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Advice About Low GPA

What Happens If My Undergraduate GPA Is Low?

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Undergraduate GPA is the most common criterion used in admission, but it is not, as mentioned above, an infallible predictor of graduate success. This is because there can be non-academic factors which affect academic performance.
One such non-academic factor is the student’s maturity on entering college. The undergraduate experience is qualitatively different from high school, and many people take some time to adjust to it. (This is why there is frequently a drop-off in GPA from high school to the first term or terms in college.) And some students don’t take college seriously, not realising at the time that this will have ramifications when they decide later to pursue a graduate degree. In addition, the need to work to pay tuition, and/or family situations can have an indirect but significant effect on GPA.
If you discover that your GPA is low, either in terms of being below the minimum required for admission, or low by comparison with other persons applying to a particular program, you need to find some ways to offset the lack of a high GPA. Since graduate programs often use multiple criteria for admission, this is not as difficult as it may seem at first. By gathering strong recommendation letters, scoring well on admissions tests, doing internships or post-baccalaureate employment in the field, you can offset the effect of a low GPA.
It is also appropriate to call attention to non-academic circumstances which may have prevented your GPA to accurately represent your capacity, so as to place your record in an appropriate context. If circumstances affected your performance, you can describe them and indicate what steps you have taken to overcome those circumstances. Such explanations can either be incorporated in your statement of intent/purpose/reasons for graduate study or written up as a separate statement to be included with your application form. The important thing is to phrase your explanation so that it does not sound like excuse-making. Having others read and critique your statement can be very helpful here.
If your GPA was the result of a learning disability or other such condition, you will have to decide whether or not to disclose the disability in explaining your academic performance. Federal law prohibits discrimination in admissions on the basis of disability. It is even illegal to require applicants to disclose disabilities on an application form. But many students feel that disclosing their disability in the admissions process places them at a disadvantage. I can’t argue that they are wrong.
I will say this: if you can show that, once your disability was identified and you began to receive necessary accommodations, your performance was much stronger than it previously was, or better yet equalled or exceeded the minimum required for admission, you have placed yourself in a strong position. If you show that reasonable accommodations put you on an equal footing with the other applicants to the program, the program can’t disqualify you on the basis of your disability.

Should I Apply to Graduate School with a Low GPA?
From Tara Kuther, Ph.D.


Q I want to apply to two highly competitive graduate schools of journalism. My concern is my GPA, which is a 2.5. However I have a wealth of journalism experience. The two programs do not specify GPA. Other schools require a mandatory GPA of 3.0. Should I apply, with the risk of not getting accepted and reapplying next year? Should I wait and improve my credentials?

A. You’ve posed a tough question. There’s no guarantee when it comes to graduate school admissions. We can make predictions, but there are so many factors at play — even factors outside of you, the applicant. For example, the funding of the program and the overall number of slots available can determine whether a perfectly qualified applicant gains admission.
Now, to consider your specific situation, remember that graduate programs look at your overall application. GPA is one part of that application. What else matters? GRE scores, because they measure your aptitude, while GPA measures what you actually did in college. Also recognize that the value placed on GPA depends on what courses you’ve taken. If you take challenging courses, then a lower GPA can be tolerated; a high GPA based on easy courses is worth less than a good GPA based on challenging courses.
Admissions essays are another important part of the package. If you address the topic and express yourself well (especially important for journalism applications), it can allay concerns that arise because of your GPA. Your essay may also offer you the opportunity to provide context for your GPA, for example, if extenuating circumstances harmed your academic performance during one semester. Beware of griping about your GPA or attempting to explain 4 years of poor performance. Keep all explanations concise and don’t draw attention away from the central point of your essay.
Recommendation letters are critical to your admissions package. Demonstrate that faculty are behind you — that they support your academic plans. Stellar letters can trump a less-than-stellar GPA. Take the time to nurture relationships with faculty; do research with them. Seek their input on your academic plans.
If you have a solid package — even if your GPA is slightly below 3.0 — if the other application components excel, you can feel comfortable that your application is competitive. But be cautious and and apply to a range of schools including safe schools. If the other areas don’t compensate for you GPA, then take the time to put together a stronger application. Also consider applying to master’s programs so that you can demonstrate your ability.

