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A- in MA, Kiss of Death?


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Last semester was my first in my current program, and I took mostly core requirements to get them out of the way. On my final for one class my professor gave me a grade for the paper (an "A minus") and a grade for the class ("A"). However, when my final grades came through my grade for that class was listed as an A-. I e-mailed my professor about it, and he said it was an error (despite the fact he actually writes the word "minus" rather than putting a "-" next to the grade) and that the A- was my actual grade. This has been bugging me, especially considering I never got my participation or group discussion grades (I had perfect, on-time attendence and my group discussions met/exceeded all the requirements listed in the syllabus), so I did the math and my numbers match the grade I was initially told, not what was put into my transcript.

 

All that being said, I discussed this with a member of my cohort who was an UG here and she advised against appealing the grade to avoid the associated "politics" (the professor who gave me the grade is the chair of my department, tenured, and the sort who can hold grude). As much as it bothers me, it would make my life *much* easier to just let this one go. I'm applying to PhD programs this fall, though, and, I'm worried a 3.9/4.0 could be the difference between an admit/deny or a funded/unfunded. I'm doing conferences and participating on campus/submitting to journals, which I'm hoping will help my case.

 

Is an A- the kiss of death or am I being an ultra-paranoid applicant?

 

Any feedback is welcome!

 

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I definitely don't think so.   I received one A- during my MA, and, all things considered, I had a pretty good app season.  I was only able to apply to 3 programs due to kids, spouse, and geography, but I had good results in both top tier programs and lower tier ones.  I think that your sop and your ws are a trillion times more important to your app.  Although, I do understand how frustrating that one A- can be!!! GL!

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An A- isn't a kiss of death. I had two. But, if you emailed him and he said it was an error, then I think it's fine to ask for it to be changed--more than fine. I would totally get it changed. You earned that A, so go get it. 

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Don't worry--I've been accepted to 2 Ph.D programs...and got a C in a class. Total personality mismatch/stylistic issues with a prof in my department. I didn't even bother explaining it to programs and I wasn't rejected anywhere for my GPA (I specifically asked programs from which I was rejected).

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Hell no. I have many of them. The professor likely had to give out so many A-'s, and you made that list. This happens a lot, especially if there are both MA and PhD students in the class. Don't worry about it and move on. The average GPA for master's programs in most humanities is like 3.6-7. In short, you're well above the curve. 

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I would definitely advise against appealing the grade. Certainly, asking the professor the explain your grade is completely valid, but I'd do everything possible to avoid any sort of negative confrontation. As much as we might not want to admit it, academia is very much about connections and not pissing off the wrong people. It's probably more important to avoid offending people than it is to have the A, particularly when you'd only be bumping it up from an A-. (I could see appeal as a potentially useful course of action if you were given, say, a D.)

 

That said, I don't think that having an A- is going to hurt your applications anyway, particularly because it's in your first semester. I think it's easy to chalk that up to first semester jitters, the stress of a move, or any other factors that could make one's first semester in grad school a bit more difficult.

 

In any case, a 3.9 gpa is solid, especially if it's backed by an outstanding SOP, sample, and letters of recommendation.

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I have 4 "high A-" (looked like this on the transcript: A-^) and it didn't impact me at all. One school even said they thought my credentials were excellent (referring to my transcript). Overall GPA 3.899. As long as you're above a 3.6 or so it really won't make a huge difference. As far as I know, most programs don't care a whole lot about grades as long as they meet a certain average, and a stellar GPA isn't necessarily going to guarantee you entry anyway (as we can learn from the results board). A- basically means the professor liked your work but wanted a bit more. No reason to appeal or seek action.

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I got a B from a prof who is so rigorous everyone claims their Bs are really As in another class. I got into some great places. I would hardly say an A- is a problem. A B- or a C? Probably need to be able to explain it in the PS

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One time, a professor only gave me 8.5/10 for participation points that day, and I was like "aww, hell no! I totally said 5 things, 3 of which were about today's reading, one which showcased my external research, and one that suppressed a potential socially awkward moment, I totally deserve a 9.5." But then he said, "y'all in grad school now mofos, get a grip." 

 

then i defeated him in a cage match. 

 

that's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

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If he admitted it was a mistake, it's fine to just ask if he's going to change it.  But not because it's a "bad" grade.  Just because you shouldn't have that on your transcript if it was a clarical error.

 

But I am going to give one bit of advice... calm down.  As long as your numbers are above the "average" listed by the school, you're not going to have a problem.  SoP and WS make up for just about anything if they're good enough.  And if you start freaking out about getting a 169 on the GRE, or a 799 on your subject test, you are going to send yourself to the madhouse.  I know being an overachiever is kind of part of the grad school applicant shtick, but do yourself a favor and relax, and know that it is hard for anything but a truly abysmal number to be "the kiss of death".

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Last semester was my first in my current program, and I took mostly core requirements to get them out of the way. On my final for one class my professor gave me a grade for the paper (an "A minus") and a grade for the class ("A"). However, when my final grades came through my grade for that class was listed as an A-. I e-mailed my professor about it, and he said it was an error (despite the fact he actually writes the word "minus" rather than putting a "-" next to the grade) and that the A- was my actual grade. This has been bugging me, especially considering I never got my participation or group discussion grades (I had perfect, on-time attendence and my group discussions met/exceeded all the requirements listed in the syllabus), so I did the math and my numbers match the grade I was initially told, not what was put into my transcript.

 

All that being said, I discussed this with a member of my cohort who was an UG here and she advised against appealing the grade to avoid the associated "politics" (the professor who gave me the grade is the chair of my department, tenured, and the sort who can hold grude). As much as it bothers me, it would make my life *much* easier to just let this one go. I'm applying to PhD programs this fall, though, and, I'm worried a 3.9/4.0 could be the difference between an admit/deny or a funded/unfunded. I'm doing conferences and participating on campus/submitting to journals, which I'm hoping will help my case.

 

Is an A- the kiss of death or am I being an ultra-paranoid applicant?

 

Any feedback is welcome!

 

I agree with others here that an A- isn’t going to kill you, but I can only imagine how frustrating it is for you. I killed myself (obviously not literally...that would have been a hell of a course requirement) to keep my 4.0 throughout grad school and I would have been FURIOUS if a professor pulled this.

 

I feel for ya. 

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