If you are applying to medical school, you’ll need to submit your undergraduate transcripts as part of your application. These transcripts will include your GPA, which can be used to filter out your application before the evaluation process ever begins.
To ensure your application doesn’t end up in the “do not review” pile, you should compare your GPA to the average med school GPA at your target schools. This can give you a solid indicator of which schools would view you as a competitive candidate. Understanding how schools evaluate GPAs can also give you a helpful leg up on your competition.
How Important is GPA for Medical School?
For most medical schools, GPA and MCAT scores are the top two considerations when evaluating applicants. For the 2021 application cycle, many schools have announced MCAT scores as an optional part of the application package, making GPA an even larger factor in admissions decisions.
Admissions officers view your GPA as an indicator of how seriously you take your studies. Since medical school is even more rigorous than undergraduate programs, low undergrad GPAs on a student’s transcript can raise red flags during the applicant evaluation process. While a low GPA won’t necessarily eliminate you from consideration, it’s important to understand how you rank compared to other applicants and how admissions teams will view your undergraduate work.
Which GPAs are Med Schools Given?
When you apply for medical school, admissions officers are actually given multiple versions of your GPA. When viewing your application, they will see:
- Your overall GPA – This is typically the GPA listed on your undergraduate transcripts; it is an aggregate of all classes you took during undergrad without any additional weighting.
- Your non-science GPA – This is the GPA for all non-science courses you took during your undergrad program, such as humanities and social science classes.
- Your science GPA – Also referred to as your BPCM GPA, this calculation accounts for all your science and math classes. BPCM stands for Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Math, and most admissions counselors view it as a good representation of how you would perform in similar classes in medical school.
So which GPA calculation is most important? The answer is “it depends”. Each medical school has its own algorithm for evaluating med school applications, and schools assign different weights to the different GPAs. Which GPA is most important for you will depend on which schools you’re applying to and what other assets you have to include in the rest of your application package.
However, there’s a strong argument for assigning the most importance to your overall GPA. In many cases, schools will use this as a filtering mechanism before the first human admissions officer ever looks at your application. If your overall GPA doesn’t make the cutoff, chances are your application will never be reviewed. For that reason, a high overall GPA is important when you’re applying to medical school.
What is a Good GPA for Medical School?
GPAs can vary significantly across different medical schools, so it pays to do your research before applying. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported an average GPA for medical school of 3.60 across all applicants for the 2020-2021 application cycle. For the same year, applicants had an average science GPA of 3.49 and an average non-science GPA of 3.74.
Applying to schools where your GPA or MCAT scores are well below the median can put you at a significant disadvantage compared to other applicants. Likewise, applying to schools where your GPA is above the median is a solid indicator that you would make a competitive candidate for the program.
What Should I Do If My GPA is Low?
If your GPA is lower than your target school’s median, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t apply. You can take the following steps to position yourself as a more competitive candidate, even with a lower GPA:
- Retake classes to improve your grades. If you have one or two courses that are weighing down your GPA, consider retaking them. The higher grade will replace the lower one in your GPA, giving you healthy boost to your application.
- Add an addendum to your med school application package. If your GPA is lower due to an isolated semester, share your story as an addendum to your AMCAS application. Your addendum shouldn’t come across as making excuses; instead it’s your opportunity to explain a personal struggle that you were dealing with for a limited time and demonstrate what you learned from it and how you’ve improved as a result.
- Focus on your MCAT score. While you may not be able to significantly improve your GPA in just a few months, you can improve your MCAT score with a few months of focused preparation.
- Shift your target schools. While many medical schools place the largest weight on GPA, not all of them do. Your determination in finding the right fit will be noticed and appreciated by some med school admissions teams. At AUA, for example, we believe in a holistic approach to candidate evaluation that sees you as more than just your GPA or MCAT score.