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Weak GPA strong GRE?


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I am currently in the process of applying to graduate schools specifically a PhD in Sociology. I am applying to the University of Washington (my undergrad), the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan. I don't have a very good GPA (3.0) will it help to have very strong GRE scores? I was going through a rough patch in my life while in undergrad but I have 7 years of related work experience and strong writing samples. I am not sure if my GPA will hold me back, any advice?

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While each case is different, and I don't know much about the field of Sociology, in general, a high GRE can counter-act a poor gpa. However, what's more important is which portion of the GRE you score well on. For Sociology, I would assume scoring strongly on the Verbal and AW is more important than scoring well on the Quant section. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

An anecdote, but when I was in undergrad, I had a graduate student instructor who had a somewhat lower GPA and (IIRC) a near-perfect GRE score, with about five years of great research experience. She had a 3.4-3.5, but she was mainly applying to top 10 programs. She said there were a couple Ivy League schools that flat out refused to accept her despite the department and a specific advisor wanting her, but many schools overlooked her GPA (including Berkeley, which is where she ended up). She applied to a lot of schools, always contacted the professors she wanted to study under so they knew her name, and it worked out. I believe she got into a number of other top programs too. So, just an anecdote, but it's definitely possible!

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I'm a low-GPA success story of sorts. My GPA was between 3.0 and 3.3, and I got into 4 of 7 programs, fully funded (^^funny enough, also including Berkeley, where I am very excitedly going!) For my GRE, I scored in the 95th, 75th (yikes math), and 99th percentiles, which I do think helped me out. I had a thesis and good research, as well as very close professors who wrote good letters. The 3 schools I got rejected to are notorious for slashing below 3.5 (two ivies and one school that had a pretty bad fit, looking back), so I knew they were a stretch to begin with. Applying to two public schools, in my humanities/SS experience, is a great choice you're making; they seem to be a little more lax on numbers, and much more focused on hard factors, such as writing and fit. UChicago, I've heard, also takes a pretty holistic approach compared to many private schools, but don't quote me on that. 

Granted, my field is a bit less competitive than yours, but success stories such as the one @láadan stated definitely do happen! GRE and GPA are soft factors, so one could very well balance out the other. A good GRE, coupled with very strong writing samples and a perfect SoP, can definitely help you out. If your Major GPA is higher than your cGPA, this is crucial and you should definitely highlight that as well. Additionally, some schools will ask for the GPA from your last 4 semesters; if there was growth, that will be a boon. Lastly, I also recommend speaking to professors throughout the process, as they can be an amazing help during deliberation. Best of luck! 

ETA: **I also had personal family issues that impacted my GPA. If there is a section on your applications that allows for you to note extenuating circumstances (and there most likely will be), then make sure you state the hardships you went through and how you grew from them. Take your past hardships and make them work for you in your application! 


Edited by madamoiselle
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