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Grad school with low GPA

unclefeezus1unclefeezus1 Posts: 439Registered User Member
edited April 2009 in Graduate School
Hi all,

Bear with me, this is kind of a long post. I'm a Stanford student with a low GPA, at least by my school's grade-inflated standards. It's a 2.7. I'm actually a senior currently on leave, but I was on time to graduate. I just got so burned out that I had to head home. I should have done it much sooner. I'm a smart guy, though, and could have done well, and I was a hard worker at first, but I just was not enjoying college. I'm confident I can study and get a high score on the GRE. I got a 1570 on the SAT the first time I took it, although I studied a lot for it.

I was originally a physics major, then junior year switched to geophysics. While I'm interested in the subject, I don't think I really know much about it, because I've kind of just scraped by. For instance, I at first withdrew from geology 1 because I was messing up (which shows on my transcript), then I took it all the way through and got a D.

I've interned every summer since high school. The summer after freshman year I did particle physics at SLAC, and then studied diamondoid crystals, and then created a computer system to distribute geophysical data. I can get a good recommendation from the last one, because I did a pretty good job, but I don't know who else to ask.

I'm interested in going to grad school at some point, definitely to pursue a masters or even a PhD. I probably want to work first, but I don't know what I want to do yet (if you have any suggestions, please advise). What are my grad school prospects?
Post edited by unclefeezus1 on
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Replies to: Grad school with low GPA

  • OyamaOyama Posts: 2,486Registered User Senior Member
    At this point--none.

    Most schools have some GPA minimum requirement (usually 3.0 for Ph.D., a tad bit lower for Masters, but even then--the minimum is usually not enough to be competitive). However, if you take a look at a lot of other posts in the forum, some frequent suggestions may help you:

    Find a position as a lab tech and work there for a few years and opt for a publications
    If you're in said lab position, try taking some grad courses and doing well, showing that you can handle graduate coursework
    Study for and do as well on the GRE as you can
    Secure strong LoR from people who know that your GPA doesn't reflect your caliber of research potential
  • unclefeezus1unclefeezus1 Posts: 439Registered User Member
    Seriously? None? What are my prospects with work experience? Also, I was first author of a paper presented at the Fall '08 AGU meeting. But it wasn't anything groundbreaking, just an update on the tools I developed, which are available to the geophysical community.
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,387Registered User Senior Member
    Okay, well you have 2 distinct weaknesses (not knowing what your GRE score will be)

    (1) GPA. Anything less than a 3.5 makes top schools very difficult, and anything below 3 is difficult across the board - in many departments it requires a special petition to avoid automatic rejection!

    As far as you are there is not much you can do about it directly. You are going to need to find a masters program that will accept you, and there will almost certainly not be funding. The best bet would be an employer-funded part-time masters - there are some decent schools that have programs especially for this, and they will often overlook a sub-3.0 gpa.

    (2) Research. Competitive programs really want to see research, and decent research will forgive a lot of other sins. Internships are okay, but not nearly as good, so try and use your remaining time to get in on a research project, preferably something publishable. It is tough and time consuming, but this is your best route to a good-quality grad program.

    You may want to consider public policy or business degrees as well - the Stanford name carries a lot of weight in admissions at some schools, and they may be more forgiving as a result. It all depends on what kind of work you want to do.

    Work experience will forgive some of this, but it will take 5-10 years before you can really get past that gpa, and you will still need research and LOR's from work. Not as easy as one might think.

    Good luck!
  • belevittbelevitt Posts: 2,005Registered User Senior Member
    I disagree that you have no chance at grad school. What Oyama and Cosmicfish said about the 3.0 hard minimum for admission is true and you need a special exception to be considered. A good way to gain this exception would be as others have suggested- get a lab tech job and get to know the faculty in your department well. Take courses, interact, go to journal clubs, present etc. When admissions time rolls around, you will have some people on your side opting for an exception for you. I don't think it will take 5-10 years (in fact most lab tech positions are contracts in 2 year increments).
  • cosmicfishcosmicfish Posts: 3,387Registered User Senior Member
    Sorry - my 5-10 year estimate was based on ordinary, run of the mill paid employment - no research or exceptional effort. If you are focused on prepping for grad school, you can certainly do it faster.
  • VegasSommelierVegasSommelier Posts: 268Registered User Junior Member
    I disagree completely with ruling out your ability to attend grad school. I do agree that the top schools may be out of reach right now, but you do have options.
    I graduated with a less than stellar gpa and I simply took a couple undergrad and grad courses before I was admitted to the program (which I needed anyway because I had no business as an undergrad) and met with department heads regularly. I killed my GMAT and was admitted.... I think that a lower tiered school will be more sympathetic to the academic rigor of Stanford as well.
    Get into a masters program, do very well, and a PhD is not out of reach. I will say that not being a 3.5 gpa student in your undergrad means a real re-dedication to your studies in grad school.... it is really a whole different ball game.
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Posts: 12,213Super Moderator Senior Member
    Talk to your advisors at school, particularly those who have been involved in research with you.

