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How bad do low-grade semesters look on graduate school applications?

mel159mel159 Registered User Posts: 74 Junior Member
I'm a journalism major at a public research university. I was told by many professors that my experiences would trump my GPA so I wanted to do well but I definitely didn't obsess over grades. This year, I realized I want to get my master's degree in International Affairs and work either with an international non-profit or more likely in foreign policy/diplomacy.

In my fall freshman year semester, I had a 3.55 GPA, then a 3.54 GPA. I was an A/B student. I spent my full sophomore year doing an external study abroad program in Spain to learn about Spanish language and culture. I received credit at my home university but those courses didn't affect my GPA. They count as transfer credits.

When I came back fall semester, I had a 2.92 GPA and it wasn't because I was slacking. I had 2As (my school doesn't do A plus), a B, a C+, and a C-. (These were my first Cs!) One was in a math GenEd which I've always struggled in. The other was in a broadcast writing course and I got a bad grade on my final exam.

This semester though, I'm only taking 12 credits. I'm definitely going to get an A in one class but it looks like all my other courses are going to be Bs. I'm freaking out that I'm going to have a low GPA again and that grad school will look negatively and my junior year GPA will be a liability and I won't get into grad school. It will be above a 3.0 but it won't look like my freshman year GPA. I'm expecting a higher GPA senior year because I will be taking all courses in my major that I have hand-picked rather than required courses.

I'm a low-income, minority, first generation student. (I was taken away from my parents by child services as a kid and then adopted which is something I wrote about in my undergrad application). I attend college on scholarship. I think I'll write a good statement of purpose essay because writing is my strong suit. I'm professionally proficient in Spanish. I studied in Europe for a year (supported by scholarship and an international fellowship). After graduation, I want to teach abroad for a couple years in Asia because I'm interested in Asia and think it's an important area to focus our diplomatic efforts.

THEN, I want to apply to grad school. My dream is George Washington University. Their average GPA is a 3.44 so as long as I get my grades up senior year, I think I can get in. I'm just nervous about this year's grades. I'm waiting a bit after undergrad to apply so I can learn more about the type of international work I want to do and get some work experience. Also I saw the average age of several of the grad programs I was looking at were in the mid twenties.

Replies to: How bad do low-grade semesters look on graduate school applications?

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,550 Super Moderator
    Remember that by definition, if the average GPA is 3.44 that means that around half of admitted applicants have less than that. But right now your GPA is quite comfortably over 3.44 so I wouldn't worry too much.

    Nobody expects students to be perfect. The key is having balance in your application - having more areas of strength and excellent than you have of weakness, and having the right strengths.

    So don't freak out!
  • coolguy40coolguy40 Registered User Posts: 1,820 Senior Member
    It happens all the time. I bombed my fair share of classes, so it's nothing to stress over...much. Anyway, graduate schools are interested in what you do for the last 2 years of school. If you're applying for a masters in journalism, the school is going to look at your grades in your major. Just keep up the grades and do well in your major. You'll be fine.
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