How to compensate for my poor GPA (3.0)?

Post Reply
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2019 9:38 pm

How to compensate for my poor GPA (3.0)?

Post by jinglxx » Sun Feb 24, 2019 10:13 pm

Hello everyone!

I graduated from UIUC with a 3.00 GPA in physics last year. (I managed to get this exact number) And my GPA of physics courses are not much higher than my overall GPA as well.

I plan to apply for grad school this year and go to grad school next year. And currently I am working at a large research institute in the field of nano materials.

I have not published any papers yet. But before submitting my graduate school application, I am likely to publish at least a review-type paper about nano materials in a journal with an impact factor from 5 to 20, but I will not be the first author. And Before I attend grad school, I am likely to publish even more papers, including papers with actual experiments and new discoveries. Also, I can probably get recommendation letters from my colleagues, although my colleagues are not very well known in the US. Additionally, I have done researches in UIUC, both in physics and computer science. But I forgot to ask for recommendation letters.

(This paragraph is less important so skip if you want) The reason I had such a poor GPA was largely because that I was distracted by many other things, like computer science, bio science and sometimes philosophy. I don't feel that any courses or researches is hard for me. For example, I took a computer science course designed for grad students to write a thesis, without taking any other computer science courses beforehand. And I got an A. Plus, I am currently working full time at a very productive research group in a very large research organization (Chinese Academy of Sciences) to do researches normally only done by people at least having a master degree. Thus, my GRE could be much better than my GPA if I try really hard

To sum up, my weakest points are my current GPA and poor determination, and my strongest points are research experiences and the ability to learn.

I think that I could only get accepted by a below top 50 master degree program with my current situations. (Of course I would choose a PhD program directly if I can) How to improve my chances for getting accepted to better programs?

Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Sep 18, 2014 8:52 am

Re: How to compensate for my poor GPA (3.0)?

Post by Cosmicomic » Wed Feb 27, 2019 3:55 am

Adcoms have seen every excuse for low grades in the book, so I wouldn't say much about it. Actions speak louder than words, so take more classes and get better grades however you can. You are coming from a more-known UG institution so that *may* be a small boost.

As always, with resumes or grad apps, build connections and emphasize strengths. Talk to your professors honestly about your record so far and your plans for the future and weigh their advice carefully. Research is king, even moreso if it fits well with where you're applying, so having that is a boon, but all research is not created equal. Cleaning test-tubes in a biophysics lab, doing mindless coding, or being n+100th author are better than nothing, but don't stand out to the higher-ranked programs. Being part of ground-breaking work will definitely overcome GPA.

I'm in a sort-of similar position, where I didn't really care as an undergrad and spent too many years screwing around and have a low GPA. I went back to school and took some grad classes many years later-essentially relearning, or rather, learning thoroughly as I should have the first time around, and got a better GPA, but not perfect. I took the GRE and got a 790, which is ok, but probably not for high-ranked schools, and that's ok. While it certainly helps, plenty of people have made great research careers without going to top 10 schools.

I don't know what your gre score is, but without the GPA it will carry more weight. Something has to demonstrate you at least learned something about the field. I'm going out on a limb here, but I suspect some schools may be creating a score based on a kind of averaging of GPA/GRE.

Summing up:

If your research is exceptional, you have a chance at top programs. If its good, but not ground-breaking, then without upping the GPA/GRE, I'd aim a bit lower. There is lots of good research going on outside of the top 15. I've seen people with sub 3.0s on these forums get into PhD programs, it's all about aiming for the right targets.

Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:20 am

Re: How to compensate for my poor GPA (3.0)?

Post by kaoriiah » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:29 am

I am going through more or less the same situation. I was very distracted and I had some serious effort/time mismanagement issues, I was not emotionally smart enough for a good abroad experience. I ended up with a major GPA of 3.0 & overall 3.1.

I got my degree from the US but I'm no longer living there. I was wondering if taking courses online would help? like Coursera or smthing similar. or perhaps see if I could contact the university personally on that? :|

In my case I did rather poorly in quantum mechanics & solid state physics (C+, C- respectively) and maybe my only chance to get a PhD in physics and keep my job is going into Condensed matter physics. :( but I really doubt my abilities to do this.
I am currently working in a research center but, I am not getting much experience. I am doing office work and hardly any research.

Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:12 pm

Re: How to compensate for my poor GPA (3.0)?

Post by krappyram » Wed Mar 06, 2019 12:34 am

Honestly, Cosmicomic has the answer pretty set, but I'll add my experience too.

I was in a very similar situation you are in. I graduated with a 2.9 GPA in physics (if you include my first 2 physics courses, ~3.1 if you exclude them). I applied last cycle to PhD programs in the top 40 (US news), and didn't get accepted anywhere. I reapplied this cycle.

I am now currently sitting on an offer from Purdue (#37 according to US news). I applied for their Master's program, but they "view all applications equally, and transitioning to a PhD is expected", so I'm likely going to change to the PhD program there.

The difference between last cycle and this one is 6 things: 1) I improved my PGRE from 41 %tile to 66 %tile. 2) I got an extra year of research and a letter of rec from the PI. 3) my name is on a paper that is currently in preparation to be submitted. 4) I beefed up my CV/Statement of Purpose. 5) Changed the range of schools I applied to. 6) I emailed at least 2 profs from every school I was applying to asking for a skype meeting.

I talked to my PI the past year extensively about how to improve my chances to get into grad schools. So, to go over the 6 things a little more in depth:
1) if you have a "crappy" GPA, then the PGRE is where you gotta put most of your effort. You need to show schools you can excel in graduate courses and not flunk out of the program. I was told to get my PGRE up to 80% or higher if I wanted to look at more top tier schools...but didn't make it lol

2 & 3) Research is a big deal, I was told getting your name on a paper is a big deal. It shows you can conduct research and contribute to a lab. I also spun my application towards computational physics and my HEPEX research was mostly data analysis and algorithm development/optimization. So the schools that accepted me seem to have a good match in research and skills that I have/can learn quickly.

4) I tailored my CV to support my computer science background, I listed projects I wrote, including AI and Machine learning projects (look at Andrew Ng's ML course on coursera). I also listed extra projects, I helped another lab in developing augmented reality code. So I just threw that on my CV. Unsure how much "prettying up" the CV helps, but figured it didn't hurt. My Statement of purpose most one sentence explaining my grades, the rest was spent detailing my research and academic experiences, and outlining my goals/research interests. Make sure your overall application has a "theme", try to show on your CV, and SOP that your research and ability to learn are top notch...don't talk about lack of determination lmao

5) I applied to a wide range of masters and PhD programs. Double check that the school actually has a "terminal" master's program. I recommend calling the department to make sure. I considered schools in the top 50 to be reach, between 50-100 as match, and 100+ as safety. I've gotten rejected from safety schools, and accepted to a reach school. So no idea if my listing is accurate.

6) Emailing profs can sometimes connect a face to the application, and if you can present yourself well, it'll only help your situation. This step was useful for me because I got to actually see what the labs were doing, the research interests of the group, and I got a first impression of the personality of the professors. Some of them also provided insight on the application process and what I needed to do to increase my chances of success.

Overall, I ended up making "improve my application" a second job. I'd try to take on that mentality if this is something you really want to do. But the biggest things are definitely PGRE, research, and an "interest match" with the schools you apply to.

Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2021 11:58 pm

Re: How to compensate for my poor GPA (3.0)?

Post by CWL » Tue Feb 16, 2021 12:08 am

Did you deliver your PGRE to the schools you applied? :lol:
I am having the same percentile 66% as you do but my peers tell me don't deliver it. :(

Post Reply