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Against the Odds: Journey of a Low GPA Student to Medical School



Medical schools seek applicants with a solid academic foundation, compassionate patient care skills, and a genuine commitment to serving others. Beyond grades and test scores, medical school admissions committees prioritize candidates with well-rounded experiences, including research involvement, volunteer work, leadership roles, and clinical exposure. Applicants who can articulate their motivations for pursuing medicine clearly understand the challenges and rewards of a medical career and convey a genuine desire to make a positive impact on society stand out in the admissions process. Nneka is a 1st-year med student who didn’t think she had a chance to fulfill medical school GPA requirements. After a low GPA of 2.7 in undergrad, poor MCAT scores, and a failed application, Nneka is now studying at an allopathic medical school in New York.


Nneka’s Struggles with Low GPA as a Premed

GPAs below 3.0 are typically only accepted into few medical schools. A typical MD medical school's GPA falls between 3.7 and 3.9. At the majority of DO medical schools, the average GPA falls between 3.4 and 3.6.


However, do not use GPA as a reason to reject any medical school. There are specific requirements that each school has for candidates, so you may still be able to get in even if your GPA is lower than the average. Your application might have something else that catches their attention.


Nneka graduated from high school with high grades, and science came easy. But when she got to Cornell University for her undergrad, she realized her study skills from high school were not going to cut it. She was also told during her freshman year that she would have trouble getting into medical school with a low GPA.


She then discovered that her results were lacking despite working hard. She made numerous attempts to improve her grades but could not make it work. Not to mention, the premed advising she was receiving during her undergrad was inadequate, and the techniques she was employing were subpar.


The Advice She Got from Her Premed Advising Office

Nneka acknowledges that she received inconsistent academic advice from a dean of pre-medical advice. Additionally, she had a reasonably precise formula regarding what courses students should take in which semesters and how their grades should be calculated. Sadly, Nneka did not think her counsel was motivating.


She decided to ignore her early on. Nneka knew some counselors have a strict yet caring approach, but she could not quite get over it. Her advisor informed her that she probably would not graduate premed. The advisor predicted that she would probably not be accepted to medical school unless she followed her judgment about what was proper. However, Nneka did not think it would help her get to where she wanted to be when she finished or how she wanted to take classes.


There was an additional faculty advisor assigned. She had switched advisors three times. They reached a point where they had nothing more constructive to say. They were helpful in following up to find out how she was doing. However, pre-med conferences and how to begin MCAT preparation were unknown to them. Lack of access to more reliable resources made her feel lost.


Looking back on it now, she found navigating her undergrad experience very tough. She was surprised that more information and better advising were not readily available for premed students.


Failing the MCAT Twice

She recalls traveling to Upstate Medical University to take the MCAT for the first time and winning a complimentary course. When she was an undergraduate, she attempted to take the MCAT. However, she did not feel ready for her content evaluation, so she only used the materials after graduation. She prepared for the MCAT after she eventually had her Cornell degree. She attempted to fill in any gaps by sitting down with the material. For her, focusing on that content basis was unquestionably a crucial step.


She took and failed the MCAT a second time while enrolled in her master's program. Her first score allowed her to enroll in Truxton University's master's program in forensic science. Yet, no resources were available for students because the curriculum was not specifically postbaccalaureate premedical. So she went back to her materials and saw a tutor the school offered once or twice for some of the content review. She considered other options but still felt in her heart that she wanted to be a physician.


Nneka’s Journey through Premed Postbac

Before she got her score back, she had already applied to a medical school. She thought she was doing well in her master’s, which helped her confidence on that second MCAT attempt. But she didn’t get any interviews during that application cycle.


After her second MCAT failure, Nneka stepped back. She contacted a Drexel faculty administrator because she had the proper support network to stay positive. So, she got into Drexel’s premed post-bac program. It was supposed to be two years to do basic science and study for the MCAT. Unfortunately, there was an issue with Drexel’s financial aid. So Nneka got kicked out of school due to a financial aid mistake. In the meantime, she had to figure out what to do. She could not afford to work in the lab and not be a student. So, she had to get a real job at a pharmaceutical company and began prepping for the MCAT a third time.


Nneka’s boyfriend was an excellent test taker, and he advised her to do more practice questions this time. Finally, she got one medical school interview. The interviewer understood where she was coming from, which was the point of the interview in the first place. Nneka mentions impostor syndrome, which is pretty standard in medical school. A lot of the studying techniques she used to improve in her master’s program are things she’s relying on now. In the future, she’s still uncertain as to what specialty to go into. But she knows it’s good to approach the clinical and third-year rotations with an open mind.


Her Final Words of Wisdom

Find mentors who echo what’s inside you—their advice feels right in your heart. If you know in your heart that this is what you want to do, stick to it. Find the people who will sponsor or mentor you to keep you positive and encouraged. If there’s anything you need to fix or change, change it. Everyone has room for improvement.

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Thank you for reading,

Mahima


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