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jenninthebox

How Screwed Am I?

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I'll come out and say it...I have a low GPA. I messed around for my first three years, and my last two years (I have one semester left) have been mediocre at beset. Still, I'd like to make something of myself, and feel that I've effectively ruined all my chances of having a future in academia beyond undergrad. My problem is that I wasn't too focused when I first started out, didn't take school seriously, and once I figured out what I really wanted, found it rather difficult to turn things around. I'd like to go into IR, and maybe some related section of law at some point, but feel that it's impossible. GRE prep has been good so far, though I clearly have work to do when it comes to the quant section. Is there any hope for me? I spoke to someone at TAMU's Bush School about my predicament at length, and she told me to look at their online IA certificate program. If I can get into that program (15 hours) and do well, would I have a shot at regular grad programs? I know there are a lot of "what ifs" in this post, but I'm trying to find hope, however little there is to be had.

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I'll come out and say it...I have a low GPA. I messed around for my first three years, and my last two years (I have one semester left) have been mediocre at beset. Still, I'd like to make something of myself, and feel that I've effectively ruined all my chances of having a future in academia beyond undergrad. My problem is that I wasn't too focused when I first started out, didn't take school seriously, and once I figured out what I really wanted, found it rather difficult to turn things around. I'd like to go into IR, and maybe some related section of law at some point, but feel that it's impossible. GRE prep has been good so far, though I clearly have work to do when it comes to the quant section. Is there any hope for me? I spoke to someone at TAMU's Bush School about my predicament at length, and she told me to look at their online IA certificate program. If I can get into that program (15 hours) and do well, would I have a shot at regular grad programs? I know there are a lot of "what ifs" in this post, but I'm trying to find hope, however little there is to be had.

I think there's a way to repair this, but it might be lengthy. You may have to take that certificate and do really well. If you don't get in where you want to thereafter, you may need to take graduate level classes in your field as a non-degree student to prove you can do the work. Don't despair, there is hope - it's just going to take some time to patch things up.

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I don't know how low you mean when you say low (I'm not trying to pry). My GPA is not stellar, either. I am certainly above all the GPA "cut-offs" for the schools I'm applying to, but when I look at the posters on this site and lots of them have a GPA of 3.96, and are worried because it's not a 3.99 it makes me feel like I have absolutely no hope. However, I can tell you what I did: I worked really hard on studying for the GRE, and I was very satisfied with my results. I've also been out of college for 11 years, so I can say that I have matured in that time, which I believe is true. I never slacked in college, but I didn't exactly have my priorities in order or have the focus I have now. Unfortunately I don't know if any of this is going to help me yet, as it is too soon to hear back from any schools I've applied to. I just wanted to say focus on what you can change now, work hard at it, and don't dwell on mistakes you may have made in the past. Most importantly, don't give up!

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I'll come out and say it...I have a low GPA. I messed around for my first three years, and my last two years (I have one semester left) have been mediocre at beset. Still, I'd like to make something of myself, and feel that I've effectively ruined all my chances of having a future in academia beyond undergrad. My problem is that I wasn't too focused when I first started out, didn't take school seriously, and once I figured out what I really wanted, found it rather difficult to turn things around. I'd like to go into IR, and maybe some related section of law at some point, but feel that it's impossible. GRE prep has been good so far, though I clearly have work to do when it comes to the quant section. Is there any hope for me? I spoke to someone at TAMU's Bush School about my predicament at length, and she told me to look at their online IA certificate program. If I can get into that program (15 hours) and do well, would I have a shot at regular grad programs? I know there are a lot of "what ifs" in this post, but I'm trying to find hope, however little there is to be had.

You'd be better served if you posted exactly what you're dealing with. What your GPA is, what kind of school it was (competitive or lower rung), anything you've done in your field outside of academia, if you've had any awards, etc. You'd also probably benefit from some study abroad if you're interested in International Relations (that is what IR is, no?)

A lot is dependent upon what you mean by 'bad GPA.' If you mean a 3.3 that would be a lot different than if you meant a 1.9. You know? I know people who have gone to graduate school with a GPA in the lower 2.0 range.

You're generally never as bad off as you think you are.

Also, for graduate school - at least for PhDs - a lot of times it's more important that your interests mesh with those of faculty and that you show research potential than your actual grades. You'd benefit from writing a few independent papers and doing some research perhaps.

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I believe that hope is never completely lost but you may have to work hard to make up for a very low GPA (sub 2.0) and it may take time. Since it's part of your academic record, no matter how many years from now you apply, the committee is always going to see it. THAT SAID, they judge you by your most recent work so if you do something else very well, it's not going to matter.

