Low Grade Point Average (GPA) or Questionable Academic Performance
A low grade point average is a serious issue that is very difficult to overcome. While there may be numerous reasons why applicants have a low grade point average, it does not mitigate the concerns the Admissions Committee may have about your ability to complete the rigorous medical school curriculum. Low grades may also represent an applicant’s inability to manage time, prioritize activities or cope well with stress.
Also, you must honestly evaluate your ability to complete the science-intensive curriculum that can equate to approximately 30 semester credit hours per term. While there may have been legitimate reasons why your grades may be lower than other competitive applicants, the courses you take as an undergraduate also serve as a foundation for what you will be learning in medical school. Therefore, if you do not have a solid foundation of undergraduate learning, it will leave you behind other students at the beginning of your medical school career.
There are some things that applicants can do to help in this area. We look at trends in performance, so some applicants take additional sciences courses (we recommend that you complete at least two semesters of full-time course work before reapplying) to demonstrate the ability to be potentially successful in medical school.
Other applicants have gone through formal graduate-level programs like the Master of Science in Medical Science program offered through our Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. While admission into TCOM is not guaranteed, the program has been successful in placing students in a number of medical schools. There is also a national database of programs designed for applicants who are looking to improve their academic credentials at American Association of Medical Colleges.
Rectifying a poor GPA may take years to accomplish. After four years of undergraduate study, it is virtually impossible to make any substantial changes in the actual calculation. The best remedy is to demonstrate how well you can perform now versus how you performed in your earlier work.
For applicants whose poor undergraduate academic performance was more than ten years ago, they should explore applying to medical school under Academic Fresh Start.
Low Course Loads
Completing courses on a part-time basis does not demonstrate the ability to handle the rigorous course work of medical school regardless of how well you do in them. The average semester in medical school is 30 credits in length. Even if you are working full-time while attending college, you should do so with the intention of being a full-time student. Having a GPA of 3.5 while only take 1-2 courses per term will hurt you more than help you. Course loads are as concerning as the grades themselves.
Low MCAT Scores
The MCAT is a standardized index for the Admissions Committee to evaluate applicants from different colleges and universities. If you have a low MCAT score (less than 100 of the 1,282 medical students who enrolled in medical school in the Fall of 2006 had MCAT scores below 24), then you should look to make improvements in this area. If you have only taken the MCAT once, then you should retake the test after you studied the material. Some applicants have taken commercial prep courses or some institutions offer a prep course for their students.
Also, be sure to identify the sections in which you are not performing well. If it is verbal reasoning, you should start reading books or take courses in literature, history or philosophy. The purpose of the verbal reasoning section is to assess your reading comprehension skills and how well you can use information in a timed setting. Sometimes applicants overlook this section, but it is one thirs of your overall score.
Excessive Drops or Withdrawals
There are no opportunities to drop or withdrawal from a course at TCOM. All students complete the curriculum together. Therefore, you must demonstrate that you are capable of handling new material in an immediate fashion. Even if you eventually repeat the course with a good grade, it is a negative attribute to an application to have more than three drops or repeated courses.