Graduate School With A Low GPA

Graduate School With A Low GPA
Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions we hear. It’s also a very difficult one to answer because it will vary depending on the situation, timeline, undergraduate institution, intended program, and just how low of a GPA we’re talking about…
Despite how tricky it is to answer, there are some general (and unfortunate) facts you need to know upfront.

 

Unfortunate Facts

First thing we need to do is be up front about the [unavoidable] facts of the situation.
(1) You aren’t getting into MIT or any top 10 graduate school with a low GPA.
This sounds a bit harsh and narrow-minded, but it’s just the way it is. If you got a 2.7 GPA in undergrad and the rest of your stats are amazing: sorry, you’re still not getting in.  There is some push and pull if, say,  if you had bad grades for only 1 or 2 semesters because of a death in the family or you had a serious medical illness. This could potentially be overcome you also published, or got perfect scores on all sections of the GRE/subject test, and have an incredibly compelling story. But for most applicants it isn’t going to happen with anything below 3.4, and even then you’re looking at an uphill battle. Graduate school is so competitive these days that it’s nearly impossible to “make up” for low grades at top programs.
(2) If your GPA is in the 2.5-3.2 range you will probably need to deal with your grades in one way or another.
By “deal” we mean that you’ll need to actively improve, explain, or negate your GPA in some way. You won’t be able to rely on your other application materials to do the talking for you–you’ll need to address your grades directly. This means having a good explanation for the low GPA, retaking courses to replace low grades, taking non-degree graduate classes to replace your main GPA submission, or applying for a masters program before a PhD program. It’s possible, depending on your field, that you could squeak by with a 3.2 or 3.3 if the rest of your materials are really good, but it’s not very likely. 
(3) You probably shouldn’t apply right away. For most situations, you’ll need to dedicate at least another year for damage control. Applying with the “What the hell I’ll give it a shot” mentality is only a good idea if you truly have the spare $1000 to burn or you fall into a special category of low GPA applicants with exceptional circumstances. As it stands, you’re going to need to pull a fantastic GRE score to make up for the GPA blip, so you need at least six months of solid study time before taking it.

(4) Anything below a 3.5 is seen as a low GPA for graduate programs. This may seem a bit critical to some students. We can already hear the outcries: But I worked 40 hours a week and still got a 3.4! But I double majored in Mathematics and Physics! But how can a B+ average over four years be considered bad?! The truth is that it takes a lot of work to get a B+ average in most majors, and you should be proud of that. Unfortunately it’s also true that most applicants have better grades than this. Grades are a great indicator not just for how much you learned, but how hard you’re willing to work. This is what most professors care about and it will be hard to convince them you’re willing to work 80+ hour weeks if your GPA conveys that you worked hard most of the time. A general rule of thumb for faculty is that only the top 1-5% of any classroom should consider even applying to graduate programs. Remember that you’re competing with literally everyone in the world. Students from the USA, India, China, South Africa, and Germany all apply to US graduate programs.
(5) If you have any kind of blip on your record, you’re going to have to become part of the 1% in at least two other areas of your application: Letters of recommendation, GRE score, or research experience.
Two out of three will have to be fantastic (it is taken for granted that your SoP should be outstanding and perfectly tailored). When we say amazing, we mean objectively amazing. For the GRE this means above 95th percentile in most cases and for LoR this means three incredibly well crafted and detailed letters from faculty. So lets say you have a 3.1 GPA, which for graduate school is incredibly low, and you only have 6 months until applications are due. You’ll need to decide how best to spend your time. Do you get a full time internship to bulk up your resume, take a GRE course and studying non-stop, or spend time working with your recommenders on your letters of recommendation? The decision will depend on your situation, but for MOST applicants in this situation the best suggestion is probably to focus incredibly hard on the GRE, especially if there’s a required subject GRE test.
Despite these unfortunate fact, you can get into grad school with a low GPA if you’re genuinely motivated and passionate about it. No matter how despondent you feel right now, rest assured that there is a way to get your PhD (or master’s). It may not look like the traditional path, but getting an education isn’t about following a prefabricated trajectory. It’s about self discovery and self improvement. There will never be a one size fits all for that kind of journey, so don’t feel bad about yourself if you get there in a roundabout fashion.

