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Getting into a Top MBA Program

Why a Top MBA?

Unlike graduates of medical schools and law schools, there is no licensing exam required to practice business in the United States. In addition, the quality of accredited schools offering MBA degrees varies tremendously. This is a degree you can obtain part-time in 4 years, in an executive program in 1 year, via correspondence courses, and from schools with near 100% acceptance rates.

As a result, the value of your MBA degree is directly related to the prestige of the university and business school which grants it. A recent study of the value of MBA programs concluded that “if you don’t get into a leading business school, the economic value of the degree is really quite limited.” The study examined consultants at McKinsey & Company and investment bankers at Goldman, Sachs & Co. and found that those without MBA’s performed as well, or better, than business school graduates. The fallacy of the study was that it did not recognize that it is much harder to get such a job without an MBA degree. Intellectual horsepower and potential – rather than business knowledge – is the primary criterion top consulting firms and investment banks look for. If someone possesses a Ph.D. in economics from MIT or a JD from Harvard – quite common at such firms – then that obviously serves as a more than adequate intellectual proxy for even a top two-year MBA.

The required curriculum at most business schools consists of courses such as finance, accounting, statistics, organizational behavior, strategy, economics, communications and technology. Schools may have a larger or smaller set of “core” courses, and many give these subjects different names. But overall, MBA programs have more similarities with one another than they do differences, and most of the same subjects are taught from the same textbooks, using many of the same cases.

Thus, the academic content of a business school education – much like a law school or medical school education – does not vary greatly between programs. But due to the tremendous variation in the standards of institutions conferring the degree, an MBA has the most value in the marketplace when it is from a school that is highly respected. In addition, the lifelong professional network which comes from going to business school is more valuable when it is from a school where graduates typically go on to the most successful careers.

Ranking the Rankings

There is no other academic degree which is ranked and analyzed by so many publications and organizations as the MBA. While the general public and the business world have intuitive ideas of which the most famous and prestigious programs are, many of these rankings have highlighted improvements in other programs and presented them as viable competitors. Nonetheless, the traditional top schools perform the best across the best-regarded rankings.

US News and BusinessWeek

US News & World Report and BusinessWeek are the most well-known and respected MBA rankings, and have each been published for more than 10 years. New rankings from the Financial Times, Forbes, the Economist and the Wall Street Journal have come out in the last few years. Each ranking has strengths and weaknesses.

US News is generally considered the best ranking for prospective MBA applicants, as their system is the most transparent, and their rankings always come closest to peoples’ common sense perception of relative prestige. This is no accident, since their ranking heavily favors “peer assessment”, which is essentially “prestige”, as one of their key factors. There are three schools which have been ranked #1 by US News in the past ten years – the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

BusinessWeek is considered the next most useful ranking for applicants, since they collect a great deal of data and weight their ranking toward student feedback. Yet, none of Harvard, Stanford or MIT has ever been ranked #1 by BusinessWeek. Instead, the only schools to achieve the top position in their ranking are the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Business School Highest Ranking in US News Highest Ranking in BusinessWeek
Harvard Business School



Stanford Graduate School of Business



MIT Sloan School of Management



Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania



Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University



Outside of these five schools, no other school has ever been ranked #1 in either of these rankings. BusinessWeek displays some variation, but has generally had each of these schools in or near the top 5. In US News, they have consistently been the top five schools every year the ranking has been published.

Other Rankings

The newer rankings, The Financial Times, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal, are essentially specialty rankings which weight specifically chosen criteria very heavily to produce different results. The end results have some similarities with US News and BusinessWeek, but also produce many curious outcomes for individual schools and are more useful for the data they collect than the rankings they produce. A summary of the methodology issues with these rankings:

Ranking Methodology Problems
Financial Times Focuses on self-reported salary data several years post-graduation Unreliable and incomplete data: self-reporting bias
Forbes Focuses on self-reported salary data several years post-graduation; focuses on ROI Unreliable and incomplete data: self-reporting bias; penalizes schools with high entering salaries (inversely correlates program quality and applicant salary)
Wall Street Journal Based entirely on recruiter satisfaction Recruiters who tend to be unsuccessful at attracting interest from students at top schools tend to give those schools poor marks (inversely correlates program quality and graduate choices)

These methodology problems produce some questionable results, such as the Wall Street Journal ranking Stanford outside of the top 40, Forbes ranking MIT Sloan outside the top 15, and the Financial Times ranking Yale and NYU ahead of Kellogg. As such, the top business schools don’t pay as much attention to these rankings. Stanford’s dean even commented, quite justifiably, that doing poorly in the Wall Street Journal ranking was probably a better indicator of the quality of a program than doing well!

