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How many B's can I allow myself if I want to go to top grad school?

  1. Jun 28, 2014 #1
    Hello PF! Today have not been my day, as in calc 2, which I expected to get an A-, I ended with the final grade B+. A single grade wouldn't discourage me, but I am also taking a different math course (much harder) that I expect to get nothing more than a B- at most. Not a good way to start college :(

    Of course as I am just entering, I have the full adventure ahead of me. But my current grades still worry me, as it seems that top grad schools desire nothing less than a 3.9.

    For the upcoming years, what should I aim for (if even possible) to achieve the 3.9? How many more B's can I afford?

    As always, thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2014 #2


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    I don't think that's a bad grade for calc 2, hardly worth worrying about. It's one of the hardest subjects you'll do. But that B- is a little odd, my guess is you were focusing more on calc 2 and didn't pay so much attention to that other subject, could that be it?

    A surefire way to improve grades is to buy the book a few months early so you can get some familiarity with the subject before you learn it in depth. Don't do problems but try to get a feel for the subject, how it fits together.

    I can't say how many B's you need but surely no school is so picky that a B in calc 2 is bad.
  4. Jun 28, 2014 #3


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    Make sure you go to class if attendance is part of your grade.
  5. Jun 28, 2014 #4
    I've heard that after you get above ~3.7 you're reasonably good to go. Also, B's in calc 2 and your freshman/sophomore level classes won't matter as much as long as you pull the trend upwards in your junior/senior years.
  6. Jun 28, 2014 #5


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    Thinking in terms of "how many B's can I afford" is not likely to be constructive. You should aim for the highest GPA you can get. And if you are not happy with what you're getting, concentrate on strategies to improve your outcomes. Even more importantly, make sure you are learning and understanding the material.

    There is no " magic number" for getting into graduate school. Admission is a competitive process that's governed by the rules of supply and demand, but also subject to minimum thresholds.
  7. Jun 28, 2014 #6
  8. Jun 28, 2014 #7
    One of my friends had ~3.8 and got into Princeton, as well as everywhere else she applied. Just try and know the material.
  9. Jun 28, 2014 #8


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    The most important thing is that you show improvement. I got several Bs early on because I had a lot of trouble taking midterms when I started college. As time went on, that got a lot better and I really excelled in several grad classes and in research. In the end, I chose between Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago for condensed matter theory. I actually got fellowships at two of them which were given too the top few applicants. I think this had to do with my letters (apparently they were really outstanding) and my research experience (I had a first author paper accepted to PRL and was working on some other stuff at the time I applied).

    I personally think that your research experience and letters are the most important part of your application since the goal is to identify students with outstanding potential as future researchers. Your transcript for the most part is viewed holistically to gauge your foundation, but your letters can also provide insight into this if you have taken a course with one of your recommenders (and have gotten to know them). While some schools seem to use the PGRE to weed out applicants (MIT and Princeton) most schools are pretty forgiving regarding it if the rest of your application is really outstanding.
  10. Jun 28, 2014 #9
    I saw that happen to a classmate of mine. He did an REU at MIT and the professor there wanted him and wrote one of his letters. He had nearly straight A's and was a top performer. But he didn't get the required high score on the PGRE and thus could not get in.
  11. Jun 28, 2014 #10


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    I had a 3.7 GPA at a top school, great letters from other top schools (including two ivies), 4 internships, and multiple publications. I got into 2 out of the 13 grad schools I applied to, and those were both ranked over 100. Plus I'm a woman. That didn't help at all.
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