Overcoming a Low GPA When Applying to PA School
Of all the possible shortcomings you could have when applying to PA school, having a lackluster GPA is one of the hardest to fix. Taking additional courses on top of what’s required for your major just to raise your GPA isn’t worth the time- especially if you’ve long since graduated. No matter where you fall on the bell curve of GPAs, you should never let yours stop you from applying to PA school.
Finding a path into a PA program can be difficult, but there are ways to improve your attractiveness as a candidate without your overall GPA being deans list quality.
Take (Or Retake) Classes
Depending on your situation and your GPA, this may not be a bad option. If you’re finishing up your last year of an undergraduate program, have graduated within the past year, or have changed majors while working on your bachelors, adding an additional semester or year of classes could boost you over the 3.0 minimum GPA requirement many PA programs have. If you choose to take additional classes, they should be related to the PA profession and should be higher level, so make sure you’ll be able to handle the course load before committing to additional classes.
Prepare For Your GRE
Most programs will require the GRA and many will take both your GRE score and GPA into consideration. While a slightly above average GRE score will not offset a lower than average GPA, showing a drastically improved performance for your GRE will show commitment and will do nothing but play in your favor,. Admissions committees look for upwards trends in grades, so if you took your GRE after your final cumulative GPA was calculated, it will show as an improvement from where you left off.
Focus on Health Care Experience Instead
If your GPA is right at the minimum for your desired program and you worry this may prevent you from being accepted, try to find more health care experience or patient contact experience instead of diving straight into a master’s program or retaking classes. You’ll want to take into consideration how much a semester or year of additional classes could potentially raise your GPA, but generally speaking more health care experience can be much more valuable than a GPA 0.2 higher than the minimum.
Find Valuable Experience
To build off of the last point, you always want to find the highest health care and patient contact experience possible. While most programs will take your GPA and GRE scores into consideration, a decent collection of high quality health care experience can open the door for your chance at admission to your program of choice.
Be Particular With Your Academic References
Every applicant should have at least one letter of recommendation from an academic resource. If you have a low GPA, you’ll want to be very selective about who you pick to write you a letter of recommendation. It’ll benefit you if you can find an academic reference that can speak to who you are and your academic abilities, so try to find someone who will be your cheerleader rather than going directly to someone with the most impressive title.
Just remember, if your GPA is low enough, no amount of health care experience, volunteering, and extracurricular activities will be enough to counteract it! Try to find the lowest GPA needed to be accepted into your desired programs and figure out how many weighted credits it will take to get there. You may find that starting a higher caliber PA program a year later than you expected might not be a bad thing after all!