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Getting into grad school with below 3.0 average?

  1. Dec 14, 2008 #1

    I am considering to apply for grad schools in Dec/Jan. This semester I don't think I'll be performing well due to many reasons: I can end up having a GPA that is below 3.0

    Can you please help me on where to look for universities who may not emphasize much on GPA --perhaps on GRE, letters of recommendations, personal statement ...etc or that they explicitly does not mind < 3.0 GPA

    I am considering couple of different programs, so as of now I am trying to narrow down my choices by looking at universities first then applying to more than one program at the same university.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2008 #2
    Hah, I'm in the same boat. My GPA is a 2.98, which I am expecting to get to a 3.0 after this quarter, but not in time for a lot of applications. I'm still applying to the ones that say they want a 3.0 or better. You never know what can happen. =/
  4. Dec 14, 2008 #3

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    This will not be easy. A C in graduate school is considered failing, and graduate courses are harder than undergraduate courses. If you are getting C's as an undergraduate, you've pretty much demonstrated to the admissions committee that you aren't going to make it. It will be a serious uphill battle to convince the committee that you are a good risk.

    The question on everyone's mind will be "Is he incapable of getting good grades? Or did he simply choose not to?" And the follow-up, "and which option is worse?"
  5. Dec 14, 2008 #4
    If your grade trend shows improvement, that would be much better than if your grades are getting lower by semester. I got in to a graduate school (Masters) with a GPA below 3.0 but my last couple of semesters were better than my average.
  6. Dec 14, 2008 #5


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    It will be easier to get into a Masters than a PhD program, since then they won't have to worry about you failing the quals a few years down the road.
  7. Dec 14, 2008 #6
    What subject is this in?
  8. Dec 14, 2008 #7

    Graduate schools look at more than your GPA. If your GRE is above average, then you have a legit shot at making it into the types of schools you want to get into..

    This question is a little vague though, I'm presuming you are a physics undergrad that wants to get into a physics grad program?

    I have a couple of friends that were undergrads in physics/EE and they had amazing GPA's but just okay GRE scores.. they ended up just staying at the same university to pursue their masters. They didn't have very big goals though, one is going to end up as an unemployed genius and the other is going to get married and stay in the state.

    My recommendation: if you are looking to start your masters in January, you might consider just staying at the university you are at, it's easier to get accepted in a short period of time.
    If you are looking to go elsewhere, you should have started earlier, maybe you can do a work-study and take some random courses this semester aka tread water as you apply to other schools.

    Myself personally, I'm hoping to gain acceptance to a top MBA school in a couple of years, if that degree is still worth anything after this economy, but it's going to take a year of application process, I might quit my job just to free up time. I don't know though.. I'd rather just find a sugar momma that will take good care of me. =D.. but that's getting a little off subject there.

    Good luck with your graduate studies.
  9. Dec 17, 2008 #8
    I strongly disagree with this interpretation... Yes, it is true that most graduate programs require you to get at least a B average. However, this is exactly the reason why they also have major grade inflation in grad classes, and most grad class professors are extremely lenient when it comes to grading. Yes, that material is harder and the subjects are more advanced, but the grading attitude is vastly different. At least, this is what I have seen and heard at UT.
  10. Dec 17, 2008 #9

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    That wasn't the case where and when I went to grad school. People were asked to leave the program if their grades weren't up to par.
  11. Jan 14, 2009 #10
    My Computer science GPA is 3.1, and my overall GPA is 2.6. I'm don't do well in Math and I hated some of these retarded classes they make you do like history. I want to go to grad school but my adviser says that the University at Buffalo (where I'm studying now), considers the overall GPA for grad school. She also says that I 'might' get into grad school since my CS GPA is good.

    I don't understand 'might'. I'm not a Math or a history major because I suck at it! I like programming and I have proven myself doing it. Fine I don't have a 4.0 but still, I think this is retarded!

    I just hope that there is some school out there that will accept me.

    I'm also considering to do a MBA, do you think that to do a MBA I need to have a 3.0+ overall GPA?
  12. Jan 14, 2009 #11

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    MBA is easier. Lots of schools offer it, many of which will take anyone whose tuition check doesn't bounce.

    Many grad schools in sciences or engineering require a minimum overall GPA substantially higher than yours.

