# GPA Calculation Method

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So, In my country marks are given out of 100 and the transcripts contain a percentage of marks. At Some place it's relative to topper's percentage and at some place it's not.

So, in my university, it is not. Suppose that my percentage marks are 70% and topper has got 80%. How should I calculate the GPA. The two methods that I know:

(A) (70/100)*4 = 2.8 (Absolute)

(B) (70/80)*4 = 3.5 (Relative)

Now, there is a huge difference between both the GPA I get. I personally find the second method more relevant as it depicts the actual performance of the student in his college environment and does not misrepresent his academic abilities. Which method should I use to report my scores?

Dear Mods : Please relocate this thread/post if this sub forum is inappropriate.

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I don't think either method is appropriate for reporting a GPA to a United States (or Canadian) graduate program.

There are two possible appropriate ways, from my application cycle (my school in Canada also awards grades out of 100 but it's never relative to another student, always an absolute scale, so it's possible for everyone to score 100%).

The other way is to look up some resources that explain the conversion and try to apply that. However, I would only do this is you are explicitly required to do so. This means you should only do this if the application says something like "If you are an international student, please convert your grade to a 4.0 GPA scale". Do not do this if the application simply provides a box for you to enter your GPA. If it just asks for a GPA (but does not ask you to convert), what you should do is contact the school and ask them for instructions. In almost every case, they will either tell you to enter your GPA in your own school's system (so I often entered x/100) or to just leave the field blank and they will compute their own GPA for you.

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@TakeruK Thanks a lot brother. Appreciate it.

On a very different note, is the rumour true that getting admit from a Canadian univ is harder than in an US univ. I would be grateful to you, if you could shed some light on this concern of mine.

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On a very different note, is the rumour true that getting admit from a Canadian univ is harder than in an US univ. I would be grateful to you, if you could shed some light on this concern of mine.

"harder to get admitted" is not a well defined quantity so it's hard to answer it directly. There are a lot of factors involved, such as:

- Canada's top schools would still be a tier below US top schools

- Canadian programs are smaller = fewer spots

- structure of tuition in Canada vs. US is different --- an international student in the US could cost 3-4 times as much as an American but in Canada, often only 2x as much

- private schools in US charge the same tuition for international and domestic students, so no financial disadvantage there, however, there are no such private schools in Canada

So, I don't really know how I can answer your question. But if you have a more well-defined question then maybe I can find an answer

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Let me rephrase my question in detail :

The US univ generally give MS admit on the basis of his whole profile. So basically, if two students with similar profiles are there, the one with slightly more marks or few more extra curricular activities will have more chance to get an admit. WHEREAS in Canada, a lot of professors decide whether he wants that student or not. The professor will take Skype interview and look into the research exp . For him, co-curricular activities and marks matter less. Basically, the US decides on the whole app package, whereas Canada is inclined towards research exp and what the prof. wants.

This is how I think it works. Would love to get my view corrected, if incorrect.

Thanks

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Although it does vary based on field, in the ones I'm used to / part of, yes you are right that in Canada, it's often the case that a graduate student admittance is more like a job hire. Schools/departments may have a committee that screens all the applicants to ensure they meet the department minimum standard. Then, after that, all the applications are forwarded to all professors looking for students and each professor will then decide if they want to interview, email, call, Skype, etc. and eventually they decide whether or not they want to admit the student. However, the professor will still consider the entire application package, including your marks.

This is a little bit of a simplification because it's not true that the professor has 100% decision power. Students are still partially funded by the department too, especially if they are international students (as international students need a higher tuition reimbursement, which typically comes from a departmental pool). So, each professor would make their preferences known to the department and then the department will make decisions based on balance and funding etc. For example, if the department has funds to pay for 5 international students and 6 professors want international students, they will have to negotiate and come to some compromise.

On the other hand, the standard US admissions model is that a committee reviews your application and then makes an admission decision at the department level---your potential advisor does not really play a part at all (and you may not even have a potential advisor at this stage). However, I think the things that the committee looks for in the United States would be the same as what a Canadian professor would look for. And as I described above, the committee would also look for balance (e.g. you don't want all your admits to be from the same subfield) and funding considerations (international vs. domestic etc.)

So, overall, yes, you are mostly right about Canadian programs having professors "hire" students while US programs have committees that admit students. But I do not think it is accurate to say that US committees value extracurriculars and GPA more and that Canadian professors do not look at the whole package. I think that both systems will value the entire package and that both systems will probably weight research more than GPA. And both systems will very rarely care about extracurriculars---those are not really relevant to graduate admissions in either country.