How to Recover from a Low Undergraduate GPA

Princeton Review

Okay, in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to take Advanced Organic Chemistry during your first, chaotic year of college—your transcript easily could have done without that C- you worked your butt off to score.
Maybe you could say the same for Latin III, Ancient Greek History, or any of the other classes besmirching your transcript and making you feel like you will NEVER, EVER get into the graduate school of your choice. We understand: You’ve got the low GPA blues.
But you’re not alone—and you have no reason to feel doomed. Here are some tips for bouncing back from a low GPA and developing the confidence necessary to take the graduate school admissions process by the reins.
Take a Deep Breath and Relax!
While you might imagine the grad school applicant pool brimming with 4.0 superstars just waiting to blow your application out of the water, it’s not. You’re in the company of plenty of people who wish they had performed better during their undergraduate years and who are now suffering from similar crises of confidence. The good news is that most of you can still get into graduate school if you keep your cool and approach the process strategically.
Choose a Realistic List of Schools—The GPA Scale Is All Relative
Have you made friends with your college’s graduate school (pre-law, pre-mba, pre-med, etc.) advisor yet? If not, hop to it! Their job is to help you compile a list of schools that will realistically suit your needs and strengths. He or she will be the first to discourage you from having impossible expectations and will coach you to be flexible. If you think exclusively in terms of “name” schools with national reputations, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. But you can get a great education at many schools that will primarily consider factors beyond your sub-3.0 GPA, and your job is to figure out which ones they are. Keep in mind: one school’s lower-range GPA is another school’s highest.

Do your research: Books such as The Princeton Review’s Complete Book of Graduate Programs in the Arts and Sciences and online searches like such as the Advanced Graduate School Search will give you a concrete sense of how your GPA and GRE scores match up with students who have been accepted at the schools you’re considering.

Ace the GRE
The GRE, while not usually weighted as heavily as your undergraduate GPA, is important, especially if you are required to take a GRE Subject Test. So get cracking! Aim to score above the median score of your chosen schools. A high score will help you stand out from applicants with equal or higher GPAs.

Communicate with Your Recommendation Writers
Your letters of recommendation are a valuable opportunity to compensate for a low GPA. You should be frank with the professors writing your recommendations. Let them know that your GPA isn’t as high as you’d like and share with them any circumstances relating to why. Looping in your professors allows those with academic credibility to address your concerns on your behalf. This can be very persuasive to an admissions committee.

If your transcript shows an upward trend, find professors who knew you in the later period of your academic career. Also, if your grades for classes in your major are higher than your overall GPA, ask them to highlight that. They can point out your strengths and emphasize your progress while acknowledging the reservations you have about your GPA.

The Personal Statement and Addendum
The personal statement is one of your best chances to distinguish yourself as something greater than the sum of your stats. Talk about particularly interesting accomplishments, experiences, aspirations, and obstacles you’ve overcome. Communicate with personality and conviction, and don’t be modest! You may or may not want to address the issue of your low GPA in the essay-while some admissions officers encourage a candid discussion of GPA, the personal statement may not be the best place to do it.

Consider attaching a separate addendum with a short paragraph containing some justification for lower grades or an explanation of an upward trend. If you switched your major midway through college from a hard science to a more appropriate discipline, or if you took time off and returned to achieve a more impressive record, this is your chance to make it clear. Writing a separate addendum will allow you to keep a positive focus in your personal statement.

The Real World
Though it might seem that everyone in graduate school entered right out of college, in truth, many graduate school students took a year or more off before returning to the classroom. If you feel that you could use some time after graduation to demonstrate your ability in a non-academic environment, you might get an edge over candidates with similar GPAs and GRE scores. Use this time to find work related to your field of interest and take time to reflect on your career choice.