The Top Programs

Harvard, Stanford, MIT Sloan, Kellogg and Wharton stand out consistently amongst their peers, and have historically been considered the most prestigious MBA programs. They are also considered the best programs today. Two other notable programs are the University of Chicago and Columbia Business School. In fact, the deans of Harvard, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia and Chicago, meet regularly to share benchmarking information, and generally consider each other to be peer schools.

The reason that Columbia and Chicago are generally considered just below the other five is because they carry somewhat less prestige, as reflected in a couple of key statistics. Columbia used to have a 46% acceptance rate as recently as 10 years ago, far higher than any other top school, admitting nearly half of all applicants. Meanwhile, Chicago consistently has a much higher acceptance rate than any other top school (above 25-30%) and through much of the last 10 years maintained a 50% yield – in other words, nearly half of the people offered admission to Chicago choose not to attend. Nonetheless, these two schools are considered among the most prestigious after the top 5, and are even ranked in the top 5 in some finance-heavy rankings. Siebel’s “Siebel Scholars” program recognizes the top MBA students in the United States by awarding $25000 scholarships to the top five students at each of Harvard, Stanford, Sloan, Wharton, Kellogg and Chicago.

After these seven schools, other well known and highly regarded programs include:

  • Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College
  • Haas School of Business, University of California-Berkeley
  • Yale School of Management
  • NYU Stern School of Business
  • Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
  • Anderson School of Business, UCLA
  • Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

Collectively, there are about 15 schools in the United States with a claim to “top 10 status” in one area or another.

Additional Statistics

Top MBA programs by subject area – one of the best ways to think about the top five MBA programs is to consider that they are all excellent in nearly every discipline, but are #1 in different specific subject areas:

Business School US News #1 in 2006 for… BusinessWeek “top-rated” in 2005 for…
Harvard Business School – Management – Finance
– Management
– Entrepreneurship
Stanford Graduate School of Business – N/A – Management
– Entrepreneurship
MIT Sloan School of Management – Information Systems
– Production/Operations
– Supply Chain/Logistics
– Finance
– Management
– Marketing
– Entrepreneurship
Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania – Finance
– Accounting
– Finance
– Management
– Marketing
– Entrepreneurship
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University – Marketing – Management
– Marketing

Yield – that is, the % of students who accept offers of admission. While some less prestigious programs may have high yields because of a highly targeted audience, the top programs are certainly competing with one another for many of the same students. In other words, the typical explanation for someone turning down an offer of admission at one top business school is because they accepted the offer of a school they would rather attend. Since top candidates receive more offers of admission, their choice of program is a factor which can be used to gauge the quality of each program. The yields of the top schools (2004 figures) are:

School Name


Acceptance Rate










MIT Sloan



















Endowment – this is kind of like the market capitalization of a business school, in a somewhat silly way. If a school has many graduates who have gone on to become very wealthy, it should have a lot of money in its endowment fund. If the school is well-managed, that fund should grow and help it attract more successful students. These are the top 10 schools by endowment (BusinessWeek, 2001):

School Name

Endowment ($ millions)

Endowment per student ($ 000)






MIT Sloan



































The reason the per-capita endowment figures for schools like Chicago and Kellogg are so low is because they spread their resources amongst a large number of full-time and part-time students. Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Wharton do not have part-time programs.

Famous Alumni – so who goes on to fame and fortune with an MBA degree? Besides George W. Bush, the nation’s first MBA president (Harvard ’75), the most prominent MBA’s are CEO’s of the world’s largest companies. MBA Jungle analyzed the Fortune 200 to see where their CEO’s went to school. The list, once again, has the top schools well-represented, and shows Harvard’s strength historically:

School Name

# of Fortune 200 CEO’s





MIT Sloan












NYU Stern

















In the past 100 years, Harvard has been the most popular destination for those interested in an MBA. Of course, the MBA was a completely different animal just 20 years ago. Back then, most students went directly out of college, and the competition and prestige were nothing like it is today. It is worth noting that only 79 CEO’s in the Fortune 200 had MBA degrees at all – but the MBA accounted for more than two-thirds of all graduate degrees held by these CEO’s. Although Wharton only had 1 CEO in the Fortune 200, they have historically had more, and this particular ranking is always in a state of flux.

The rest of this document will focus on the top 5 programs, but the same principles apply to the admissions process at most top 10 or top 20 programs.

