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Med School Admissions Statistics, Part III: What’s the Average GPA? (And What Can I Do About It?)

October 11, 2012
Alex Macnow

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been taking a look at some of the medical school admissions statistics.  While we’ve tackled the question of how many people get into medical school and the average MCAT score, we turn our attention today to the average GPA.

Remember, AAMC keeps this information public through their FACTS tables.  In addition to what we’ve covered here, check out what other great information you can glean from these resources.  In the world of medical school admissions, knowledge is power! (credit:  Schoolhouse Rock!)

Interestingly, medical schools are actually given three GPAs when they look at your application.  Your science and math courses are considered in what is called the BPCM (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Math) GPA, and your non-science courses (humanities, social sciences, language, etc.) are considered as another entity.  Finally, schools see the overall (amalgamated) GPA.

While each school has a its own average GPA for the incoming class (information, by the way, that is easily found in the Medical School Admission Requirements guidebook), the national averages in 2011 were as follows:

  • BPCM GPA – applicants 3.43 ± 0.43, matriculants 3.61 ± 0.32
  • Non-science GPA – applicants 3.65 ± 0.30, matriculants 3.74 ± 0.25
  • Overall GPA – applicants 3.53 ± 0.34, matriculants 3.67 ± 0.26

Unlike the MCAT, for which many of you still have a clean slate, GPA is set during your college career.  So what can you do if your GPA isn’t quite into the range above?

  • Explain the GPA Tactfully – on your applications, you have the opportunity to bring up any blips in your GPA in both the primary application (as part of the Personal Statement) and secondary applications (in one of the essays, or as an addendum to the application).  When talking about a problem in your GPA, explain the reason behind the drop, but don’t make excuses!  Medical schools want mature applicants who can take ownership of the problem, and – perhaps more importantly – can explain how it served as a learning experience.  Did getting a not-so-great grade in Organic Chemistry I teach you how to study better, utilize office hours, or find new ways to learn so that you knocked Organic Chemistry II out of the park?  These skills may better you as a physician – tell the medical schools that!
  • Be an MCAT Rockstar – according to a Harris-verified poll a few years back, 90% of medical school admissions officers polled consider GPA and MCAT to be the two most important factors in admission – at least in the early stages.  Thus, a not-so-great GPA can be significantly abated with a stellar MCAT score.  Prepare wisely and work towards that 45 you deserve!
  • Consider Re-Taking Courses or Post-Bacc Work – there are a number of post-baccalaureate programs in the country that can be optimal for a student who needs to boost their GPA (especially the BPCM GPA).  These programs may also afford you opportunities to become involved in research or shadowing, thus helping your application portfolio that much more.

This is the end of this particular series on medical school admissions statistics, but we want to hear from you!  What other statistics (or aspects of the medical school application process) would you like to learn more about?  We want to arm you with the knowledge to help get you into the medical school – and career! – of your dreams.

This article is Part III in a three-part series on Medical School Admissions Statistics.  For more information, check out:

Alex Macnow

Alex Macnow I graduated from Boston University with a BA in Musicology and am currently a fourth year in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. I took Kaplan to prep for my MCAT. After such a great experience with my course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to teach and tutor hundreds of pre-health students for the MCAT, DAT, OAT and PCAT in both our Boston – Haymarket and Philadelphia Kaplan Centers. I am one of the Content Managers for Kaplan's new MCAT 2015 course. When I’m not preparing for residency or teaching MCAT, I enjoy playing classical piano, exploring new cuisines and traveling on road trips.

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