1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!


  1. Apr 10, 2009 #1
    I am an international student(Taiwan).I have Bachelor degree in Atmospheric Science.And now I am studying for a master degree in physics in Taiwan.(superconductor in experimental solid state physics field)

    But my undergraduate gpa is 2.8. :(

    Do I still have any opportunities of attending Ph.D program in solid state physics in America?(Rank among the Top50 in America)

    P.S. I was born in America,so I really wish that I can come back and get the Ph.D degree,and I really like physic research.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    My guess is that it would largely depend on the results of from your master's program. In general, a 2.8 is not very competative, but if you pull it up in your current program and perhaps earn a good publication or two, you might become more competative.
  4. Apr 10, 2009 #3
    I'm not sure if departments consider your nationality or what school you just graduated from when classifying you as an international or native student. However, if they do classify you as an international, I don't think you have a very realistic chance at a top 50 physics grad school unless you do some seriously impressive research or publications. They only fund a certain number of international students' PhDs and internationals are ineligible for government grants and funding sop the competition for those spaces is brutal, or at least from what I've seen.

    My advisor also is on the committee that votes on grad applications for our grad school (at UIUC) and she says they almost always only accept people who have done extensive research and have a high GPA.
  5. Apr 10, 2009 #4
    Is this true for Canadian university students as well? Will I have a much harder time going to a US graduate school?
  6. Apr 10, 2009 #5
    You're still considered an international so the lack of government funding still applies. I don't think Canadians' chances would be any significantly better than other internationals but I could be wrong.
  7. Apr 10, 2009 #6
    I have some Canadian friends in grad school (a private school in the US) and they were not grouped with other Internationals during application. Lots of Canadians are in US grad schools compared to other internationals, at least in private schools, I don't think Canadians are considered really "internationals".
  8. Apr 11, 2009 #7


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I'd say its going to be tough and your chances are going to depend heavily on the results of your master's program. i.e. What is your graduate GPA? Have you gotten any publications while in your master's program?
  9. Apr 11, 2009 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    if you were born in the US, you are not an international student. However, I think it needs to be emphasized that a poor undergraduate record will not be balanced out by a moderately successful MS program - you need to be very successful to convince the committee that the undergrad degree performance was the aberration, not the MS degree performance.
  10. Apr 11, 2009 #9
    Usually the cut off is a 3.0, but a 3.5 is more likely to be competitive. Two questions... why is your GPA so low? And why should schools accept you over someone with much higher grades (ie why are you unique)?
  11. Apr 11, 2009 #10
    I think it should be noted that a "low" GPA when comparing to US grades might not be that bad. For example getting a 70/100 i.e. a first at say the London School of Economics is difficult and it corresponds exactly to a 2.8 GPA when converted to a US scale. A first is actually given to about 10% of the students.

    What matters more is the actual class ranking and the level of students at your institution...
  12. Apr 12, 2009 #11
    I would imagine that as an international low grades would be even more damaging. Even converting to a US scale, a 2.8/4.0 is too low for a competitive program, period. No GRE scores would make up for that.
  13. Apr 12, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Where did you get this from? Whilst it's pretty difficult to translate from UK to US grades, it would certainly not be done like this! A first class degree in the UK is the best you can get, and so should be compared to an equivalent grade in the US. Thus, I would say it would be more like a first class in the UK is equivalent to a 3.8-4.0 GPA, and so on for lower grades.

    Still, this isn't too relevant to the OP, anyway!
  14. Apr 12, 2009 #13
    Well, I happen to have an undergrad from a country that has no class ranks, no percentiles, no honor societies, no "special names" (i.e. summa cum laude etc) attached to your degree or anything else that sounds nice to have in a resume. You only get a numerical number. Now when you apply to a US grad program, you are actually asked to give your GPA as "score/max*4". At my school a GPA of 3.2 (converted to a US scale) was thought as excellent while at an american school it would be considered average or below average. Also the requirement for Ph.D. admissions was a 2.4 GPA and it is a top 100 university in the world...

    My point is that with internationals you really need to know what you're comparing to, because the GPA is really just a number without any meaning unless you know the context. The OP never mentioned how he came up with the number 2.8, what grading system they use, what the average GPA is i.e. how he compares to the rest in his school. I think that's the only relevant information.
  15. Apr 12, 2009 #14
    To be fair, a "top 100" school is not good...
  16. Apr 12, 2009 #15
    Well, it's the best in the country and I am not talking US, but the world i.e. even the Ivies aren't all in the top 50...
  17. Apr 12, 2009 #16
    Ivies say very little about being good in physics. Top 100 in the world is not good. Top 20 is good - in the world, not just the US. Being Ivy League is also really an undergraduate distinction and says very little about a specific graduate department.
  18. Apr 13, 2009 #17
    Sometime, best in the country isnt enough. Wherever you are from, chance is that you will have to compete with many students from your country (either studying in their home countries or abroad at better known universities), let alone international students from other countries, for a few seats at US grad schools. It might not be fair. But it's just what it's.
  19. Apr 13, 2009 #18
    I think you're missing the point. My point was that a 2.4 GPA from a normal US school pretty much means you didn't understand anything and no one is going to accept you for a Ph.D. position anywhere. However, from my school it's an over the average GPA and qualifies you for a Ph.D. It's just that when applying to the US it might not be known at the other end, because the GPA is just a number and there's no universal law how grades should be distributed on the interval [0,4].

    I'm not claiming that a top 100 uni is great, which is why I'm going to a top 10 program for my Ph.D. next fall, but top 100 in the world is not bad; the US top 30 doesn't even necessarily fit in there and most of you wouldn't call a school ranked 30 "not good".
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook