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Do grad selections committees know.

  1. Jun 29, 2011 #1
    Do grad selections committees know.......

    I am a Chinese student, going to apply for grad school in the US. I went on for exchange in a school that has quite good reputation in physics research, probably top 20 in the US.

    My experience: it is much harder for a student to get an A here than in the US.

    I'm NOT saying Chinese students are better or work-harder than Americans, is the grading system and exam papers that make us harder to get an A. For example, my GPA is not good in my school(not in the best 20 in my country), 3.0ish with studying all the time from 9am to 9pm, except lunch, toilet and lecture time, even in holidays. But during my exchange semester, I went to party on average 2-3times a week, hang out, see movies etc. Finally I got GPA 3.87 and all the classes were >300 physics and math.

    Some may say something like "well, you were just lucky", but I can say the exam papers were really much easier than in China. Maybe I shouldn't say it's easy, but it is more direct, less complex to reach the answer. Plus the percentage of getting an A+/A/A- is fixed and small here, say like only ~5%.

    I doubt that do the grad selection committees know the difference. If they don't, it will be very frustrating (and unfair) for Chinese students' applications. :frown::frown::frown:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2011 #2
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    I post this thread because I have a friend works in a physics department office in a univ in the US, and she said low GPA applications will be screened out in the very first stage. And from the sticky note, some students (with low GPA, 2.5ish-3.3ish) had been rejected by many grad schools very early even they have >850 GRE physics, while some of them have GPA >3.75 but only got 660-750 in GRE physics got offers from top 10 schools.....
  4. Jun 29, 2011 #3
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    That says more about the benefits (and lack thereof) of studying twelve hours a day than it does about the differences between American and Chinese universities. I admire your work ethic, but you probably screwed yourself over by being too obsessed with school.
  5. Jun 29, 2011 #4
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    You are correct. The Chinese grading system is very different from the US grading system, and most universities will rescale GPA's to take this into account.

    see http://www.shanghai.gatech.edu/students/faq/application.html [Broken] for an example
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Jun 29, 2011 #5
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    They often will, but since you have a decent GPA, you don't need to worry about that.
  7. Jun 29, 2011 #6

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    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    A few points:

    1) 3.87 is not a low GPA.

    2) Grad school is not like undergraduate. The ability to pass tests is much less important in graduate school. That means graduate admissions committees look at other things besides grades, and it means grades are not as strong a predictor as you might think at first.

    3) The #1 problem Chinese students face in US graduate schools is when they think that they have nothing to learn from their stupid and inferior non-Chinese classmates. When you get to graduate school - and the real world - you learn at least as much from your peers as from the faculty. The students who unwisely conclude that they don't have anything to learn from their peers miss out on much of the benefits of graduate school, and often wash out.
  8. Jun 29, 2011 #7
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    This is pretty much all of truth summed up for you. Couldn't have said it better myself.
  9. Jun 29, 2011 #8


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    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    3.87 was the OP's GPA in a semester doing foreign exchange, and I would assume it was in the US. The OP's chinese GPA was 3.0ish.
  10. Jun 29, 2011 #9
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    My GPA in my school is 3.0ish, and the 3.87 in the US doesn't count towards my current GPA. So my GPA is really low.....

    you mean this one?

    Q: My undergraduate university has a reputation for grading harshly. Do you use different grade conversion tables for different universities?
    A: Unless your university specifies a different conversion table on the transcript, Georgia Tech uses the grade conversion method described above for Chinese university transcripts.

    my school is on the 4.0 basis:frown:

    If I only have 3.0ish on my transcript, will I have the chance to be considered by the committees? I might have been screened out in the very very beginning:cry::cry::cry:

    I didn't say Americans have nothing to learn from, in fact I appreciate you guys can always think beyond the frame (limit), and you guys have much more experience in life, studies, etc. than us. I have said this in the beginning, I am not saying who is better than who, is just the grading system and the complexity of the exam makes things harder and I wonder so the committees know......
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  11. Jun 29, 2011 #10
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    Well buddy, I sympathize with your plight, but I think you need to take things to the next level here. I imagine it sucks trying to place an international call, so you might try emailing graduate admissions and explain your situation and see what they say:

    http://www.gradadmiss.gatech.edu/faq/answer.php?faq_item_id=50 [Broken]

    I can't imagine why they wouldn't give you a lot of clarification that we could only guess at.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  12. Jun 29, 2011 #11
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    Then again maybe not. If you apply to one graduate school the odds are very good that you will get screened out for random/silly reasons, but if you apply to several graduate schools, then the randomness factor decreases. Something else that helps you is that you aren't the first Chinese student to apply to US university.

