Getting into Med School with Subpar Scores

It doesn’t seem very fair when you look at it on paper but there is a lot more to an applicant than numbers. So how does John get into medical school with a 3.2 GPA and 500 MCAT while “Mr. 4.0 GPA”, Chris over here doesn’t get in? There are many reasons why this may be the case but at the end of the day, John likely was vouched for while Chris was lost in the 50,000 plus applicant pool. This is all about the “N” in Dr. Dale’s Premed G.R.I.N.D. technique. It is very easy to get stuck on the numbers but sometimes schools see something in a student which makes them confident that that student will be a great physician. In fact, sometimes it only takes 1 person to believe in you and vouch for your success. Because some schools will only interview students above a certain GPA cutoff, it is important that students with low scores find a way to present themselves to schools. These are a few tips, John used to get the edge over the higher scoring Chris:

The applicant pool. It is not always those with top scores who are selected.

1. Attend National Conferences

I personally missed out on this one. As a premed, I was so focused on my books and extracurricular activities that I didn’t take time to attend any national conferences. I didn’t know that there were scholarships one could get to attend and present at these conferences. Some students had sponsors assist them with their trips. I have since been to a number of these conferences and have been amazed by the growing number of premeds that attend them every year. I have yet to hear a premed student tell me that attending a national conference wasn’t one of their best experiences. It is not good enough to just attend the conference and hang out with your friends. Use these conferences to spark connections with physicians, recruiters, med students and your peers. I’ve met a number of students on this site at conferences and many have stayed in touch.

2. Befriend Med Students

Medical students can be your biggest proponents on your premed journey if you allow them. As a medical, student I had a few premeds who slowly became my friend. I supported those that I genuinely liked and a couple of them eventually made it to medical school even with poor grades. I was able to give them advice that helped them tremendously. I informed them of the right staff to talk with and important functions to attend. A few premed students would show up to our soul food Sunday brunch held by our SNMA organization (which I served as Vice President) and some would show up to our annual “meet the faculty” event held at the home of an attending. There was no better way to network than this.

3. Attend Mission Trips

I never took advantage of this as a premed student but I rank this towards the top on my list of premed extracurricular activities. This is an amazing way to gain clinical experience and also a great way to network with a medical team. The best way to learn about yourself and for others to learn about you is when you are placed under stress working with those who are less privileged. There are few ways to get hands on experience and really feel like a doctor than going on a mission trip. It will hopefully reinvigorate you and allow you to form unbreakable bonds. The doctor you work with will be an excellent person to write a solid letter of recommendation.

4. Speak to Recruiters

Recruiters want to hear from students. They want to chat with students of diverse backgrounds that fit well with their program. After years of mentoring premed students, we witnessed way too many awesome premeds fail to make it to medical school. Many times those students could not make it to conferences to meet with recruiters and network with doctors. This is why we put in the blood and sweat creating this website so students can connect with recruiters, showcase themselves and learn about their schools. Many students have taken advantage of this and I hope others do the same. Whether it is at a conference or online, recruiters want to be reached. They don’t bite. They just may offer you amazing opportunities you could not get elsewhere.

5. Visit Schools

Would you believe that a student on this site contacted a recruiter and landed a personal tour date? The student was able to visit the campus and learn about it before applying to medical school. It was a great experience and that student left a strong impression on the recruiter. Why not sit in on a grand rounds session, attend morning conference or even a med student lecture if you are allowed. This is the way some premeds go above and beyond. This is how John made it to medical school while Chris spent his time in the library all day.

Whether your scores are stellar or not, as a premed you are in a pool of 53,000 applicants with amazing credentials. These tips can be the difference between getting into medical school and being buried in the pile. Don’t just sit back and expect your numbers and experiences to get you in. Be proactive, make the connections, and start today.  

Do you have any other tips for your peers? I would love to hear from you?

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Alex Trullet

Thank you for posting!

2 years ago

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Reyna Castellanos

This is an awesome article. I am starting from scratch on the pre-med path and the abundance of information is overwhelming and possibly misleading. I will definitely look into medical conferences and look more into my top three schools (USC, UCLA and Stanford)! Thank you!

2 years ago

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Chania Witherspoon

Just now reading this a year later! I am a recent college graduate doing a post bac program before attending medical school! I will definitely use this helpful information in my upcoming year!

7 months ago

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Dr. Daniel

Excellent Chania Witherspoon! Hope it helps.

7 months ago