Low gpa, but plenty of experience: Neuroscience grad school chances? How can I improve?


Besides some schools which have a strict GPA cutoff of 3.5 or something (I don't specifically know of any), don't worry, just apply. Your rec letters and research experience (including published papers) will count for a lot more.

I wouldn't suggest wasting time on a masters at this point from the perspective of neuroscience in the US; if you apply and don't get accepted to a school you want to attend, then you could consider it. I would continue working in labs and as a backup plan try to be hired there over the next year; in my opinion that would be just as useful as a masters if not moreso, especially if you can get yet another publication (your record there is already strong, though, if you can actually complete that first author paper; it sounds like you are only in the beginning stages there).

You can explain health/medical issues contributing to your GPA in one of the many essays you will have to write. You might look almost human on your application.

Best of luck to you.


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Updated on December 26, 2022


  • Natalia
    Natalia 11 months

    I am a Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior (NPB) undergrad student at UC Davis. I am taking my last year and a half (with 5th year) of classes. I transferred to UC Davis from UC Santa Cruz for my junior year; I completed lower div bio, gen chem, ochem, physics, and calc at UCSC. These are my projected gpa breakdowns:

    GPA: Overall gpa: 3.312 (upward trend) Overall major gpa: 3.200 (upward trend) UC Davis major gpa: 3.705 (upward trend)

    I am retaking two D+'s, one NPB related the other is not. They were within two quarters and I had a family medical emergency, so I had a rough time. Other than that I have never gotten a D, and got one C- that was also during those bad quarters.

    EXPERIENCE: (in process of/completed) 1 first author & 2 coauthor papers: I have worked in a cognitive neuroscience lab since summer after freshman year at UC Davis, total I will work there for 5 years upon completing my 5th year. I am the coauthor of a paper soon to be published, am in the process of creating an experiment I will be a first author on, and will be a coauthor of another paper my colleague and I are creating.

    LETTERS OF REC: I will have strong letters of rec from both UCSC and UCD. I spent two days a week going to graduate student discussions regarding Alzheimer's at UCSC and was offered a lab position, so two professors there would be options for letters of rec. The doctor I work for at UCD will write me a letter of rec, and I transferred to UCD because of the lab position only, so I'm sure that would be a strong letter of rec.

    I'm concerned, because my overall gpa is very low. It didn't click in my head that lower div classes mattered freshman and sophomore year. I am working to get all A's this year, but if I don't, my major gpa will be around a 3.149. I am committed to getting all A's though and made it possible to do so. Ultimate goal is PhD at a top school, but I think I need a master's first to bump my gpa up.

    What do you all think? Anything else I can do besides work on grades? Thanks for your help!

  • Natalia
    Natalia about 6 years
    I know I'm not supposed to say thank you as a reply, but this was very helpful advice and I'm extremely appreciative! I wanted to go directly into a PhD program, so it's relieving to know I can pursue a research manager position instead of a Masters. Thank you again! You're awesome :)