Can I Get into Med School With a Low GPA?

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Session 112

Our poster today is wondering if she can get into medical school after starting her undergrad poorly. What should you do if you have a low science GPA?

Questions answered here on the OldPreMeds Podcast are taken directly from our Nontrad Premed Forums. Check it out, join our collaborative community, and ask away!

[01:10] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I’m a 35-year-old stay-at-home mother of three who has recently developed an interest in becoming a doctor. Health has always been an interest of mine, and over the last year, I’ve been working to start a health ministry at my husband’s church. He’s a pastor.

As I’ve worked on the health ministry project, I’ve been frustrated about the limitations of the enterprise. While I understand the liability issues that limit a health ministry, I personally want to do more than encourage people to take their health seriously and visit their doctors.

When I thought about what I really wanted to do, I realized it sounds like being a doctor. I want to do family practice and psychiatry and work in an underserved rural area. My husband is from Appalachia and wants to continue serving here. So our interests mesh well.

When I thought about what I really wanted to do, I realized it sounds like being a doctor.Click To Tweet

My husband is supportive because the truth is I’m really not happy being a stay-at-home mom. I thought that is what I wanted, but I’m really bored and feel like I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. The problem is my really low science GPA from undergrad, like less than a 2.0.

I went to a college known for difficult grading while having undiagnosed ADHD, no study skills, little direction, and crippling depression and social anxiety. After that first bad semester, I just kind of spiraled and never recovered enough to complete my bio major.

I wasn’t premed; I wanted to be an ecologist. I switched to history and graduated with a 2.77 GPA. I also have a Master’s in applied linguistics with a 3.86 GPA. But from what I’ve read, that won’t count too much.

I live really close to an affordable state college and have my mother-in-law at the ready for child care if I choose to go back for a do-it-yourself postbac. I’m registered for a freshman bio course this Spring, and I plan to ask my family physician if I can shadow him for a day once I can get the baby on a bottle.

I want to make sure that I’m not romanticizing the profession, and that is something I can really see myself doing when I embark on more education. I’m just worried that my undergraduate performance is so bad that there’s no redeeming it.”

[03:20] Redeeming Yourself!

Yes, you can redeem yourself. Having graduated in history, that may mean you didn’t have many science credits. And now if you were to do a do-it-yourself postbac (or a formal postbac), you’re strictly going to take science classes. That’s the whole point—to show that you can handle science.

When you take those science courses, the denominator in your GPA calculation is going to grow. Hopefully, you’re getting great grades so your credits and the score you get from those credits are going to go up as well.

You can move the needle a ton on your science GPA when you're starting out with only a few science credits.Click To Tweet

This is very different from a student who completed a biology degree with a 2.0. A lot of their classes are going to count towards their science GPA. And it’s going to take much more work to move the needle for that science GPA.

[Related episode: If I Can’t Get a 3.0 GPA, What Do I Do Next?]

[05:10] Establishing an Upward Trend in your GPA

You started off with a low science GPA and then you finish as high as possible with a 4.0 GPA. That strong upward trend is very powerful.

There are some schools that say they only look at the last 20 hours of science credits to see if you’re academically qualified to come to their medical school. So if you take 20 hours of science credits and you get a 4.0 in those classes, that medical school now sees you as a 4.0 student.

There are some schools that say they only look at the last 20 hours of science credits to see if you're academically qualified to come to their medical school.Click To Tweet

[Related episode: From the Military to Medical School with an Upward Trend]

A Low GPA is Redeemable.

Again, it’s redeemable, 100%. I talked with Chad on The Premed Years Podcast. He’s a student who did poorly in undergrad and in a postbac. Finally, he realized what was causing his problems, and he went to a special master’s program and crushed it. He’s now a medical student.

So anything is redeemable. I also talked to Cain on The Premed Years Podcast. He started off school with a low GPA and was academically dismissed from his undergrad. Several years later, he realized he wanted to go to medical school. He started again at a community college and worked his way up to a four-year university. And now he is a medical student, too.

[Related episode: How This Nontrad Beat a Low MCAT Score and a Low GPA]

[06:50] Is Medicine Right for You?

The fact that you’re asking that question and shadowing a physician to see if you’re romanticizing this is huge. Some students neglect to really reflect on whether medicine is right for them. They think it’s cool and they jump head in first.

Some students neglect to really reflect on whether medicine is right for them.Click To Tweet

Put Your Mind to It

Moving forward, your goal is to get as much support as you can from the in-laws, from your husband. Go back to school and get A’s. Get some shadowing and clinical experience. Get A’s. Do well on the MCAT. Get A’s. Then apply to medical school. Put your story together with a great personal statement.

Again, get the right extracurriculars. Interview well. This is very doable. If this is what you want, just put your mind to it.

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