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Does a GPA misstep in a masters program spell trouble for PhD apps?


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Hi,

I'm currently doing a masters in Medieval History in an attempt to make myself a bit more marketable to the PhD programs that I'm interested in (UVA, among others). I've just gotten one of my grades in for this semester for a class that was required but well outside my comfort zone, and it was an A-. In your experiences, how much might an A- on a transcript hurt me, in the grand scheme of things, keeping in mind that I should be presenting at several conferences next year, as well as publishing an article? If all goes according to plan, I should be able to pull out a 3.975 for a final GPA.

For other background information, I'm planning on going into historical linguistics and had a 1330 GRE.

I'm just a little devastated and frantic right now, so any advice that you could provide would be really helpful.

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Gee, when I read the title of this thread, I thought it was going to be about getting a C or something, which would be trouble. What's wrong with an A-? A 3.98 GPA? Are you kidding? I would kill for that. I had a 3.40 GPA in my master's program, and still got in somewhere I'm very happy with. Your GPA should have no effect at all on your chances. I've never been the type to worry about grades, so I can't relate to the emotional reactions you describe, but I think your 'devestation' over this is needless. Good luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is one of those field-by-field, program-by-program, things again, isn't it? One of the ones where half the posters claim that anything lower than an A in grad school is a warning sign that you are sucking, and the other half claim that anything above a C+ is totally fine, and both sides are correct for their own programs and fields?

Most of us don't know the standard for your field and program, so we don't know if an A- is actually a good grade that you are freaking out about unnecessarily (this would be true in my program) or a signal that you really need to get your act together. But even if it is the latter, a single grade misstep is unlikely to hurt you in PhD admissions unless it's in the area that you want to specialize in, and possibly not even then.

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This is one of those field-by-field, program-by-program, things again, isn't it? One of the ones where half the posters claim that anything lower than an A in grad school is a warning sign that you are sucking, and the other half claim that anything above a C+ is totally fine, and both sides are correct for their own programs and fields?

Yes. In English, we generally suffer from hyper grade-inflation in our departments. I (and several of my colleagues) have also gotten upset over an A- in the past.

That being said: no, I don't think it's something to fret about for applications. First, as you noted, this course was outside your immediate area. Second, the most important parts of your application packet are the writing sample, SoP, and LoR.

You have a high GPA and good GRE scores; you'll be fine! I know that at my program, GREs and GPAs are more used to decide between two or more candidates who are at a sort of "tie," rather than used to decide which candidates get sorted into the accept/reject piles.

Edited by runonsentence
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I have to say that I am in a similar position as OP-- I just got my last grade in for the past semester, and I have one A-. I should come out to a 3.96 GPA, but I am still freaking out a little.

I am particularly upset because this course bears a title that sounds like it is my immediate area of research, but in reality the work I did for that class had little to do with my area.

The other courses I have taken and done extremely well (one professor told me that I was one of the best students she has taught and told me that she has a letter of recommendation for me already) they appear on my transcript as "topics in blah blah" or "special topic" with no specification.

I think that my work will speak to my interest in this particular field better than transcripts will, but I am still a little worried.

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If anecdotal evidence is of any consolation, I had two "A-"s—one of which was in Ancient Rhetoric (note my avatar, hah)—but still had two competitive offers and a third acceptance.

Again, the SoP, writing sample, and LoR (possibly in that order, if you're in English) are most important, and would far outweigh one little A-.

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