Keys to Admission

Your GMAT score, undergraduate GPA, and the number of years of work experience you possess are the primary quantitative indicators used by business school admissions committees. Here is how the top 5 schools stack up on those measures:

Business School

Median GMAT

Median GPA

Mean Work Experience (Years)





MIT Sloan
















As of this writing, this means that more than half of all students attending these schools scored in the top 5% of all GMAT test takers worldwide. It also means that somewhat less than half did not. The GMAT is the primary indicator of raw intellectual ability considered by admissions committees, since it is standardized, and offers an objective – albeit incomplete – measure of ability between students from different colleges and majors. If you are lower than your target school’s average on any of these measures, it should be compensated by all of the other areas. In other words, if you expect to get in to Wharton with only 2 years of full-time work experience, you should have a very high GMAT score and GPA amongst other things.

Retaking the GMAT – this is only useful if your highest score is below your target school’s median. Retaking the GMAT to get a 730 when you already have a 710 is reasonably meaningless and shows you to be focused on the wrong things. Of course, getting a 720 after previously scoring a 670 may greatly help your candidacy. While most schools say you can take the GMAT as many times as you want, you should never take the test without proper preparation, as the entire process can be quite arduous. Prepare by taking practice tests – particularly CAT simulations – and if you find that you are not scoring 700+ with regularity, you should consider taking a course to prepare.

Although admissions committees at top schools say that a low GMAT score won’t keep you out, those who get in with scores in the low 600’s are almost certainly exceptional cases. If you are the average candidate without any internationally impressive accomplishments, a low GMAT score almost guarantees you a dreaded “ding” letter. On the other hand, for the candidate who is average in all other respects, a 790 isn’t much different from a 740 from the school’s point of view. Most schools will admit two otherwise similar candidates with disparate but high GMAT scores based on characteristics other than the GMAT. As for the people who get in with scores from 650 to 700, admissions can be frustratingly random – even more so than for everyone else.

While the overall GMAT score is what will be counted most heavily, the quantitative score is more important for applicants with non-technical backgrounds while the verbal score is examined more closely for applicants from foreign countries and those with science or engineering degrees. Schools are merely looking for the assurance that a candidate will be able to both crunch numbers and communicate well. Assuming that the overall GMAT score is alright, only a seriously low score on the section that will be examined most closely for a given candidate would be a liability. For example, if you are a native english speaker and have good grades from an Ivy League college in Literature, they probably won’t be too concerned about a low score on the verbal section, and just consider it an aberration. However, a low score on the quantitative section – regardless of how strong your combined GMAT score is – could be a major liability. The AWA score is not important for most applicants, and is not factored into the overall GMAT score anyway. In some cases, the actual text of the AWA section might be compared to an applicant’s essays if the schools are skeptical about either’s authenticity.

How the GPA is evaluated – top business schools are not as focused on undergraduate grades as other professional programs. If you have a 99th percentile LSAT score, and a 4.0 GPA in Political Science from Princeton, you will almost definitely get into Yale Law School. If you score 9.2 on the MCAT and graduate with a 3.4 in music, you will almost definitely not get into Johns Hopkins Medical School. On the other hand, if you graduate first in your class in finance at NYU, get a 780 on the GMAT, and work at Boston Consulting Group for three years, the admissions committee at Stanford Business School could decide they’ve already let in enough people like you, and the spot could go to someone with a 3.2 GPA in English who worked in a NGO in Africa. The bottom line is that if you are still in school, you should try to get the very best grades you can, but afterwards you just have to live with them. If you did poorly in undergraduate, good graduate degree grades help offset the impression that you’re incapable of getting good grades, but they don’t undo the damage your GPA does to the school’s average. Thus, letting you in becomes a very context and timing-driven judgment call.

Essays – there are typically two to seven essay questions in each application, with between 2000 and 3000 words required in total. While the first application will take you the longest, and you can cut-and-paste many paragraphs into subsequent essays, overall the differing nature of school’s questions will require you to spend many days on each package to create a satisfactory product. The essays are your primary opportunity to convince the school to let you in. They will evaluate you on two dimensions: what you will bring to the school as an MBA student, and what you will bring to the school as an alumnus. The second criterion is obviously the most important. Schools are trying to select the applicants they believe will be the most successful in their careers based on their backgrounds and accomplishments to date. Put another way, the 10-20% of applicants who get into a top business school are the ones who least needed the top MBA degree to succeed in their careers. Ironic, but true.

Of course, most of the applicants to top schools are reasonably successful in their careers already, so your essays need to distinguish you from others in your peer group. Your peer group – those applicants who are most like you – is who you are competing against primarily. For example, any top school could fill up their entire class with analysts from consulting firms with high GMAT scores and GPA’s. But they won’t. Instead, they will have a certain number of spots for such applicants, and someone who was a sculptor would not be competing for one of those spaces. This makes some peer groups more competitive than others in any given year. Most schools will say that every candidate competes against every other candidate, and from a certain point of view this is true. Someone could be a consultant, and even though they have already let in more consultants than they would like, he could bring something so special to the class from other experiences that they decide to let him in too. But in such a situation, the candidate likely won’t get in on strong numbers alone.

