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Do I/How to address low undergrad GPA for a PhD application?


Andromeda3921
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I'm an international student with 2 years of work experience and an Integrated (UG+PG) MA in Development Studies, applying to US schools for a PhD in Anthropology.  I feel the weak link in my profile is my undergrad GPA and I'm not sure what to do about it. II was in an inter-disciplinary programme and had to take compulsory courses in Economics and I ended up choosing a quant-heavy minor as well, which really brought my GPA down. These courses don't matter to Anthro, I guess and schools that I'm applying to have repeatedly mentioned that it's only one aspect of the application. But it still worries me. 

How does one address low GPA in undergrad as part of the application? I am choosing not to write this out in my Statement, but is there anywhere else I can talk about it, and even if I do, what do I say? 

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SInce you will have a MA, most programs will use that GPA as the main aspect of the GPAs. When I was applying for PhD, many programs mentioned that the MA GPA, coursework, and research was more important since I could already do graduate work. I also agree with @civitas and you should highlight your achievements. If they are curious about the low UG GPA, they will reach out to discuss further or during interviews (if the program/professor conducts interviews). 

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I agree with what @civitas and @Bschaefer said: they'll use you MA GPA and do not depict your defects. I would add, just to be clear: by no means, absolutely not make excuses for you grades in your SOP. 

Phrases like: "I had to take...[and my grades came down]", "These courses brought my grades down..." etc don't look good because your are placing the "blame" somewhere else. (I am not saying you are, I'm talking in general). (I certainly did this stuff in my first draft of my SOP)

However, phrases like: "I bring to X University a strong background in interdisciplinary approaches to [you theme] with an additional expertise in qualitative methods" sounds REALLY good. ?

Edited by AP
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@civitas@Bschaefer  and @AP, thanks for your inputs! It's extremely helpful. 

Let me also clarify that when I say undergrad, I refer to my Masters GPA . Since it was an integrated course, I only had one cumulative GPA at the end of five years, and thus was concerned, especially given that I'm shifting disciplines into Anthro. 

Edited by Andromeda3921
Forgot points earlier
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Oh gotcha, I would then try to separate the GPA for undergraduate courses and graduate course. Usually on the applications, they will ask for UG, grad, and cumulative GPA (All apps are different) so you could/would report all three. That way you can show that the grad GPA is better?-maybe?

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12 hours ago, Bschaefer said:

Oh gotcha, I would then try to separate the GPA for undergraduate courses and graduate course. Usually on the applications, they will ask for UG, grad, and cumulative GPA (All apps are different) so you could/would report all three. That way you can show that the grad GPA is better?-maybe?

Thank you, that sounds like a good idea, I'll try to see if that could work. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

For me, it was important to just highlight that I found my passion late in undergrad. It was fairly clear that this was the case when looking at my BA GPA and my MA GPA, so to just spell it out like that was fairly important.

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