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Articles / Applying to College / Will Minimum Credits and Pass/Fail Grades Hurt Med School Applicant?

Will Minimum Credits and Pass/Fail Grades Hurt Med School Applicant?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | July 6, 2012

Question: I'm considering applying to med school or some kind of graduate school program in health or sciences after I get my degree. Will taking the minimum number of required credits every year affect how my application is viewed? and what about opting for the P/NP option on some of the courses I find difficult?

Medical school admission committees typically consider these factors:

Grades in pre-med classes

MCAT scores (this is the med-school version of the SAT)

Overall GPA

Demonstrated commitment to medicine or science (e.g., research projects, internships, volunteer work)

Other miscellaneous accomplishments (e.g., extracurricular activities, awards)

Special circumstances (underrepresented minority or unusual background, overcoming obstacles, etc.)


Other science/health grad programs will have similar expectations although you may not need all of the classes that medical schools demand, depending on your goals, and you may need to take a different test.

Taking the minimum number of required credits each year shouldn’t hurt you as long as you earn top grades and meet many of the other factors listed above. However, taking pre-med or pre-health-career classes on a pass/fail basis could work against you. If it’s just a single class and not a critical one (e.g., intro to psychology rather than organic chemistry), it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but your best bet is to present admission committees with actual grades in all your prerequisite courses.

(posted 7/5/2012)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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