Do grad schools look at the overall GPA in applications, or do they look at particular courses?
They will look at the overall more than the specific courses (in general, some schools will vary) for the simple reason that it is just easier. Consider the difficulties in doing subset examination of grades for applicants from different schools with different major requirements and names of courses.
I don't recommend staying longer to get grades up. Move on in your life and just do a better job in the next school. Maybe put in some extra effort into applications (for example applying to more schools) to compensate for what you think are unattractive grades.
If this is the US, then it could be either, but the grades that are most important are the ones that relate to your background and aptitude for the program you apply to. Some others may also be weighted fairly heavily. For example, if you apply in CS, then your grades in a writing course might be considered significant, since writing is an important part of CS overall.
So, what is relevant and what is not depends on a lot of factors and is probably judged a bit differently by everyone who reads your application. But think broadly about relevance. Just because it isn't your major subject doesn't mean it is not valuable.
But, there is no reason I can see for you to avoid applying now but using additional coursework as a backup. You don't really know how acceptable you are until you get the application in front of some committees. And their view will depend on much more than a few numbers such as your GPA. Letters of recommendation, especially.
The view outside the US might be a bit different.
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James Ronald about 1 year
I'm wondering whether it'd be worthwhile to spend an extra semester in my undergrad or two getting my grades up. Unfortunately I've taken all the courses relevant to my field, so this would mean using unrelated courses to boost my GPA.
But I'm not sure if the unrelated courses would actually serve to raise my GPA in the eyes of grad school application boards: would they be pleased with the higher GPA, or would they disconsider it since it was obtained using irrelevant courses?
My GPA isn't too bad, but I luckily can afford to spend another semester or two getting it up if it'd make me a more competitive applicant (and might as well if I get rejected from the schools I want to go to).
Edit: apologies, I had no idea that some countries don't employ the GPA measure. GPA stands for "grade point average" and is essentially your average grade across all the courses you've taken during your time in undergrad (and possibly Master's).
Admin almost 4 yearsYour fixations on the grades is weird, is this by any change in the US?
Admin almost 4 yearsFrom the point of someone who is not in the US, I cannot understand why some institution would count some unrelated courses in the same way as "related courses". If they are really unrelated, why would they care? Neither do I understand why your point on doing courses is the grade and not the understanding of the material.
James Ronald almost 4 years@Heutl Fair enough. Also, when did I say my focus is not understanding the material...?
James Ronald almost 4 years@Heutl But yes it is in the US. Do grades not matter in other countries or something?
Admin almost 4 yearsI am an university instructor and nobody ever (except my parents) wanted to see my grades. I also don't really think they measure something.. A GPA is some average grade, right?(you might want to clarify in the question). Some countries do not even have that (Germany does, Austria not e.g.) i may be wrong, but your question sounds to me like you would rather take courses for your graduate school which don't matter at all than revisiting, working with the material related to your courses which you already have taken. As a European, this sounds strange.
James Ronald almost 4 years@Heutl Ah okay, no it's just that I unfortunately can't retake courses I've already taken. I would like to improve on things I didn't do well in yes, but sadly that's not an option. It's interesting to hear that some countries don't have GPA though, I had no idea! That was a large oversight on my part. So in Europe do grad schools not look at the GPA of their applicants as part of the applicant evaluation process? By the way, thank you for the continued help, I appreciate it!
Admin almost 4 yearsI mean, you could work on one subject without taking a formal course. My impression is that connections (of your advisor) and referals are more important than grades in Europe.
xyz123 almost 4 yearsAs a PhD student I teach courses and do research all day long. How much research experience do you have? That is an important parameter.
James Ronald almost 4 yearsThank you for the response, this helps a lot! Could you elaborate on the view outside the US? How do other places differ? I'm definitely keeping an open mind about where in the world I study
Admin almost 4 yearsYou might want to clarify that this is a US answer.