To make up poor undergrad GPA, is it better to do an MS or get another BS?

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Joined: Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:42 pm

To make up poor undergrad GPA, is it better to do an MS or get another BS?

Post by sadlkfjwef » Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:54 pm

I got a 3.2 overall GPA for my (first) undergrad, major GPA was probably slightly lower. I don't have any good stories, I was just lazy and unmotivated. However, I have been studying on my own after graduation while working, and find that motivation to study and do well is finally coming to me. I recently took a grad course as a non-degree student and got an A.

I would like to try to get into a top 10 school. I know it sounds highly unrealistic, but I would like to try. I think that my biggest and the only problem is my GPA. Everything else is good - I have a 1st author paper in a decent journal from undergrad (somehow I was motivated enough to do the research), good letters, and my PGRE practice is coming decently as well. But the low GPA is serious enough to have my application rejected outright from the top schools.

To make up for this, I want to go back to school full-time. Most people would say that I should choose an MS. That sounds like the natural thing to do, since I would take advanced classes, but there is a big problem with that: MS grades are often more inflated, and it may not convince the adcoms that I have gotten my GPA issue fixed even if I get a 4.0 there.

That was why I was wondering whether I should go back go undergrad all over again. Undergrad GPAs aren't inflated, and it seems that students with high uGPAs often get into top schools regardless of whether the undergrad institution was Harvard or just a moderate state university. But when I have talked about this with other people, they said that it would be a waste of time. My parents also said that they would partially support me for an MS, but not at all for BS because that's ridiculous. I don't know if there are any MS programs that are well known among adcoms not to inflate GPA.

What do you think?

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Re: To make up poor undergrad GPA, is it better to do an MS or get another BS?

Post by TakeruK » Mon Jan 09, 2017 1:19 am

Let me add my voice to the growing list of people saying do not do another undergraduate degree. Many schools won't let you do another BS if you already have a BS in the same field anyways.

I think the combination of Masters degree plus time between application and undergrad will lessen the effect of the undergraduate GPA. It is good that you have enough research experience for a first author paper too, that will help you be a more competitive candidate.

I would not worry about a Masters GPA being "inflated". I don't think "inflation" is the right word. In graduate programs, the course expectations are very different from undergrads. A 4.0 in a MS program means something different than a 4.0 in an undergraduate program. But, no school will award a 4.0 to their MS students for sub-standard work (this would be "inflation"). If you can achieve a 4.0 in a graduate program, you clearly demonstrate your ability to do graduate level work, which is what you'll need to show to get into a good school. You don't need to "fix" your undergrad GPA----schools use this as a metric for your preparedness for their program, but you can show this in ways other than undergrad GPA (it's more important when you are applying right out of undergrad without anything else to show).

I don't know anything else about you other than what you wrote here. So it's hard to really know if getting a good MS will be enough to get you into a top 10 PhD program. (I don't even know your subfield!). I don't like telling people to not pursue their goals, but I also don't want to encourage people to spend a lot of time and money (MS programs aren't cheap!) for outcomes that may not be realistic. Once again, I have no idea whether your goal is realistic, since I don't know enough about you, so please don't interpret it that way.

Instead, I would encourage you to think about why you have set this goal for yourself. Top 10 schools seems like an arbitrary cutoff---why top 10 and why is it necessary for whatever your long term career goals are? Having a cutoff like this only makes sense if your realistic long term career goals absolutely require this (and I can't really think of very many goals that would). That is, sometimes people just want to study at the top schools for the sake of studying at the top schools, and personally, I feel this is a mistake. In considering this, I would also recommend thinking about how you will feel if after your MS program, you still have no top 10 PhD program offer. Would it all be wasted? Or would your MS program allow you to achieve some other path? And of course, consider what else you can do with the time and money you'd spend on a MS program.

This is a lot to think about and maybe you already have. But I know that the answer to your title question is clear. I believe that you have nothing to gain from another BS but you will certainly gain more with a MS than a second BS. Whether or not a MS is even the right path forward depends on your future plans and the things I wrote about above.

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