    The way grad admissions work is that the departments admit a fixed number of students. If they take you, they have to reject someone else. I think you need to ask what you bring that would cause them to do that. Not your CS grades: 3.1 is substantially below the typical accepted student's. Not your undergraduate institution - Buffalo is not MIT or Stanford. Not your total GPA: 2.6 is so low it's below the bare minimum of many schools. And frankly, not your attitude: someone who does a shoddy job with tasks they don't like is of very little use to a research program. Being good at programming is not terribly advantageous either - would you expect a civil engineering program to accept someone who happens to be a good bricklayer?

    If you are interested in grad school, I think you have to start doing better on the tasks you think are "retarded" - this will raise your GPA, and will make you much less unappealing to an admissions committee.
  13. Jan 14, 2009 #12


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    I have to concur with Vanadium-50 on this. Getting into grad school is a competative process, so just making a minimum level for acceptance does not guarantee you a spot - hence your advisor's choice of the word "might."
  14. Jan 14, 2009 #13
    Getting accepted into a grad school is easy, getting support is whats hard. Are you planning to be a TA when in grad school?
  15. Jan 14, 2009 #14
    Well, Thanks for the reply. I've to respectfully disagree.

    I didn't mean to pose a question. I think this system needs to change. I'm talking about Physics major having to do history, or a geology major having to do a CS class. If you let people do the subjects just relevant to the major, like for example I'm a CS major, if I had to do only CS core requirements, I'd finished school in about two and a half years maybe three. I got into college at 17, I'm 21 now, so the way I see it I've wasted about a year of my life doing things I don't really like and that won't really help in my field. Here is a question: How does studying about how Roman's shagged help me with JAVA or C++?

    Once someone in computer industry told that if the transportation industry grew as fast as the computer industry then we would have flying cars. I think it was Bill Gates. Not sure though. Well, I think if colleges produced good programmers instead of what they produced now, the average lines of code per day won't be 20!

    My overall average is a B-, maybe a little less. One thing that I've realized especially
    in big schools, where sometimes there are multiple sections/class, the grade you obtain depends a lot on the instructor. Last semester I took differential equations and except for my finals I did quite well. My grade was a C+. My friend in another section took the class with another instructor and he got a B. We did the same text book. They covered less chapters than us and 10% of the grade was homework that you just had to turn in. 5% was attendance. Any retard could have got 15% of the grade.

    The difference between an A and an A-/B+ is the instructor that you take the class

    This other guy that I know did computer science in another school (not a
    community college) and his GPA was greater than mine thus got in to UB grad school. His programming skills are pretty low. He gets help from his friends (including myself) to complete his projects. Now if I was at his school my GPA would have been more than what it is now. So I don't deserve to be in grad school because I was busy living life and he is in grad school why now???

    One of my seniors when I first entered college said that he sacrificed As to get laid. I did the same.

    My friend btw got a job for 80k starting pay.

    I wasn't looking for advice. I was surfing the net and came across this thread and just thought of expressing my thoughts. Thanks for your reply!

    College can and should be made more efficient! Saves money and time.
  16. Jan 14, 2009 #15


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    Short Answer:
    community college.

    Longer Answer:
    I understand you're venting at the system. Anyone who's gone through school has taken their share of 'less than important' courses. But you have to remember that a university degree isn't just supposed to train people to get better in a single field. The purpose is to give people a superior education - so that they can be more productive citizens because when they apply the skills they've learned in their fields, they can do it in a greater context. With a university education, one can see the "bigger" picture, approach problems from a conceptual point of view, and make more ethical decisions (if one chooses to).

    There is a more efficient, cheaper way from A to Z. You go to a community college where much of the "fluff" is stripped away and you graduate faster, and having paid less money and with a valuable skill set that can get you a good job in the working world. Of course, that "fluff" is what helps you go from reading and applying step-by-step instructions to developing the instructions in the first place.

    With respect to the "difference between an A and an A-/B+ is the instructor that you take the class with" comment.
    Most universities grade on a curve - meaning your grade is assigned in relation to the class average. Where different professors teach the same class, they are required to move up or bring down their average accordingly to mitigate any gross differences in teaching technique. It is possible there could still be differences in the distributions, but these are unlikely to make a significant difference in grades.

    Finally, you have to remember that you chose the path you're on. If you don't agree with the course requirements for a degree - why pursue the degree? If you don't like the grading scheme of a course (which is explained at the first lecture), why take the course? If you feel that another professor is a better teacher, why not transfer classes?

