High MCAT Low GPA..what schools should I apply to

Hi all! I’m a rising college senior (one semester left) needing some help making up a list of medical schools

-AA female

-cgpa: 3.5

-sgpa: 3.2

-mcat: taking very soon and i’m scoring consistent 517-520

-B.A Biology

-Africana studies minor

-President of my university’s Black Student Alliance (biggest political org and black org on campus

-a current assistant teacher at a preschool in an underserved community

-wrote illustrated and published a children’s book geared towards young black girls

-Clinical hours: 250 as a CNA during peak of covid

Clinical volunteering: current EMT at local firehouse

  • 1 year and probably about 100 hours of biochem research…no publications but one poster presentation but I don’t even know it I should mention it bc I left the lab after a year because I truly dreaded going.

-publication from an independent research class project in Africana studies

-shadowing starting this summer

  • non clinical volunteer work has mostly been through Black Student Alliance (volunteering as an org through projects I led, but I definitely need more this summer

The things that I’m lacking in (shadowing, volunteer work) I will be working on ASAP

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Have you met with your college’s med school advisor yet? Do that ASAP!


My school’s premed advisor is terrible and very condescending. I promise you if I went to her she would tell me to find another career choice because my gpa is too low. You need a 3.8 gpa to even be eligible to fill out the form to go meet with her.

Does your college have a pre-med committee that writes committee letters of recommendation that medical schools will expect from applicants from colleges with pre-med committees? At some colleges with pre-med committees, they will only write such letters for the pre-meds most likely to get admitted, which may include screens based on college GPA.

No we don’t have one and I’m not applying until next cycle when I’ll already have graduated, so I don’t believe I’ll be expected to have help or letters specifically from my schools pre health department. I’ve actually never heard of that. I thought LOR could be from virtually anyone (professor, boss etc.)

Your advisor may be condescending but you are going to need her, so put that aside. You may discover that you are a solid candidate for an overseas med school- you’ll need an expert to help you figure out the pros and cons of that approach. You may discover that you are a plausible candidate for DO programs but not MD programs and you’ll need to figure out if that’s an avenue worth pursuing. Or you may learn that a Post-Bacc program is your best route to med school, and you’ll learn about the pros and cons (cost! ) of that approach.

But ignoring the advice because it isn’t what you want to hear is the wrong strategy.


Ok thanks. It’s not that it’s not what I want to hear, it’s more so of not wanting to hear yet again, toxic premed culture that tells people you’re not going to be able to be a doctor and specifically an MD if you don’t have a 4.0, 520+. I know that a 3.5 does not keep me out of the running for MD especially with my life story, personal statement and extracurriculars. It just means I need a more well rounded application. And as I mentioned, I can’t even go apply to see her without a 3.8.

I’m a big believer in Plan B’s in life.

You’ve got Plan A- take the MCAT’s, work on the other components you’ll need for a successful application.

But even if you had a 4.0 and top MCAT score you’d need Plan B; it’s not shameful to be planning for worst case scenario. So worst case- you apply and don’t get in, then what???

You need Plan B. And an advisor can help with that. DO, off-shore, Post-Bacc. Get a Master’s in Public Health or Epidemiology.

There is a lot about medicine and health care that’s toxic btw… premed culture is the least of it. If you are shadowing a POC physician you will see up close what toxic looks like! And that will be from patients, other hospital staff. You can’t let an advisor get to you so early in the game!

Good luck.


I don’t think DO school is a good plan B. And I’m not sure I would recommend foreign medical schools…because you would still need to do a residency here, and those are harder for foreign med school grads to get.

Would you be interested in any of the HBCU Medical schools? Perhaps this would be worth exploring.

@WayOutWestMom any advice for this student?


Absolutely. All HBCUs are on my list already (a good part of my application lined up right with their mission statements). While I don’t support the stigma against DO and offshore, those aren’t my Plan B…I also feel like when you know that you have a Plan B it just takes away time and energy from your Plan A if you know you have a fallback plan. My plan B is keep applying until I succeed…hope that doesn’t make me crazy!

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Keep applying…but definitely have a plan B. Remember that a very large %age of medical school applicants get NO acceptances.

I have a DO doc in my family…no bias against them here. But they are as competitive for admissions as medical schools.

Re: foreign…do what you want…but do look at the track record of any foreign medical school in terms of attrition, and residency placements. Some have HUGE attrition. Others have less than wonderful residency placement records.

