Graduate School

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

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)