So you dream of being a doctor but your classes aren’t going as well as you hoped. Don’t worry. Plenty of others share that experience. But where do you stand?
Do medical schools accept C’s?
Yes. You can get into some medical school with C’s but it significantly limits your options. You’ll need to retake prerequisite courses to raise your overall GPA, while also having an exceptional application. Failing that, there are a few other options.
In this article, we’ll talk more about what these are. You’ll learn:
- Where (and when) you can get into med school with C’s
- The impact of low grades
- Alternative options you may want to explore
- My own story of studying medicine with “less-than-competitive grades”
Ready to find out more? Let’s go.
Can You Get into Med School with C’s?
As a student at a European med school myself, I can confirm, you can get into med school here with just C’s.
The minimum requirements of my own University, Medical University Varna, are (for British students taking A-levels) grade C and above. But it’s a similar story for a lot of other med schools on the continent (as well as abroad) also.
The truth is that there are lots of U.S., 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.
Getting in is possible if other parts of your application are exceptional.
How to overcome bad grades on a medical school application
“Bad grades” can be overcome with the following:
- Outstanding personal statements
- Great MCAT (or equivalent medical school entrance) scores
- Strong healthcare-related work experience
Other times low grades 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.
Where having straight A’s helps is when you’re coming fresh out of high school or college. At this point, you don’t have enough life experience to flesh out application sections focused on activities and extracurriculars. Or 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.
But if you’re in one of the following positions, straight A’s aren’t entirely necessary:
- 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 experience)
- 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 backgrounds)
- Life science degree holders
Med schools look more favorably on the grades of applicants from these backgrounds.
Their experience (and academic achievements) are proof enough they can most likely cut it in med school.
Why Do Some Medical Schools Accept Students With Average Grades?
Grades may be a good indication of aptitude 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 organizational skills.
The truth is not all students that are 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 exceptionally smart to be a doctor. You just have to be hard-working, willing to listen, and be resilient enough to complete the degree.
These factors matter most.
How Many W’s Are Too Many for Medical School?
A ‘W’ stands for a class withdrawal.
For US-focused 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 if they are for non-science courses.
Of course, you can’t be entirely sure how an admissions board will see W’s (or your grades in general) however.
As selection criteria vary across colleges, and among the decision-makers who sit on the admissions committees, it might not be that big of a deal if you do have a lot of W’s if other areas of your application shine.
If you’re unsure, the best thing to do is contact medical schools directly and ask them about their admissions policy.
That’s the only way to know for 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 most med schools will accept these, it is sometimes seen negatively when weighed against other candidates taking the same courses through a normal academic year.
The problem with summer courses is as follows:
- Their course content is often “thinner” due to a reduced course length
- The exam environment may not be seen as “competitive” compared to the normal academic period
I go into all this in far more depth in the following article…
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 a higher GPA.
But there’s nothing stopping you from the taking time required to improve your application and make it more competitive.
Here are some common rules to follow that can help you do that:
- 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 where you scored B’s or C’s
- Communicate your experience gained from retakes in your application (tailor it to explain how your resilience and attitude helped you overcome the initial setback)
- Focus on other areas of your application that could help differentiate you: volunteer work, clinical experience, shadowing, research etc.
Hard work (and a little luck) can definitely help you overcome bad grades.
International Medical School
If all of the above sounds near impossible, you still have the option of applying to study medicine abroad.
There are many countries that offer internationally recognized medical degrees that are taught in English.
Most also have flexible admissions criteria that are more likely to overlook “poor grades.”
Here are some examples:
- 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
Besides myself (check out my about page for more on my story), an American national, MA to MD, has a pretty good story about how he left the U.S. to study medicine in Poland.
It’s cheaper too, as he explains in the following video…
To sum things up; you definitely still can get into med school with C’s.
The journey may obviously be tougher, and the decisions you make may not be easy, but it is still possible.
Research what options are available to you and what you can do to improve your application. Don’t give up just because you came up short in a couple of classes.
It happens to the best of us!
Image Credit: @nate_dumlao at Unsplash
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.