The Majority of students who enter into college as premed students struggle with their grades at some point. The most common struggle occurs during your first few semesters when you are getting used to the drastically different college curriculum.
When it comes time to apply to medical school, how much does an upward GPA trend help?
Here’s the good news, it helps. An upward GPA trend can turn a mediocre GPA into a highly competitive GPA. Medical Schools understand that students often struggle at first. What is important is that you demonstrate you can overcome failure and improve going forward.
This post will cover everything you need to know about an upward GPA trend when it comes to applying to medical school.
What Is A Good GPA For Medical School?
Obviously the higher your GPA the better, but there really isn’t a standard metric for this. It all depends on your overall application.
That being said, the current average for MD schools is around 3.7.
Keep in mind that this is your overall GPA which includes all 4 years of college. If you started with a low GPA but had a strong upward trend, you may have a lower overall GPA. But you would still be competitive like someone with a 3.7 GPA.
You see, every medical school looks at grades differently. Oftentimes if an admissions committee believes that your first year or 2 were a fluke and you now have what it takes to do well, they may only look at your last 2 years.
What Is Considered An Upward GPA Trend For Med School?
An upward trend is a clear increase in your grades over time without any drastic dips. Medical schools look more favorably to upward trends with a grade emphasis on the latter years.
Keep in mind that grade replacements don’t count, med schools only consider the AMCAS way of grading. This is honestly better because grades replaced from your early semesters could mess with the upward trend slope.
The Classes You Take During Your Upward Trend Matter Too
It’s also important to note that the difficulty of the classes you take during your later semester matters. An upward trend isn’t useful if your bad grades included all the difficult science courses and your good grades are all blow-off classes.
Make sure to include difficult courses during your later semesters.
This will prove to med schools that you can handle a tough workload and do very well. Your first year of medical school will be very difficult so admission committees want to make sure you can handle it!
Make Sure You Address An Upward GPA Trend In Your Med School Application
It is very important that you address your upward GPA trend in your application. You don’t want to make excuses but you want to say something.
Most of the time, the answer is really simple: you were not prepared for college. This is totally fine.
College is a huge transition and everyone handles it differently. It actually shows a lot of grit and determination to overcome failure.
Explain why your grades were low when you started and what you did to improve. You see, recovery is more important. Medical schools will see how you recover from failure so that they can make sure you are capable of handling the stressors of being a student doctor.
Apply To Medical School Early
If your GPA is lower than average, you need to make sure you submit your medical school application as early as possible.
Medical schools do rolling admissions so the earlier you get your application submitted, the better chance you have of getting in.
Plus, if you wait till later in the summer when the bulk of applications come in, you are now competing directly with more applicants.
Apply To More Medical Schools With Lower Competition
If you have a lower GPA, you want to cast a wider net.
Apply to more medical schools with less competitive stats.
We normally recommend applying to 10-12 medical schools. This is a large enough number without overloading you with secondary applications.
However, this number is for average students. If your GPA is below average, you may want to apply to about 16. This will require more work and money, but it does increase your odds.
Medical Schools Look At Your Application Holistically
A lot of admission committee members will disregard lower early semester grades if you have a strong upward trend. They’ll start to focus on other aspects of your application like your extracurriculars and MCAT.
Play this holistic approach to your advantage.
Volunteer regularly, shadow some more, get a job as a scribe or EMT, and take on a leadership role in one of your clubs. All these things help your application tremendously.
And then of course there is the MCAT. Consider spending an entire summer studying for the MCAT so that you can really crush it.
Other factors of your application can outshine lower grades during your early years at college, take advantage of all the resources around you!
Strong Upward Trend Vs Going To An SMP: What Should You Do?
Special Master’s programs, or SMPs, are very expensive and should only be done as a last case scenario. One should ask: “Is my strong upward GPA trend good enough to get me into medical school?”
This really depends on what your GPA was during your last few years in College. Did you average at least 3.7 your last 3 or more semesters? A 3.7 is the average GPA of matriculating medical students so this upward trend is strong enough to prove what you have what it takes to do well in medical school.
An upward trend from 2.8 to 3.3 on the other hand ends with a mediocre grade. In this case, you will need to prove to medical schools that you can do better. This may require that you do an SMP.
I’m going to stress this again because it is important. SMPs are VERY expensive. Make sure that you know for a fact your grades can’t get you into medical school.
And if you decide to go to an SMP, you need to figure out what is causing you to get bad grades. It is essential that you do well in an SMP because it really is your last shot.
Consider Going To A DO School
There is nothing wrong with going to a DO school. Doctor of Osteopathy is becoming increasingly more respected in the medical community. While in the past they may have been looked down on, now physicians couldn’t care less where you went to school.
The only thing that matters is being a good doctor.
At a DO school, you will have all the tools you need to succeed and enter into the residency of your choice. It just takes hard work.
People Get Into Medical Schools With Low GPAs
Just remember, premeds get into medical schools with low GPAs all the time. There are success stories everywhere.
If you are a premed student with a low GPA but with a strong upward trend, you have a really good chance of getting in.
When you arrived in college you were young and inexperienced at studying. Don’t let a couple of bad semesters hold you back. Keep pushing and eventually, you will be wearing that white coat!