Can A High GPA Make Up For A Low MCAT Score?

So you have a really good GPA but something happened while taking the MCAT and you underperformed. No worries, it happens. 

But now the application cycle is coming and you don’t have time to retake the MCAT. Will your stellar GPA make up for the lousy MCAT score?

When it comes to reviewing an applicant, GPA and MCAT are considered in relation to one another. So yes, having a high GPA can save a low MCAT score.

There are plenty of success stories online where students got into med school with a low MCAT score but a high GPA. 

But let me make it clear, this can only help you to a certain degree. Admission’s committee’s look at MCAT scores and GPA together, a 4.0 GPA and a sub-500 MCAT score will raise some eyebrows. 

In order to understand how your situation, in particular, will pan out with acceptance, we need to dissect this question some more.

Is Your MCAT Actually Low?

Before you worry about whether or not your GPA is high enough to make up for your MCAT, let’s confirm that your MCAT actually is too low. 

The average MCAT score for students matriculating in 2022 was 511.9. This is an average, so there are plenty of students that score lower than that. If your score falls near that average, your MCAT score is probably not as low as you think. 

A high GPA will definitely make you a competitive applicant if you score around 511. That 511 number is counting the average for every medical school in the US including schools like Yale and Harvard. There are plenty of medical schools with averages lower than 511 and you can find these on the MSAR. 

Average MCAT score for matriculating medical school students

Even if your MCAT score is well below 511, it might not be far from the average of the schools you plan on applying to. 

Should You Retake The MCAT?

Let’s say you determine that your MCAT score is in fact too low to be competitive. Instead of wondering if your high GPA will make up for the low MCAT, consider retaking the MCAT. 

If timing is the issue, you would be surprised at how much you can improve your MCAT score in as little as a month. I personally increased my score by 12 points in 1 month by completely changing how I studied for this exam! 

Learn more about how I increased my MCAT score significantly in one month of studying. 

If you are concerned about how a retake on the MCAT looks to admissions committees, check out this post on whether or not retaking the MCAT is a bad idea.

Basically, only retake the MCAT if you know you can improve. If you try taking the MCAT again but don’t improve, this doesn’t look great on your application. 

How Important Are GPA and MCAT For Med School?

Premed students have a tendency to think that they can’t get into med school with a low GPA or MCAT. This is simply not true. 

Yes, GPA and your MCAT score are important. They demonstrate how you will perform in a rigorous academic setting. But med schools look at your application holistically. 

Admissions committee members are just as interested in your extracurriculars as they are in your academic stats. Having awesome clinical or volunteer experience can do wonders. I have personally seen students get into medical school with low 3 GPAs and low 500 MCAT scores due to some amazing extracurricular experiences. 

My goal is not to make you feel comfortable with bad grades but rather to get rid of that hopeless feeling that med school is unobtainable. 

Focus On Other Aspects Of Your Med School Application

Instead of relying on a high GPA to make up for a low MCAT, focus on other areas that you can improve without having to improve your MCAT. 

I mentioned the importance of extracurriculars in the previous section. Do you have a significant amount of clinical experience? Have you volunteered a lot? 

Sometimes, the experience doesn’t have to be about medicine. Med schools are looking for diverse students. If you have any unique hobbies, consider doubling down on those. 

For example, while applying to med school, I was also getting my private pilot license. This added a lot of value to my interviews because it was interesting and made for easy conversations. 

Consider Applying To DO Schools

Finally, if your goal is to get in with a high GPA but low MCAT and you don’t have time for other improvements, consider the DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) route.

Generally speaking, getting into a DO school is easier than getting into an MD school. Aside from one’s pride, there is virtually no difference between the two when it comes to your future practice and what kind of physician/surgeon you want to become.

There are also more new DO schools popping up than MD schools. Getting into a brand new medical school is generally easier than getting to an established one.

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