Another benefit of taking time off? You can take some graduate-level courses in your intended field of study to prove that you can handle the coursework. While most graduate schools won’t factor those grades into your overall GPA, they will consider them (law schools are a notable exception, however). Some may even give you academic credit toward your degree. In fact, a few graduate programs even have established non-matriculated programs that allow you to begin working toward a graduate degree before you are formally accepted. Admissions standards for non-matriculated programs are usually less stringent than regular admissions. Doing well in such a program can make your application a virtual shoe-in despite your less than stellar undergraduate GPA.

Graduate School Admissions Officers Are People, Too
Remember: Your application will be considered by human beings with subjective criteria. Instead of envisioning the admissions staff as a group of heartless automatons eager to toss your application into the proverbial “circular file,” imagine them as a thinking body open to seeing the best in what you have to offer. Convince them of your virtues and trust them to be impressed by your strengths. Contrary to what you might hear, graduate school admissions is not just a numbers game.

MBA Admissions: Low GMAT or GPA


First, are your numbers really so bad? “Low numbers” for the purposes of this article, and for most applicants, are GMATs and GPAs at the lower end of or below the mid-80% range for a given school. It may be difficult to find average GPAs, but if you have a 2.6, you know it’s low for almost any MBA program. Roughly, except for the most elite schools, a GPA below 3.0 warrants a deliberate effort to counterbalance.
Say, by these criteria, your numbers are low. What do you do?

Looking closely at your numbers. Which numbers are low – GMAT, GPA, or both? If only one of these numbers is low, at least the other number demonstrates your academic ability. Then the question becomes why is the GMAT or the GPA low? Some people are simply not great standardized test-takers. A low GPA often is attributable to the simple fact that college students are still growing up. In fact, a 3.0 GPA that starts out below 3.0 and trends upward consistently, with the final semester or two in the 3.5 range or higher, is not nearly as worrisome as a GPA that trends in the opposite direction. If both numbers are low, how do they break down? For example, if your GMAT quant score was high and you had solid grades in quant courses in college, that’s a plus, because MBA adcoms always look for evidence that the applicant can handle the mathematics involved (basic calculus and statistics). If it’s the quant side that drags the numbers down, it’s more of a problem. The point is, read the nuances of your scores. Assess and interpret the picture that emerges. Then develop an application strategy to address that issue. Low numbers vary significantly in the impression they create, depending on the details.
Addressing low quant scores. It’s the worst-case scenario, low quant scores on both the GMAT and the transcript. Register at your local community college ASAP for calculus and/or statistics if you haven’t taken them (or if you took them and earned below a B) – and earn an A! If you earned a D or F in other quant-oriented courses, consider re-taking them as well. If you have time to take additional quant-oriented courses, such as finance or accounting, it will help even more. In your essays, highlight quantitative aspects of your work to demonstrate proficiency. Finally, if you have some say in what your recommenders write, ask them to confirm your quantitative ability.
