As you start getting ready to apply
to med school, it's a good idea to request a copy of
your transcript from your undergraduate school or
schools. You probably already know your GPA, but looking
at your entire undergraduate education on a single piece
of paper will definitely give you a different
Naturally, a solid GPA is essential
when applying to med school, but admissions committees
look at more than just that one number. They look at all
your grades, especially in those classes that matter
most to med schools. If you have even one poor grade, it
can stick out like a sore thumb on your transcript.
While you can't change your
transcript, you have some options to try to remedy this
kind of problem. For example, if you got a bad grade in
a freshman chemistry class, but you've since gotten good
grades in chemistry and a good score on the Physical
Sciences section of your MCAT, you can simply try to
explain the bad grade to the admissions committee in an
However, if the problem is worse
than one bad grade, you may need to take more extensive
measures. For example, if you never mastered any of your
chemistry classes and got only an average score on the
Physical Sciences portion of your MCAT, you might want
to take additional steps to show med school admissions
committees that you can handle the subject.
One option is to create an
alternate transcript – in other words, take an additional
course or courses at a local college or university or
even online. You can take the courses on a credit or
This can help lessen the damage on
your original transcript in a couple of ways. First, you
can show the admissions committee that you can get a
good grade and master the subject in question. Second,
you can demonstrate your determination and dedication by
going the extra mile to prove you're a good candidate
for medical school.
Now, don't get the wrong idea. If
you have poor grades and a low GPA, an alternate
transcript won't provide a miracle cure. However, if
your grades are otherwise good and you have just a
couple that you wish you could improve, an alternate
transcript can help you be more competitive when
applying to med school and improve your candidacy with
an admissions committee.
But before taking on additional courses, ask yourself a
Is the class at an advanced
enough level to compensate for my poor grade(s)?
Getting an A in an introductory chemistry class
won't show an admissions committee that you can
handle the subject at a graduate level.
Is the class credible?
Make sure you take a course that an admissions
committee will see as credible. Be prepared to give
specific information about the subject matter
covered in the class, as well as the teacher's
qualifications and standards.
Will the class provide any
benefits other than an alternate transcript?
Before dedicating the time and money to additional
coursework, think about whether what you learn will
actually help you in your future studies.
While an alternate transcript won't save you from a slew
of bad grades, it can give you that little boost you
need to compensate for an isolated poor performance here
or there. If you do decide to pursue an alternate
transcript, make sure you do well in the class or
classes. The whole point is to show you can clear the initial academic qualifications
hurdle, i.e. handle the
subject in question and prove you have the motivation and
dedication to succeed.