Applying to one of the schools on the list might give you a better shot at getting into medical school with a low GPA.

FAQs: How to Get Into Medical School With a Low GPA

Now that we’ve covered medical schools that accept lower GPAs, take a look at these FAQs to help free your mind of any other burning questions you may have. 

1. Can I Get Into Medical School With a 2.3 GPA?

While it will be challenging to get into med school with a 2.3 GPA, it’s not impossible. You’ll likely have to work overtime perfecting the other aspects of your application and exceed the MCAT score expectations of your school of choice. 

Another way you can get into medical school with a 2.3 GPA is by taking a break and gaining work experience in fields related to medicine or taking on a post-graduate program before applying.

2. Can You Become a Doctor With a Low GPA?

You can absolutely achieve your dreams of being a doctor with a low GPA. It may take more time to achieve if you don’t get into med school right out of college. 

3. Can You Get Into Medical School With Less Than a 3.0 GPA?

Yes, you can get into medical school with less than a 3.0 college GPA. Just make sure you do well on your MCAT and provide a stellar application. 

4. Is a 3.5 GPA Too Low for Medical School?

Though a 3.5 GPA is not particularly competitive for medical school, you still have a chance at getting into a good medical school, given that you pay keen attention to the rest of your med school application.

5. What Is the Lowest Acceptable GPA for Med School?

A GPA of 3.0 or higher is generally considered to be the minimum requirement for medical schools. Some schools may have a lower minimum requirement, such as a 2.5 or 2.75, but these are less common. 

The lowest acceptable GPA for medical school varies depending on the school’s individual requirements. Depending on the prestige of the school, there’s a large gap between what is considered average and acceptable. 

6. Can You Get Into Harvard Medical School With A Low GPA?

A low GPA will present a major challenge if you’re trying to get into Harvard Medical School, but it is not impossible. Admissions committees take a holistic approach to evaluating applicants, and they consider many factors beyond just GPA. Focus on your extracurricular activities, research experience, essays, interviews, and letters of recommendation. 

7. What Are Some Medical Schools That Accept A 3.0 GPA?

Whether or not a school will accept you with a low GPA completely depends on the rest of your application and the average GPA of other applicants. Some schools that accept students with low GPAs are:

  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)
  • Sanford School of Medicine at The University of South Dakota
  • University of Nevada – Reno
  • University of Mississippi
  • Mercer University School of Medicine

8. How Important is GPA for Medical School?

Having a competitive GPA is very important for getting into medical school, but it is not impossible to get into med school with a below-average GPA. If you have a low GPA, it’s important to highlight your strengths in other areas. 

If you have any extenuating circumstances that may have affected your GPA, you should mention them in your application. Give the admissions committee a chance to get to know you and why - despite the low GPA - you will be an excellent doctor. 

9. Can I Get Into Columbia Medical School With Low GPA? 

It will be difficult to get into Columbia Medical School with a low GPA, but it’s possible. If you have a well-rounded application and a strong interview, you can increase your chances of getting in. 

10. Is It Possible to Get Into Ivy League Medical School With Low GPA? 

It depends on the specific Ivy League school you’re aiming for, but it’s not strictly impossible to get in with a low GPA. Since the Ivies are so selective, you’ll need to work extremely hard to put together an impressive application. 

Final Thoughts

So, can you get into medical school with a low GPA? The answer depends on a number of factors. While getting admitted into medical school with a low GPA can be more challenging, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of getting into a decent medical school. 

Focus on your essays, MCAT, extracurriculars, and interviews. One weak point doesn’t have to determine your entire application. You can also choose to take a break, gain work experience, and apply to med school as an older student.

Ultimately, getting into medical school with a low GPA is challenging but not impossible. While the chances of getting into a top medical school right after college might be slim, whatever medical college you choose will surely equip you for a bright career in medicine. 

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