    Again, I realize you're venting. And no, the system isn't perfect. But if you think university is "retarded," wait 'till you walk a mile in the working world...
  17. Jan 14, 2009 #16
    From what I understand, graduate school in computer science has a good chance of being more about math than programming, anyway...
  18. Jan 15, 2009 #17
    The system isn't perfect! But people keep defending this system!

    As for the curve-

    My CS GPA would have been higher if not are a class that I took last semester for which I got a C-. I barely passed. The class average was 54 and my average was a little over 59. When I complained to the instructor said that 30% of the class did better than me. Over 50% of the class failed! Meanwhile the other section had like at least 7 As out of about 50 students (7 people I know). I understand that we could pick our instructors but sometimes our schedules don't support that. In my case, I didn't pay tuition on time so I had to signed up for the classes a week later.

    This is a broken system! Community college isn't the answer. The answer is strengthen the high school curriculum and include these Gen Ed classes. Then when you get to college instead of 4 years you get a degree in 3 years or less if you are smart!

    My father said that when he was young he could have got a job after high school, 10 years back it was a college degree, now its increasing becoming grad school. A college degree doesn't guarantee a good job now a days. I believe its important that we finish college as soon as possible. Just imagine we finish college at 20 or 21, instead of 22 or 23. You could go and get specialized in some aspect related to your field. At 22 or 23 you will have a masters or some sort of specialization not just a degree that every tom dick and harry has now a days. There will be a time when every tom dick and harry will have a masters, well then we move even higher.

    This system of education that we have in place is out dated and inefficient. Its increasingly becoming ineffective as well. I hate it when people keep defending it!

    I am a good student not a perfect student! I'm above average at what I do. I like what I do and I believe that I have what it takes to succeed in grad school. If there isn't a school here that will accept me well then I'll go some where else! I hear Australia is pretty decent!
  19. Jan 15, 2009 #18


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    The answer is to learn the material and not get a C- and have to whine to the instructor

    Being above average is not enough for grad school.

    Stop bitching and whining and learn the material. Ultimately, grad schools want to take in the best students. So be that best student and stop blaming everyone else.
  20. Jan 15, 2009 #19


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    Youre asking for sympathy in a forum were people go to act like pricks. I wouldnt ask for advice on this forum thats what youre supposed to have advisers and mentors for.
  21. Jan 15, 2009 #20


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    As far as I can tell, drjay was asking for us to clarify his advisors comments on his grad school prospects, not asking for sympathy. The fact that he didn't like answer he got is not anyone's problem but his own, since the answer is the truth.

    Is giving drjay realistic advice about his grad school prospects "being a prick?" That's the only thing anyone has done here. His chances are not the best, no matter how you try to spin it. A 2.6 over all GPA is very low for grad school applicants, and is not a competitve GPA, no matter the reasons its that low. 2.6 is below the 3.0 cutoff for most grad schools. The posters in this thread were stating these facts, not purposely trying to insult him.

    The truth of the matter is that drjay will have trouble getting into grad programs. He needs to get his GPA much higher to have a reasonable shot at most places. He needs to know this, and the responsible thing to do is to tell him this objectively. If you want you can be less of a "prick" and say "You won't have any problem getting into grad school." but how will this help him? It will only give him a false sense of security.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2009
  22. Jan 15, 2009 #21


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    And some people complain about the system in a forum that has no power to affect change.
    If you feel you have a legitimate case, where the marks were not effectively averaged out to account for differences in class averages - bring it to the attention of the chair of that department. All it takes is a politely worded email and clear data to back up your point.

    So your argument is that high school teachers should be forced to enrich their already overwhelming curriculum and teach classes at the university level? And students should be forced to learn from general educators rather than specialists who actively conduct research in each field? I respectfully disagree.

