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Hi everyone. I'd love to hear your views on this:

During my MA studies, I took a class purely out of interest. Because I was not as familiar with the topic as the students studying the field, I took an approach common in my own area of studies to do the work for this class. In fact, half of the grad students in the seminar were from a different department / school, so I was not the only one. After finishing the semester, I was too preoccupied on various things, such as working on my thesis, so much that I did not check my grades until much later. And honestly, at that point I was pretty confident about getting the grade I wanted. I finished my thesis, started preparing for PhD applications, then I found out that I got a B for the class. I come from a place where it is very rare that students get a GPA higher than 3.5/4.0, and so I thought getting a B wasn't a big deal, and ~maybe~ it was because I really wasn't that good in the class. As everyone knows, last round of application was a disaster. Unfortunate for me, I did not get into any PhD program. Then I started to look for ways to improve my application, like trying to get published, etc. Recently that I learned that in the U.S. everyone gets a 4.0/4.0 GPA in grad school, and that a B actually means a bare pass. I looked back on my interactions with the professor and realized those little things I shrugged off as nothing actually meant something, because those things could have contributed to my bad grade. The course instructor and I had different views on things (e.g.: a leftist vs a rightist), and in my papers I chose to write about what I believed. Now I'm just wondering if it's possible for me to appeal for my grade after such a long time (I have graduated since), or at least make a statement to express my view on the situation? I am also a little worried about getting retaliated for doing so, since I will also be applying for the PhD program in the same university (although the professor was actually from a different school in the university, and certainly not from the same school where I did my MA). Should I fight for my grade now, or should I focus on finding other ways to improve my applications?

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Hi @Alyson,

While higher grades exist more commonly (partly because the demographics are different) in grad school, it is untrue that everyone in grad school has a 4.0 GPA. Different professors have different styles. Some professors might limit the amount of A's in each class. Others might not have any limits. Grades aren't by any means the most important part in the humanities. The reason you get rejected from a program is highly unlikely to do with someone outscoring you by a 10th of a percentage point. If your GPA was below a B+ average (or littered with C's), there might be more reason to worry but a B in a class (especially in a field/topic outside of your own) isn't going to hurt you.

I think there would be more effective ways to spend your time though than trying to get your grade changed. Getting a better understanding of your fit within a program, presenting at conferences (to make connections), submitting to journals, spending additional time on your SOP/Writing Sample, and engaging with your professors in conversations to strengthen your recommendation letter based on your CV are all ways in which might help to strengthen your application. None of these are guaranteed though and one can excel in all of these and still not be admitted. What committees are looking for one year might differ from year to year depending on who's serving on the committee, how they're trying to balance a cohort, and so many other factors. I think it's important to remember that rejection is not personal. You are more than your application to grad school.

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4 hours ago, Alyson said:

Recently that I learned that in the U.S. everyone gets a 4.0/4.0 GPA in grad school, and that a B actually means a bare pass.

Hello! 🙂 I think you don’t have to worry too much about your B, especially if it’s the lowest grade you have.

I’m not sure where you heard this though about everyone getting a 4.0, but this is entirely not true. People get a variety of grades in grad school, and it also depends on the field. For example, in law (which is grad level in the US), you’re graded on a curve in nearly all of your classes. By that alone, 99% of law students would be unable to get a 4.0 GPA and be disadvantaged when applying for a PhD in another field, were they to decide to ever go into academia in a different field.

I think @Warelin gave you some really great advice. The best approach to make yourself more competitive would be to improve other areas of your application and you still have plenty of time for that! Your GPA is only a single part, and unless you have plenty of grades that are B or lower (and you couldn’t possibly contest all of them), you shouldn’t worry too much about this grade. There are many reasons that the professor could have given you a B. Unfortunately, the time to have asked for feedback was back then, which has passed. I think that an appeal now wouldn’t help at all, especially since you wouldn’t be able to provide solid evidence of any wrongdoing on your professor’s part.

Also, I don’t know about retaliation, but I don’t think it would be a good look to have a grade appeal at the same university that you’re applying to, especially when you mentioned that you’ve already graduated, especially in a previous year.

I understand your worries, but I think you might be overestimating the importance of this one grade. Instead, as you’ve mentioned, you should try to look forward and take proactive steps (e.g., working on SOP, attending conferences if possible, reaching out to potential advisors, securing good letters of recommendation, fixing up any writing samples, etc.).

Good luck with everything!

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Sorry for my late reply! It's been a very busy couple of days...

On 7/15/2021 at 1:56 AM, Warelin said:

Different professors have different styles. Some professors might limit the amount of A's in each class. Others might not have any limits.

This is so true. In one of my classes the professor gave everyone an A-. When I heard that those who did not take his class managed to get 4.0 GPA, I just felt it was so unfair. 

On 7/15/2021 at 1:56 AM, Warelin said:

I think there would be more effective ways to spend your time though than trying to get your grade changed. Getting a better understanding of your fit within a program, presenting at conferences (to make connections), submitting to journals, spending additional time on your SOP/Writing Sample, and engaging with your professors in conversations to strengthen your recommendation letter based on your CV are all ways in which might help to strengthen your application. None of these are guaranteed though and one can excel in all of these and still not be admitted. What committees are looking for one year might differ from year to year depending on who's serving on the committee, how they're trying to balance a cohort, and so many other factors. I think it's important to remember that rejection is not personal. You are more than your application to grad school.

Thank you for being so encouraging! Yes, I am more than my application, but because of many other reasons this round of application is particularly important for me. I am hoping that my 3.8 GPA isn't going to hurt me (too much)...

On 7/15/2021 at 5:54 AM, nanakimmy9 said:

There are many reasons that the professor could have given you a B. Unfortunately, the time to have asked for feedback was back then, which has passed. I think that an appeal now wouldn’t help at all, especially since you wouldn’t be able to provide solid evidence of any wrongdoing on your professor’s part.

I do have "evidence" to substantiate my claim (but I'm not going to post the details here because the young prof is active on social media, and who knows who is reading my post right now!) Here is an example: when we talk about a concept, (I think) we should be aware of the qualities the concept entails (e.g.: postmodernism is a left-wing ideology). One can't say that just because the qualities (leftist) were never explicitly mentioned in the article that made use of the concept (postmodernism), the qualities do not exist (postmodernism isn't leftist). This just means the reader is not familiar with the topic as s/he should be. My prof thought that I was wrong in thinking this way.

On 7/15/2021 at 5:54 AM, nanakimmy9 said:

Also, I don’t know about retaliation, but I don’t think it would be a good look to have a grade appeal at the same university that you’re applying to, especially when you mentioned that you’ve already graduated, especially in a previous year.

I understand your worries, but I think you might be overestimating the importance of this one grade. Instead, as you’ve mentioned, you should try to look forward and take proactive steps (e.g., working on SOP, attending conferences if possible, reaching out to potential advisors, securing good letters of recommendation, fixing up any writing samples, etc.).

Good luck with everything!

Thank you!! ☺️

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