This week on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our poster is worried about her first stint in college and a very poor early GPA. She’s wondering if she should take a postbac to further improve her grades or if she should jump right into applying to medical school.
The big question here is: What GPA do medical schools look at? And how high do you need to raise your GPA before they will consider you an applicant worth inviting for interviews?
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[01:40] OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
As usual, the question this week is taken from our Nontrad Premed Forum:
“I’m a nontraditional student in my late 20’s. I attended college for two semesters when I was eighteen and left with a 1.8 GPA and feelings of delusion with the whole academic system. I worked several odd jobs and eventually became a paramedic. For almost seven years now I have been working full time in EMS. I had a job as an ER tech in a hospital, which sparked my interest in pursuing medicine.
I returned to college two years ago after a gap of five years, and I have only six classes left. I’ve done okay as a student, and I have a 3.1 overall GPA including the not so great early stuff. I project I’ll be in the ballpark of 3.15 or 3.2 when I’m done. I started studying for the MCAT, which I’ll take next winter or early spring.
Outside of class, I’ve been working nights and weekends full-time, 36-48 hours a week. I’ve been teaching EMT classes for four years, and I will be an official tutor for organic chemistry next semester. I have some physician shadowing lined up for later in the summer. I will be joining a victim’s assistance and brief counseling organization as a volunteer in the fall. I’m currently a psychology major.
My main concern, like many others, is my GPA. It’s not terrible but not particularly good. I’m mainly wondering if it would be worth my time to do a postbac or add another science major to increase my GPA. My main hesitation is continuing to rack up my student loan debt. Also, the fact that I have such an obscene amount of college credit by now, even if I get a 4.0 in a semester, it only raises my overall GPA by a tiny amount.Given the fact that I have such an obscene amount of college credit by now, even if I get a 4.0 in a semester, it only raises my overall GPA by a tiny amount.Click To Tweet
I have a 3.5 from a two-year degree at a technical school. But I have no idea how applicable that credit is for medical school applications. I started out by retaking all the classes I had done poorly in and stopped after grade replacement ended.
Frustrations with Premed Advisors
“I’m also beginning to feel my frustrations with the academic system. I took a number of credits that my advisor told me I needed—spending a significant amount of my time and money—when it turned out I didn’t need them at all. The advisor was mistaken because some transfer credits had not been reflected on my records correctly.
I am pretty confident in my goals. But it becomes challenging when the people who are supposed to advise you take the wind out of your sails barely after you’ve left the starting line. I have found a better pre-health mentor who is more experience in helping nontraditional students, and she has set me on a much better track.I am pretty confident in my goals, but it becomes challenging when the people who are supposed to advise you take the wind out of your sails barely after you've left the starting line.Click To Tweet
Assuming I finish with around a 3.15 GPA and a reasonable MCAT score, in addition to all of my clinical experience, would it be worth it to have another science major or unofficial science postbac to boost my GPA just a bit further? I know the admissions committees are starting to look at the trends and recent college credits more than just your total GPA. But I still worry about getting screened out early.
The official recommendation from the pre-health committee at my school is not to apply with less than a 3.4 GPA. They’ll still put a file or letter together if you request it, but I worry about going through the process with my lower numbers.”
[05:16] Ignore Your Discouraging Premed Advisors.
First of all, welcome to the club of being told by an advisor that you shouldn’t pursue this path. I did an entire podcast episode about this: Is the Role of Your Premed Advisor to Tell You No?
Also, welcome to the club of being involved in an institution where the advising office says you shouldn’t apply with below certain MCAT or GPA numbers. Both of those are hogwash and should be ignored immediately!
[Related post: Pre-Health Advisors: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear.]
[05:43] What GPA Do Medical Schools Look At?
What GPA do medical schools look at? Do they look at your science GPA or total GPA? Do they average all your GPA totals together, or do they look at each year, each semester, or each class?
In this week’s episode of The Premed Years Podcast (Episode 245), I spoke with the people behind the Texas application service (TMDSAS). We talked about how data is transmitted to the medical schools. In the end, the takeaway message is that individual medical schools can all look at your grades differently.Each medical school is free to look at your GPA however they want.Click To Tweet
Medical schools can have a system that pulls in all of your information and then graphs out your last twenty credit hours of sciences—or your last 40 hours, or your last two semesters. They look at it however they want to look at it. So it varies. They can use whatever algorithm they want to determine whether or not you make a cut-off.
Medical Schools That Only Look at Your Last Year or Two
This was hammered home when I talked to the Dean of Admissions at University of Central Florida. I was there earlier this year. We were talking about nontrads, and how they love nontrads at UCF. He said he looks at your last twenty hours of science credits. He says if you’ve done well in those last twenty hours, he’s confident you can do well in medical school, regardless of the overall GPA.
We’ve also talked about the 32-hour rule on this podcast before, and some schools that calculate your official GPA from your last 32 hours. So those provide more examples of medical schools that only look at your last year or two.
[Related episode: What MCAT Score Do I Need to Overcome My Low GPA?]
[07:08] Look at GPA Trends, Not Overall Numbers
A lot of times, being nontraditional means your grades weren’t very good at the beginning. There are exceptions out there where a student went into engineering or finance or some other career field. They did well in undergrad and they’re changing because they want to be a doctor now. But a lot of nontrads had poor grades early on. So the trend in your grades is what is going to be more important.Don't let your premed committee tell you not to apply. That is not their job.Click To Tweet
Don’t let your premed committee tell you not to apply. That is not their job. Their job is to help you. Do whatever you want to do. Again, don’t look at the overall numbers. Look at the trend. You have a great story to tell that goes along with it. You have great experience to talk about why you want to be a doctor. Continue on this journey. Don’t take any more classes. Just finish out what you need to take. Do very well on the MCAT, and you will be fine.
It’s not your overall number, but your trend. That is the most important part for students like yourself who did poorly in the beginning. As you mentioned, getting lots of A’s is going to do nothing for your overall GPA at this point, since you’ve accumulated so many credits.
[08:50] Get Premed Advising
Since this poster talks about finding a mentor, I just want to mention that I do offer premed advising. If you’re looking for somebody to help you with your personal statement, interview prep, or complete application prep from A to Z, shoot me an email at email@example.com. Or just go check out my services here.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: From a 2.7 Undergrad GPA to First-Year Medical Student.
- Related episode: Can I Get into Med School with a Low GPA?
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!