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How To Get into Grad School With a Low GPA

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If you are considering opportunities to further your education but are self-conscious about your undergraduate grades, there are still a few options for you. To stay competitive, your application will just have to stand out in other important areas. 

Admissions officers consider several factors for each applicant. While GPA is always one of them, it does not have to be the be all and end all of your acceptance or rejection. If you know your GPA will not work in your favor as you apply to graduate schools, you may want to make sure you excel in a few of the following areas.

Practice in a Relevant Field 

  • Internships: If you’re fresh out of an undergraduate program, consider pursuing an impressive internship if you haven’t completed one already. Depending on your program, this could include research, an apprenticeship program, or a summer job. If you have interned with a respected company or department, your relevant experience and display of competence could help override any red flags in your GPA. 
  • Work Experience: Whether you just graduated with a bachelor’s degree or are thinking about continuing your education after a hiatus, relevant work experience can also help surge your application forward. If your GPA does not reflect your competence as a student, you will want to make sure you have work experience that does communicate your ability to learn quickly and retain information.

High GRE Scores

  • The GRE is an entrance exam for which many programs require score submission. If you diligently plan, study, and then kick butt at the GRE, a high score could help offset a low GPA. This aptitude test helps measure your readiness for graduate school. A high score may even do more than your GPA to communicate your capability as a graduate student. Start preparing for the GRE a few months in advance so that you can have plenty of time to practice and study.

Stellar Recommendations

  • Most graduate programs require recommendation letters for you to be considered for admission. If you have a professor who thinks highly of you and can speak to your work ethic and performance in school, you will want to request a recommendation from them. If you don’t have an impressive GPA, many programs would be willing to overlook it if there are professors who are willing to vouch for your research, character, and abilities.

Get to Know Your Options

  • Researching different programs and familiarizing yourself with their requirements will always work in your favor. Many of the most competitive, top-tier schools heavily weigh undergraduate GPA, usually just so they can use their exclusive selectivity as a way to help them climb the rankings lists. Choosing to focus your efforts on programs that are not as concerned about an excellent GPA, but rather your potential to excel, may give you a better chance of acceptance if you know your grades are lower than your competitors’.
    Take the University of Wisconsin–Parkside as an example. While its programs do require a transcript as part of the application, many other factors play into the application and can make up for whatever you might be lacking. In fact, its MBA program waives the need for students with high GPAs to submit standardized test scores, but it otherwise weighs prior work experience and test scores very heavily for everyone else. Great schools like UW–Parkside structure their flexible applications mindfully with the knowledge that all students have different strengths. 

Explain Your Situation 

  • If a personal crisis (health issues, family emergency, etc.) kept you from performing to the best of your abilities for a semester, you may want to consider writing a letter to the admissions office and including it in your application. If an essay is required, describing the context in your essay may be appropriate. Admissions officers understand that simply looking at your GPA and comparing it to your course schedule does not account for an entire story. It is your responsibility to communicate effectively why your GPA suffered, especially if there had been any reason that was out of your control.
  • Keep in mind that a “difficult” major will not suffice as an explanation for a low GPA. Graduate programs are extremely competitive, and if you assume programs will ignore a low GPA because they understand your major was very difficult, you may be misplacing your faith. 

While important, your GPA does not have to be the reason that you don’t get into graduate school. If you know your GPA isn’t going to help your application, you may want to focus the other required elements. Relevant experience, high scores on the GRE, impressive recommendations, and applying to programs that put GPA lower on the priority list will help compensate for a GPA that is not above average. If outside circumstances caused your GPA to be abnormally low for a semester or two, you will definitely want to contact admissions officers to let them know what happened and what they can expect from you in the future. As you seek out graduate programs, keep in mind that Abound has many of the answers to your questions conveniently located in one place. 

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