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UndergradDad

3.7 GPA or lower acceptances

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Have we had a thread like this before? I don't remember one. As usual the results pages are replete with 4.0s and 3.9s. While having stellar gpas in philosophy courses makes a difference, the gpas showing in results usually refer to overall gpas so it would be helpful if we could get posts, especially for those of us looking towards next cycle, to know there are some acceptances out there for those with gpas under say 3.8.

Thanks.

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I mean I know someone who got into Harvard with a 3.5, but those are few and far between and had exceptional strengths in other areas of their application that most people won't have (prestige, famous letter writers, publishable sample).

 

so generally, no. you probably wont get into a  PhD program worth going to with a 3.7

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1 hour ago, Prose said:

I mean I know someone who got into Harvard with a 3.5, but those are few and far between and had exceptional strengths in other areas of their application that most people won't have (prestige, famous letter writers, publishable sample).

 

so generally, no. you probably wont get into a  PhD program worth going to with a 3.7

I agree that yes, a lower GPA will hurt your chances of admission, especially at the most competitive programs. (Although I doubt that a 3.7 is that low). However, a lower GPA won't necessarily sink one's chances of admission unless it's egregiously low. Even if it is, some students still manage to have success. Here's a relevant old thread with some examples:

I agree with the advice in the linked thread I posted; a low undergrad GPA can be effectively offset by going to a good MA and establishing a new (high) GPA.

Edited by hector549

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I would say it's worth a shot still, especially at places at which you would fit very well. If you have strong LOR and no glaring faults in a bad SOP or a bad writing sample, that is.

 

15 minutes ago, Prose said:

I mean I know someone who got into Harvard with a 3.5, but those are few and far between and had exceptional strengths in other areas of their application that most people won't have (prestige, famous letter writers, publishable sample).

 

so generally, no. you probably wont get into a  PhD program worth going to with a 3.7

what do you mean by "worth going to"

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I don't know whether what I have to say counts for anything, but I have talked to lots of different grad admissions and I think that they really try and look at the application holistically. If they are really excited about you, and the type of person/philosopher you present yourself to be through your application, then I don't think your 3.5 really matters all that much. My GRE scores are absurdly low and I have already had some luck with my acceptances. So, I really don't think you should be focused on the 'low point' of your application. As someone once told me (and this really stuck with me), all applications have them. Focus on showing them why they should accept you regardless of that 3.5

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43 minutes ago, Prose said:

I mean I know someone who got into Harvard with a 3.5, but those are few and far between and had exceptional strengths in other areas of their application that most people won't have (prestige, famous letter writers, publishable sample).

 

so generally, no. you probably wont get into a  PhD program worth going to with a 3.7

Tell me if I've understood you correctly: you're inferring from the fact that some applicant with a 3.5 GPA and stellar letters and prestigious pedigree was accepted by Harvard that any applicant with a 3.7 GPA has a low chance of being accepted by a worthwhile program?

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To second what some have already said, don't worry too much about a slightly low GPA. If you have strengths in other areas you should be okay. You want your application to be as strong as possible but this GPA will not rule you out from consideration. I know a few people who have gotten into top programs with either low GRE's or a low GPA, and it just goes to show that if the other parts of your application are strong then you definitely still have a shot!

I also think it matters what courses are bringing your GPA down. Are they phil courses or other courses that don't relate to your AOI? If they are Phil courses, or courses related to your AOI, that might be a problem. For instance, if you are specifically interested in philosophy of math and you took a bunch of math courses, and did poorly in them and that is what is bringing your GPA down, then that could be an issue. 

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3 hours ago, UndergradDad said:

Have we had a thread like this before? I don't remember one. As usual the results pages are replete with 4.0s and 3.9s. While having stellar gpas in philosophy courses makes a difference, the gpas showing in results usually refer to overall gpas so it would be helpful if we could get posts, especially for those of us looking towards next cycle, to know there are some acceptances out there for those with gpas under say 3.8.

Thanks.

I don't know in Philosophy, but you should go for it. Don't let a number stop you!

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I have a 3.7 from my second undergrad institution, but a 3.2 from my first (I am a transfer student), and I had interviews at Yale and Columbia as well as NYU. I was very worried about my GPA, but once I got to interviews, there were a lot of people in a similar range (3.5-3.7). I think programs tend to care more about your experience, personal statement, and letters of recommendation, though of course they look at GPA too. I would not worry if you have a 3.7 GPA. As long as you have a good application overall, you should be okay. And if you have a low GPA, then go and explain that in your personal statement. If you struggled in a class, but learned a lot about yourself, or about why you are in your field, then that number or letter becomes a part of your story. Don't overthink the numbers. 

EDIT: I know I'm not applying to philosophy programs, but I had a philosophy minor, and plenty of friends in grad school for philosophy, and they are backing me up on this!

Edited by virusologii

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11 minutes ago, virusologii said:

I have a 3.7 from my second undergrad institution, but a 3.2 from my first (I am a transfer student), and I had interviews at Yale and Columbia as well as NYU. I was very worried about my GPA, but once I got to interviews, there were a lot of people in a similar range (3.5-3.7). I think programs tend to care more about your experience, personal statement, and letters of recommendation, though of course they look at GPA too. I would not worry if you have a 3.7 GPA. As long as you have a good application overall, you should be okay. And if you have a low GPA, then go and explain that in your personal statement. If you struggled in a class, but learned a lot about yourself, or about why you are in your field, then that number or letter becomes a part of your story. Don't overthink the numbers. 