    One other thing is that if it still worries you, you can make sure that in the recommendation letters, someone mentions that it's a hard school and that the US equivalent GPA is (whatever).

    You can also ask the person that issues the official transcript to issue an official GPA. I doubt that you are the first student that has run into this issue, and since your undergraduate school hopefully has an interest in getting their students into US graduate school, you can find *someone* to write an official letter.

    One other thing is how are you calculating GPA. Most Chinese transcripts have number scores, and it's converting the number score to the GPA.

    (One note: The standard Chinese practice with recommendation letters is to have the student write the letter and the professor sign it. The interesting thing is that it makes it ***harder*** to get a good recommendation letter.)

    Yes they do.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  13. Jun 29, 2011 #12
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    I don't think that's the number #1 problem.
  14. Jun 29, 2011 #13
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    The other useful resource are alumni. If you know anyone in US schools, you can find out useful information, and contacting the Chinese Student Association at the schools you are interested in will give you a lot of information about these sorts of issues.

    Also, why doesn't your US exchange count toward your GPA?

    The other question can you describe your school in China (is it a big name school? provincial? teaching college?) One reason that the big name schools in China are big names is that they have made it easy for their students to get into US graduate schools, by doing things like "translating" GPA's. If your school is a big name Chinese schools (i.e. USTC, Beida, Qinghua) I wouldn't worry about it, because the school reputation means that people know the grading systems.

    If it's a less big school, then you have to work a bit more. It will help a lot if your school wants you to go to graduate school, in which case you can get people to write what they need to write to get the US schools to understand the situation. The problem is that it means nothing if *you* say that your GPA is worth ****. It changes things if you have someone other than you say that.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  15. Jun 29, 2011 #14
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    One difference in philosophy in the US and China is that US puts a lot of emphasis on "working smart" rather than "working hard." If you spend hours and hours and hours, and you get nothing done, that gets you more respect in China than it does in the US. Americans tend to have the philosophy, "why work hard if you get nothing done, let's party."

    Personally, I think the US philosophy is better. But this may hurt you. If you spend years and years studying, but someone else works one tenth has much but understands the material better than you, then you lose. No one in the US cares how hard you work, it's what you get done that matters.

    Also, China likes martyrs. The US does not. One way of getting sympathy in China is to beat yourself up, and talk about how much pain and agony you went through, and how people are being unfair to you. US culture is different. If you try that tactic, you'll quickly find that most people in the US will think of you as a "whining idiot."

    One consequence is that I'm not sure that Chinese students really do work harder than US students, or if its that Chinese students make a bigger effort to make it obvious that they are working hard.

    The US is more political free than China, but this freedom results in a lack of sympathy. In China, you can blame the government for a lot of things, but in the US, if you blame the government, then people look at you and say "it's your own damned fault, so stop complaining."

    There are tens of thousands of Chinese students in the US, and if you look at the departments, then there are a lot of Chinese professors in the graduate school committees. Lack of familiarity with the Chinese educational system is not a problem.

    Frankly, I think that you may suffer more from *too much* knowledge of Chinese schools than too little. One problem with China is that it vastly increased higher education over the last two decades and there have been a lot of instances of quality issues so brand name and reputation among Chinese universities means a lot more than in US universities.

    I'd be less worried about a American-born professor looking at the application and saying "bad GPA" than having a Chinese-born professor looking at the application and saying "bad school."

    But if you apply to enough schools, and your application is decent, then someone will take you. That's one good thing about the US system that I think that China needs to copy. Beida and Qinghua can compete toe-to-toe with Harvard and MIT, but the good thing about the US system is that they have a very deep bench of quality schools outside of the big names.