Addressing low verbal scores. Both written and spoken communications skills are essential for MBA students, especially given the emphasis on teamwork. Thus, consistently low verbal scores will raise a red flag. Your essays are the ideal place to neutralize this concern. They should be expressive and flawlessly written, of course. You also should select examples and anecdotes that highlight your communication skills. The opportunity the essays offer is also a pitfall, however – mediocre essays will only confirm concern about your verbal skills. So excellent essays are a must. Looking beyond the essays, ask recommenders to comment positively on your verbal skills. Finally, you can take a course at a local college that involves substantial writing, either business related or other – and earn an A.
Evaluating the numbers in the context of your demographic profile. This article’s guidelines (above) for what constitutes “low numbers” are general. To really understand the impact of your numbers, you must first understand your demographic profile vis-à-vis the MBA applicant pool for your chosen school(s). Regardless of how rare a demographic profile may be, an adcom will not admit an applicant if it believes he cannot handle the coursework. Beyond that, it’s really a matter of supply-and-demand. Demographics encompass your ethnicity, nationality, gender, and industry background. It is well known that Indian engineers and computer scientists with high numbers are over-represented in the applicant pool, as are white and Asian male investment bankers with high numbers. Thus, a GMAT in the lower 80% range and a 3.3 GPA may be a problem for them in applying to, say, Wharton, whereas a female Peruvian corporate finance associate with a 650 GMAT and 3.3 GPA from a good national university would be a viable applicant. If this Peruvian female had a 590 GMAT and a 2.7 GPA, that might not be the case, as questions would arise as to her ability to master the coursework. In a sense, understanding your demographic profile is part of looking closely at the numbers and reading the nuances.
Using your essays to counteract the low numbers. With low numbers, your first hurdle is demonstrating you’re qualified. But being qualified is a far cry from being admitted. Your low scores may now be “understandable,” but they won’t excite the adcom, so your work experience must. “Mine” your work experience for all evidence of accomplishment, leadership, and impact. Show through anecdotes and examples that you are a person who makes a difference on the job beyond what’s expected. Exceptional contribution and leadership as a volunteer or in another non-work activity also serve this purpose, though with the low numbers, strong work experience is still essential.
Selecting the right schools. All schools do not give the “pillars” of your application – GMAT, GPA, work experience – the same weight. Some, such as Columbia and Stanford, will put more weight on the GMAT and/or GPA than others. Some will be more interested in the specific qualities, experience, and demographic factors you bring than will others. First, select programs that meet your learning needs. Then focus on those that take a more holistic view of applicants and/or those that favor your distinguishing characteristics.
The optional essay. If your numbers are below the 80% range, they warrant an acknowledgement and an explanation. Similarly, if extenuating circumstances caused the low numbers, those circumstances are an important part of your profile. The optional essay is often the place to make these statements. If you write the optional essay, make it short and straightforward. Provide a brief explanation, take responsibility, and focus on evidence of your talents that counters the impression made by the low stats. Also, explain (or, ideally, show through example and anecdote) that either you have dealt with the problem causing the poor grades, or the circumstances no longer apply.
Creating a thoughtful strategy to counteract the effect of low numbers can transform you from a non-viable to a viable applicant at the schools of your choice. However, it’s up to you to show the adcom that the numbers don’t define you.

