Applying to Physician Assistant school with a low grade might seem like a recipe for rejection, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Of course, the best way to maximize your chances of acceptance is to have only outstanding grades, but things happen, and it isn’t always possible.  There is nothing about having a low grade (or two) that means you won’t be a great physician assistant.  So what do you do?

We consider a “low” grade to be:

  • Any grade less than a “B” in any science or medicine course, particularly those that are required for admission,  OR
  • Any grade less than a “C” in any other kind of course.

When applying to physician assistant school with a low grade, address it directly

Low grades attract unwanted, critical attention to your application.  Failing to speak to the circumstances surrounding them is a grave error.  Addressing it is usually accomplished by speaking about it in your CASPA narrative/essay/personal statement.  This is yet another example of why writing a strong essay is so important.

What to say about a low grade

First, be honest.  You don’t have to say “I hated organic chemistry so I had usually with friends instead of cracking the book.”  You can present it in a positive (or at least neutral) light.  Second, tell them how you know it won’t happen again.

Why did you get that low grade?  Here’s a sample list of explanations that (as long as they’re true) can be overcome, along with how you might explain them.

  1. You went through a divorce, personal medical crisis, or a family loss – you have dealt with it emotionally with therapy, self-reflection, time, etc.
  2. You had an addiction that took you away from your studies – you are now solidly in recovery and the experience has helped you to grow as a person and as a candidate
  3. You were younger and less focused/motivated/organized when you got the bad grade – in the years since it happened, you have matured.
  4. You missed/bombed a particularly important assignment /exam due to an oversight – explain it briefly and what you learned from it

Notice that all of these are chances not only to reduce the impact of that low grade in the minds of your application’s readers, they are chances to explain how that problem has helped you to grow/persist/improve.

Don’t for applying to physician assistant school with a low grade

  • Don’t blame anyone else for your low grade – take the responsibility.
  • Don’t write more than two or three sentences on it.  More than that can make things worse
  • Don’t leave out how you have fixed the problem.  The committee will have an easier time overlooking it if they know it won’t be repeated in the future.
  • Don’t chalk it up to being “bad” at a particular subject.  Why would you would be any better at it in PA school?

Harder Cases

If you are applying to physician assistant school with bad grade you received for a reason that isn’t flattering, just explain it in the most positive and accurate light that you can.  Ask some friends to read your explanation and tell you which one looks/sounds the best.  If you can’t explain it convincingly, consider retaking the class.