What’s the Average GPA for Medical School Matriculants?

Medical schools view applications holistically. This means that they’ll look at all the elements of your application, from your MCAT score to your extracurriculars, as a package so they can understand each of your achievements in context. At the same time, medical school admissions can be an area where there is a great emphasis on numbers, especially the two biggest quantitative admissions factors: your MCAT score and GPA. Because these are two objective measurements that can be compared apples-to-apples across applicants, your MCAT score and GPA will play a large role in admissions officers’ decision to move forward with your application.
Interestingly, by the time you’re ready to apply to medical school, toward the end of your Junior year at the earliest, most of your opportunities to affect your GPA will be behind you. After all, you’ll only have about a year or so of classes left, and those won’t be reflected in your initial application. If you’re reading this in your Junior year, it’s important to remember that if your GPA isn’t where you’d like it to be, you can overcome a low GPA and gain admission to medical school. If you’re reading this early on in your college career, know that the hours you put into these early classes will be the building blocks to a great application.
Luckily for applicants, information about average GPAs for applicants and successful matriculants is made public by the AAMC through their FACTS tables. In addition to the information you’ll find here, there’s a lot more information you can find through the AAMC resources. One caveat: Medians, means, and averages are just that. Don’t let these snapshots discourage you from pursuing your dream of becoming a doctor if your numbers aren’t there yet.

What is the average GPA for medical school?

When viewing your application, medical school admissions officers are actually given three GPAs. Your science and math courses are considered according to what is called the BPCM (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Math) GPA, and your non-science courses (humanities, social sciences, language, etc.) are considered as a separate GPA. The third GPA that schools see is the overall aggregate.
Each medical school has its own average GPA for the incoming class (information for MD programs can be easily found in the Medical School Admission Requirements guidebook and often on the school’s own website), so it’s important to do your research so you know where your own GPA fits in within the school’s range. Are you right on track? Slightly below? Way ahead? Regardless of where you fall, you’ll be able to make a plan for a competitive application with this information.
The national averages for the 52,777 applicants in 2018-2019 were as follows:

  • BPCM GPA: 3.47
  • Non-science GPA: 3.71
  • Overall GPA: 3.57

The national averages for the 21,622 who matriculated in 2018-2019 were:

  • BPCM GPA: 3.65
  • Non-science GPA: 3.8
  • Overall GPA: 3.72

What does this mean for you? As you can see, the average GPAs for those who accepted a seat in medical school is significantly higher than the average of all applicants. This means that your GPA needs to fall much closer to the average for matriculants but more specifically, the average for matriculants to the schools you are applying to.

What can I do if I have a below-average GPA?

Unlike the MCAT, for which everyone starts with a clean slate, your GPA is set during your college career, usually as you’re still figuring out how to succeed in this challenging environment. So what can you do if you’re applying now and your GPA isn’t quite in the ranges above?
  • Explain the GPA tactfully.

    You have the opportunity to bring up any blips in your GPA on both the primary application (as part of the Personal Statement) and your secondary applications (in one of the essays or as an addendum to the application). Some secondary applications even provide a space for pieces of your application that you’d like to explain.
    When talking about a problem in your GPA, explain what happened but don’t make excuses and don’t speculate as to what could have been. 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 will help you become a better medical student. Explain that to the medical schools.

  • Show an upward trajectory.

    As a college freshman and even as a sophomore, you’re still getting used to a new environment and new expectations, so it’s normal to feel a little academically wobbly at first. If your GPA shows an initial struggle and then a redemption in your subsequent semesters, that’s a good thing. Your GPA should be trending up.

  • Become an MCAT rockstar.

    According to Kaplan’s latest medical school admissions officer survey, two of the most important factors in admission are the GPA and MCAT score. Thus, falling below the average GPA for medical school matriculants can be significantly abated with a stellar MCAT score. Prepare wisely and work towards your target MCAT score. Remember that your MCAT score is the one factor you can change in only a few months of dedicated effort and it’s entirely in your hands.

  • Retake courses or consider 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). Masters and post-bacc programs may also afford you opportunities to become involved in research or shadowing, thus helping your application portfolio that much more. You will want to show that you are academically prepared for the medical school curriculum and that you have a strong foundation for the science you’ll learn in MS1 and MS2.

[NEXT: What are the prerequisites for Medical School?]

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