Q&A: Physics Major with Low GPA, Will Schools Consider the Degree of Difficulty of My Coursework?

Hi Sharon!

I’m an undergraduate physics major, and in the last few months I’ve realized that I don’t want to do physics past my bachelor’s. I’ve always loved animals, and the main reason I am a physics major is because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated high school. I now know I want to be a veterinarian, and my top choice in school is UC-Davis. I’m a first semester junior, which means I’ll graduate in May 2013 with my Bachelor of Science is physics. I’m working on getting my pre-reqs at a local community college since my university doesn’t offer upper level chemistry and biology. My concern with applying to any vet school is that my GPA is currently 3.10/4.00, and I’ve noticed that median GPAs for accepted students, especially for out of resident students, is around 3.5-3.6. Do graduate schools consider the degree of difficulty of courses taken? I feel that the classes I take are much more challenging than core classes in other degree programs, hence the lower GPA. I do have a lot of research experience in physics…do you think that the admissions committee would consider the success I’ve had in my chosen undergrad field instead of seeing where I fall short compared to the typical bio major? 

To give you some perspective on what my application will look like: in the last few months, I’ve been hired at a local vet clinic as a general hand and started volunteering at the county humane society and at a local horse ranch. I’m really leaning toward an equine track but still considering a small/mixed animal. I’m the philanthropy chair of my sorority and I’m also a member of science clubs. I’ve also been studying intensely for the GRE and attended a seminar; I expect to do very well.

I guess my true question is whether most vet programs will value my unique-ness and look at how I differ from their standard  applicant, as well as weighing my GPA differently. I’m getting very nervous about applying and hoping to be as competitive as possible. I honestly have no idea what type of student the admissions committee is seeking out. The highest level I could get my GPA to would be about a 3.20 when I graduate, due to difficulty of classes and balancing clubs, volunteering, and a job! Any insight you could give me, especially since I’ll be applying to most states as a non-resident, would be incredibly helpful!

Thanks for all you do,




Hi CL –

First I will say that it is difficult to predict exactly how each application is judged by each admissions committee. Most admissions committees don’t seem to have a very rigid system in place to review applications where they simply throw out applicants with GPA’s lower than X. For the most part an entire application is considered. However, if a person’s cumulative GPA is under 2.0, I honestly would be surprised if they were considered once that number was noted. However a GPA under 3.5 or even 3.0 I wouldn’t say that about. I know I attended a top 5 liberal arts school and I would hope that my GPA there would be weighted a little more than my GPA at a community college. But there’s no guarantee (especially since the school I attended is so tiny that not everyone has even heard of it to know that it is highly ranked).

To answer your question, though, I would say that the best way to have your grades considered with respect to intensity of coursework and all of the other things you had going on at the same time is to mention it in your application – specifically the explanation section (that I seem to be always talking about on here!). Explain your viewpoint and the admissions committee can take that into consideration. Other than that, I would consider you to be a unique applicant, so definitely emphasize your uniqueness in your application as schools are always looking to build diversity in their student body.

Good luck with everything and let me know if you have any other questions!

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