Although it’s possible to get into medical school with C’s it does limit your options. US-based students might want to retake pre-med courses to raise their overall grade point average (GPA). But there’s also the option of going to international medical schools in Europe too, especially institutions where grade boundaries are relaxed.
As a student at a European med school myself I know this all too well. The minimum requirements of my own University, Medical University Varna, are (for British students taking A-levels) grade C and above. But it’s also a similar story for a lot of other med schools on the continent also.
The truth is there are lots of US, Indian, German, British students etc studying in these med schools with less than “ideal grades”. But there are also students with C’s to their names studying in top tier American and British med schools also. It depends on the strength of their application.
A lot of the time “bad grades” can be overcome with outstanding personal statements, great MCAT (or equivalent medical school entrance) scores and a good amount of healthcare experience. Other times they can be overcome by looking at your options and identifying other opportunities. Like those abroad.
The point is; don’t be deterred from thinking med school (and becoming a doctor) is off the table just because you have C’s. It isn’t.
And don’t listen to the elite high-achieving med students on YouTube and the internet either. I’m a med student studying with a B (chemistry) to my name. Many other people I know have C’s too.
Do You Need Straight A’s To Get Into Medical School?
No, but it helps.
This is true of almost every country. Scoring as high as possible opens up more options. Possibly even the chance of scholarships and obtaining free-rides to med school too.
Where having straight A’s helps is when you’re coming fresh out of high-school or college the first time around. At this point you have little life experience to help put together an outstanding application. Or much in career experience.
To compete at this level, and to separate yourself from the thousands of other applicants, scoring straight A’s is one way of doing that. It’s a differentiator.
Where it might not be necessary however is if you’re in one of the following positions:
- A non-traditional applicant (like me – you have career experience and a life outside school)
- A nurse, physician assistant, pharmacist or ther healthcare professional looking to become a doctor (due to extensive healthcare-related exposure)
- A minority or special circumstance applicant (there are special programs in the US, UK and other countries for students of certain family income levels and ethnicities)
- Life science degree holders
Med schools look more favorably on the grades of applicants from these backgrounds because of other factors.
Why Do Some Medical Schools Accept Students With Average Grades?
Grades may be a good indication of apitude but they’re not the be-all and end-all when it comes to becoming a successful doctor (see my article: why medical school grades don’t matter). Med school application boards are aware of this. They also value other qualities in their applicants; including maturity, responsibility and organisational skills.
The truth is not all students accepted with straight A’s into med school will become doctors either. Some will become disillusioned and quit. Others might fail out for other reasons.
As I’ve said before; you don’t have to be smart to be a doctor. You just have to be hard working, willing to listen and be resilient enough to complete the degree.
How Many W’s Are Too Many for Medical School?
A ‘W’, when it comes to a med school application, stands for a class withdrawal. For US-centered applicants taking pre-med courses, this can sometimes be a worry. Too many W’s (anything more than five) may be taken as a bad sign – particularly as it looks like you’re trying to keep your grades high by avoiding failure (“grade grubbing”).
A couple of W’s on a transcript shouldn’t be a worry. Even less so if they are for non-science courses. So don’t feel they’ll reflect badly on an application, especially if you do score well in other core science areas; chemistry, anatomy and physiology, physics and biology etc.
Of course you can’t be entirely sure how an admissions board will see W’s (or your grades in general). As selection criteria varies across Universities, and among the decision-makers who sit on the boards, it might not be that big of a deal if you do have a lot of W’s but other areas of your application are strong.
The best thing to do is contact med school’s directly and ask them for their policy and criteria. That’s the only way to be sure.
Do Medical Schools Accept Summer Courses?
US students can sometimes make up missing prerequisite courses for a med school application by taking courses in the summer. Although med schools will accept these, it is sometimes seen negatively when weighed against other candidates taking the same courses through a normal academic year. But again this is down to individual admissions criteria.
The problem with summer courses is as follows:
- Truncated course content due to reduced course length (sometimes not seen favorably)
- The summer course exam environment is not seen as ‘competitive’ as the normal academic period
- Students are limited by only being able to take one course at a time
Stronger students who take summer classes to do higher level coursework the following year can actually be at an advantage however. But this comes down to the course catalogue of your institution as to whether it’s a possibility.
The best use summer however, especially in terms of building a strong application, is probably to shadow a physician or gain relevant work experience.
What Can I Do to Maximise My Chances of Getting Into Medical School?
Students with C grades, as already mentioned, will have fewer options available to them than those with higher GPA’s or better overall grades. But there’s nothing stopping them the taking time required to improve an application and come across more competitive.
Here are some common tips that could help:
- Don’t panic: low grades don’t mean it’s the end of the line
- Evaluate your study techniques, work out how to study more effectively and alter your strategy
- Retake courses in which you recieived a ‘C’
- Communicate your experiences learning from retakes in your application (explain how resilience and attitude helped you bounce back)
- Focus on other areas of your application that could differentiate you: volunteer work, clinical experience, shadowing, research etc
If these options aren’t available and you’re open to option of applying abroad, here are some countries and Universities offering English international med degrees worth checking out. Each has a flexible admissions criteria that is often willing to overlook “poor grades.”
- Romania: “Vasile Goldis” Western University of Arad
- Bulgaria: Medical University Varna, Plovdiv, Sofia, Pleven
- Serbia: University of Belgrade
- Italy: Check out the various English international programs (admissions is solely based on your IMAT score)
- Czech Republic: Charles University (see this review), Masaryk University, Palacky University
- Hungary: Semmelweis University, Debrecen, Szeged
- Poland: Gdansk, Warsaw, Lodz, Wroclaw
Best advice is to search around for the individual requirements of places you’re potentially interested in. You’ll find that many put emphasis on individual entrance tests. So don’t worry about your grades.
You can get into med school with C’s but the journey might be a little tougher. Research what options are available to you and what you can do to bolster an application before giving up. Hopefully this article has shown you that it’s definitely not the end of the line.
Image Credit: @nate_dumlao at Unsplash