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Balancing out a low GPA and average GRE?!


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Hi all. I am in need of some advice...

Goal: PhD in clinical psych.

Education: BA in psychology. 3.1 cumulative GPA. My low GPA is a reflection of my freshman and sophomore years when I blew off classes that I deemed uninteresting or too easy. I ended up retaking 2 or 3 classes, including gym!!!! I began to take college more seriously at the end of my sophomore year, and I started taking my psych major classes. Deans list junior and senior year.

GRE: Average scores. I definitely have test anxiety.. I've taken several Kaplan GRE practice tests at home and score 160+ on Q and V. However, my highest official GRE scores are: quant: 153, verbal: 151, writing: 3.5.

Research experience: 1 year working in lab under a mentor/professor/clinical psychologist at my university. I performed a variety of tasks including help writing/editing a NIH grant, my mentor's clinical research, EEGs, performing diagnostic tests..  I also had a supervised practicum for 6 months my senior year. Following graduation, I traveled abroad and completed a supervised internship where I worked under a neuropsychiatrist and with several psychologists. I ended up being first author on a journal article.. however, it has yet to be published. Since returning to the states, I have been working in an inpatient psych hospital.

I would like to attend a top university for my PhD because I want to work with the best researchers in my chosen field. My plan right now is to apply and attend a masters program. I know I will be able to attain a much higher GPA in a masters program compared to my undergrad. I'm hoping a high masters GPA + additional research experience from the program will be sufficient for admission into a top clinical psych PhD program..


That being said...... Do you think this is a smart route to take!? What types of masters programs would likely admit me? Will my undergrad GPA be overlooked if I am successful in a masters program? Also, how does the ranking of a masters program impact PhD admission? I want to make sure I attend a masters program that will definitely help my credentials when applying to doctorate programs. Does anybody have experience of being admitted into top PhD programs despite a low undergrad GPA and average GRE scores? 

I sincerely appreciate any and all input!

Edited by PsychBolt
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I'd say it depends. Some top clinical Ph.D. programs pay only little attention to master's GPA. Some may disregard it completely. However, if you have enough resources, time and energy to pursue another graduate study, a master's can be a good option as having a stellar master's GPA is still better than having only a low undergrad GPA. You just can't expect too much from it. Just be sure to choose a research-oriented master's programs (such as general or experimental) because most clinical Ph.D. programs are very research-heavy. 

Actually you should pay more attention to the GRE. Even you have a perfect GPA from your master's, low GRE scores combined with low undergrad GPA might make Adcom doubt the quality of your master's program (in such case, having a master's might even lower your chance). If you can significantly raise your GRE scores (I'd say at least 90th for Verbal and 80th for Quant for very competitive programs) while maintain a strong master's GPA, they will be more likely to forgive your relatively low undergrad GPA (people understand that it is something you can't change. You just need to prove hard that you are more than that). 

Besides, when you said you want to go to top programs, I'm not sure what you meant by "top." A lot of big names in the fields are in relatively low ranked schools. You need to be sure that you don't look for only *top* programs in terms of ranking. A good fit with the POI is way more important. You may find a perfect match in much less competitive schools. Good luck!

Edited by khunconan
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