EDIT: I know I'm not applying to philosophy programs, but I had a philosophy minor, and plenty of friends in grad school for philosophy, and they are backing me up on this!

I agree with the general point, but do keep in mind that GPA's are lower in the sciences than they are in the humanities. A 3.2 in the sciences might not be so bad. In philosophy that would be quite low. A 3.7 in philosophy though? Not perfect perhaps, but not so low as to shut one out of admissions.

Edited by hector549

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30 minutes ago, Cogitodoncrien said:

Tell me if I've understood you correctly: you're inferring from the fact that some applicant with a 3.5 GPA and stellar letters and prestigious pedigree was accepted by Harvard that any applicant with a 3.7 GPA has a low chance of being accepted by a worthwhile program?

ok:

 

You have not understood me correctly.

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FWIW, I had just below a 3.8 cumulative GPA and got into a top 20 program. I have no idea whether those grades hurt me or not, but I get the sense that the quality of the writing sample matters much much more.

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I graduated with a 3.6 (although my philosophy GPA was closer to a 3.8, I was a double major) and I now attend Fordham (which isn't ranked, but is still a well-known program). UNC also kept me in the running until pretty much the last moment, so it can be done. 

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1. Whether you're talking about your overall GPA or your philosophy GPA makes a big difference!

2. As other people have said, it can hurt your chances, but also other parts of your application can bring you back up.

Sub-3.5 overall GPA, accepted last year at Tufts, waitlisted at GSU, MIT, NYU.

I think if a component of your application bothers you, the best thing to do is to have a talk with your letter-writers and ask them about your chances. Not only will they probably know better whether or not you're a good fit for grad schools, they can also note in their letters that X component of your application does not reflect your full abilities, and so on.

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Anecdotally, I just got accepted to UNC, which seems to me like a program worth going to, with a GPA of 3.69 (albeit a philosophy gpa of 3.9~). For context, I am coming from a well regarded but not elite public university without a ranked program in philosophy. I took a year off after graduating but I have no MA. I have strong GRE scores (160/170/5.5) and I can only assume my sample and letters were very good.

I’m posting this mainly to give people in a similar situation some hope, since I felt pretty hopeless at times going into this. People can and do get into top twenty programs with weaker GPAs (though weak philosophy GPAs may be another matter). Of course, what Prose seems to be saying probably has some truth to it: it may only be people whose applications are otherwise particularly excellent can get into highly ranked programs (especially top 10) with low GPAs. However, I’m not entirely sure about this. Grades must matter to some extent, but do committees actually disqualify applications that would otherwise be competitive because of low GPA and only look seriously at low-gpa applications if they are really exceptional?Are the person who got into Harvard’s materials, sans grades, better than the rest of his cohort? It seems to me most Harvard grad students, regardless of GPA, have prestige, strong letters and a near-publishable sample. I doubt my sample and letters are “better” than those of people who got into UNC with high gpas. Now, a low philosophy GPA probably is a serious blow against an applicant, but I doubt many adcoms will, looking at two applicants with strong samples and letters, decide to admit the one who didn’t get a c- in freshman organic chem or b’s in his gen-Ed requirements as an underclassman on that basis. Indeed, it may be that GPA doesn’t matter very much at all and that, like the GRE, the correlation between acceptance and GPA is mostly due to the fact that good students will likely be able to produce a good sample and letters. still, this whole process is such a mystery to me that I can’t make any definite statements. Ultimately, all I can say is that it seems unlikely to me that a low non-philosophy GPA will be a serious roadblock for an otherwise competitive applicant, and that it’s at least possible to get in as a low gpa-applicant (relatively speaking, since 3.7 is still above average at all but a few very generous private schools).  

Of course, the whole process is still incredibly competitive so don’t feel too reassured. Apply widely and consider MA programs. This may apply even more for lower-GPA, as i’ve heard people might see you as more of gamble and applying to many places may allow you to get seen by someone who’s willing to take that gamble. Who knows? I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if UNC was the only place to accept me- so far I have an acceptance from them and a rejection from Chicago. I’ll return to this thread when this harrowing is complete and give the final verdict, but give the nature of this process, we’ll never know for sure.

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Fyi I'm just representing one (ranked) program but we generally don't look at grades until after we've holistically evaluated the person's writing sample, statement, letters, etc. Occasionally then when we look at grades and there is a big problem (e.g. nothing above a B+ in any philosophy course, a poor grade in logic or math for someone who wants to do formal work, a really really low overall GPA) someone just gets immediately counted out. But normally once we've looked at everything else unless there is a huge red flag in your grades you're already basically in the yes, no, or the maybe pile. That being said, without looking at grades at first, it is rare that someone with a GPA below, say, 3.3-3.4 (unless they were e.g. taking a lot of very hard math/science courses) ends up in the yes or maybe pile. But it does happen. A 3.7 would certainly not even raise an eyebrow in my department at all unless the philosophy grades were bad. Even then it is the sample and the letters that matter more. We also don't look at GREs though our university requires that we ask for them.

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I just got accepted to Memphis's MA program (waitlisted for funding) with a 3.2 GPA, and undergrad degrees in Chemistry and Fiction Writing.  I did have a fairly prominent letter writer, however, and a few considerable bonuses on my CV (specifically, a funded research fellowship (in philosophy) and a guest lecture for a professor at my uni).  

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