Can someone who got GPA 3.7 apply for high ranked university with assistanship?

16,840

Your GPA is sufficiently high that it will not prevent you from applying or being accepted to pretty well any US university - but once your GPA is above a 3.5 it tends to just be marked as "good enough". A research group that would base a decision solely on a GPA of 3.7 vs 3.9 vs 4.0 would have a disturbingly irrational fetish for GPA that it would be a mark against the research group more than it would be against you!

It appears this sentiment is shared by Dr Mor Harchol-Balter of Carnegie Mellon University, where she writes (my emphasis added):

3.1 Transcript – grades and classes

When applying to a Ph.D. program in CS, you’d like your grades in CS and Math and Engineering classes to be about 3.5 out of 4.0, as a rough guideline. It does not help you, in my opinion, to be closer to 4.0 as opposed to 3.5. It’s a much better idea to spend your time on research than on optimizing your GPA. At CMU the mean GPA of students admitted is over 3.8 (even though we don’t use grades as a criterion), however students have also been admitted with GPAs below 3.3, since research is what matters, not grades. A GPA of 4.0 alone with no research experience will not get you into any top CS program. Keep in mind that GPAs are evaluated in the context of the undergraduate program. A 3.4 GPA from a topranked CS undergraduate program like CMU counts the same as a 3.8 or 3.9 GPA from a less well-known CS undergraduate program.

As @Potato notes, this strong preference away from GPA and towards research may only apply to some fields where undergraduates are capable of participating in research. This may also not be true of Universities without such a very strong focus on performing research. In short: YMMV.

At the graduate level there are multiple factors considered, discussed in various and tremendous depth throughout other topics on this site (and highly recommended to be searched through!). But with that said, your GPA is more than high enough that you may now safely worry about all the other criteria that will be considered: reference letters, statement of purpose, any existing relationships directly or indirectly with professors at the institution, experience in research (or that shows potential for research), GRE score being "high enough" (just like your GPA!), TOEFL for international applicants (again, "good enough") etc.

Share:
16,840

Related videos on Youtube

Mohamad Na
Author by

Mohamad Na

Updated on October 06, 2022

Comments

  • Mohamad Na
    Mohamad Na 15 days

    I'm undergraduate civil engineering, and I'm planning for master degree. My GPA is 3.7, and I didn't do GRE yet. However, I have strong research interest and I have some publications. Do you believe that I can be enrolled in high ranked universities such as MIT, Berkeley, Stanford?

    • JeffE
      JeffE over 7 years
      At Illinois, you would need at least a 7.5/4.0 GPA, fourteen journal articles, six patents, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering to even be considered for admission. But I hear standards at MIT are a bit lower; you should be fine.
  • Mohamad Na
    Mohamad Na over 7 years
    Thanks for your motivating. Because some professors in my university defeat me to apply for MIT, Berkley, and Stanford.
  • BrianH
    BrianH over 7 years
    @MohamadNajib I would only add that you should not ONLY apply to colleges who are well known for taking only a tiny % of candidates - a 2-10% chance of admittance is not 0%, but it sure isn't a guarantee either! But if you don't apply then certainly your chance is 0%. Just don't think that the US only has 3 great Universities - it's a very big place!
  • Potato
    Potato over 7 years
    Do you have any data on this? Your assertion that every GPA above 3.5 is equivalent seems inaccurate to me. Most people know I who attend elite STEM PhD programs had near-perfect GPAs as undergraduates.
  • Potato
    Potato over 7 years
    I mean, it seems obvious to me that having a 3.5 is worse for your admissions chances than having a 4.0. The real question is, how much worse?
  • BrianH
    BrianH over 7 years
    @Potato I'm not asserting that all high GPAs are equivalent - just that there is an extremely strong diminishing return at work. There are many reasons - GPAs aren't fully comparable across institutions or even programs, course difficulty varies, semester load/work, etc - and I'm not aware of any graduate program that sorts by GPA or has GPA as a tie-breaker. I've heard lots of statements that say it isn't, though - from every program that has anything to say on the topic. From another angle: it's hard to imagine a case of "Oh, we would admit this candidate...if only that had an extra 0.2 GPA"
  • BrianH
    BrianH over 7 years
    @Potato So I don't think higher GPA would hurt anyone, nor that if you had a free choice as a student you should pick 3.5 instead of 3.9 - just that any difference in admission statistics would require raw data sets and full statistical analysis to reveal.
  • BrianH
    BrianH over 7 years
    @Potato Actually I happened upon a citation for my statements here, and updated my answer accordingly. Hopefully that casts things in a more logical/sensible light!
  • Potato
    Potato over 7 years
    @BrianDHall Interesting. That seems to be CS-specific, however. I would be very surprised if you could find a math (or civil engineering, etc) professor that said the same thing, simply because very few undergraduates are capable of doing meaningful (math, CE) research, so the other signals are more important.
  • BrianH
    BrianH over 7 years
    @Potato That seems very reasonable to me and an excellent caveat, which I'll note in the answer for future finders of this page..
  • Potato
    Potato over 7 years
    @BrianDHall Now that you mention it, I do remember various CS people saying similar things about the relative unimportance of GPA. It seems to be a cultural difference.
  • JeffE
    JeffE over 7 years
    @Potato Very few undergraduates are capable of doing meaningful CS research, either. But enough are that strong CS departments can use research experience as a meaningful admissions signal. My experience is completely consistent with Mor Harchol-Balter's (maybe not surprisingly, since we were in the same PhD cohort in the same department).
  • Jedi
    Jedi over 6 years
    Apropos Dr Mor Harchol-Balter of Carnegie Mellon University, where he writes ... I think you mean where she writes... @BrianDHall
  • High GPA
    High GPA over 4 years
    But how to explain that most students in some PhD programs @ Harvard have almost perfect GPA?