Your essays also give the school a sense of your personality. They want to see how you work your argument and the reasons they should admit you into your writing – while still answering their questions directly. They want you to be able to list and explain your accomplishments without being boastful or off-topic. These are, of course, the same skills you will need to be successful in your career after graduation.

Many people have taken to using admissions and essay consultants, and most schools will tell you that they discourage this. It is our opinion that the vast majority of successful candidates do not use paid essay editing services, and the majority of those who do use such services do not get in. This makes sense, of course – the people that need those services the most are the weakest candidates, and they’re on their own when it comes to a final interview. But beyond that, admissions consultants are invariably not the kind of people that a candidate to a top school wants advice from. Most did not ever attend a top business school themselves, and those few that did were essentially not successful enough to find reasonable jobs afterwards – and thus got into the essay editing business. We encourage you to get someone else to look at your essays and make suggestions, but pick someone who isn’t being paid on the basis of how much of your time they take, or how many changes they suggest you make. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with your essays at all!

On the other hand, you should collect as much information and advice on the admissions process as you can, but always take it with a grain of salt. An unsuccessful applicant may not always be right about why they didn’t get in, but alumni of a given school can usually give you a pretty accurate picture of what it takes to get in. Written information sources are also essential, and this guide assumes that you’ve probably already picked up Richard Montauk’s excellent book, “How to Get Into The Top MBA Programs”. Although his advice is more generic – and thus applicable to any MBA program, but not customized for the truly best programs – you need to learn everything about the process. You should use that book with this guide to tune your application for top 5 schools.

Recommendations – these are most certainly the least important part of your application, but you shouldn’t discount them. They should reinforce what their rest of your package says, and provide the opinion of a real person who knows you very well and can answer the school’s questions directly and honestly. Every school will tell you this, and you should listen. The truth is that school’s know that many applicants write their own recommendations and just get their recommenders to sign and send them.

When to apply – the earlier the better, in general. Schools have either 2 or 3 application deadlines (rounds) and round 3 is almost always incredibly difficult to get in. This is just because statistically, there are very few spots left open by the third round. While some people believe that round 2 can be best for candidates without extremely strong backgrounds, it’s our belief that the first round is the best if you can get your application up to a desirable standard of quality in time.

The Interview – Harvard, Sloan, Stanford and Wharton all interview candidates by invitation only. This means that if you receive an interview – and at Harvard and Sloan, nearly all accepted candidates are required to interview – then this is your last and best opportunity to convince the admissions committee that you are someone they would like to have at their school. At Kellogg, all applicants are required to interview, so this changes the dynamic of the session significantly. Instead of the interview being an opportunity for you to address any weaknesses and convince them to let you in, it is merely another data point taken with the rest of your application. Put another way, a strong interview at Kellogg can’t get you in – but a weak interview can, and will, keep you out.


Attending one of the top business schools in the United States is really an amazing experience that we would recommend to anyone. Our classmates from business school are some of our closest friends, and the value of the network after graduation is immeasurable. We believe that you will be best served by attending the very best school you can get into, so never set your sights too low for reasons of expense, geography or other hassles.

Take a risk, and apply to some great programs – you won’t regret it.

Good luck!

Harvard Business School

Harvard University

Boston, Massachusetts



Harvard is obsessed with leadership, and they are looking for indications of leadership ability in each of their candidates. This can be in the form of managerial work experience, extracurricular activities, or initiative taken in other forms. What is more important than demonstrated leadership is to convince them that you have the capability for taking on great responsibility and taking charge of a situation in the future. Harvard is considered the #1 general management school by US News (and most of the world), so personal well-roundedness is key.


George W. Bush, President, United States of America

Louis Gerstner, former Chairman, IBM Corporation

Rajat Gupta, former Worldwide Managing Director, McKinsey & Company

Jeffrey Immelt, CEO, General Electric Company

Jeff Skilling, former CEO, Enron Corporation


Application Rounds: 3

Class Size: 910

Applicants: 8,893

Waitlist Size: NOT RELEASED

Waitlist Acceptance Rate: NOT RELEASED


Annual budget: $54,800

Guaranteed loans available for all students.