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Graduate School With A Low GPA

Graduate School With A Low GPA April 7th, 2016
Can I get into graduate school with a low GPA?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions we hear. It’s also a very difficult one to answer because it will vary depending on the situation, timeline, undergraduate institution, intended program, and just how low of a GPA we’re talking about…
Despite how tricky it is to answer, there are some general (and unfortunate) facts you need to know upfront.

 

Unfortunate Facts

First thing we need to do is be up front about the [unavoidable] facts of the situation.
(1) You aren’t getting into MIT or any top 10 graduate school with a low GPA.
This sounds a bit harsh and narrow-minded, but it’s just the way it is. If you got a 2.7 GPA in undergrad and the rest of your stats are amazing: sorry, you’re still not getting in.  There is some push and pull if, say,  if you had bad grades for only 1 or 2 semesters because of a death in the family or you had a serious medical illness. This could potentially be overcome you also published, or got perfect scores on all sections of the GRE/subject test, and have an incredibly compelling story. But for most applicants it isn’t going to happen with anything below 3.4, and even then you’re looking at an uphill battle. Graduate school is so competitive these days that it’s nearly impossible to “make up” for low grades at top programs.
(2) If your GPA is in the 2.5-3.2 range you will probably need to deal with your grades in one way or another.
By “deal” we mean that you’ll need to actively improve, explain, or negate your GPA in some way. You won’t be able to rely on your other application materials to do the talking for you–you’ll need to address your grades directly. This means having a good explanation for the low GPA, retaking courses to replace low grades, taking non-degree graduate classes to replace your main GPA submission, or applying for a masters program before a PhD program. It’s possible, depending on your field, that you could squeak by with a 3.2 or 3.3 if the rest of your materials are really good, but it’s not very likely. 
(3) You probably shouldn’t apply right away. For most situations, you’ll need to dedicate at least another year for damage control. Applying with the “What the hell I’ll give it a shot” mentality is only a good idea if you truly have the spare $1000 to burn or you fall into a special category of low GPA applicants with exceptional circumstances. As it stands, you’re going to need to pull a fantastic GRE score to make up for the GPA blip, so you need at least six months of solid study time before taking it.

(4) Anything below a 3.5 is seen as a low GPA for graduate programs. This may seem a bit critical to some students. We can already hear the outcries: But I worked 40 hours a week and still got a 3.4! But I double majored in Mathematics and Physics! But how can a B+ average over four years be considered bad?! The truth is that it takes a lot of work to get a B+ average in most majors, and you should be proud of that. Unfortunately it’s also true that most applicants have better grades than this. Grades are a great indicator not just for how much you learned, but how hard you’re willing to work. This is what most professors care about and it will be hard to convince them you’re willing to work 80+ hour weeks if your GPA conveys that you worked hard most of the time. A general rule of thumb for faculty is that only the top 1-5% of any classroom should consider even applying to graduate programs. Remember that you’re competing with literally everyone in the world. Students from the USA, India, China, South Africa, and Germany all apply to US graduate programs.
(5) If you have any kind of blip on your record, you’re going to have to become part of the 1% in at least two other areas of your application: Letters of recommendation, GRE score, or research experience.
Two out of three will have to be fantastic (it is taken for granted that your SoP should be outstanding and perfectly tailored). When we say amazing, we mean objectively amazing. For the GRE this means above 95th percentile in most cases and for LoR this means three incredibly well crafted and detailed letters from faculty. So lets say you have a 3.1 GPA, which for graduate school is incredibly low, and you only have 6 months until applications are due. You’ll need to decide how best to spend your time. Do you get a full time internship to bulk up your resume, take a GRE course and studying non-stop, or spend time working with your recommenders on your letters of recommendation? The decision will depend on your situation, but for MOST applicants in this situation the best suggestion is probably to focus incredibly hard on the GRE, especially if there’s a required subject GRE test.
Despite these unfortunate fact, you can get into grad school with a low GPA if you’re genuinely motivated and passionate about it. No matter how despondent you feel right now, rest assured that there is a way to get your PhD (or master’s). It may not look like the traditional path, but getting an education isn’t about following a prefabricated trajectory. It’s about self discovery and self improvement. There will never be a one size fits all for that kind of journey, so don’t feel bad about yourself if you get there in a roundabout fashion.

By
@
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