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So, as a guy who is thinking of relocating to a different country for pure academia and research purposes, which place would be better? I am asking this question that the common view right now is that Canada particularly leans towards research and generally you get MS with thesis whereas in US both, MS with and without thesis is prevalent. Although you have mentioned that :

- Canada's top schools would still be a tier below US top schools

So, even though I will apply to both US and Canada, I don't really know which place to give more emphasis on. Say, I get admits for Rank 1 college from both the countries with similar thesis and other fellowship conditions etc. Which place should I prefer? A few pro and cons would be nice from your side as you have experienced both the places.

Edited by TheBumChikiBum
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I think the place you prefer should be the place that you feel like you fit into the most. What kind of research and experiments will help you achieve your career goals the best. I think this is more important than rank and it should not just be tier 1 Canadian schools vs tier 1 US schools. You should also factor in the "fit" when comparing tier 2 US schools vs. tier 1 US schools as well.

There are some differences between a Canadian graduate program and a US one and here are some pros and cons. However, since a "pro" for one person may be a "con" for another, I'll just list differences and let you decide:

1. Canadian graduate program is split into two independent programs. Usually a 2 year masters followed by a 3-4 year PhD program (usually 3 years if you stay at the same school, 4 years if you don't). You need a Masters to get into most PhD programs. You have to go through the entire application process even if you are staying at the same school and you will be considered a new student again.

2. Canadian programs do not front-load the coursework requirements like US programs. People will usually take courses up to the last or second-last year. You take fewer courses at a time compared to US schools.

3. Canadian programs jump into research a lot faster. You start right away. After all, you finish a Masters dissertation at the end of the 2 year Masters program. My Masters coursework consists of only four 12-week courses. To get my US Masters (non-terminal, "along the way" Masters), the equivalent is about twelve 10-week courses.

4. A Canadian Masters program is fully funded and is really more like the first 2 years of a US graduate program. It is very much unlike US terminal Masters programs where you have to pay your own way.

Overall, I think Canadian and US programs have roughly the same attrition rates (something like 50% of PhD students will not finish). However, due to the natural break between the Masters and PhD program in Canada, you will find a lot of students stopping at a Masters. I would say that only roughly half to two-thirds of Masters students at Canadian schools will enter PhD programs. But I think this is fine---much better to find out/decide at this point and leave with a useful Masters than quit with nothing (or after an additional year or two of time invested) in the US system.

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Wow. THAT is very insightful. Thanks a ton.

Looking into current OPT issues and change of govt. at helm in US makes me uneasy. The US economy is also just on the verge of tumbling.

Read this somewhere : Say, your house is full of shit up till the ceiling. What would you do? Remove/clean it or raise the ceiling? That is what US Economy is, right now.

I favour Canada a bit more than US to be honest. But as you mentioned :

"harder to get admitted" is not a well defined quantity so it's hard to answer it directly. There are a lot of factors involved, such as:

- Canadian programs are smaller = fewer spots

This might unwillingly push me to go to US. Anyway your views on this whole Economy and OPT issue? Where does Canadian Economy stand exactly?

And may I dare ask you : What made you go to US and leave Canada for further studies?

P.S. : Sorry for asking so many questions. A curious mind I have, you see.

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Hard questions!

OPT issues: I think this is something we should not speculate on because it's hard to guess at high level policies and I don't think we should make big life decisions based on guesses of this nature. For high level policies like this, I just act based on the best knowledge at the time. Who knows what the laws will be by the time you are ready for OPT?

Canadian immigration: I forgot to mention this as a difference above. Canadian PhD students can apply for permanent residence ("green card") in Canada after 2 years of their PhD program. This is a lot different than the US, where none of your time as a student can count towards an immigration status. If you are interested in citizenship or at least permanent residence, then Canada has a pathway designed to keep smart people with PhDs in Canada. But again, policies change over time and it's hard to predict what the future will hold.

Economy: I am not an expert on this. Sure, the economy is not great in both Canada and the US right now, but it's also pretty terrible worldwide. Again, I don't think this should be a factor in where to choose graduate schools. And even though the US funding for NASA is not very good right now---each year results in cuts or flat funding (which is effectively a cut due to inflation and the lack of ability to fund new science even though the amount of scientists is growing), the NASA budget is much larger than Canada's space agency's budget. So, again, I think it's important to view things like OPT and economy with the lens of how it will affect you specifically in graduate school, not whether the policies are objectively good/bad.

