Getting into medical school is extremely competitive, with thousands of applicants vying for a limited number of seats each year. For many pre-med students, a less than perfect academic record can seem like an insurmountable obstacle to gaining admission.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, it is possible to get into medical school with academic concessions like grade replacement and withdrawals on your transcript. However, you need to offset these concessions by excelling in other areas of your application.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore how academic concessions like repeated classes, withdrawals, and pass/fail grades are interpreted by medical schools. We’ll provide tips on how to mitigate negative impacts through your coursework, MCAT score, experiences, letters of recommendation, and interview performance.

We’ll also look at some real-world examples of applicants who overcame academic difficulties to successfully matriculate at top medical schools.

How Medical Schools View Academic Concessions

When it comes to applying to medical school, many students wonder how academic concessions will be perceived by admissions committees. Academic concessions refer to accommodations made for students who have faced challenges in their academic journey.

These challenges can include repeated classes, grade replacements, withdrawals, or pass/fail grades. Let’s take a closer look at how medical schools view these concessions.

Repeated Classes and Grade Replacement

Medical schools understand that students may face difficulties in certain courses and may need to repeat them. In fact, some medical schools even encourage students to retake courses to demonstrate their commitment to improvement.

However, it is important to note that excessive repeats or a pattern of poor performance can still raise concerns for admissions committees.

Grade replacement is another academic concession that medical schools may consider. Some institutions allow students to replace a low grade with a higher one if they retake the course. This can be beneficial for applicants who have shown significant improvement in their academic performance.


Withdrawals from courses can occur for a variety of reasons, such as personal or medical issues. Medical schools understand that these situations can arise and typically take them into account during the application process.

However, it is crucial for applicants to provide a clear explanation for any withdrawals and demonstrate how they have learned from these experiences.

Pass/Fail Grades

Some students may choose to take certain courses on a pass/fail basis instead of receiving a traditional letter grade. Medical schools understand that pass/fail grading systems can be used to explore different areas of interest or to reduce stress during the pre-medical journey.

However, it is important for applicants to ensure they have a strong overall academic record, as pass/fail grades may not provide as much insight into their abilities compared to traditional letter grades.

It is worth noting that while medical schools consider academic concessions, they also evaluate other aspects of an applicant’s profile, such as MCAT scores, extracurricular activities, research experience, and letters of recommendation.

Admissions committees aim to assess an applicant’s overall potential to succeed in medical school and become a competent physician.

For more information on how medical schools view academic concessions, you can visit the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website.

Mitigating Factors to Getting Into Med School with Academic Concessions

Applying to medical school can be a daunting process, especially if you have academic concessions. However, there are several mitigating factors that can increase your chances of getting accepted despite these challenges.

Show an Upward Trend in Academics

One way to overcome academic concessions is to demonstrate an upward trend in your academic performance. Admissions committees understand that everyone faces difficulties at some point in their academic journey.

If you can show that you have learned from your mistakes and have consistently improved your grades over time, it can be a strong indicator of your commitment and resilience.

According to a study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical schools value applicants who have shown improvement in their academic performance. They recognize that a temporary setback or a challenging circumstance does not define a student’s ability to succeed in medical school.

Excel on the MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a crucial component of the medical school application process. A high MCAT score can help compensate for any academic concessions. Focus on preparing and studying diligently for the exam to demonstrate your academic abilities and potential.

According to data published by the AAMC, applicants who score above the 90th percentile on the MCAT have a significantly higher acceptance rate compared to those with lower scores. This emphasizes the importance of performing well on the exam to offset any academic setbacks.

Have Meaningful Experiences and Glowing Recommendations

Medical schools also value applicants who have meaningful experiences in healthcare or related fields. Engaging in volunteer work, shadowing physicians, or conducting research can demonstrate your dedication and passion for medicine.

These experiences can help offset any academic concessions by showing your commitment to the field.

Additionally, strong letters of recommendation from professors, advisors, or healthcare professionals who can attest to your abilities and potential can make a significant impact on your application. Admissions committees value credible endorsements that highlight your strengths and potential for success in medical school.

Ace the Interview

The interview is an opportunity for you to showcase your personal qualities and convince the admissions committee that you are a strong candidate despite any academic concessions. Prepare thoroughly for the interview by researching the school, practicing common interview questions, and reflecting on your experiences and motivations for pursuing a career in medicine.

During the interview, emphasize your growth mindset, resilience, and ability to overcome challenges. Show your understanding of your academic concessions and how you have learned and grown from them. This can help the admissions committee see your potential and commitment to becoming a successful physician.

Remember, while academic concessions may present challenges, they do not necessarily diminish your chances of getting into medical school. By demonstrating an upward trend in academics, excelling on the MCAT, having meaningful experiences and glowing recommendations, and acing the interview, you can mitigate the impact of these concessions and increase your chances of acceptance.

Applicant Examples and Case Studies

Applicant with Low Starting GPA and Upward Trend

One example of a successful applicant with academic concessions is a student who had a low starting GPA but showed a significant upward trend. This applicant may have faced personal challenges or difficulties early on in their academic career that impacted their grades.

However, they were able to overcome these challenges and demonstrate their potential through their subsequent academic performance. Admissions committees understand that sometimes students face obstacles that can affect their grades, and they appreciate seeing a clear improvement over time.

It’s important for applicants in this situation to address their low GPA in their personal statement or application materials. They should explain the reasons for their initial struggles and highlight the steps they took to improve their academic standing.

Additionally, strong letters of recommendation from professors or mentors who can attest to the applicant’s growth and potential can further strengthen their case.

Applicant with Lots of Withdrawals and Great MCAT

Another example is an applicant who may have a high number of course withdrawals on their transcript but has achieved an exceptional score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). While withdrawals can raise concerns about an applicant’s commitment or ability to handle the rigorous demands of medical school, a high MCAT score can help offset these concerns.

Medical schools often place a significant emphasis on the MCAT as it is considered a predictor of an applicant’s ability to succeed in medical school. A strong MCAT score can demonstrate the applicant’s aptitude for the medical field and their ability to handle the academic rigor.

It is important for applicants in this situation to highlight their MCAT score in their application materials and explain any extenuating circumstances that may have led to the withdrawals. Providing a strong rationale for the withdrawals, such as health issues or personal circumstances, can help alleviate concerns and showcase the applicant’s potential.

Applicant with Pass/Fail Pre-Med Courses

Some applicants may have taken pre-med courses on a pass/fail basis, which means that their grades are not reflected in traditional letter grades. While this may raise questions about the applicant’s academic performance, it does not automatically disqualify them from getting into medical school.

Admissions committees understand that some undergraduate institutions offer pass/fail options for certain courses, and they take this into consideration when evaluating applicants. It is important for applicants with pass/fail pre-med courses to provide additional evidence of their academic abilities, such as strong performance in other science-related courses or research experiences.

Letters of recommendation from professors who can speak to the applicant’s abilities and potential can also play a crucial role in highlighting their qualifications.

It is recommended for applicants in this situation to address their pass/fail courses in their application materials and explain the reasons behind their decision to take these courses. They should emphasize their dedication to the medical field and their ability to handle the academic demands of medical school.


Getting into medical school with academic concessions on your transcript is challenging but very possible with the right overall application. While repeated classes, withdrawals, and pass/fail grades will raise scrutiny, you can overcome this by demonstrating growth and excellence in other areas.

The keys are showing an upward academic trend, scoring very competitively on the MCAT, having outstanding experiences/recommendations, and interviewing strongly about your path. If you make a compelling case that you are prepared to succeed in medicine despite earlier struggles, many medical schools will still welcome your application.

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