BusinessWeek Profile


Harvard MBA Admissions


Kellogg School of Management

Northwestern University

Evanston, Illinois



Kellogg believes that teamwork is what builds great organizations, and the ability to work with, and co-exist with others in the business school environment is their primary screening criterion. Kellogg is ranked as the #1 school for marketing, so communications ability and softer skills are more valued here – and expected – than at other top programs. As was mentioned earlier, the interview has a different nature at Kellogg than at other schools, and they want to see if you are the Kellogg “type”, and excited about their program specifically.


Michael Borman, President, Blue Martini Software

Leland Brendsel, CEO, Freddie Mac

John Hoeven, Governor, State of North Dakota

James Keyes, CEO, Johnson Controls

Locke Burt, Senator, State of Florida


Application Rounds: 3

Class Size: 625

Applicants: 6,039

Waitlist Size: NOT RELEASED

Waitlist Acceptance Rate: NOT RELEASED


Annual budget: $52,533

Guaranteed loans available for all students.


BusinessWeek Profile


Kellogg MBA Admissions


MIT Sloan School of Management

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts



Sloan wants to admit a class of innovators. What is most important is to convince the admissions committee that your career will involve having a great impact on your organization or industry, and that you have the creativity and courage to take it on great challenges. Sloan is ranked the #1 school for technology, operations management and quantitative analysis, so strong business analytical skills are expected, but communications ability is what distinguishes successful applicants.


Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations

Carly Fiorina, former CEO, Hewlett-Packard Corporation

William Clay Ford, CEO, Ford Motor Company

Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister, Israel

John Reed, Chairman, New York Stock Exchange


Application Rounds: 2

Class Size: 319

Applicants: 2,940

Waitlist Size: 208

Waitlist Acceptance Rate: 15%


Annual budget: $55,310

Guaranteed loans available for all students.


BusinessWeek Profile


Sloan MBA Admissions


Stanford Graduate School of Business

Stanford University

Stanford, California



With the highest average GMAT score in the world and the lowest acceptance rate, Stanford is the most difficult business school to gain admission into on the basis of numbers alone. That being said, they have a very diverse class mix and a balance curriculum that emphasizes both hard and soft skills. The key to admission is convincing the committee that you are bringing something unique to the class. While Stanford is not ranked #1 in any sub-specialty, it is strong in many areas.


Steve Ballmer, CEO, Microsoft Corporation (dropped out after 1 year)

John Donahoe, former Worldwide Managing Director, Bain & Company

Philip Knight, CEO, Nike Corporation

Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems

Charles Schwab, Chairman, Charles Schwab Corporation


Application Rounds: 3

Class Size: 378

Applicants: 5,253

Waitlist Size: 243

Waitlist Acceptance Rate: 9%


Annual budget: $48,012

Guaranteed loans available for all students.


BusinessWeek Profile


Stanford MBA Admissions


Wharton School

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



The Wharton School is ranked as the #1 school in finance and accounting, and their emphasis is definitely on business fundamentals. Although the class has the same number of years of work experience as at other top programs, the average age skews a little higher, and thus maturity is definitely valued by the admissions committee. The admissions committee at Wharton is looking for talented, hard-working individuals that have achieved a great deal but are not arrogant about it.


Reginald Jones, former CEO, General Electric Company

Shaun O’Malley, former Chairman, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP

Louis Platt, former CEO, Hewlett-Packard Corporation

Donald Trump, CEO, Trump Organization

Gary Wilson, Chairman, Northwest Airlines


Application Rounds: 3

Class Size: 771

Applicants: 7,274

Waitlist Size: 371

Waitlist Acceptance Rate: 23%


Annual budget: $59,728

Guaranteed loans available for all students.


BusinessWeek Profile


Wharton MBA Admissions




Average MBA Starting Salaries

Ranking of MBA Programs – Based on Placement and Average Earnings

MBA – American Universities With Financial Help

Business School Essay Topics

Are Green-Horn Applicants Acceptable by Business Schools?

WSJ Rankings Comparison of Top Business Schools

Career Enhancement Potential’ Ranking of Business Schools-Financial Times

Top Business Schools – WSJ Ranking 2007

Recruiters’ Top MBA

Comments about The Best B-Schools of 2006

B-Schools Ranking – Placement within 3 months

All You Wanted to Know about Top MBA Programs – BW


Canadian MBA

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

Admission Sync Revisited

What should I look for before selecting a program?

· Eligibility criteria
· Financial implications
· Availability of financial aid for the program
· TOEFL/GRE/GMAT/SAT scores required
· Recognition and validity of the program
· Job opportunities on completion of the program
· Future career prospects.

Which University should I join?

