Reader Question: What if I get a C in a Pre-Requisite Course?

pre-req grades

I recently had a pre-PT student ask the following question:

Will a C in a pre-requisite course keep me from getting into physical therapy school?

That’s a great question and one that can be awfully worrisome for students applying to medical school, PT school, or any graduate level program for that matter.

Your options are as follows:

1. Make sure your other pre-reqs are STRONG.

If you have to take more prerequisite courses, you had better earn As or high Bs in order to pull up your GPA. Most programs have a minimum GPA for you to even be considered into the program, so if you don’t have time to retake the course, you need to make sure your GPA is solid with the other courses.

2. Retake the Course

This is good for two reasons. The first one is obvious: it will help your pre-req GPA and show the program that you are eager to meet the requirements to get in. The second reason is not so obvious: if they’re telling you that you need to have a certain class, it’s because the class is probably a stepping stone to other material in the program. If you earned a C in the course and still have no clue about the topic, it would be in your best interest to retake the class so that you learn it better this time around.

3. Leave it alone and prepare to discuss it.

If your GPA is strong enough to be considered to a program, and you’re fortunate enough to get an interview, guess what you’ll need to discuss…that C. That admissions committee will have your transcript in hand and you can be sure they’ll ask you what happened and how you handled it moving forward.

Word of caution: Leave the excuses at home. Don’t play the blame game on the teacher. What did you struggle with? How did you adapt? Did you have a failing first exam and find a way to adjust? Share how you managed to figure out a better way to study and earned an A on the next exam, even though your final grade was a C.

Can you still get into grad school with a C?

Of course you can get a C and still get into grad school, but it’s going to be more difficult. Here’s the thing – admissions committees don’t expect you to be perfect. Some will care about specific grades while others look at the total GPA requiring a minimum of a C but an average of 3.0. It won’t hurt to call up the admissions director and ask their opinion on retaking a course. They’ll usually shoot straight with you and let you know what they recommend to students in your situation.

My humble opinion:

  1. Keep your total GPA in check and focus on the remaining pre-reqs.
  2. Call the admissions team at a few programs and ask their opinion – especially if you only have one C in a transcript full of A’s and B’s
  3. Prepare to retake the class once you’ve knocked out your other prerequisites. If you know for sure that you’re going to retake it before you matriculate at the new program, you might let them known during the interview. It could help them see that you’re committed and looking to improve your understanding of the topic.

As a reader, what would you suggest to this future PT student?

Tim Fraticelli, DPT | Physical Therapist

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your financial health.

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