The Canadian economy only took a small hit during the 2009 Recession. There are a lot of laws in Canada that prevented banks from doing the things that led to the recession in the United States. However, our economy is linked to the US so when the US economy went down, so did a lot of Canadian exports etc. We trade a lot with China as well. In 2010, when the US was still recovering, the Canadian dollar was worth slightly more than the US dollar. But now, the Canadian dollar is around 80 cents US, which is more like the long term average.

Finally, I chose to go to a US graduate school because the field of planetary science is (was) very small in Canada back in 2010. There were only a handful of people working on it and even fewer in the specific things I was interested in. I worked with many of them during my undergrad and masters programs so in order to go further, I needed to go outside of Canada. My goal is to bring this new knowledge back to Canada and work there in the future, but I understand the job market is also very hard! So, when I applied to US schools, I only applied to the top schools that could give me a better education and opportunity than the best Canadian schools.

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To clarify, as I now realise we might be talking about different things when we say "OPT issues". For anyone else reading this, this is what I mean (highly summarized because I don't really understand all the finer details as I am not an immigration lawyer, but I hope this serves as a useful introduction to the issue):

OPT is "optional practical training" and it allows for students on F-1 status to stay in the US and work in the field of their study after graduation (OPT is also possible while in school for e.g. undergrads interning during the summer etc.). But for most graduate students, this is post-graduation work, e.g. a postdoc or industry job in the field.

Normally OPT is limited to 12 months after graduation. After this time, you will have to get sponsored on another visa status to remain working in the US.

However, in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) made a temporary rule amendment to change temporarily extend OPT by 17 months for STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) majors. This means that those in STEM fields can have up to 29 months total of OPT time.

This 2008 amendment is set to expire in February 2016, after which the default action is to revert back to the 12 month time period.

Currently, DHS is undergoing a process that will update the OPT extension. The proposed rule update will change the STEM OPT extension from 17 months to 24 months. If the change is accepted as currently proposed, then the F-1 OPT period will be a total of 36 months for STEM majors. If it completely fails and no other proposed rule change is made, then the OPT period will revert back to 12 months. I think it's still possible, after DHS solicits public comments and undergoes the necessary procedures, that they can amend their update to make it an extension of any number of months. But I do think there is a lot of support for the 24 month extension option.

You can read DHS' published proposed rule change here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/10/19/2015-26395/improving-and-expanding-training-opportunities-for-f-1-nonimmigrant-students-with-stem-degrees-and (It was published today, Oct 19, 2015).

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Quoting the source :

"Specifically, the proposal would allow such F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months (STEM OPT extension). This 24-month extension would effectively replace the 17-month STEM OPT extension currently available to certain STEM students."

Does this mean that the total OPT period would be for total 36 months ? WOW. That is an attractive option. 3 years is a lot .

Also :

"Comments must be received by DHS on or before November 18, 2015. Comments on the information collection provisions proposed in this rule must be received by DHS and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on or before November 18, 2015."

So.. next update will be on Nov. 18. Let's hope this issue gets resolved soon.

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Yeah, three years is great! But it's not a huge difference than the current OPT period (right now, it's 12+17 months = 29 months). So the net difference is +7 months.

We'll definitely find out more soon. This DHS proposed change has been known for a long time now. But as I said above, laws can change with changing governments, so no matter what the outcome of this DHS decision, it should not play a factor in your graduate school choice. Maybe it's more important if you are planning to stop at a Masters (not sure of your plans), but if you are here for a PhD, 5-7 years is a long time and OPT might change again by then. Or maybe not.

I am actually on J-1 status, not F-1 so OPT doesn't even apply to me. Instead, J-1 graduates can choose "Academic Training" (AT) and for postdoc positions, AT can be as long as 36 months. So I am hoping my F-1 friends will soon enjoy the same benefits

I also want to say that I followed the philosophy of "a lot can happen in X years" when making my plans too. The reason I chose J-1 was that my spouse is with me and as a J-2, she will be able to get work authorization and work, while a F-2 dependent cannot do this. The drawback of J-1 status is that after my J-1 status expires, I must return to Canada for 2 years before I can get another US visa (however, not clear if another J-1 is possible). However, a 5 year PhD + 3 year Academic Training means that it would be something like 8 years before I have to deal with the consequences of the J-1 home residency requirement. At this point, it's still 4+ years away. Who knows what will happen by then. I chose to have 8 years of job security for both of us now than to worry about what we will do with the home residency requirement later. I think for you, the same should apply---you'll get much more benefit from picking the best program for you now than to worry about whether or not you can do OPT in the United States after graduation (don't forget, there are other options to work in the US besides OPT).

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