My suggestions are these:

1. Apply for Master's programs. Do everything you can to improve your application beyond the transcript. Ace the GRE. Get excellent letters of recommendation. Build your CV through opportunities, organisations and achievements. Get work in a related field (easier in international relations than in many other fields.) Write an excellent SOP and present a brilliant writing sample. Approach the professors about working with you and visit if possible.

a. If you get in, then focus on doing the best possible work you can while there since it's your Master's work that will make the most difference in getting into a PhD program.

b. Depending on how low your GPA really is, all this may not work to gain you admission. If not then your mission is to inquire with all of the departments to find out why you got turned down and what you can do to make yourself a better candidate. Take their advice.

2. Do further undergraduate work or (preferably) take graduate classes as a non-matriculating student. Even better if you can do these graduate classes at a school you want to attend or with a professor whose interests intersect with yours. Ace the class. Be upfront about why you're there (to improve your level of preparation for graduate school). Spend time in the department. Get to know the right people. Once you have some final grades to show off, approach someone with power about changing your status from non-matriculating to matriculating. Sometimes that works.

3. Get a job, internship or volunteer opportunity related to your interests. Are you interested in American influence in former Soviet republics? Go teach English in Slovakia. Interested in the role of NGO's in stopping the spread of the AIDS virus in Africa? Find an NGO. You get the idea. In international relations, real world experience can be as persuasive to a committee as a strong academic record.

4. Join professional organisations and attend conferences. Get to know people in your field. Networking really does work. Name recognition counts for a lot.

5. Get older, put some time between you and your bad grades and don't give up. Seriously. Keep applying at a broad mix of schools, while you keep trying to build your competitiveness, and eventually you'll be successful.

Here's a brief article on applying to grad with a low GPA: http://gradschool.about.com/od/admissionsadvice/f/lowgpa.htm

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Belowthree might come by and tell you what to do:)

That's what I was thinking. See this thread:

Also, the best way to prove you can do the work is to DO the work. Go to your fellowship or career services office and look for any upcoming research opps or fellowships! That's what I did last year and I think it has helped -- will tell you for sure in two months!

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A lot is dependent upon what you mean by 'bad GPA.' If you mean a 3.3 that would be a lot different than if you meant a 1.9. You know? I know people who have gone to graduate school with a GPA in the lower 2.0 range.

I would also add that if you have a "bad" overall GPA, but within your major/areas of interest it's considerably higher that helps your chances as well.

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Thanks for the advice guys. The best GPA I can get at this point is a 2.3. Yeah. My only hope for redeeming myself as far as my undergrad record goes is doing well on the GRE. Should I contact the schools I'm interested in and inquire about a non-degree seeking status?

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Thanks for the advice guys. The best GPA I can get at this point is a 2.3. Yeah. My only hope for redeeming myself as far as my undergrad record goes is doing well on the GRE. Should I contact the schools I'm interested in and inquire about a non-degree seeking status?

I know several people who have overall low GPA but great GPA's within their subject, and they were really able to sell it--"I know what I want to do in my life because this is the only thing I get really hyped on" kind of stories. It is possible to sell, absolutely, and you shouldn't feel forever locked out, but I'd imagine a certificate programs with good marks followed a masters with good marks as well as competitive GRE scores will put any adcomm's mind at rest.

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You might also want to consider taking grad courses and doing exceptionally well in them. I guess that's why you're considering taking a certificate program? There's also a possible option of applying to a lesser known grad school, then transfer to a program with more prestige.

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2. Do further undergraduate work or (preferably) take graduate classes as a non-matriculating student. Even better if you can do these graduate classes at a school you want to attend or with a professor whose interests intersect with yours. Ace the class. Be upfront about why you're there (to improve your level of preparation for graduate school). Spend time in the department. Get to know the right people. Once you have some final grades to show off, approach someone with power about changing your status from non-matriculating to matriculating. Sometimes that works.

I'm highly interested in American's School of International Service, and they do offer non-degree seeking enrollment. I sent them an e-mail about this earlier today, but don't expect to hear back until next week, at the earliest. I know nothing is guaranteed, but if I were to do well there or any other school that offers that status, would it increase my chances of being admitted?

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I'm highly interested in American's School of International Service, and they do offer non-degree seeking enrollment. I sent them an e-mail about this earlier today, but don't expect to hear back until next week, at the earliest. I know nothing is guaranteed, but if I were to do well there or any other school that offers that status, would it increase my chances of being admitted?

Absolutely. Doing very well at a rigorous academic program will absolutely help you earn admittance to other, possibly higher ranked, academic programs.

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