Graduate school applicants with a below-average college GPA may be concerned that their grades will hinder them from pursuing their desired graduate degree. However, experts suggest that grad school applicants can overcome the stigma of poor undergraduate scores if they have flourished since graduation or are college seniors who have significantly improved their grades since freshman year.
Stephanie Shyu, alumni of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, claims that her acceptance proves that someone with a shaky college transcript can get into graduate school.
Experts suggest that having some positive accomplishment – such as solid test scores, eloquent recommendation letters, or successful graduate-level coursework – that balances their past academic performance is crucial for applicants with a GPA below the standard at their desired grad schools.
How to Get Into Grad School With Low GPA
Gain relevant work experience.
According to Timothy Jaconette, head of the counselling business Advanced Admit College Admissions, grad school applicants with poor college credentials might redeem themselves by establishing professional success. In an email, Jaconette stated,
“This work experience will help you stand out from the crowded candidate pool.” “Professors are searching for someone who can share their knowledge with the rest of the graduate class,” says one source.
He says that having entrepreneurial work experience, which entails creating or heading a business, is one way to impress graduate school admissions committees sufficiently to overlook poor college grades.
According to Konopka, Ph.D. candidates who did not receive an A in college should perform extensive writing and study before applying to doctoral programs. “Any opportunity you can take to expand your research interests, identify some topics you want to solve, and gain experience doing real research will help advance your application up the pile,” he stated in an email.
Write thoughtful, creative and honest admissions essays.
Experts say it’s critical for grad school applicants with poor college grades to prepare admissions essays that clearly explain why they want to pursue a master’s degree because admissions officials may question their drive and discipline. According to Konopka, the personal statement is an excellent opportunity for applicants with low college GPAs to show their commitment.
“It’s the stuff they’re going to read to get a sense of what your logic and thinking are,” Konopka says.
Supplemental essays provide potential graduate students with another chance to make up for their low undergraduate GPAs. For example, Shyu claims that she submitted an additional essay in her law school application since she was aware that her college scores were lower than the average Penn Law applicant.
She discussed how pausing to reflect on her life goals spurred her to improve as a student and grow as a person in that essay, describing how she discovered her sense of purpose when she took a semester off and how pausing to reflect on her life goals spurred her to improve as a student and grow as a person.
Alert admissions officers if a personal issue impacted your academic performance.
Graduate school applicants whose undergraduate GPAs were harmed by adverse life situations, according to O’Halloran, should explain this in their application. “The total GPA doesn’t often tell the whole story,” she explains. “Perhaps a student faced a difficult situation during one semester, lowering their overall GPA. I encourage an applicant to discuss this information with me and to emphasize their capacity to bounce back and succeed in subsequent coursework.”
Consider signing up for additional courses.
Despite a low college GPA, Andrew Selepak, the head of the University of Florida graduate program in social media, says he understands from personal experience that excelling in classes after college can help someone get into a competitive graduate school. For example, he was able to qualify for admission to a master’s program at George Mason University after completing several of the school’s courses and earning solid grades in those courses, despite having a 2.85 undergraduate GPA when he received his bachelor’s degree in American history from the University of Virginia.
Participating in a university’s continuing education program, according to Selepak, is one way for potential graduate students to acquire admission to graduate-level courses, allowing them to demonstrate their academic ability. “This could be one option for students,” he noted in an email, “but it will need finding schools that provide this chance to students who did not obtain a high enough GPA as an undergrad.”
Selepak went on to receive a Ph.D. in public communication from the University of Florida, where he now teaches, after receiving his master’s degree from George Mason.
Demonstrate your potential by performing well on your graduate school entrance exam.
In an email, Shana Ginsburg, the founder and president of Ginsburg Advanced Tutoring, LLC, wrote, “Given the potential for elasticity in your test scores, I advise prospective grad students with a low GPA to view rigorous test preparation as a great opportunity to increase your chances of acceptance.”
Aim to excel in admissions interviews.
According to Thornton, prospective graduate students with poor college GPAs may persuade graduate faculty to overlook that shortcoming in their application if they make a good impression during admissions interviews. “The staff feels like they know the student,” she adds, “and they’re not just looking at the GPA as a concrete signal.”
Apply to schools without GPA requirements.
According to experts, prospective graduate students with poor college GPAs should seek out graduate programs with a holistic admissions policy, which means they consider the entire application before making a judgment.
In an email, Erin Goodnow, co-founder and CEO of the Going Ivy admissions counselling service, stated, “Thankfully, most institutions now evaluate much more than just the numbers you submit.” “If your grades or test scores weren’t great, you should emphasize the positive in the rest of your application — for example, by demonstrating some unique leadership experience or study, or by demonstrating life perspective and maturity.”
According to Goodnow, an increasing number of graduate institutions are accepting the notion that prospective students should not be characterized exclusively by their academic data, such as grades or test scores. “The rigor of the classes, as well as your history and life experience, as well as preparation for your higher degree,” she says, count for a lot. “If your figures aren’t going to be the strongest aspect of your application, emphasizing your positive characteristics in essays, letters of reference, and interviews are vital.”