USA/ 04 December, 2021/ Source/ https://www.usnews.com/
Admissions experts advise aspiring medical school students to aim for a GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Medical school admissions officers also pay attention to whether applicants took academically rigorous courses.(GETTY IMAGES)
The medical school admissions process is extraordinarily competitive, and selectivity has intensified due to a pandemic-related surge of interest in the medical field.
Premed undergraduates should strive to achieve a GPA of 3.5 or higher to get accepted into a top-tier med school, admissions officials say. And students should aim to earn A’s and B’s in science courses, in particular, since grades in those classes will be scrutinized to gauge whether med school applicants are academically prepared.
“We tend to look at the science grade point average,” says Christina Grabowski, associate dean for admissions and enrollment at the University of Alabama—Birmingham School of Medicine. “So, whether you’re a psychology major or a business major or a biology major, we are going to look at how you did in science coursework specifically.”
When admissions officers look at an applicant’s transcript, they seek evidence that the student is capable of handling the onerous academic workload in med school, says Grabowski, an assistant professor of medical education with a Ph.D. in educational leadership.
“If we determine someone can’t do the work academically, it doesn’t matter what else they bring to the table, because they have to be able to make it through medical school to be a physician,” she says. “However…they don’t need to have a 4.0.”
While perfect grades are not required for medical school admission, premeds “would want to be in the mid-3.0 range and higher to feel relatively competitive,” Grabowski says.
Still, it is possible to get into med school with a mediocre or low GPA. When medical school hopefuls look up the average or median GPA of admitted students at a particular school, they should keep in mind that there are people admitted to that school with a GPA below that number, she says.
“A perfect GPA is challenging to get, regardless of the school the student attends,” Crowley wrote in an email. “This means that the student has had to get all A’s in her own major, along with A’s in all premedical prerequisites, which is a pretty big deal.”
Crowley says any GPA above a 3.8 is excellent.
College GPAs of Students Accepted Into Medical Schools
Admissions statistics from U.S. medical schools show that they tend to have high academic standards. All of the 121 ranked schools in the U.S. News 2022 Best Medical Schools rankings reported the median GPA among their entering students in fall 2020 as 3.46 or higher on a 4.0 grading scale. The average median GPA among these schools was 3.75.
Among the top 10 primary care medicine programs, the average median GPA for entering students was a 3.81, and among the top 10 research-focused medical schools, the average median GPA was 3.88. The two medical schools whose incoming students had the best college grades were the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, each boasting a median GPA of 3.96.
David Lenihan, president and CEO of Ponce Health Sciences University, which has campuses in Puerto Rico and Missouri, says med school admissions officers like to see a GPA at or above 3.5.
“Generally, you want to be north of a 3.5 in a competitive major,” Lenihan, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience, wrote in an email. “However, [a college] GPA is not a great metric for whether or not a student will succeed in medical school. You might have taken exceptionally difficult classes, or had a hard time adjusting in your freshman year. So while above a 3.5 is still the unofficial national standard, many medical schools are getting wise to the idea that you can find great candidates who don’t meet that threshold.”
Med school admissions officers tend to be impressed by high GPAs among students who majored in demanding disciplines such as physics, Lenihan adds.
What Is a Good MCAT Score? ]
Grabowski says her admissions team does not necessarily prefer science majors, but seeks students who performed well in their med school prerequisite courses.
“We don’t discount someone who doesn’t have a science degree,” she says. “We enjoy having people with…all different educational backgrounds in our class. The more diverse we can have of a class in terms of training and experiences, the more they can teach one another.”
However, Grabowski emphasizes that “all students need to complete a prerequisite study in sciences so they have the right foundation.”
While academic preparation is an important factor in medical school admissions, it is only one factor, she explains. Med schools review applicants holistically to determine other qualifications for a career in medicine, including but not limited to medically related experiences, service, teamwork, leadership, research and interpersonal skills, Grabowski says.
“In general, the admissions officers have a gestalt of which schools are a bit tougher and which schools are a bit easier,” he says. “They also know that there are many routes through the same major at the same college, some easier than others. If they see a risk-averse student coasting by, but another student in the same institution is taking a more challenging course load and [has] a slightly lower GPA, they’ll usually gravitate towards the applicant who challenges herself.”
Luz Claudio, a professor with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who has a Ph.D. in neuropathology, warns that signing up for college classes where getting an A may be easy isn’t the best strategy for improving odds of admission.
“I see that students sometimes take relatively easy courses to raise their overall GPA, but if their science grades are still low, this may not help them enter med school,” Claudio wrote in an email.
How Premeds With Unimpressive GPAs Can Get Into Medical School
Premeds who have lackluster college grades should attempt to demonstrate their academic potential in other ways, Lenihan emphasizes.
“Find an alternative way to prove that you can handle the rigors of medical school,” he says. “You could highlight the especially difficult course load you took, talk about the jobs that you had to work during your undergrad years to support yourself, or enter a competitive post-bac program where they leverage the first year of medical school curriculum.”
Claudio suggests that medical research internships could also be worthwhile, especially if they lead to publication in a peer-reviewed journal. “Published papers coupled with spectacular letters of recommendation and excellent MCAT scores can sometimes propel a student who is on the borderline to get into medical school.”
Dr. Jordan Frey, a plastic surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the University at Buffalo—SUNY’s Jacobs School of Medicine, recommends that premeds with less-than-amazing college grades apply broadly to both M.D. and D.O. medical schools, including institutions throughout the U.S. Premeds should be realistic about the quality of their candidacy when choosing where to apply, Frey adds, warning that a subpar GPA could be a deal-breaker at med schools where high grades are the norm.
Aspiring doctors whose college grades aren’t the best should strive to demonstrate excellence in the qualitative and “humanistic” portions of their application, such as their personal statement and recommendation letters, and pursue relevant and interesting clinical or research activities, Frey says.
Leadership is the best way for premeds to compensate for a low GPA and differentiate themselves, suggests Pierre Huguet, CEO and co-founder of the H&C Education admissions consultancy.
“Students should pursue genuine interests and passions that aren’t necessarily related to medicine,” Huguet wrote in an email. “In the relatively homogeneous med school applicant pool, students should explore activities that will make an impact in the admissions process: founding and running a club or a non-profit, or publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, for instance, is far more impressive than passively following a doctor in the hallways of a hospital.”
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