Average GPA for Medical School Admissions

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GPA is one of the most important factors in the medical school admissions process. Successful applicants must demonstrate that they have both the academic foundation and the work ethic to succeed in a rigorous medical program. Your GPA is one of the best measures for predicting your ability to handle the workload required to become a doctor.

The table below displays the average GPAs for all medical school applicants ("All Applicants") and successful medical school applicants ("Matriculants Only"). Matriculants refers to the applicants who were accepted to medical school and who subsequently enrolled.

Average GPAs for Medical School (2018-19)
  All Applicants Matriculants Only
GPA Science 3.47 3.65
GPA Non-Science 3.71 3.8
Cumulative GPA 3.57 3.72
Total Applicants 52,777 21,622
Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

The Importance of GPA for Med School Admissions

GPA is one of the most important pieces of your medical school application. As the table above shows, the average cumulative GPA for matriculants was 3.72 during the 2018-2019 admissions cycle. This means the average successful applicant had an "A-" average as an undergraduate.

If we look more closely at the relationship between GPA and acceptance rates, the importance of grades becomes even more clear. According to data from the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 admissions cycles, 45% of admitted students had a cumulative GPA of 3.8 or higher, and 75% of admitted students had a GPA of 3.6 or higher.

Not surprisingly, GPA has an extremely strong correlation to acceptance rate. That same AAMC data reveals that 66.3% of students with a GPA of 3.8 or higher were accepted to medical school. That acceptance rate drops to 47.9% for students with GPAs between 3.6 and 3.79. If your GPA is below a 3.0, the acceptance rate drops into the single digits and you will certainly need strengths in other areas of your application to be admitted to a medical school.

For students with "C" averages, the acceptance rate drops to about 1%. Only a couple of "C" average students in the entire applicant pool gain admission to medical school. Indeed, most undergraduate institutions won't support an applicant with low grades since the student's chances of acceptance are so low, and the student's chances of succeeding in medical school are poor.

Science vs. Non-Science GPA

Medical school admissions committees consider three types of GPA: science, non-science, and cumulative (also called overall GPA). The science GPA is calculated using only the grades earned in biology, chemistry, math, and physics courses. The non-science GPA is calculated using grades from all other coursework.

Medical school admissions officers look closely at the science GPA because of the importance of biology, chemistry, physics, and math to the medical profession. However, it would be a mistake to assume that your science GPA is more important than your non-science GPA. Medical schools want to admit future doctors who have good critical thinking and communication skills in addition to a strong foundation in anatomy and microbiology. In fact, AAMC data reveals that English majors have a slightly higher acceptance rate than biology majors, even though they tend to have lower science GPAs.

All applicants' science GPAs tend to be lower than their non-science GPAs. This difference is typically chalked up to the challenging nature of many science classes. That said, if your science GPA is significantly lower than your cumulative GPA, the admissions committee may wonder why you're applying to medical school when your aptitude is clearly stronger in other academic areas.

In short, a 3.9 science GPA isn't sufficient if your transcript is filled with "C" grades in subjects such as English, foreign languages, history, and sociology. The reverse is also true—medical schools don't want to take risks on students who struggle in their science and math classes. Not surprisingly, the strongest applicants are academically successful across multiple disciplines.

How to Get Into Medical School With a Low GPA

Admission to medical school is a holistic process that takes numerous factors into consideration: MCAT scores, a personal statement and other essays, an interview, research and clinical experience, and, of course, your GPA. GPA is one of the most important factors, but high grades won't compensate for a low MCAT score or a disastrous interview.

If your GPA is in the "C" range, you are unlikely to be accepted into any medical school, at least not without first gaining significant professional experience or proving your academic abilities in another graduate program.

If your GPA is in the "B" range, you can help compensate for your grades by showing strengths in other areas. The most important place to shine is the MCAT. A high MCAT score demonstrates that you have the academic skills valued by medical schools.

The admissions committee will also look at the grade trend of your undergraduate record. If you earned a few "C" grades in your freshman year but earned consistent "A" grades by the end of your junior year, the admissions team will recognize that you have developed into a strong and reliable student. A downward trend, on the other hand, will work against you.

Finally, your personal story and extracurricular activities matter. If you faced significant adversity as a student, the medical school will take your situation into consideration. A compelling personal statement can help put your grades into context and reveal your passion for medicine. Significant research projects as well as clinical and internship experiences also help reveal your dedication to the medical profession.

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Grove, Allen. "Average GPA for Medical School Admissions." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/average-gpa-for-medical-school-4774822. Grove, Allen. (2020, August 28). Average GPA for Medical School Admissions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/average-gpa-for-medical-school-4774822 Grove, Allen. "Average GPA for Medical School Admissions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/average-gpa-for-medical-school-4774822 (accessed June 6, 2023).