“How important is GPA in medical school admissions?”
Medical school requires being able to handle learning a lot of material in a relatively short amount of time. Therefore, they need to weed out people who can’t handle learning effectively and efficiently. Even though GPA does not exactly correlate with your capabilities to become a successful human being in general, it does reflect your diligence, work ethic and learning capabilities. Therefore, GPA is pretty important.
To be able to get accepted to a medical school, it will be necessary to strive for an overall GPA of above 3.5 and to be sure to be accepted to higher tier medical school, 3.7 and higher is necessary. The GPA of the pre-med requirement courses such as General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry,General Physics, Math, Reading and Composition, Psychology and Sociology is calculated independently and you want to have at least 3.5 of this Prerequisite course GPA to be competitive enough to get into a medical school.
There are pre-med applicants from all kinds of undergraduate schools so it is hard to compare the real value of each GPA but definitely getting an “A” from a community college looks much better than getting a “C” from Harvard or UC Berkeley.
Therefore, you want to be strategic in choosing courses to not only enjoy the learning process but also to make it realistic to get a GPA as high as possible. The following are some tips to consider to maximize your GPA for medical school admissions.
1) Pick a major you are truly interested in so that studying is pleasant and you will have a better chance of excelling in your courses. To be pre-med, you don’t need to be a chemistry or biology major. Any major will do as long as you do well in them.
2) If you are taking 4 or 5 courses a semester, take 2 science courses and 2 or 3 non-science courses that are relatively easier and fun. Balance the course workload out so you will be able to enjoy the semester and not burn yourself out from too much science. For example, if you are taking Organic Chemistry and General Physics, you want to take some fun non-science courses such as music, art, theater, philosophy, film, dance, history, literature or foreign language courses to diversify your interest and knowledge.
3) If you are signing up for advanced science courses or honors courses that are beyond the pre-med requirement courses, make sure you can handle them well enough to get at least a B. If it is too challenging, it is okay to take the minimum pre-med requirement courses instead.
4) If you get a grade lower than a “B” in a pre-med requirement course, retake it through summer school or at a community college or through a post-baccalaureate program to get an “A.”
5) Upward trends are better than downward trends. If you get a “B” in your first semester of Organic Chemistry, try to get an “A” in the second semester. If you didn’t do as well during your freshman and sophomore year, try to do better in your junior and senior year so that your GPA will have an upward trend.
6) If you get a grade lower than a “B-“ in a non-pre-med requirement course, then you don’t have to retake that course but take other easier and fun courses later on to bring up that GPA. For example, when I was an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, I got a “C+” in Physical Chemistry (a 3unit course), which was one of the most difficult required courses for my Chemical Biology major but not a pre-med requirement course. Even though I studied hard for that course, I just didn’t do well in it. What a bummer! It lowered my overall GPA and I was very discouraged by it for a while. I thought I had to give up my dream of becoming a doctor because of this C+ on my transcript. However, at the beginning of the summer in between my junior and senior year, I unexpectedly received $2000 of Federal Pell grants to cover summer school tuition and was able to enroll in 10units of summer school courses. I used that grant money to take a “History of Jazz music” course, “Intro to Astronomy” course and “The Planets” course, which were fun and easier classes. I ended up getting“A”s in all of those three courses, which added up to 10units of A which greatly bumped up my overall GPA. Therefore, I was able to make an upward trending GPA right up until medical school application timeline. Therefore, my “C+” in Physical Chemistry became less of an issue in medical school applications since I got interviews from strong schools such as UC Davis and UCLA and so on and eventually got accepted to my dream medical school UC Davis.
Based on these tips, getting a good GPA is the first step and then you can tackle the MCAT next!
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