    I've never really understood this thinking. (You're not the only one who holds this opinion.)
    Why the hurry to finish university? As soon as you start cutting things out, the education diinishes. This is a slippery slope that eventually makes it into exactly what it is you're arguing against - a piece of paper given to every Tom, Dick and Harry.
  23. Jan 15, 2009 #22

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    Choppy, I also think it''s worth emphasizing your point that there is value in a liberal education, and there are alternatives. One shouldn't complain, though, that they don't like the consequences of making that choice.
  24. Jan 15, 2009 #23


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    It was more directed at general features of this forum and I guess internet in general. Like the thread about the person considering physics with a mental disability in which half of the responses were along the lines of look for a good disabilities office(excellent advice) and the other half was along the lines of "its going to be hard, consider trade school". Im pretty sure that that person in the mental disabilities thread is aware it is going to be a hard road and is seriously considering physics before posting. In any type of real-life situation were a person asking for advice the ratio of those types of reaction wouldnt be 50/50 but more like 85/15 with more people giving good advice with out being overly discouraging. The internet is generally a less supportive place outside of forums that are meant to be support groups.

    I also think the person in this thread is aware that the statement "You won't have any problem getting into grad school." is complete bs. If the poster is not I would suggest learning more about the grad admissions process. Im just suggesting that a reasonable response would be to tell him his/her GPA should be higher therefore he should consider an extra year to raise it and most likely a MS program after that rather than just telling saying grades are low and should of been higher. Being a monday morning quarterback.
  25. Jan 15, 2009 #24
    Are you kidding me? The working world ain't half as retarded as academia...

    A fine observation...one that I completely agree with.
  26. Jan 15, 2009 #25
    What field of physics do you want to pursue? That would definitely allows others to hone in on some good schools you could apply to. Do you want to pursue condensed matter, gravity, quantum field theory, string theory, low energy physics, particle physics, etc?

    I'm sure there are some physics programs that are, at the very least, lenient on the GPA issue.

    And there seems to be a common pattern amongst all these threads, particularly concerning the GPA. I don't really want to get into all of it, whether or not it's justified or not. However, I think what can be agreed upon, is that unless the applicant has something extraordinary on their resume, like a really nice publication or very very strong research record, or a 90%+ GRE Physics score, a top 10-top 20 university is pretty much out of the question with a weaker GPA, around a 3.0 or less.

    However, that does not mean graduate school is out of the question completely. Certainly you can work harder and fix some things. So Stanford and Caltech are not a possibility, but I'm sure if you stayed an extra year, worked really hard and fixed some of your weak points as a student, you could probably end up getting into a nice grad program. Probably not a top 10, but still a good grad program and get a great education.

    I wold view it as the top 10 ship has sailed. You need to be excellent for 4 years to get into a top 10, and even then that might not cut it. They have sparkling grad applications. For the rest of us, we will have one or more flaws in our graduate application and have to apply to lesser ranked school.

    I was in the same boat as some of the posters. Although my GPA was never the problem, my GRE score was and that I did not attend a top undergrad school. You know, sometimes that's just how it is. You just need to make the most out of your situation and get the most out of your abilities. If you current situation is a not so good GPA, why not stay a year, work your *** off, I mean give 100% effort and hold yourself to a very high standard while taking tough courses, and then reapply?

    I got rejected from grad school last year and I studied all summer and all Fall, even though I already graduated. I commuted 2 - 3 times a week to school (a 6 hour commute total, each day!!!!) in the Fall so I could study differential geometry with a very famous geometer, finish a paper that I had been working on with my professors for almost a year and continue pursuing mathematical physics and geometry with another professor. You have to work at it if you have weaknesses. If you believe your GPA does not reflect your abilities, then you need to address why it didn't? Because to me, being an excellent thinker and a hard working student is an invariant quantity. It does not matter how you measure it, that measurement should still show that you are a very talented student. If not, just be honest and admit, hey there are things I need to work on, but it is very fixable.

    I really hope I did not come off as antagonizing. I understand what it's like to have a difficult time with very difficult subjects such as math and physics. But graduate school is a totally different game with it's own set of rules. Whether or not those rules makes any sense, that's not my call to make. But, it is up to me how I approach mastering my interests and showing that I have mastered my interests.

    Basically, I'm saying, sure you might have messed up with the GPA. You can definitely do things to fix it. But you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and work extremely hard. I mean probably putting in 30 hours a week outside of class, depending on what you are willing to take on.

    Overall, I think it's always a mistake to underestimate people based on one thing or on anything really. Nobody really knows what anyone is capable of. Most of us here are adults, and we need to be accountable for our performance. I am of the belief that if you really understand the material and spend a lot of time solving relevant problems, you should ace the course. Should, not always, but should.

    Anyway, good luck with everything; you should not give up your dreams.

    Just my .02.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2009
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