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It doesn’t make you crazy but it makes you uninformed. You cannot “keep applying until you succeed”. Google it…

I have no idea what stigma you are talking about with DO. My primary care physician is a DO, he regularly wins my city’s “Best Doctor” award and has published extensively based on his research and clinical experience. The hospitals in my area are filled with DO’s (big region in the “prestige obsessed” Northeast).

Plan B is not a fallback. It’s called Risk Management, and it’s something that every aspiring physician needs to understand. Would YOU see an oncologist who was treating you, who would say “This protocol has a 70% chance of success. If it doesn’t work, we don’t know what the heck we’ll do”. You would find yourself another oncologist!


You’d be surprised. SDN is riddled with students saying how they would never do DO bc it’s not as good as MD which is ridiculous…some of the best doctors i’ve had were DO. I misspoke…I wouldn’t keep applying with the same stats. If I got rejected multiple times I would assume that it has to be because of the areas that my application are lacking (mostly gpa) in which case a masters or post bacc would be beneficial. I know several people who have gone through premed/ med school without a premed advisor. I have a mentor who i has been MD for 20+ years right now and I feel like he’s helpful enough to the point where I don’t have to see my advisor honestly.

The first question would be what is your sGPA grade trend. Did you have a terrible first year and then have an upward trajectory?
If you make between a 517-520, you are set. However… a lot of people say they do well on practice tests but don’t replicate that on the real thing.
Apply to all your in-state schools. Then depending on your MCAT, make a list of about 10 schools (including your in-state), but that depends on your MCAT.
A DO school is a good option. I would not recommend an offshore school.

If you score well on the MCAT, you will be a viable candidate for US med schools.

Please, please, please do not apply to off shore medical schools. Their fail out rates are very high and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for US-IMGs to Match into residency. It would be tragedy to end up $400K in debt and no options to ever practice medicine.

I would recommend that you apply broadly to your in-state publics, HBCUs and DO programs. While your sGPA is on the very low side for MD programs, it’s possible you’d get some love from your in-state schools, particularly if you live in a southern or midwestern state. HBCUs and DO school are a safer bet.

BTW, you don’t need a pre-med advisor to apply to med school. D1 (a career changer with some blemishes on her academic record due to a bumpy start in college) totally avoided the pre-med office at her undergrad, applied without committee letter and still got accepted to med schools. (Schools plural, as in more than one.) She’s now an attending in her first choice specialty.

If you don’t get any love from any med schools during your upcoming application cycle, you need to take time off to strengthen your application. The easiest way would be to do a DIY post bacc at inexpensive public college or university. Take 15-20 hours of UL bio credits and do well.

A higher risk option is a SMP (Special Master’s Program) offered at college with an associated med school. High risk-high reward, but many have excellent track records at placing students into med school.

Good luck on your MCAT!

P.S. Invest $30 in MSAR. It’ll be the best $30 you’ll spend on your path to med school.It will help you decide which MD programs are worth spending your application $$$ on.

P.P.S. MedMAR is free and the registry may help you gain additional help in the med school application process. It will alert med school diversity recruiters to your application.

One more AMCAS service that might be helpful-- AMCAS’s Fee Assistance Program FAP gives you reduced prices for study materials, test registration and offers free/reduced cost primary and secondary fees. Some school will also pay for your interview travel if you qualify for FAP.


The trend isn’t anything consistent. I had a really rough transition into college so freshman year wasn’t great. Improved a lot sophomore year both semesters, then junior year I got really sick and had to drop out for a semester while in treatment. Then I came back in the spring of my junior year and was finishing all my coursework from the fall+the new spring coursework. It was a lot to take on and I didn’t do really well.

Take your MCAT first and see how you do.
You know that your GPA ain’t great. An excellent MCAT score will help. Being URM will be a big boost.
For now, focus on your MCAT. Otherwise, all of this is irrelevant.
Agree on spending $ on MSAR.

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Here’s another organization worth investigating:
Student National Medical Association

Student National Medical Association (SNMA) is committed to supporting current and future underrepresented minority medical students, addressing the needs of underserved communities, and increasing the number of clinically excellent, culturally competent and socially conscious physicians.

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Did I miss where you said what college you are at? Because as much as people say it doesn’t matter, it can make a little difference.

I think if your MCAT is good, you have a shot. There are lots of new less competitive med schools. You might not end up in your dream city though. But I would take a year or more off to pad your CV a bit 1st.

Nothing wrong with DO school. You just might have a tougher time matching into certain specialties like dermatology or gastroenterology.

Please list the “lots” of new medical schools.