- How important is the GPA in the medical school application?
The GPA (along with the MCAT) is a major component of one’s application. While the medical school application is composed of many parts, the GPA and MCAT are used by many schools as the initial screen to determine if a student will be invited for an interview. For these reasons, students need to pay particular attention to these two components of their application and have a realistic appraisal of their competitiveness based on these two parameters.
- What is a competitive GPA for medical school?
This is one of the most common questions asked by students and also one of the most difficult to answer. First of all, one’s application is composed of many parts. Therefore, a competitive GPA really depends on the rest of one’s application. One can have an exceptional GPA but if one’s application is weak in the other areas, a high GPA probably won’t be enough. Likewise, one can have an exceptional application in all other areas but with a poor GPA an applicant is unlikely to be successful. According to the latest data provided by the AAMC, matriculants to U.S. medical schools in 2021 had an average total GPA of 3.74 and an average science GPA of 3.67. With this being said, there is a certain “reputation bump” that goes along with graduating from WashU. Most medical schools know that Wash U is a very competitive school with a rigorous pre-med curriculum and no grade inflation. Our reputational advantage means that students can be in a very strong position even with grades below the national average.
- What is the BCPM?
BCPM stands for “biology, chemistry, physics and math”. BCPM is really a more accurate definition of the “science GPA”. Medical schools will see an applicant’s GPA divided by BCPM, all other courses, and cumulative GPA. These will be calculated for each year. This allows schools to see trends in academic performance in both your BCPM and cumulative GPAs from year to year.
- What’s the most important – the cumulative, science (BCPM), or non-science (AO) GPA?
While all components of the GPA are important, medical schools tend to pay particular attention to the science GPA, for obvious reasons. A strong performance in your non-science courses, however, is still important.
- Does it matter to medical schools that I my GPA has improved every year from the prior year or do they only care about the overall number?
While the cumulative total and cumulative science GPAs are important, medical schools do take into account an upward trend in performance. Schools understand that students can sometimes have a difficult start early in college. Improved performance demonstrates the ability to adjust, learn from past weaknesses, and persevere – qualities that are important in medicine. Yearly performance and trends will be reported by AMCAS in your “AMCAS GPA Report” after your transcript(s) are verified. This is sent along with your AMCAS application to the medical schools that you select.
- Is there a GPA below which I shouldn’t consider applying?
While your GPA should be taken in light of your entire application, in general if your science and/or cumulative GPA is lower than a 3.0 it is very unlikely that you will be successful in your application to medical school. Even with GPAs in the 3.1 to 3.3 range, acceptance to medical school will be challenging. For this reason, it’s very important, regardless of your GPA, for students to meet with their pre-health advisor in order to review their entire application and determine their competitiveness for the upcoming application season.
- Should I re-take any courses in which I received a C?
While answers will differ depending on who you speak with, it is the general advice of the Wash U Pre-Health team that students should not re-take classes in which they’ve received a grade of C or better. Instead we recommend that students take higher level courses within the same discipline (e.g. biology or chemistry) and do well in those courses.
- If I retake a class do I have to average the new grade with the old grade?
Yes, AMCAS requires that every course and each respective grade is included on one’s application. So, ultimately the new grade is averaged with the old grade. This needs to be taken into account when you calculate your GPA. Osteopathic schools have changed their policy and now require that all grades be reported as well.
- I’ve heard that if a student takes a course pass/fail when it could have been taken for a grade, that some medical schools consider a pass equal to a C-. Do you know how pass/fail courses are viewed by medical schools and if they matter at all?
There can’t be a recalculation of a “Pass” to a C- in terms of your GPA because there needs to be consistency between schools. It might be that you heard that some schools subjectively view a passing grade in a P/F course that could have been taken for a grade, but there is no GPA recalculation that is done. With this being said, however, a student should limit the number of P/F classes to no more than one per semester.
In regard to specific courses, it’s best not to take any course P/F that could help assess your capacity for science (and you won’t be able to take classes P/F that are required for your major). Most P/F classes should be in subjects that don’t play as major of a role in assessing your aptitude for medical school.
- How harmful is a “W’ on my transcript?
There is no clear-cut consensus on this. Some may view a “W” as equivalent to failing a course but others feel that it’s not that big of an issue as long as there aren’t too many. If you can avoid a “W” then do so, but if it means you are going to fail a course, a “W” would be preferable.
- What’s more important, the GPA or the MCAT?
Both are important. Students should do everything possible to maximize both.