Very good question! You need to evaluate every University individually and observe the following:
· Does it offer the program of your choice?
· Is it recognized or accredited?
· Admission and Academic Requirements
· Minimum TOEFL/GRE/GMAT/SAT/ scores required
· On campus and off campus jobs
· Job opportunities on completion of the program
· Financial Aid/Scholarships/Assistantships offered
· Campus Life
· Proximity of the campus to the nearest city etc.

What other criteria in an institution should an International  student look for before deciding to apply to it?
If you are keen on teaching assistantship at least in second or the third semester you should choose University with large Undergraduate population and which also offers Undergraduate courses. Many students make mistake by applying to the
smaller Institutes that offers only graduate courses.

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Come to Admission Source with its vast experience and access to up-to-date information on foreign Universities, which is essential before applying. It is very difficult for a student to gather such information all by himself in absence of such information a student can land in a wrong program or in a wrong college or in a wrong city that could seriously affect his career. Admission Source will help you select the right program and college with the assistance of latest information we have on foreign Universities, thereby saving you precious time and money. And
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The system of applying to Universities abroad is very complicated and takes a lot of time, money and load of paper work. To address these difficulties we have devised a Common Admission Source Process. Our experts are aware of what the Universities are looking for and do the total marketing of the student application.

Why should I apply through Admission Source when I could apply on my own?
Sure. You could apply on your own as well to your desired list of Universities. But you have nothing to lose when you apply through Admission Source. For our working is so managed that the cost of applying directly shall also work out to same amount as applying through us. In addition you get all the backup facilities from us. Admission Source, being a not for Profit Organization, gives the best value.

Are Admission Source Universities fully accredited and recognized?

All Universities recommended by us are fully accredited and recognized by various accreditation bodies and organization.

What are the Standardized Tests?

Standardized Tests are tests conducted by the Educational Testing Service, USA also called the College Board, ETS. There are several tests for students at various academic levels, some of them being TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT. Standardized Tests.

Specifically, when should one ideally take the standardized Tests?

Students seeking admission in the Undergraduate courses are advised to take SAT and TOEFL latest by November of the year in which they enter 12th standard, preferably in July. Student seeking admission in Graduate course in September should take GMAT and GRE in or before November of the previous year. Taking this test only in December of the previous year will restrict the number of Universities in which you can apply.

Are there any Universities in the United States that would not require or waive the Standardized Tests?

TOEFL is a non-escapable examination for International students from countries other than whose mother tongue is English. However Admission Source has been successful in tracing certain US Universities that would not require you to have the scores of these standardized exams other than TOEFL at the time of your admissions, but they would require you to appear for these exams during the first year of the study. These Universities are less in number and may be limited to only certain programs and courses of study.

What is acceptance rate and how does it influence a student in selection of a University to apply?

Students often think that Universities that are hard to get in are necessarily better than the other ones. This is a major myth among students. Some US Universities are so big and philanthropically funded that they could take in as much as 30,000 – 40,000 students a year. This means they would take in an applicant if he/she meets the minimum admissions criteria and academic standing. Yet these Universities remain to be one of the best in the world today. Other Universities may be small and acutely funded resulting in smaller class and a less number intake.
Thus they wish to pick only the best from the total pool of applicants, and here you “find yourself rejected” and admiring all your life if only you could get into that school. Choosing Universities could be so difficult and students many times realize later on in their life, how much it counts to choose the right University for you. Remember “Harvard” or “Princeton” may be the worst of the places you could go for your personal student profile.

What are the various stages of application process for admission in US University and their time frame?

If you are interested in applying in the Fall Semester in 2004 the following should be your timetable:
Initial contact with University: JUNE – SEP, 2003
Taking entrance test: APRIL – DEC, 2003
Sending the complete application form: OCT – FEB, 2003
Receiving of admission letter: APRIL 2003
Visa application: JUNE 2003

Can there be a break in continuity in education before one seeks admission in MBA, MA, and MS?

YES, unlike in India when the general practice is for student to go directly from B.A/B.Com/B.Sc to M.A/M.Com/M.Sc/ MBA a large number of US students take up employment for a year or two immediately after the Under-graduation, and come back to University only later for their Master’s degree.

Do International students have options in funding their education?

Yes. There are proven and tested possibilities of funding your education without stress.

BANK LOANS: Many local banks in your hometown would be ready to provide you with a bank loan for the entire length of your studies abroad. If you have a relative living in America and who is willing to stand guarantee you can easily get a loan from an American financial institution. In addition ASSISTANTSHIP OR SCHOLARSHIP are available for Graduate Applicants as discussed below.

How easy is to get such finance assistantship from US Universities?

