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Low GPA, Chances of PhD Admission

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I have a low cumulative GPA (3.25) from UC Berkeley with a major GPA of about 3.58. I suffer from a mental illness and was unmedicated for most of my undergrad, causing my grades to suffer. Will this hinder my chances of getting into a PhD program? I have a 163 in GRE Verbal which I am retaking because I was very ill when I took it last, and two of my letters of recommendations are coming from Columbia professors, as I recently took some English classes at Columbia since I have been away from school for a long time. I would also appreciate advice on how I can make my application more competitive. 

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Might as well go for it! Only way to find out. My sense is that a 3.2 could be disqualifying at some -- many? -- top programs, but I'm also just a jerk on the internet. I know there are others here with more knowledge on the subject 

If you're up for it, I think it might make sense to apply to funded terminal MAs in addition to PhDs. Funding for discrete MAs is hard to come by, but it does exist, and a high GPA in an MA program would probably mitigate some/most of the effects of a low undergrad GPA.

If you're in the northeast, I would suggest UConn, which has good funding for all (lots of teaching attached to that, however). I know that Boston College and Villanova both offer funding, and then, if you're willing to totally uproot your life, there are a few places in odd corners of the country that offer full funding for terminal MAs (New Mexico, Western Washington, and I think one of the UNCs, for example)

Unless you're independently loaded, it is generally a bad idea to do an unfunded MA. It's not a degree that's worth the debt, in any sense. The one exception to this rule (that I can think of) would be CUNY, but only if you're an NYC resident (very affordable degrees if you have residency in the city)

Anyway, good luck! Again, I think you should definitely apply to PhDs, but maybe try and balance that with a few terminal MA apps if you can stomach it

edit: looks like you're in Arizona, so forget all the northeast/NYC stuff, sorry lol. The Columbia comment threw me off

Edited by Starbuck420
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  • 1 month later...

I am not an admissions officer, so I can't say for sure, but I am currently looking at program requirements myself and can share what I've seen. 

A lot of places will report on the average GPA of admitted students, so I would look at the website for schools you're interested in specifically and, if it's not available there, maybe send them an email. I have come across a few that require a certain overall GPA just to apply, but it is like a B-average (3.0), so you should be good in that sense. 

It also may be worth reaching out to the admissions office and explaining to them your situation. I would imagine it'd be possible for you to include an extra document in your application to explain a bit more why your undergrad GPA is perhaps lower than you'd like it be and how you've addressed the underlying causes. I like to think they would be willing to take that into consideration, especially because the writing sample, personal statement, and recommendation letters will ultimately hold a lot more weight in determining whether or not you're a good candidate. 

Just my two cents. I also agree with what @Starbuck420 has said about thinking about a fully-funded terminal MA. I am in a similar boat in that I have every intention of pursuing my PhD but may need to get a terminal MA to help make me more competitive applicant. Hope that helps. Best of luck!

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