PhD with low GPA

While doing some web browsing on quantum algorithms, I stumbled upon your page. I noticed that you boast that you have the lowest undergraduate GPA of any professor you have ever met. I am an undergraduate computer science student who dreams of one day obtaining a PhD, but my GPA is less than impressive. If you have a moment, I would love to know how you were able to convince graduate admissions and more importantly, yourself, that you were up to the task of getting a PhD.
Hard work, arrogance, and pure dumb luck.
I always wanted to go to grad school, but I was a LAZY undergrad. I spent more time hacking on independent programming projects than on homework or studying for exams. Anything I found boring, I spent no time on whatsoever. Usually, by the time final exams rolled around, I was too far behind to catch up. (I’d love to claim that I spent all that time partying, but I was also a geek.) I aced the programming classes (which landed me some student TA jobs), and I did lots of independent study projects, but I bombed everything else. It wasn’t that I couldn’t understand the material or do the work (at least, if I’d kept up); I just didn’t care.
Hey, it worked in high school. I got into college, despite almost failing English and history, because I was years ahead at math.
My senior year in college, a couple of other computer science majors started their own software company. They hired one of my friends; he suggested they hire me (since I was good at programming). That was where I finally learned to work. School was great, because if I didn’t get something done by the deadline, I didn’t have to do it anymore! Sure, there’s a bad grade, but whatever. At the startup, if I didn’t get something done by the deadline, I still had to do it — unless I wanted to pay back all the money they’d given me — only now my boss and co-workers were pissed off. After a few months of this, it finally sunk in that it would be easier just to do the work. I still have to remind myself of this sometimes.
The first time I applied to grad school, I didn’t get in ANYWHERE, despite high GRE scores. I got some rec letters through my undergrad TA jobs, but they all said “he’s smart but lazy”, which is the kiss of death.
The startup was bought by a bigger company in Silicon Valley (which is now part of Apple, or dead, depending on who you ask). By this point I’d learned to work, but I discovered (or remembered) that I was more interested in doing things RIGHT than doing them NOW, which is bad news in the software industry; this wasn’t the place for me. On the other hand, I got a reputation for being able to answer hard math-y questions, and I found myself working through automata theory textbooks for fun while I waited for my program to compile. So I decided to apply again, this time saying I wanted to do software engineering (since I’d been a software engineer for four years) and getting letters from my managers (who said I could work hard) in addition to my old profs (who still remembered me as smart but lazy). I retook the GREs and did well.
This time, I got into a couple of schools. When I arrived at UC Irvine, the director of graduate admissions, a software engineer, told me he had burned some political capital to get me admitted despite my crappy GPA, that he had a lot riding on my success, that he’d gambled on me because of my work experience, and that I’d better not let him down. (That was the last time I ever talked to him. A month later, I realized I didn’t want to do software engineering.)
I think one big reason I got in despite my grades was good timing. I started at Irvine in 1990, at the height of the PC software boom/bubble. It was basically a smaller version of the .com boom/bubble ten years later. Most good CS students were getting high-paying programming jobs, or even starting their own companies, right out of college. So fewer people were applying to graduate school, but undergrad demand was up, so more faculty were being hired, so there was more room for grad students. The bar for admissions must have been lower.
Five years later (as I was finishing my PhD), the software bubble burst, and the pendulum swung the other way — it was hard to find programming jobs, undergrad enrollment dropped, faculty hiring went down, more people applied to grad school. The bar for grad admissions (and faculty jobs) went back up.
The same thing happened later with the .com bust, only this time I saw it from within the grad admission committee. At UIUC, we get many more, and much better, domestic grad school applications now than in previous years. (International applicants are more complicated. Yay 9/11.) Good grades are a MINIMUM requirement for admission now. Most incoming grad students already have some research experience; some of them even have publications. That was not true five years ago.
When grad applications arrive, one of our department secretaries sorts them roughly into three equal piles — MAYBE, PROBABLY NOT, and NO — based almost entirely on GPA, weighted by the quality of the school, and GREs. (Penn has a very good program, so this works in your favor.) The committee looks at the MAYBE pile, and if there’s still space, maybe the top of the PROBABLY NOT pile. If a student’s GPA is under 3.0, it’s very likely that no one on the committee will even look at their application. (This is a bit of an oversimplification.)
…UNLESS they’re rescued by someone on the faculty. Occasionally, I’ll get an email from someone I know at another school asking me to look out for their student’s application and pointing out their other strengths: independent study projects, research experience, internships, other employment, etc. If the student looks interesting, I’ll pass the note to the committee, asking them to look at the file. That doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be admitted, of course — especially if they’re in the NO pile — but if a faculty member really wants to admit someone, it’s harder for the committee to say no.
That’s how I got into grad school. Someone on the faculty liked my application, despite my bad grades, and they pulled for me.
Free advice is usually worth exactly what you pay for it, but let me offer one concrete suggestion: Talk to faculty in your department who do the things you’re most interested in. (Penn’s a big department, so you’ll have to hunt them down.) If you’re good at their subject, tell them you’re interested and ask if they can suggest something for you to study further. If you’re not so good at their subject, tell them you’re interested anyway and ask if they have any suggestions for how to improve. Don’t be discouraged if they don’t have time; just ask for suggestions for other faculty to talk to. Figure out what you’re best at, and do something visible with that!
I hope this helps. Good luck!


