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GPA in the low 3s - top MPP chances?


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Hey all,

I'm applying to: Berekeley (Goldman), Brown (Taubman), Chicago (Harris), Columbia (SIPA), Cornell (CIPA), Georgetown (GSFS), Johns Hopkins (SAIS), Penn (Fels), UCLA (Luskin), USC (Price). But I have a question for some of the more seasoned folks on here.

Undergraduate institution: Los Angeles Pierce College ---> transferred to University of Southern California (USC) - Fight On! - on full academic scholarship

Undergraduate GPA: Cumulative - 3.5, At USC - 3.1 (Yes... ouch.)

Undergraduate Majors: Philosophy, Politics, and Law (PPL - modeled after Oxford's PPE program)

GRE: 164 (Q), 160 (V), 5 (W)

Years Out of Undergrad (if applicable): None but I worked for 4 years after high school before deciding to go to college (see below)

Years of Relevant Work Experience: 6 years of full-time work, see below for full explanation

Describe Relevant Work Experience: A bit lengthy, I'll try to be brief:

1. Co-Founder and Operations Director, 2006-Present, uFish: Started a nonprofit program (uFish) my senior year of high school. Program is a 10 week curriculum aimed at the job training, employment, and life skills education of at-risk and homeless youths in Los Angeles (15-27 yrs old). In my 6 years as co-founder and Operations Director, over 250 kids have gained employment and at least 135 could be identified as no longer being impoverished or at-risk. At uFish, we have partnered with the Salvation Army, Pointe Hope Foundation, Homeboy Industries, People for Parks, and the Sheila Kar Foundation for projects and collaborations. I was homeless as a kid after my parents' divorce - goal is for it to not happen to anyone ever again.

2. President and Executive Director - Students for Obama, California: Students for Obama is the official student wing of the Obama for America re-election campaign. I was a volunteer, then bumped to Political Director, and then Executive Director since July 2011. Over 8000 members, over 70K new voter registrees in CA, raised over $192K towards the President's campaign. (Stoked about the election results of course).

3. Presidential Delegate to the Democratic National Convention 2012 from Congressional District 30 - Was voted as a delegate through normal means election last year. Went to the DNC in Charlotte and chaired the platform writing committee. One of the better experiences of my life.

4. Political Editor at Sonic Eclectic Magazine - first just a contributing writer, then political columnist, and now political editor.

Given my work experience, how heavily (in all honesty) does my cumulative 3.5 or USC 3.1 preclude me from admission at some of the higher programs?

Last thing: that 3.1 is due to one semester. Not to get super detailed but I basically didn't go to school that semester after week 5 and didn't even attend the next semester because of the near-loss of my mother, her subsequent unemployment and disability, and financial burden of my family falling entirely on me. That will be going in my applications FYI.

Any advice or insight would be helpful. Thanks a bunch.

All the Best,


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I don't know that anyone can really tell you if your GPA "precludes" you from admission to some of the higher programs. You have a strong background with relevant work experience, as well as a pretty damn good reason for letting your grades slip. Like you mentioned, just mention the reason your grades slipped and they should factor that in.

But just don't let that define you. Focus the story on your strengths and why you are a good candidate for the program.

I'm obviously an applicant myself, so take it for what it's worth.

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I agree with the PP. That being said, it is almost always prudent to have a spread of schools, from super competitive to a sure bet of acceptance. If you are not willing to go to a "sure bet" school, you must consider what your alternative plans may be if you do not secure admission to one of your top choices. For example, finding a job.

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