The position was quite easy till a few years back when many bright Indian students apply for admission in Graduate course received an offer of teaching assistantship along with the offer of admission. This has become quite rare in the last two to three years. Universities now days send only the letter of admission and expect student to enroll first without any financial assistantship and then take the chance in the second semester. Therefore if you propose to seek admission in the Graduate course in a US University you must prepare to pay the tuition fee and also meet your living expenses for at least one year. Otherwise your academic record should be exceptionally outstanding.

What are the types of financial assistance extended to students of US Universities? Yes.
There are proven and tested possibilities of funding your education without stress US University grants three type of financial assistance:

(I) The First one is for Under Graduate Students. Scholarships and work-study possibilities are there.
(ii) The Second is fellowship or scholarship for Graduate Students. This is a direct aid. In addition to the wavier of the tuition fees, this type of financial assistance will make available sufficient amount to the student, which will cover his living expenses. This is based on merits and does not require any reciprocal service by the student to the University except an obligation to continue to maintain a meritorious scholastic record.
(iii) The Third type of assistance also for Graduate Students. It is available to a number of Indian.


A teaching assistance. It will require you to assist a senior professor in his teaching functions or to take class for Undergraduate students or assist them in their laboratory assignment.

How much will be the monthly living expenses of an Indian student in USA?

This amount will vary with the location of the University and will depend upon whether it is a big city like New York, Chicago, and Atlanta or is a relevant smaller city like Phoenix, Cincinnati or a University town like Amherst, Purdue.

But since the price of essential food items such as milk, bread and eggs are uniform almost the difference is in the different level of house rents payable in different places. Many Universities themselves provide accommodation to the large number of students enrolled in them. Typically two to four students combine together to rent a house, each student getting an independent bedroom but sharing the other facilities. Since food cooked at home is much cheaper than the restaurant food, the home make cook by turns and share the total kitchen cost. As a thumb rule one may say that the accommodation will cost each student $200 to $250 per month. Book, travel postage etc. round will cost of $50 to $70 per month. Food will cost around $100 per month. Even one can earn around $300 per month by doing odd jobs during spare hours within the University campus.

How much is the annual tuition fees in US?

There is a wide variation in the tuition fee charged by US Universities ranging from $5000 to $30,000 for a full academic year covering 9 months. In fact the annual tuition fee in some of the reputed Universities in US is as little as $7500. Generally speaking the tuition fees is the least in Universities funded by the state governments while it is higher in private institutes. Foreign students have to pay the tuition fee as a resident of other state in USA.

What is the starting salary that a graduate degree holder can hope to get in USA?

This will depend upon your subjects and whether you take up an employment with a private company or a government or with local bodies. Generally speaking the starting salary ranges between & 30,000 to 60,000 per annum.

Can an Indian student study MBBS in USA after completing 12th standard here?

There is no Undergraduate Medical College in USA. You must complete your BS degree and then take a test known as Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). It is only on the basis of your academic records in Undergraduate course and your marks in MCAT that you can apply for admission to a medical college for doing MD.

Can a MBBS degree holder from India seek admission for higher studies in USA?

No. It is almost impossible for them to get Visa for further studies. But one can seek admission in MS/MPH or Ph.D. for which you will have to take GRE and TOEFL.

To how many colleges should one apply to ensure the admission?

This will of course depend upon the credentials you are carrying in terms of your GPA, and your scores on TOEFL, GRE or GMAT or SAT. A student who for example has been a top student of a reputed institute with a overall grade point average of above 3.5 and score over 2300 out of 2400 in GRE may perhaps choose just one top institute such as Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley or Purdue University and should be certain of admission in it. The above is of course an exceptional case. Typically an International student writes to about 20-30 institutes asking for their application form and finally applies to around 10 institutions for admission. He gets admission offers from 5 to 6 from them.

Where can I get more details about this process?

Please contact
Suite 112 SCO 139-141
Sector 17C
Mobile 9888812246

Safe Universities

Please note that different programs have different range of requirements.

CS and EE are the most demanding in engineering.

In sciences Biology and Chemistry are having strict admission requirements.

Of Professional programs Biotechnology, Pharmacy are difficult to get into.

If you are applying to any of the above programs admission requirement shall become more demanding.

