How Important is GPA when Applying to Grad Schools?
When you're trying to distinguish yourself from hundreds of other candidates for the grad school of your choice, then you're probably going to be better of with a remarkable GPA. However, there are other ways of distinguishing yourself in your grad school application. Macleans.ca offers the following advice on applying to grad school:
In general, even though we know that marks aren't the only thing that reflect a student's ability, they are the easiest way to compare one student to another when you have many, many applications and not very many spots to offer. So excellent marks are very important.
That said, someone without excellent marks can also be a great graduate student and can be convincing in their application that they would be a great graduate student. But if you don't have good marks, you are going to have a harder path ahead to convince the program that you are ready to perform well.
Something that we hear from professors a lot is that students who want to go into research oriented graduate programs, it's really great if they can get some research experience first either as an undergraduate or even volunteering after their undergraduate degree.
Also, take some additional course work. Something that would be typical if a student decides they want to go to grad school in microbiology but their grads are not quite high enough, they can confer with the department at the university they are interested in and ask what sort of courses they could take to show that they are up to the task.
Students shouldn't worry about volunteering unless the volunteer work directly correlates to the program they're applying to in grad school. Grad schools aren't looking for well-rounded individuals like undergraduate schools. Instead, they're looking for focused individuals who are primarily concerned with succeeding in their field.