    A sub-3.0 GPA is not an automatic killer given that a) an applicant comes from a top school and b) his/her research background is stellar. I know of 2.8-2.9 GPA MIT undergrads who got into my PhD program, which is one of the top programs in my field. It's not easy, but it happens.
  • AceflyerAceflyer Posts: 252Registered User Junior Member
    Talk to your advisors at school, particularly those who have been involved in research with you.

    A sub-3.0 GPA is not an automatic killer given that a) an applicant comes from a top school and b) his/her research background is stellar. I know of 2.8-2.9 GPA MIT undergrads who got into my PhD program, which is one of the top programs in my field. It's not easy, but it happens.

    Completely true. While a sub-3.0 GPA is definitely a disadvantage it is generally not going to automatically prevent you from getting into grad school. You'll need stellar LORs, impressive research (publications a big plus), a killer personal statement, and terrific GREs (if a subject GRE is suitable, take and ace that as well) to make up for the GPA, but if you do all that, then success is very possible. Best of luck.
  • vociferousvociferous Posts: 1,410Registered User Senior Member
    I think your best bet is to go to a CSU and get a super high GPA ( A 4.0 is not unrealistic) and then apply for Ph.D. programs of your choice.
  • moommoombabamoommoombaba Posts: 91Registered User Junior Member
    I am just curious. While i think you do get a shot at getting into grad school if you try what others suggested, are you settled at getting into any grad school that is a lot less prestigious than stanford?
  • SenorChuySenorChuy Posts: 20Registered User New Member
    Work experience will do wonders for your grad school chances. Take a few years off of school and get that valuable experience. Use the time off to study and get big time results on the GRE. Don't discount grad school yet, even a top notch one. You will just take a short detour getting there.
  • Mr.ZooMr.Zoo Posts: 248Registered User Junior Member
    unfortunately, GPA is insanely weighted at grad school admission office.

    dont take this the wrong way, I'm trying to save you some application fee here: with a 2.7, you can filter out all the ranked schools, city level college/university you may have a shot.
  • BatlloBatllo Posts: 3,047- Senior Member
    Maybe get a lab job at Stanford so you can use that already established connection. As mentioned above take grad classes and get involved in research. Your past work and academic history is spotty and makes you look unfocused and directionless. You will have to work hard to impress your advisers and to overcome your less than stellar undergraduate work, even though you did manage to graduate. Are you sure you are emotionally ready to and have the desire to want to continue in school? You don't seem to be inspired by college. You went to Stanford, and didn't enjoy it? Wow, that is a first on CC.
  • SenorChuySenorChuy Posts: 20Registered User New Member
    Another thing to consider is that some grad schools also look at the GPA of your last 60 or so units. Is that any better than the 2.7? If so, then research some schools which use that metric. Also, and I am not necessarily recommending this, but would you be able to pull it up over a 3.0 by staying an extra year? Maybe take the time to add on a minor and get some more work experience? The downside of that would obviously be the cost, not to mention admission committees might catch on to the plan, but it might be something to think about.
  • PacsunPacsun Posts: 65Registered User Junior Member
    Do graduate admissions look more closely at your gpa toward your major, and if you had better grades your last 2 years? I haven't found any official stats on average gpa or gre by any grad schools, so I don't understand how people are throwing out these ideas on what gpa you need to have, if there are no available statistics. I heard some schools have a 3.0 minimum, so that means if your first 2 years of college which had nothing to do with your major were awful, then you have no chance at a decent grad school?
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