Clear Admit

-I am a 28 year-old Canadian male.
-top engineering school in Canada, GPA is 2.65 (last two years 2.88) with overseas experience. -well rounded (i.e. professional and extracurricular)
1- I need to apply this year for top 5 schools. Aside from the fact that I should aim for 700+ GMAT, how to best address the GPA given I am an engineering graduate? Does it make sense to take some undergraduate level quantitative courses or should I take a graduate MBA course to prove my academic abilities?
2- Another question: What are the top 5 US schools and what are the top 10 schools? I have seen the ranking but how would this forum rank the top 5 and rest of the top 10.
3- Given my profile can I apply for round 2 with similar odds of applying for round 1?Reply
Thank you for reading this forum and posting your questions. You raise several interesting points, so let’s tackle them one at a time.
First, your GPA of 2.65 falls well below the averages at top MBA programs (typically around 3.4-3.6). Having said that, most people know that the grading system in Canada is quite different from the one in the USA (A’s are given out less frequently, etc). As such, you may want to look into your class rank or any other metrics (honors, dean’s list) that might paint a brighter picture. If you went to a top school – and performed well relative to your peers – that should be the focus (as opposed to your GPA).
If your class ranking or other metrics don’t help much, you’ll need to look to other ways to address the low GPA. As far as the GMAT is concerned, your instincts are correct: you will need a high score. In fact, the best way to counter a low GPA is to simply hit a homerun on the GMAT and then indicate to the adcom that your GMAT score is the most accurate, most recent measure of your academic ability. Of course, if you are looking at the top 5 MBA programs, you should remember that their average GMAT scores tend to be around the 700-720 mark. This means that hitting a homerun would require something upwards of 720 (ideally a 730+).
Taking outside classes and building an alternative transcript is another way to address a low GPA. Of course, the best way to do this is to take several courses (2-3) in order to show the committee that you are comfortable in the classroom. It is critical to maintain a 4.0 GPA in these courses. They need not be MBA-level courses, since the idea is to prepare for the MBA (using foundation courses like math, statistics, economics) rather than to actually pursue MBA coursework. A final area to explore with regards to a low GPA is ‘extenuating circumstances’. Did you work 40 hours/week while paying your way through school? Did you suffer some sort of personal setback that took your focus away from studying? These kinds of circumstances can sometimes be used to address poor performance in school.SCHOOL RANKINGS
I am curious as to why you are just applying to the top 5 MBA programs – given how different they are in terms of size, teaching methods, strengths, etc. What are your career goals? Which top schools are best suited to helping you reach those goals? You mention an interest in Kellogg – so perhaps you enjoy a close-knit, team-oriented community? Perhaps you are interested in studying marketing? If that’s the case, there may be other programs outside of the top 5 that are well suited to your needs, etc. As to your question, the “top 5″ is commonly regarded as: Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg and Chicago. Some might argue that the fifth spot belongs to a school like MIT – which may be the case – but let’s just assume this list is more or less accurate. The other top 10 schools would include MIT, Dartmouth/Tuck, Columbia, Duke and Michigan. Of course, these rankings should be taken with a grain of salt, since each school is different and each program has unique strengths (in various academic disciplines).
I don’t really have enough information on your profile to give you concrete feedback, but if your GPA is as much of an issue as it seems, you should ABSOLUTELY apply in the first round. The schools tend to make fewer exceptions with key metrics (GPA/GMAT) as the admissions cycle goes along. Feel free to contact us directly via email if you would like to set up a free assessment via phone.
What’s the Role of GPA in Graduate School Admissions?
From Tara Kuther, Ph.D.


