We often get asked “I have a low GPA. Can I still get into a graduate program?” The answer to this is while a bad GPA does hinder your application, there are steps you can take to mitigate the overall effect the GPA has.
- Crush the GRE. This is an absolute must if you have a subpar GPA. If you’re looking at competitive programs, your GRE score is one of the most surefire ways to pull up your entire application. If you have <3.0, in general you want to shoot for a 95th percentile or higher overall to show programs that your academic ability is more than your GPA suggests. Look at GRE test prep services and practice, practice, practice! There’s no way around it– you must absolutely destroy this exam if you want a good shot at having top programs forgive your GPA.
- Publish! A lot! Most, if not all, top programs are research-heavy, so if you have an extensive publishing history, professors will see that you’re both hardworking and well-acquainted with the ins and outs of publishing. If you don’t have any research experience, it’s absolutely imperative you acquire some, either through an internship or post-undergrad research job. Publishing is key to being accepted to graduate school, especially for the natural sciences, and the more publications you have under your belt, the more impressive.
- Make Connections. As hand-wavy as the word “networking” may seem, it is an important part of any application. If your advisers know professors in the programs you’re applying to and could make calls around, your chances improve significantly! This alone won’t save your application, but it can be the difference between reviewers immediately discarding your application and taking a second look.
- Take Additional Classes. If you have the opportunity, take more classes to pull your GPA up, and if at all possible, look to take the advanced versions of the classes you did poorly in. If you can show that your low GPA was due to freshman year woes and that you succeeded in the more difficult classes, you will be in much better shape!