    If you go to a big public state school in the US, the quality of education is likely to be very good, whereas the equivalent level provincial level school in China is right now uneven, and if you didn't end up in Beida, I'd worry less about GPA, than convincing the person looking at the application (who may be Chinese) than you got a quality education.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2011
  16. Jun 29, 2011 #15
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    Personally, I'd make the first contact with someone in the Chinese students association or the department.
  17. Jun 29, 2011 #16


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    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    There seem to be a lot of generalizations about China and Chinese students in this thread. China's a big country, with lots of people. To conclude from a single experience that all Chinese programs are more difficult than all American ones is a pretty big leap.

    One thing that I can tell you is that selections committees do investigate foreign credentials (at least in some cases and my experience is limited to Canadian schools). In fact just this morning, one of my colleagues was telling me about how he is occasionally asked by one of his old supervisors about the reputations of various schools in his home country. That being said, it's unlikely that anyone would go so far as to come up with some kind of school-dependent or country-dependent scaling system.

    That's one reason why the GRE usually plays a major role in the application process. Because it's a standard exam, it can be used to level the playing field among applicants from different schools and different programs. If your school grades harder than most, that should be offset by a GRE score that's higher than one might expect based on your grades. And then if that isn't the case, you have reference letters that provide the opportunity to explain any shortfalls.

    The system is not perfect. Lots of good candidates are denied entrance to graduate school every year and lots of other candidates who are accepted flunk out.
  18. Jun 30, 2011 #17
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    Even though China and the US are both big and diverse, the educational systems are *systems*, and it's hard to behave in ways that don't fit the system. For example, a university in the US just can't give D's for average work without causing lots of problems, and Chinese universities have found that if they want to get their students into US universities, they have to adapt the systems.

    It's like currency. 100 dollars means a different thing in the US than in Hong Kong or Singapore. It's worse if you send misleading signals. For example, if a university in China gave people 1's or 5's instead of A, then people would know that the system is just different. On the other hand, if you call it an "A" people will tend to assume that it means the same thing as an "A" in the US.

    The problem here is that you have to know to put this into your reference letter. If you have a professor and a school that is used to sending students overseas, they'll know to do this, but maybe not.

    Also, for various interesting cultural and historical reasons, Chinese students usually write their own reference letters and have the professor sign it.

    But it turns out to be pretty good. If you can't get into a particular university, that's just random, but if you apply to five or six universities and you can't get into any of them, then there is probably something deeply wrong with your application.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2011
  19. Jun 30, 2011 #18
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    One other question. Does the university report a GPA and letter grades on the transcript? If they don't, then it's better if you just provide the documentation, and let the US university figure it out.
  20. Jun 30, 2011 #19
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    I have another question. What school in Hong Kong have big name? Are they as big as qinghua and beida?

    It does.

    My school is quite different, we follow GPA 4.0, and it will be printed on every student's transcript.

    Of course I'm not the first person to apply for grad school in the US, why I'm so worry is that I might be the student with the lowest GPA among those who want to study further in the US and who did their undergrad in top 10 in China with GPA 3.6+, so they don't worry that much as I do.

    I can't do that. Here recommendation letters are written by prof.

    idk. I can only transfer back those credit but it doesn't count toward my official gpa. Definitely I will mention this in my application.

    I have 4-5 hours classes everyday on average, lunch and dinner spend 1.5 hours, actually I only have 5- hours to do homework and revision on average everyday. Pre-lab and lab report spent my weekends. I am not that work hard in fact (compare to most of the Chinese students)......:tongue2:
  21. Jun 30, 2011 #20
    Re: Do grad selections committees know.......

    That's a different issue. Graduate schools are aware that the grading systems for China are different from the US, but if you have an application that seems weak relative to other Chinese students, then this is not going to help you.

    If your school grades particularly harshly relative to other Chinese schools, then you need to make sure that this is mentioned in your recommendation letters, and any evidence that you can find that this is in fact that situation will help. If the *only* thing that looks bad about your application is the GPA and you have an explanation for that, then it's not going to matter.

    At some point you just have to stop worrying and let whatever happens happen. There's no point in worrying about things that you can't control.

    Either you get in or you don't. If you get in then you were worried over nothing. If you apply to six to eight schools and don't get into any of them, then it meant that you never had a chance, and so worrying about small things was just a waste of effort.

    That's pretty typical for a US science/engineering student. One thing about your US experience that may be misleading is that physics majors in the US tend to work harder than people in other majors, and most undergraduate physics majors don't go on to a Ph.D. program, so they care a bit less about their grades.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2011
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