Your GPA or grade point average is important to admissions committees, not because it signifies your intelligence, but instead beacuse it is a long-term indicator how well you perform your job as student. Grades reflect your motivation and your ability to do consistently good or bad work. Generally, most master’s programs require minimum GPAs of 3.0 or 3.3, and most Ph.D. programs require minimum GPAs of 3.3 or 3.5.
Not all grades are the same, though. Admissions committees study the courses taken: a B in Advanced Statistics is worth more than an A in Introduction to Pottery. In other words, they consider the context of the GPA: where was it obtained and of what courses is it comprised? In many cases, it’s better to have a lower GPA composed of solid challenging courses than a high GPA based on easy courses like “Basket Weaving for Beginners” and the like.
Frequently admissions committees will examine your overall GPA as well as the GPA for the courses relevant to the programs to which you’re applying (e.g., GPA in science and math courses for applicants to medical school and graduate programs in the sciences). Ensure that you’re taking the right courses for the graduate program to which you plan to apply.
Admissions committees also understand that applicants’ grade point averages often can’t be meaningfully compared. Grades can differ among universities – an A at one university may be a B+ at another. Also grades differ among professors in the same university. Because grade point averages are not standardized, it’s hard to compare applicants’ GPAs. Therefore admissions committees turn to standardized exams, like the GRE, MCAT, LSAT, and GMAT, to make comparisons among applicants from different universities. Therefore if you have a low GPA, it is essential that you try your best on these tests.

Getting into Graduate School – Masters, Ph.D., Psy.D.


Approximately 50 – 60% of the students applying to Masters programs are accepted. For many programs, if you meet the qualifications, you are accepted. However, some schools do put limits on how many students can be enrolled in the program at one time, so just because you meet the basic criteria doesn’t mean that they will automatically accept you (In other words, the minimum is not the maximum that you should do). BTW, when you are looking for just a Master degree, make sure that you look for one that is a Terminal Masters (T). This means that the program expects that you will stop at the Masters. Don’t waste your time applying to a Doctoral program in which students earn a Masters along the way if you don’t expect to go for the Doctorate.

GPA – The minimum GPA to get into a Masters program ranges between a 2.5 and a 3.0. The median GPA of a student getting accepted into a Masters program is a bit higher – around a 3.0 – 3.25. The median GPA in Psychology is typically higher – closer to 3.4.

GRE – The minimum GRE required ranges 400-500 per section. The median GRE score total is around 1000-1050. Masters programs are also more likely to consider the Analytical section, as well as the Verbal and Quantitative section of the GRE – however, not all do.

Required Courses – Most require Introduction to Psychology, Statistics, and Experimental courses. Many also require or prefer that you take Abnormal, Tests and Measurements, Developmental or at least 2 other upper level psychology courses. Again, this varies from program to program.

Subjective Criteria – Letters of recommendation, interviews (where required), and personal statements are rated of high importance, research and work experience are rated of medium importance, and extracurricular activities are rated of low importance.

Accreditation – As of now, Masters programs in Psychology do not have an official accrediting body the same way that the Ph.D. programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology do (i.e. APA). They may, however, have some type of accreditation. For example, our Ed.S. program in School Psychology is checked out by NASP and our School Counseling program is seeking CACREP approval. If you decide to go into Social Work or Family or Marriage Counseling, these programs do have an accreditation process at the Masters level.


Most Ph.D. programs only accept approximately 5-15 students a year into each program. This varies from year to year and typically depends on how many new spaces become available in someone’s lab. Therefore, just because you meet the minimum requirements does not mean that you will get into the program. Competition is greatest for Clinical Psychology (on average, 150-300 students will be applying each year). For Counseling and School Psychology, programs typically see slightly fewer applications – about 60-150. The number of students applying each year to the Experimental, Development, and Biopsychology programs range on average from 35-75.

GPA – Minimum GPA’s, when given, range from 3-3.25. The median GPA of a student getting accepted into a Ph.D. program ranges from a 3.4-3.6 (if you are applying to a Clinical Psychology program, the median is closer to the 3.6). The median Psychology GPA is higher – about 3.6-3.7.

GRE – The average minimum GRE score is a 500 for Verbal and 500 for Quantitative. Ph.D. programs usually don’t look at the Analytical section. The medium GRE score for each section ranges from 550-625 per section, with the median total around 1200. Again, the medium GRE score for students entering into a Clinical program is slightly higher.

