Eleanor is a very succinct lady. She’s now the current champion in the Outlaw Student Shortest Email Ever category.
Is there a way to enter grad school with a low GPA?
Now, if was as much of a smartass as my friends think I am, I’d just answer “No” and hit save and then we’d have the first-ever 30-word post on this site.
But I’m not! They’ve got me all wrong! (Today, anyway).
It will definitely be tough to get into grad school, any grad school, with a “low” GPA. I’m going to assume we’re talking about something that starts with a 2.
For most grad schools (certainly the best ones), 3.5 is an informal cutoff and 3.0 is a pretty hard-and-fast cutoff.
Sink below 3.0 and you’ve sawed off your legs. MOST of the time.
The solution, though isn’t complicated. In fact, it’s the same solution for every life problem which involves you not measuring up to the minimum in some area. You have to *overcompensate in other areas*.
As much as I love Eleanor’s brevity, we’re lacking details here on how old she is, how much professional experience she has, what kind of research she may have done in her field, whether her GPA on those final 60-or-so undergrad credits was significantly higher than the overall average, etc.
All of these things could help her compensate for the low GPA. If you’ve done an outstanding amount of professional work AFTER pulling the lousy-ish grades, that could help sway an admissions committee. If you’ve done some incredible original research, that could sway ’em, too (things vary here by area of study, obviously).
If you have special circumstances that caused your low GPA, then use the appeal process to explain them. If you partied like a dumb shit your first two years and nearly flunked out before pulling yourself together and acing the final two tougher years of school, that’s worth considering as well.
Here’s the basic problem: Admissions boards see a low GPA and instinctively think, “Well, if she can barely pull a C average in easy undergrad classes, there’s no way she’ll be able to hack the more difficult grad classes.”
And often, they’re right. That makes sense. In fact, if you gave college your all-out best effort and you ended up with a 2.0 average, then:
a) Congrats! “C’s get degrees!” as they say, and your degree is the same as the guy next to you with a 3.9.
b) You probably can’t hack grad school. There’s no shame in it, but it’s probably true.
So the grad schools don’t let you in. At the undergrad levels, they’re happy to take a flyer on someone with questionable qualifications, but the grad schools are where universities’ academic reputations are truly made, and they want theirs to be solid.
Now, notice I hedged everything with “probably” because I’d be an idiot if I didn’t recognize there were some inspirational “Rudy” types out there who, all odds against them, sometimes find another gear and rise up and kick ass in their own David-and-Goliath story.
If you’re one of those, then awesome. Keep on keepin’ on.
However, I think that, most of the time, if you’re not very good at school, you probably realize it earlier on and don’t even consider grad school. I mean, if you’re even CONSIDERING grad school with any degree of seriousness, you must have a couple extra notches of desire, at the very least.
And if you’ve got reasons you can show why you came in weak on the GPA, then by all means, show them. Or, if you really have no reason but you still feel like you can succeed based on professional experience or research prowess or some other measure of individual awesomeness, then by all means, get that in front of the committee as well.
Life’s all about selling yourself, and grad school is no different. It’s gonna be tough with a low GPA, but it’s not impossible.
— How about you guys? Any of you struggled and/or succeeded in getting into grad school with a low GPA? Any of you failed? Let us know in the comments below.