Do I exceed the minimum GPA?
Regarding the question of minimum GPA requirements…first, let’s get some inconvenient facts out of the way. There are some factors you have very little (no) control over that will, in part, determine your GPA requirement from school to school: things like your race, sex, age, the competitiveness of the undergraduate college you attended, and if you have a “disadvantaged” status. For this reason, I can’t give you hard and fast numbers, but for a good look at recent matriculants to med school by GPA, check out these AAMC grids for different ethnic groups of students.
You might also want to check out my recent post, “What’s a good GPA/MCAT combo for acceptance into med school—3.7/511?” The point of this post is that having good stats (GPA/MCAT), while not decisive in and of itself, is pretty critical. And I stand behind that. But while med schools love good numbers, they’re also looking for a package deal: an applicant who’s well-rounded, with stellar references, a “balanced” MCAT score, good EC’s, and a successful personal interview. And it doesn’t hurt to have some kind of unique attribute, honor or experience that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Is there a minimum GPA I can’t fall below?
It depends on the school. Some will indeed reject you if either your GPA or MCAT scores fall below a certain threshold. What’s more common, however, is deriving a set “value” for your grades plus your MCAT. You can get into medical school with numbers a couple of points lower than the 3.7 I mentioned above, but it will only happen if the other parts of your application package, your MCAT score and your interview outweigh the subpar number.
Just for fun, let’s look at a few schools. Here are some known for a strict adherence to statistical purity: Washington University, Ohio State, University of Virginia, University of Chicago and University of Michigan. A lot of these fall under “urban legends,” as they’re based on anecdotes rather than empirical data. I could name a whole host of other schools as well, but I don’t know if it would do you a lot of good.
That’s because no school is going to say they want you just because you sport a tantalizing “above minimum GPA” number. On the flip side, there are very few schools that would reject an applicant who’s stellar in every other category simply because his or her GPA falls short.
Broadly speaking, apply broadly
Let’s say your GPA is right on the line, yet you fall within the “prescribed” range of one of these medical schools. If they already have enough applicants that look just like you, you probably won’t be considered. Which is one reason to forget applying to schools you have no business applying to. And apply broadly to a range of schools. The odds are stacked against you getting into medical school, no matter who you are. While you can unstack those bricks with great stats and an impressive application package, another strategic way to increase your chances is by applying to a few less competitive schools.
How many schools to apply to?
A lot of pre-med students I’ve known set a limit of 10-15 schools to apply to, and then shoot pretty high, filling out their list with the elite schools they’re dying to attend. That’s a risky strategy, and one that may not pay off. Even if you’re an excellent candidate, ask yourself this question: “What happens if I don’t get a bite from any of the schools I apply to?” Because that’s reality for half of all applicants every year, and if it becomes a reality for you, you’ll have to (1) go back and strengthen your application; (2) apply again; (3) wait for at least a year for another chance; and perhaps (4) give up on your medical school dreams.
Don’t put yourself in that position. Cast a wide net when you apply! Submit 20 or more applications, target a range of schools, and do your research so you know which ones will be happy to see you coming.
Here’s another fun fact: some schools will consider only your highest MCAT score, even if you take a more recent one and bomb it. That’s giving you a bit of leverage, and makes it easier to commit to a second time, knowing the risks won’t outweigh the benefits. Here are a few I’ve heard of: NSU, University of New England (D.O.), Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (biggest class of any U.S. med school), and Nova Southeastern University (D.O.). There are others, so if you have some M.D. schools you know fit this profile, let me know! I’m not trying to create an end-all and be-all list, but it’s always nice to know these flattering facts about schools where you may or may not want to apply.
No one wants to hear this, but there are applicants with a 3.8 GPA and 520 on the MCAT that won’t get accepted to medical school, for some reason or another. So don’t let up on your GPA, and don’t assume it doesn’t matter, because it does. And will. There’s no getting around it!
So there is such a thing as a “minimum GPA” for most schools. And then again, there’s no such thing. I think that’s what I just explained above…
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