Required Courses – Most require Introduction to Psychology, Statistics, and Experimental courses. Many also require or prefer that you take Abnormal, Tests and Measurements, Developmental, Learning, or at least 2 other upper level psychology courses. Some even require Math or Science or Language. Again, this varies from program to program.

Subjective Criteria – Research, letters of recommendation, interviews (where required), and personal statements are rated of high importance, work experience is rated of medium importance, and extracurricular activities are rated of low importance.

Masters in hand on an applicant’s chances for admission- Some programs expect you to have a Masters in hand when you apply, but many don’t. If the program doesn’t want you to have one, then the value of a Masters is goes down a bit. The information I have concerns Clinical, Counseling and School Programs. If you have good undergraduate GPA and GRE scores, having a Masters degree is rated as positive (or at least somewhat positive) for the majority of the Counseling and School programs. The majority of Clinical Programs rate a Masters degree in hand between somewhat positive and neutral. However, if you have a mediocre GPA and GRE, there is a definate shift toward the negative. The majority of the programs (Clinical, Counseling, and School) now are neutral to negative about the effect of having a Masters degree on an applicant’s chances for admission. The other issue you need to consider is whether or not your classes will transfer to the new program. Graduate programs are much less likely to accept transferred courses, so you may have to repeat a number of classes.

Accreditation – APA accredits 3 programs only – Clinical, Counseling, and School and only progams that train students in the scientist-practitioner and professional models. Competition for accredited programs is even greater than for non-accredited program, however, it is easier to seek licensure and certain interships.


Psy.D.’s are available for Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychology. The number of students applying to these programs is just as great at the number applying to the Ph.D. program (approximately 200 a year). More students are accepted into Psy.D. programs each year, with the average being around 25-60 per program.

GPA – Minimum GPA’s range from 3-3.25. The median GPA of a student getting accepted into a Psy.D. program is a bit lower than a Ph.D. program, usually closer to a 3.3. Again, the median GPA for Psychology courses is somewhat higher than the overall GPA.

GRE – The average minimum GRE score is a 500 for Verbal, 500 for Quantitative and 500 for Analytical. It is common for Psy.D. programs to look at all 3 sections of the GRE. The median GRE score for each section ranges from 525-600 per section.

Required Courses – Most require Introduction to Psychology, Statistics, Abnormal, and Personality. Some also prefer Developmental, History of Psychology, and Test and Measurements. Again, this varies from program to program.

Subjective Criteria – Letters of recommendation, interviews, personal statements, and work experience are rated of high importance and research and extracurricular activities are rated of low importance.

Masters in hand on an applicant’s chances for admission- The information I have concerns the Clinical Psy.D. If you have good undergraduate GPA and GRE scores, having a Masters degree is rated as positive or somewhat positive for the majority of Clinical Psy.D. programs However, if you have a mediocre GPA and GRE, there is a shift, with most programs reporting being neutral. The other issue you need to consider is whether or not your classes will transfer to the new program. Graduate programs are much less likely to accept transferred classes, so you may have to repeat a number of classes.

Accreditation – APA accredits 3 programs only – Clinical, Counseling, and School and only progams that train students in the scientist-practitioner and professional models. Competition for accredited programs is even greater than for non-accredited program, however, it is easier to seek licensure and certain interships.

For More on GPA also See :

Low GPA Stories

About GPA and Class Position

More on GPA

What Happens if my undergraduate GPA is low?

Understanding GPA

How to convert percentage marks to the GPA system? Part 1

2 Responses

  1. Hello, i have a decent average gpa and my quant score is 790/800 but my verbal score and analytical writing scores are pretty less ie., 480 and 3.5. i have done lot of research work. i have won many national level competitions. can you plz tell me how will gpa and my verbal scores affect my admission. thank you.

  2. Thanks a lot for the interesting posts guys, been following your blog for the past several months while trying to lose weight on the Cambridge diet plan and it’s going really great. I’m down about 20 pounds in the past couple of months and your website has really inspired me to keep going. Great job.

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