How to Address Bad Grades in a Medical School Application

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Getting into medical school is a challenging task because medical schools are highly selective when choosing applicants. If you have bad grades on your transcript, you may be asked to address these during the interview process. There are a number of ways to go about addressing your poor academic performance. Whether or not admissions committees will buy into your explanations likely will vary from school to school.

  • Address your grades in your application essay. Many medical schools require that you write an essay addressing your desire to go to medical school, why you wish to attend that program and how and why you consider yourself to be a qualified applicant. It is a given that the admissions committees will be reading your essay with your transcripts readily available as part of your application packet. One of the best ways to address bad grades is to proactively address your deficiencies. Medical school admissions committees are more likely to appreciate a candidate who addresses his own deficiencies rather than one who attempts to hide or ignore them. .

  • Emphasize the positive. Even though you will need to address your grade deficiencies, make sure that you emphasize the positive aspects of your undergraduate experience above the low points in your academic career. If you spend too much time addressing your poor grade performance, you may send a signal that you are overly self-conscious about your grades and have not truly realized the value of your education.

  • Explain what you have learned from the experience. Dr. Jeremiah Fleenor, author of the book "The Medical School Interview: Secrets and a System for Success," indicates the need to show that you are able to learn from your experiences, whether they be good or bad. By taking ownership of the situation and not overemphasizing excuses you will be letting the admissions committee know that you are someone who takes control rather than someone who is ruled by his own circumstances. Also, by knowing why you received your bad grades you will be showing the admissions committee that you are cognizant of your faults. Make sure you convey your awareness of the source of your bad grades but do not belabor the point.

  • Demonstrate your response to the situation. Fleenor emphasizes showing that you have addressed your deficiencies and have the fortitude to make it through the rigors of medical school. Perhaps you received a poor grade early on in your college career but have made great grades since that time. Or, perhaps, you had a tough time with one particular class that would be important for medical school. It might benefit you to repeat that class, even if you have graduated, just to show how serious you are about addressing your weaknesses and that you have mastered the material.

    You should also take every step possible to score as high as you can on your MCAT exam. Doing so will take the focus off any bad grades and show the admissions committee something regarding your capabilities. MCAT scores are but one way the committee will evaluate your application, but it is a fairly important one. If you only score marginally well on the MCAT you may need to take it again until you score high enough to be considered in a higher percentile rank.

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