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Low GPA, is a PhD even a possibility?


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Hello, I posted once before nearly two years ago and received solid advice from you guys and I really tried my very best to follow it all! I wanted to update where I am at, see what you guys are thinking, and if there's any other advice or insights you can offer. 


So, now that I am in my last undergrad semester, I am looking into furthering my education. Ideally, I would like to enter a PhD program in Linguistics but I am still insecure about that even being an option for me. I am considering MA programs too, but those would be a fall back plans to be honest. I would need a program that's funded (hopefully fully) regardless. 

The biggest issue  is my GPA is quite low - above a 3.02 now, and should be up to 3.1 when I finish. Since returning to school my first semester back was a 3.95, and then 4.0 this past fall. 

Some other things that might help my application: 

  • The head of my ling. dept will for sure give me a great recommendation, and will be able to get another good LOR from a visiting professor this semester
  • I have two research projects already completed (one was funded via a research award, and I received an additional award for winning first place for my research poster design -  fwiw) I will be able to do another good research project this semester as well.
  • I am vice president of my schools linguistics club 
  • I have 4+ years experience in teaching TESOL abroad (young children through adults) 

Some other things that will be a challenge on my application: 

  • Low GPA
  • Not all of my LORs will be from the Linguistics dept 
  • I doubt my GRE scores will be competitive (I have not taken them yet, but math has always been a struggle for me)

Regardless, I plan to take a gap year and serve in Americorps. I wanted to take the time to really research my options, and to study for the GRE. 


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Opinion from a non-linguistics applicant.

My undergrad GPA was just over a 3.0 (I think it was a 3.082 or something) and I took the route of a funded master's (they are difficult to find, but do exist) and was able to get accepted into some PhD programs for next fall due to my "upward trajectory" in my GPA. I think the same holds true for you based on your current success in your last half of your undergrad. You may still need to look at a master's if you get denied everywhere, but I think you have the chance without it. While the ending GPA is quite low, it is above a 3.0 and the adcomms do look at the trends of GPA and focus a lot on the last 60 hours for undergraduate applicants. The GRE is also another great opportunity to shine if you can take the time and study for it. Lastly, letters of rec and your personal statement are very important as well.

I think the most solid advice I got when I looked at applying to PhD programs was the fit of the program means everything. Now that I have gone through an admission season, I can say it really does. I got into some extremely competitive programs and got interviewed at others with the hope of getting admitted, simply because I fit their research interests and carefully selected the programs I applied to based on the research that program was doing. Then, I tailored my statement of purpose and asked my letters of rec writers to focus on specific elements of my skill set that would fit best with that program. I think the hard work and planning really paid off for me. Don't limit yourself due to your GPA. It is just one element of the application and they are really more interested in you and why you want to pursue the PhD in the first place.

Edited by Sandmaster
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