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High GRE, low GPA... any chance for me?

The OptimistThe Optimist Registered User Posts: 118 Junior Member
edited December 2011 in Graduate School
**I believe I posted my original post in the wrong section (What are my chances?) b/c most of the questions there were from HS students**

Hello all,

I got a pretty good GRE score (V:740, Q:780, 6) but my GPA is 2.8

I seriously tried hard in college... but I just can't seem to get good grades.

I did well (mostly Bs) in my core courses, such as my computer science or info. systems classes, but suffered in courses like organizational behavior (quite a boring, tedious, and overall common sense trumps all sorta class) where I got a C...

I took part in a club, and we are in the process of making a smartphone app and a monitor device for the elderly (although the latter requires us to secure a tad more funding xD). I even did some side things like teaching myself to be useful in real life situations by completing certifications (CPM, etc.).

I have 3-4 professors who like me and I'm probably going to be able to ask them for letters of recommendation. 3 of them went to Ivy Leagues, so I'm hoping something they can write something nice about me. I am also going to be helping one professor write a research paper next semester- supposedly I'm a good research paper writer!

I'm hoping to go for a masters program in computer science or information systems. I'm trying for top 25 schools but my GPA is a huge bottleneck.

I had this same issue during high school where I scored high on the SAT but didn't have a stellar GPA. I was involved in school activities like robotics (got a national award, etc.) but I just can't manage to get good grades.

I know what the heck I'm doing. For instance, our professor in CS gave us a final project worth just 10 points because he was expecting almost nobody to be able to figure out how to do it... I managed to do it properly, and he gave me a 100 on the assignment. However, my final grade in the class is going to be a B or something....

I'm pretty much feeling like crap at this point because I'm tired of giving excuses. I just can't get good grades.

I want to do a master's but who's going to accept a 2.8 from a person who seems to know a lot but doesn't show much for it?
Post edited by The Optimist on

Replies to: High GRE, low GPA... any chance for me?

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,578 Super Moderator
    GRE scores are not as important as your GPA. What is your major GPA?

    Even if you assist a professor on writing a research paper next semester, it likely will not be published by the time you apply to MS programs.

    I'm not really sure what to tell you..."I know what I'm doing, but I just can't demonstrate it" is not an explanation that most graduate programs are going to appreciate, especially given that they want to admit people that are going to succeed in their program. In many graduate programs, any grade below a B is considered failing. Although most of your classes will be in your interest area, you WILL have to take some classes that may fall more on the "boring" side of the spectrum than the interesting side to fill core requirements.

    Still people with lower GPAs are sometimes successful at MS program admissions. What you need are strong letters of recommendation from professors who can basically counteract the image your transcript portrays - describing you as an excellent, dedicated student who can achieve at a high level. You need an excellent personal statement that exemplifies your passion for CS, including talking about those programs you're designing and the research you are doing with one of your professors.

    You also may need to aim a little bit lower. Certainly apply to some top 25 programs, but you also may want to apply to some lower-tier programs as well.

    An alternative would be to take a year or two away from school. Get a job related to CS, and take some graduate classes in your spare time and do VERY well at them. Then you'd have some evidence that you can succeed at the grad level.
  • The OptimistThe Optimist Registered User Posts: 118 Junior Member
    I'm in a club where we are "coached" by two professors who like me a lot. I've gotten As in both of their classes and they've been overall generous to me in terms of offering me opportunities. I'm looking towards both of them for help in getting into a good grad school. One has Princeton and Yale under his belt, and the other has NYU-Stern (MBA). In addition, both of them have had extremely successful careers prior to becoming professors and I'm hoping they have some contacts or who can give me an opportunity.

    As for core courses GPA, I think it might be around a 3.0 or so... but I'm not very sure.

    Finally, believe it or not I'm actually a tutor... I help people on campus with math/programming.
  • DrExPatDrExPat Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    Performance on exams and challenging projects demonstrate what you're capable of when you're motivated to do your best work. GPA is a better measure of your capacity to forgo immediate gratification and apply consistent effort towards a longer-term goal. That is, it shows that you can get to class when you'd rather be doing something else and study for required classes that may not be especially interesting, etc.. This is why GPA is very important to schools and employers.

    In the words of Woody Allen, "showing up is eighty percent of life." Schools an employers want you to be smart, but it only matters if you show up and do what is required on a consistent basis.

    I was an inconsistent student as an undergrad. I learned good work habits on the job. It helps to be surrounded by hardworking and successful people and away from other slackers. After several years I went back to school and discovered that I could have been a straight-A student all along, but it took sometime in a different environment to learn the required skills.
  • Skywalker993Skywalker993 Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Old thread, I know, but I'm in the same boat...

    2.86 major GPA, 164 quantitative on the revised General GRE last week. I've been working for a year and had great summer internships during college. I'm hoping what I've learned on the job about dedication and professionalism will help my application and pursuit of a masters in mechanical engineering (focusing on robotics). The boring or I-can't-see-how-this-applies-to-my-end-game classes in undergrad I just ended up not applying myself if it got hard. Several 100s and 1st places in competitions and final projects, but in everything that matters I got a B, sometimes C.

    High school was easy.. As and Bs, then 34 on ACT, so I got into the top program in the nation. But I wasted that opportunity by treating college like high school, expecting to do alright with mediocre effort. Nothing was ever bad enough to shock me into working harder, and by the time I slipped under a 3.0 it was too late to bring it back up.

    When I start applying this fall, I'm going to hit 1 school from every 10 rankings (i.e. #7, #13, #21...). I have contacts at UT Austin and WPI, and UC Boulder's acceptance rate is really high. My strategy is to find specific biomedical robotics projects and reach out to the faculty (already made contact with a few). Recommendations and essays come later.
  • HonorsCentaurHonorsCentaur Registered User Posts: 1,666 Senior Member
    I'd hate to say it, but a 2.8 likely isn't going to cut it for most reputable places.
    Your verbal score is quite impressive but your quant score, though visually appealing, is nothing special for comp sci programs. On the new scale, a 780 quant is the equivalent of about 162, 163 ish, and many people applying to comp sci programs have 165+.

    Your best bet might be to take comp sci classes at a state university nearby, take some MOOCs as well, and in that way show that you can handle the grad coursework.
  • GreenPhazerGreenPhazer Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    For those who have applied to more than one graduate program should know, graduate school admissions varies by program and can be described as idiosyncratic at best. Some programs do have specific GPA cutoffs, but these tend to my larger Master's programs and not necessarily "elite" programs. The unofficial cutoff for nearly every program, even at schools such as MIT, is 3.0. If you are an undergrad, or still in high school, you are probably under the impression that GPA means everything. It does not. You can get into an MIT grad program, for example, with a sub 3.0 GPA. Sure, you will have your work cut out for you, but it can, and does, happen on a regular basis.

    Graduate school (note* not professional school) is all about research, and your GPA says nothing about your ability to do research. Also, nearly everyone on the admissions committee will be professors themselves; people who know first hand just how easy it is for an undergraduate to get an A, or an F, for reasons that have nothing to do academic abilities. Graduate schools also evaluate students differently. Your days of rote memorization of random facts are over.

    Ultimately, graduate schools admit students based on their potential ability to do research...not get As on tests. This is demonstrated through your SOP, CV, LORs, and undergradute research opportunities participated in. GRE and GPA tend to fall lower on the "importance" totem pole, but yes, in general, a high GRE can trump a low GPA. So can a great SOP and/or undergraduate research experiences.

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