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What is a GPA?
One of the first things medical schools look at is your college grade point average (GPA). Your GPA is a calculation of the grade you received in a class, multiplied by the number of credits the class is worth, and divided by all the credits you've taken in college. Many universities use a 4-point system, meaning a 4.0 is indicative of straight As, a 3.0 is a B-average, 2.0 is equivalent to a C-average, etc.
The problem with medical schools is that the GPA requirement that they list is probably not the GPA that they actually expect. Getting into medical school has become much more competitive recently. General guidelines suggest a minimum GPA of 3.5 for medical school applicants. However, it's very likely that medical schools have a higher, unadvertised expectation. It could be that a particular school is actually expecting a 3.7 GPA and will automatically eliminate applicants with lower GPAs. Many medical schools use a computer program to enter student data, such as GPA and MCAT scores, to see if students meet the base requirement and will not offer secondary applications or interviews to students who fall below this lower threshold.
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Two Different GPAs
When you apply to medical school, they look at two different versions of your GPA. Your cumulative GPA is a combination of every class you took, including French, political science and yoga. Medical schools will also look at a certain portion of the classes you took, classes usually referred to as pre-med prerequisites. These classes include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and may also include calculus, English or other science courses. Medical schools will expect you to have a high overall GPA, but it's even more important that your science GPA is very high as well. This shows potential medical schools that you have the ability to perform well in difficult classes, which is an indicator of your future performance at their school.
While it's not necessary to have straight As in pre-med classes, it's best to have the highest grades possible. Too many Bs can pull down your overall average, and a C or lower could be downright catastrophic. If a low grade is due to circumstances out of your control, such as a family emergency, it may be possible to explain this during an interview. Otherwise, a low grade may make a medical school think you are not prepared for their rigorous coursework. The higher your grades are, the stronger you appear as a candidate.
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GPA: One Part of the Equation
It's important to remember that your grades are only a portion of your medical school application. While a perfect 4.0 GPA may get you an interview, it won't guarantee acceptance. Medical schools use a combination of GPA, MCAT scores, interview, research and volunteer experience, as well as other criteria to determine whether or not an applicant is accepted. Knowing what grades you need to get into med school while you're taking your prerequisite courses can help keep you motivated and on track to be the best candidate possible.
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"GPA Information and Academic Success," http://www.bestpremed.com/GPA.php
Stolham, Jason. "Grades Required to Get Into A Medical School," http://collegematchingservice.com/education/grades-required-to-get-into-a-medical-school.html