What should I do with a low GPA?

GPA is one of several factors admissions officers consider in their holistic appraisal of your application. How much it matters will depend largely on the school and your other test scores, essays, and academic accomplishments.

But a GPA below 3.5 will stand out, and admissions officers will expect explanation.

The strategy for applying to school with a low GPA should be multi-pronged

*Beef up the other aspects of your application.

Achieve a high MCAT score.

Scoring well on your MCAT is important regardless of your GPA, but with a low GPA, the importance is only increased. Scoring well can be another way of showing admissions officers that while you may have had academic issues in the past, you are now in a good place to take your studies seriously.

Beef up your research experience - this shows that you’ve excelled in an intellectually rigorous pursuit outside your studies. If you have a lot of research experience, be sure to foreground it in your personal and secondary essays.

*If possible, improve your GPA.

If there’s time to make improvements, make them. You want your transcript to show that whatever led to your low GPA is behind you, and that now you’re a serious student. This might mean retaking old courses for a better grade.

If your GPA is very low, you might consider spending a year or two taking non-degree or post-bac courses (and acing them). The more advanced the course, the more impressive it will be to admissions officers. Show that you’ve turned things around, and that you’re capable of doing serious, difficult academic work.

*Consider expanding your school list.

Many people get hung up on their low GPAs because they don’t reconcile the grades with the reality of the application process. Make a realistic school list that fits your statistics.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing a low GPA. Everyone’s circumstances will be different, and your strategy will depend on the medical school you hope to attend.

If you have a GPA below 3.5, think actively about taking serious measures outlined here to mitigate that.