GRE Range 1100-1150

GPA Range above 60%-65%

University of Texas Dallas
University of Houston
Syracuse University
University of Memphis
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
University of Maryland Baltimore

GRE Range 1000 – 1100

GPA Range 60 – 65%

New Mexico State University
Wayne State University
California State University San Jose
University of Dayton
University of North Texas
Wichita State University
University of Missouri Kansas City
Texas A & M Commerce
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Louisiana Lafayette
Illinois Institute of Technology
Florida Institute of Technology
San Diego State University
University of Texas Arlington
University of South Dakota
Clarkson University
Northwest Missouri State University
Portland State University
University of Texas Arlington
East Carolina University
University of North Carolina Charlotte
Illinois State University
University of Toledo
Tennessee Technological University
University of Arkansas Fayetteville
Temple University
University of Nebraska Omaha

George Mason University
Louisiana State University
Villanova University
Louisiana Tech
Rochester Institute of Technology
Northern Illinois University
University of Alabama Huntsville

Wright State University

GRE Range 900-1000

GPA Range 55-60%

University of Findlay
Farleigh Dickenson University
Gannon University
Robert Morris University
New York Institute of Technology
Oklahoma City University
Mc Nesse State University
St Joseph University
Governors State University
Ferris State University
University of Bridgeport
Grand Valley State University
Kent State University
Suffolk University
New Jersey Institute of Technology
SUNY New Paltz
Ball State University
University of New Heaven, Connecticut
Indiana State University
Texas A & M Kingsville
Western Kentucky University
Lamar University
Golden State University
Bowling Green State University
University of Detroit at Mercy
Widener University
Bowling Green state University
Boise State University
Towson University
Southern New Hampshire University
State University of New York
University of Texas at El Pasco
California State University Chico
St Clouds State University, MN
Eastern Michigan University
Western Illinois University
Arkansas State University
University of Illinois at Springfield
Oakland University
Loyola Chicago
University of Southern Mississippi
Montana State University
University of Louisville
Middle Tennessee State University
Southern Illinois Carbondale

Old Dominion University

GPA Conversion Part 2

Some schools drop credits, certain courses, or use a 4.3 scale, (which may boost your GPA if you received any A+s). These differences are not taken into account because it would be almost impossible to accurately determine how each school will adjust your GPA. Most people’s GPAs will rise slightly as a result of these adjustments. Keep this in mind when using the charts.

The following table converts percentages to GPA. Every school uses a different method, so there might be a slight margin of error.

If your marks are on a percentage scale and you are trying to see where you ‘fit’ on a particular chart, check out the school’s web site to see how they will convert your GPA.

When applying to a school do not convert your grades. Send them in original form. Every school has it’s own method of conversion it is best that they do it themselves.

1st Method

% / GPA

100 / 4.00

84 / 3.94

68 / 2.50

99 / 4.00

83 / 3.88

67 /2.40

98 / 4.00

82 / 3.82

66 / 2.30

97 / 4.00

81 / 3.80

65 / 2.20

96 / 4.00

80 / 3.70

64 / 2.10

95 / 4.00

79 / 3.60

63 / 2.00

94 / 4.00

78 / 3.50

62 / 1.90

93 / 4.00

77 / 3.40

61 / 1.80

92 / 4.00

76 / 3.30

60 / 1.70

91 / 4.00

75 / 3.20

59 / 1.63

90 / 4.00

74 / 3.10

58 / 1.56

89 / 4.00

73 / 3.00

57 / 1.49

88 / 4.00

72 / 2.90

56 / 1.42

87 / 4.00

71 / 2.80

55 / 1.35

86 / 4.00

70 / 2.70

54 / 1.28

85 / 4.00

69 / 2.60


2nd Method

For the 9 point scale use the following Table
9 – 4.0
8 – 3.7
7 – 3.3
6 – 2.7
5 – 2.0
4 – 1.3
3 – 0.5
2 – 0.25
1 – 0.0

3rd Method

For 12-point use this table from McMaster’s site












































Also these Links about GPA may be of interest to you:

Low GPA Stories 

About GPA and Class Position 

More on GPA 

What Happens if my undergraduate GPA is low?

Grade Point Average and Admissions 

 Understanding GPA

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

Advice on Low GPA


How to convert percentage marks to the U.S. GPA system?

Converting percentage marks in certain systems to grade point average in the American system is somewhat complicated. In order to convert percentages to gpa, the evaluator must know the grading scale of a particular school. For instance, if the lowest passing grade is 35%, grades above 70% would be rare.

Percentage U.S. Grade Equivalent Approximate GPA
60-100 A 4.00
55-59 B+ 3.33
50-54 B 3.00
43-49 C+ 2.33
35-42 C 2.00
0-34 F 0.00

Grades which fall at the high or low end of a bracket can be converted to gpa. For instance, a 62% can be viewed as an A- or 3.67; or a 48 or 48% might be viewed as a B- or 2.67 gpa. Since there are different scales of marking available in India , it is up to the evaluator to make the most accurate conversion of percentage to gpa.

I have written several times you should not convert the grades. Submit them as provided by your Institute.This information is provided to help you in the selection of your universities for Applying.