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How adversely would a low GPA affect my chances?


NYC24

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I have a low GPA at a state school (slightly above a 3) and am thinking about graduate school in a year or two. 

I have 2 schools in mind: Columbia and NYU.  I am in love with New York City as a historical subject and a city itself. 

If I did extremely well on the GRE, would I be able to attend one of those two?

Thanks for any help!

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I didn't have a great undergrad GPA. I'm not sure what the cumulative was because I went to 3 different schools, but it wasn't great, maybe right around 3. I wound up opting to go for an MA first, which worked well for me.I have a 4.0 in that program and was accepted to a PhD program for this fall.

I assume you mean to apply next year? If so, I say go ahead and apply to those two, but also apply to a couple MA safety programs just in case. Worst case scenario, you do the MA first and then go for the PhD. With a low undergrad GPA, your chances aren't great to get into a top program, but a good MA GPA could take care of that for you.

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You'll end up dragging in a lot more variables (time, money, etc.), but there's no question that a good master's performance -- thesis, grades, recommendations -- can make a lot of things accessible that you wouldn't be seeing now.  

Very few of those programs are rolling in scholarship money, of course, so you need to consider if you really want to invest $40k on the prospect of going further into poverty.  Assuming, of course, that this is what a PhD would do to you.  Everyone's circumstances are a little different.  And there are posters here who have worked out all kinds of solutions to that problem.

Edited by Concordia
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46 minutes ago, NYC24 said:

Which masters programs should I look at if I want to get into Columbia or NYU for my PhD?

Of course highly rated programs are great, but I think even just a good showing in a regular state uni might work, too, depending on GRE scores, SOP, LORs, GPA, etc. It'll save a lot of money, too. My MA is from a regular old state university. Remember fit, too, when looking into MA programs. Look for one with faculty who will offer a theme/focus that might translate well to your target PhD studies.

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1 hour ago, NYC24 said:

Which masters programs should I look at if I want to get into Columbia or NYU for my PhD?

I agree with nhhistorynut - the rating of the MA doesn't matter all that much. Go for one that is funded and has at least 1-2 profs who fit well enough with your interests and who are likely to be known to the people you want to work with at NYU or Columbia.

I would definitely recommend applying to MAs because a strong GPA in an MA program will look a lot better in apps to top programs, but I wouldn't personally recommend going into 40k of debt for it.

 

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On 3/24/2017 at 9:25 AM, NYC24 said:

Which masters programs should I look at if I want to get into Columbia or NYU for my PhD?

I got into NYU (didn't apply to Columbia) with a MA from a no name international school. Everyone's been much more focused on my writing sample/SOP/publications than on where I went to school, and I'm an Americanist (so it's not like being overseas has given me some kind of "lived experience" of being in the region--quite the opposite). I applied to 8 top 20 schools and got into 6 so while I'm sure that going to a big name school helps, it's not essential. I chose my MA program on the basis of my advisor, who was amazing and a leader in my field, but I was in a different situation because in Australia most humanities grad programs are fully-funded. I guess the question is who would you hope to work with at NYU and Columbia, and which MA programs are best-placed to set you up for the type of research that you might want to do in a PhD. Also I totally messed up the maths part of the GRE (but did very well in the verbal, like most people I met on visits)--I'm not sure how much weight I'd give the GRE in terms of where to place your focus. The more important things are going to be your writing sample and SOP. 

Edited by OHSP
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A lot of places I looked at this past cycle told me not to stress one weak area (my weak area was the GRE) as long as your other app areas are strong. One POI i e-mailed straight up told me the most important parts are your SoP and your Writing Sample: "While the application is regarded overall holistically, a strong Statement of research goals and a strong writing sample can balance out weak GRE scores or a weak GPA." They also inferred it probably wouldn't work the other way around though -- strong GRE and GPA would look good, but without a strong Statement of Purpose it might be all for nothing. 

Also, I went to a community college for my associates and ended up with a 3.3 GPA there, at my 4 year I got a 3.9 so maybe they saw me figuring things out but they had to have seen my weak cc GPA too, but because i had a strong SoP I think that negated the early bad grades.

Edited by Reaglejuice89
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Obviously, departments will vary in their priorities, and some will probably prefer that their students have gold-plated transcripts from diamond-crusted undergrad programs.  To some degree, that makes people a little more hire-able after graduation, which boosts ratings, etc., etc.

A more useful goal, however, is to have people who know what they want to do and have their act together enough to do it.  If you pulled yourself out of the fire when you were 20 and started doing well, that says more than whether you were unfocused (or distracted by commute, or finances, or youth in general) two years before.  

England's system is different, but has an interesting parallel.  While everyone loves to talk about how bound up in exams they are, and about the progressive filtering by "merit" that screens people out of the best schools at every step, the flip side is that if you can prove you know what you're doing by taking the right exams later on in life, much is forgiven.

Plenty of UK school dropouts  do access courses-- which are sort of community college/continuing-ed things for people who want to go on to their university qualifications-- and then use those to get into a "mature students" program(me) for their BA.  After that -- if grades, recommendations, and useful plans are in order-- they often go to good postgrad programmes.  My MSt (part-time) at Cambridge had plenty of people with great academic records, but also a few who had done some postgrad diplomas at Cambridge, sort of Harvard Extension kind of things in Local History that got you through BA-level work even if you didn't actually get a degree.  (Not sure about those-- I didn't quiz everyone on what the deal was there.)  At the end of the day, if you nailed your dissertation and had a useful proposal, PhD work was quite possible.  

The guy there who heads up the "Cambridge Group", which studies demographics and social history in Britain, did his postgrad degrees at Oxford and Cambridge, but started his career getting a BA at the Open University.  My uninformed guess is that he didn't have a bulletproof school record, if OU was his best shot out of the gate.

Edited by Concordia
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OP-

I would step back and ask yourself, why a history PhD? Why NYC specifically?  Why those schools in particular and why not CUNY (which is respectable) or Princeton?  Also consider the fact that graduate stipends at those places aren't high enough to afford you to live in Manhattan unless you're willing to room with 2-3 other people in an apartment.

You need to think of yourself as a historian and with whom you would like to learn from.

Indeed, where you get your MA won't matter as much as making sure you that you graduate from a program as close to debt-free as possible.  While it is a good goal to have those schools in mind, be mindful that if you are serious about the PhD, you will apply to 5-8 PhD programs including NYU and Columbia.  Don't put all of your eggs in one nest (NYC).  Get a solid MA degree and GPA and see where life takes you.

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