Recovering From a Low Undergraduate GPA

Many students fear that their low undergraduate GPA will severely damage their chances of getting into graduate school. However, this is not always true. There are ways of recovering from a low undergraduate GPA and still getting into the grad school of your choice. The Princeton Review offers this advice on recovering from a poor GPA:

Choose a Realistic List of Schools"The GPA Scale Is All Relative
Have you made friends with your college's graduate school (pre-law, pre-mba, pre-med, etc.) advisor yet? If not, hop to it! Their job is to help you compile a list of schools that will realistically suit your needs and strengths. He or she will be the first to discourage you from having impossible expectations and will coach you to be flexible. If you think exclusively in terms of "name" schools with national reputations, there's a good chance you'll be disappointed. But you can get a great education at many schools that will primarily consider factors beyond your sub-3.0 GPA, and your job is to figure out which ones they are. Keep in mind: one school's lower-range GPA is another school's highest.

Ace the GRE
The GRE, while not usually weighted as heavily as your undergraduate GPA, is important, especially if you are required to take a GRE Subject Test. So get cracking! Aim to score above the median score of your chosen schools. A high score will help you stand out from applicants with equal or higher GPAs.

Communicate with Your Recommendation Writers
Your letters of recommendation are a valuable opportunity to compensate for a low GPA. You should be frank with the professors writing your recommendations. Let them know that your GPA isn't as high as you'd like and share with them any circumstances relating to why. Looping in your professors allows those with academic credibility to address your concerns on your behalf. This can be very persuasive to an admissions committee.

The Personal Statement and Addendum
The personal statement is one of your best chances to distinguish yourself as something greater than the sum of your stats. Talk about particularly interesting accomplishments, experiences, aspirations, and obstacles you've overcome. Communicate with personality and conviction, and don't be modest! You may or may not want to address the issue of your low GPA in the essay-while some admissions officers encourage a candid discussion of GPA, the personal statement may not be the best place to do it.

The Real World
Though it might seem that everyone in graduate school entered right out of college, in truth, many graduate school students took a year or more off before returning to the classroom. If you feel that you could use some time after graduation to demonstrate your ability in a non-academic environment, you might get an edge over candidates with similar GPAs and GRE scores. Use this time to find work related to your field of interest and take time to reflect on your career choice.


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