Jump to content

Seeking Advice - Low GPA, Everything Else Perfect


MrOptimistic

Recommended Posts

Hello,

I am a current graduate student (Master's) at Georgia Tech and I am looking to apply to PhD schools in the fall.

When I was an undergrad, my GPA was a 2.8 in engineering because of personal issues (my mother passed away and I was seriously depressed with psychiatry for 1 year). I was a President's Scholar at GT (50 out of each incoming freshman class every year) and my GPA fell from 3.5 to 2.1. Only after I battled my depression was I able to pull it up to 2.8 over my last 3 semesters at GT.

I was accepted into a Master's program at GT only because of my circumstances, I am almost certain of it. My GPA in my Master's program is a 4.0 and I have been doing research as a graduate student. However, I have no publications yet. I hope to have one approved for publication by August.

My GRE Q is 790. I am hoping to retake it to hit 800Q since high Q for GRE is so common for engineers.

I am interested in applying to TOP programs such as MIT, Berkely, Stanford, etc. Do I have a chance with my 2.8 undergrad GPA? I would really like to think that my high grad GPA and extenuating circumstances could overcome my low undergrad GPA but I have my doubts. I feel that my background for the fields that I am applying to is perfect and that I have a desirable application except that undergrad GPA...

I am trying to avoid generic advice such as "get good recs and get published". Rather, I was wondering if anyone can provide any evidence of people they know who have been accepted to top schools with circumstances like mine?

It would really disappoint me if the system is set up so that no one can pick themselves up to the front of the pack again once they have fallen.

Thanks in advance

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm in a similar boat as you, low GPA, everything else about my application exceeds other applicants as far as field work, experience, GRE, recommendations, and pertinent coursework (with high grades). I applied to two higher-end (but not top) programs in my field for PhD's and was denied at both this year, and am going for a master's and plan to work my tail off to eventually be able to be a competitive applicant for the PhD.

I asked one of my undergraduate advisers after I had been rejected if I was running up hill for no reason. I asked him if having such a low UGPA was a futile quest, and if my goal of earning my PhD was even possible. He said, absolutely, so long as someone works hard at the graduate level and proves the old adage "graduate success is best determined by undergraduate success" wrong that makes you a more competitive candidate.

I apologize, I might not be the best advise giver since I am in the social sciences and not engineering, but I would try contacting the departments you want to apply to as early as possible and maybe talking to potential advisers or individuals who serve on admissions committees about what your career goals are, why are you are pursuing your PhD and what you can offer the departments, as well as networking and putting a face on your application. Also, (and I'm sure that you know this, but it can't be stressed enough) a strong statement of purpose with a specific project in mind and how you plan to execute it with the help of different professors can make your break your application. I would think that an admissions committee would be more interested in a candidate who can articulately plan an interesting project that meshes well with the department who has shown vast improvement over the later years of their education than a candidate fresh out of college with a 4.0 and a very vague idea of what they wanted to do.

Best of luck. There is hope for us sub 3.0 UPGAs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

absolutely go for it. i don't have a specific anecdote for you, but i'm about to enter an MA program that has told me they send many students with a "similar background" to mine (2.8 UGPA) to top-10 PhD programs in my field. you've got, what, 1 year, 2, of 4.0ness at the grad level? AND you ended your UGPA on an upswing? i wouldn't let this deter to you from applying where you want to. and not to add to the generic advice you're dreading, but your LOR's are everything, so make sure they mention they don't know who that person was who got bad grades.

Edited by monkeyface
Link to comment
Share on other sites

MrOptimistic, you definitely should give it a shot! You won't know until you send out those apps.

As for UGPA, if your overall trend is upward, and seems like you have stellar GRE scores and MA work, you can address this in your personal statement/SOP. From my interviews, the PIs I talked to told me that LORs, your personal statement, and having research experiences are important. It's not uncommon to see poor grades in the beginning of college years and improvement later on, and they understand that. You can talk to your LORs and have them back you up in their letters, saying that you are hardworking etc. Although I didn't go through what you went through, but I messed up my first 3 semesters of undergrad (badly adjusted and getting many C's in a roll), so I started out having 2.3 overall. When I was about to graduate, I pulled my GPA up close to 3.0 with an Honors Thesis, and got accepted to a top-20 PhD program in my field (of course, not without my supportive LORs). There is hope.. It may look tough, but don't loose hope!

Is there a reason that you are only interested in the very top programs? If your main goal is to do research in your field, and location of the school is not that important for you, I read somewhere on this forum that you can look into schools in the Midwest or South region. There are also good research institutions at these places, and less competitive (my guess is coast regions are considered more habitable to most people..). This way your chance of being admitted to a program would increase.

Just my 2 cents based on personal experience from this current application season. Good luck to you and you will be fine!

Edited by Tall Chai Latte
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am interested in applying to TOP programs such as MIT, Berkely, Stanford, etc. Do I have a chance with my 2.8 undergrad GPA?

Do you mean that you want to only apply to top programs? I don't think that would be wise for any student, no matter the strength of application. Are there lower ranked schools that have faculty who match your interests? I think you should definitely ask yourself, for lack of a better way of putting it, how badly do you want a Ph.D.?

I would really like to think that my high grad GPA and extenuating circumstances could overcome my low undergrad GPA but I have my doubts. I feel that my background for the fields that I am applying to is perfect and that I have a desirable application except that undergrad GPA...

I am going to be very honest here and I hope this doesn't sound rude: there is a fine line between discussing "extenuating circumstances" and getting into a competition in suffering. I would advise you to be cautious about depicting your circumstance, tragic as it may have been, as the type that is insurmountable. If for no other reason, you cannot be certain who else is in your applicant pool whose application is being read alongside your own.

There is an excellent article floating around about kisses of death in the graduate school application. You may want to check it out. While no program can discriminate against you for mental health issues...well...yeah, I wouldn't put it in my application.

It is enough to simply address the issue, but, in my experience, it is best to place the overwhelming focus on your background and accomplishments.

I am trying to avoid generic advice such as "get good recs and get published".

The recommendations will be a key point for you. You ideally need someone who has supervised many graduate students and who can address your ability and commitment to become a professional scholar.

I wouldn't pay attention to the publication advice, though. In fact, I find there is a disconnect between the amount of people giving this advice and the amount of people actually having publications before entering graduate school.

Also, if you got a 790Q on the GRE, I wouldn't take it again. I don't think there is a statistically significant difference between a 790 and 800, is there?

Rather, I was wondering if anyone can provide any evidence of people they know who have been accepted to top schools with circumstances like mine?

I was.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a roughly similar situation. I dropped off my undergrad once, and started again. My undergrad GPA is around 3.0, second upper class :(, which is bad for a PhD applicant . I got average GRE, and a good masters degree, by the way.

Although it is not stated, but I believe my GPA hurt my chances quite bad.

IMO, the best like MIT, Stan, Berk, etc may be very difficult. But you have good chance at the second best like UIUC, Austin, UMich, etc.

By the way GPA is only one aspect of your application consisting of many, such as research, LOR, essays, and so.

All the best my friend.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A comment I forgot to add is a great paper can get you in great program. So try to make your coming paper great.

I believe people at Gatech always produce breathtaking publications, not just publications. ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use