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3.0 GPA Good Enough For Doctoral Programs?

  1. May 7, 2013 #1
    3.0 GPA "Good Enough" For Doctoral Programs?

    Many of the physics Ph.D. programs I've looked at require a minimum 3.0 GPA for acceptance into the program, but would one actually be accepted with the bare minimum GPA requirement? Don't get me wrong, obviously you shouldn't shoot for bare minimum or the least amount of work when your trying to get into grad school, or any other time for that matter, but is minimum really enough?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2013 #2
    PhD admissions use three or four main standards: grades, references, research experience and possibly standardized tests (like the GRE if you're in the US). Different programs weight each component differently; however, if anyone is particularly weak in one component then they will generally need to be correspondingly stronger in the others. With a lot of research experience, supported by some stellar reference letters, it's still very possible to get a spot in a good graduate program, even with a relatively low GPA. It would likely be the case, though, that one would lose out on many opportunities they might have otherwise. Beyond minimum standards, there aren't many absolutes when it comes to grad school applications. Your performance as an undergraduate just puts you somewhere on continuum of more or less likely to get the sort of position you want. One would, naturally, prefer to be as close to the "more" side of the continuum as possible.
  4. May 7, 2013 #3
    Thank you for the reply. I have a few more questions. Is it typically true that grad schools are more concerned with how you did on your major courses than they are with your GPA overall? Also, at what point during my undergrad should I begin working on research? I am a freshman currently and I'll be starting my first physics course in the Spring.
  5. May 7, 2013 #4
    That is the often case; however, there may still be a minimum cut-off for the overall GPA. This is much too institution dependent to give a more specific answer to.

    As early as you can. This is something you need to discuss with your program adviser since, again, there is no generic answer. Ask what research opportunities are available to students and how many terms need to be completed before you're eligible. In the meantime, get to know your professor in the spring. If his or her work interests you and you do well in his class, you can ask if her or she would let you do summer work with the group.

    Since the academic year is over at most universities, I take it that by, "I am a freshman currently," you mean you've just finished high school and will be starting university in the fall. There's certainly nothing wrong with being eager, but these questions really are better suited to someone at your university. You're only going to get generic advice on the internet which may or may not be applicable to your institution.
  6. May 7, 2013 #5
    Thanks for the info. And by "freshman" I mean that I just finished up my first semester (started in the Spring). I'm about to start the Summer semester, which will be my second semester at university. I did have transfer credits, however, so come Fall I will be a sophomore.
  7. May 7, 2013 #6


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    To run the Boston Marathon, you need to have run a qualifying marathon in under 4 hours. This is no guarantee that you'll finish in the top 20% of runners in your division. It means you make the cutoff to run it.

    Similarly the 3.0 GPA is a cutoff used for the graduate admissions process. Just because you've made it, there is no quarantee that you'll be accepted anywhere. But not making means that you won't even be allowed to apply. Most schools would rather leave empty spaces than fill them with students who have low grades.
  8. May 7, 2013 #7
    Great way to put it. Thanks.
  9. May 7, 2013 #8
    Good point. Just a quick FYI, it is more like 3 hrs for the Boston Marathon ;)

    Anyone can finish a marathon in 4 hours!
  10. May 8, 2013 #9
    An important point is that this mainly applies to your in major GPA and related non-major courses (e.g. calc 2); I've heard tales of students with lowly overall GPA's (3.4 ish) getting into surprisingly famous grad schools with good research/PGRE scores.
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