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By the time you graduated from college, you were probably relieved that GPAs were finally over and done with - oh, that's not the case if you're applying for high school. While there is no general minimum GPA for graduate school, it can be difficult to enter graduate school without outstanding grades, no matter how passionate you are about your chosen field. Still, it's not impossible!

Come with me as we examine the GPA needed for grad school and why GPA is such an important part of your grad school application. We'll also teach you how to look for programs for GPA expectations and give you tips on what to do to make up for a low GPA.

Feature image: Blondinrikard Fröberg / Flickr, modified from the original

What Is a Good GPA for Grade School Overall?

Aside from a 4.0 (which all grad schools love), what else counts as a good grad school GPA ?, Unfortunately, there isn't an exact answer as the exact GPA needed for grad school depends on the program you're for apply. While some programs are OK with 2.5 or 3.0 GPAs, others balk at something lower than a 3.5! As you can see, the grad school's GPA expectations can vary widely between programs, just like those for GRE scores.

However, this doesn't mean that there aren't any major trends. Unlike undergrad admissions, it's very common for grade schools to have specific GPA cutoffs. A GPA cutoff is the lowest GPA you can have to be considered for admission, and based on our research, one of the most common grade school GPA minimums is a 3.0 or a B Average.

For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UCLA each require a minimum of 3.0 GPA (for the junior and senior years) for admission to a degree program at their respective schools. While individual programs may vary in their GPA expectations, many graduate schools have school-wide GPA minimums.

On the other hand, some schools are a little more lenient with the GPAs they will accept - provided applicants can make up for their shortcomings in other ways., An example is North Carolina State University, that is, “Preliminary admission can be for students with related undergraduate degrees Granted by accredited institutions whose school records are below the standards for admission. ”In this case, applicants who do not meet the GPA requirements may apply, but if accepted, they will take a higher exam than grade students.

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Finally, some schools have no GPA cutoffs at all, and neither is this limited to smaller, less competitive schools; Even reputable schools like Stanford's Graduate School of Education don't always have minimal GPAs for their programs. Instead, they will check all applications regardless of GPA! Pretty neat huh?

To summarize what we've learned so far, a 3.0 or higher is an overall solid GPA for graduate school. But will you always need exactly one 3.0? And which factors influence the GPA expectations of grad schools anyway?

What Determines the GPA Expectations of a Degree Program ?,

Whether or not your GPA is good enough for a particular degree program depends on the following three factors:

  • The competitiveness of the program you are applying
  • The kind of grade you are looking for
  • The field you enter

Below I explain each of these factors using examples of real degree programs.


First, let's look at competitiveness. While a majority of graduate schools require a minimum of 3.0 GPA, others, mainly less competitive, accept GPAs in the 2.0s.For example, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette requires a GPA of at least 2.75. Even lower minimum GPA requirements, such as the 2.5 GPA required for the West Texas AM University Masters course in interdisciplinary studies, are relatively rare but exist.

On the flip side, more competitive programs usually require GPAs that are higher than the Basic 3.0 minimum. Purdue's doctoral program in mechanical engineering, for example, strongly recommends a minimum of 3.2 GPA. In general, all graduate programs at highly reputable institutions like Harvard or MIT have some of the highest GPA expectations, often 3.5+.

Master's or Ph. D.

Graduate school GPA expectations also depend on whether you are applying to a master’s or doctorate degree. Typically, Masters programs accept lower GPAs than PhD programs.,

For example, at Illinois State University, the GPA required for admission is 2.8 for graduate students and 3.0 for graduate students. Commenting on this trend, the USC Department of Psychology stated, “Many Masters programs require a 3.0 GPA just to apply; many doctoral programs a 3.5 GPA. "

It is clearly not atypical for graduate programs to hold prospective PhD students to higher standards than prospective Masters' students.,

Graduate Field of Study

In addition to competitiveness and grade type, your particular field of study may have an impact on how high your GPA needs to be for grad school.

Popular or lucrative degree fields, like Computer Science, tend to meet some of the highest GPA expectations, regardless of school or program. The University of Arizona requires a minimum salary for its computer science master’s degree. Meanwhile, Purdue's Masters degree in Computer Science requires a minimum of 3.5 GPA, and Stanford's PhD program requires a minimum of 3.6 !,

All of these GPA expectations are higher than the general 3.0 minimum, which is likely due to the fact that computer science is so popular (and therefore competitive) these days. In 2016, computer science was recognized as one of the best degrees for securing jobs.

Why is a good GPA important to graduate school?

Another question you probably have is why is GPA so important to grad school admissions? Undergrad GPAs provide one of the most objective senses of how you can perform at the university level and how much academic potential you have. Since most degree programs require students to hold a specific GPA (whether to meet program or scholarship requirements), it is It is important that you demonstrate - through your undergrad transcripts - your ability to consistently earn high grades.

GPAs also show schools how seriously you value your education and science as a whole. Put simply, a high GPA underscores your willingness to graduate school in addition to your continued commitment to learning., (Likewise, a low GPA asks why you feel like you are doing well in graduate school - arguably a much more difficult academic environment— if you are struggling to find success as a student.)

Additionally, some schools value high GPAs because they are used to calculate school and program rankings. In short, high GPAs = high quality students. And high quality students, at the most basic level, indicate a high quality program., (Of course, the quality of a program is not only determined by its students' undergraduate GPAs; in reality, schools and programs are assigned rankings using rather complicated methods.)

But what about your main GPA? Do grade schools care about your main GPA as much as they care about your cumulative GPA?

How Important Is Your Main GPA To Grad Schools?

How important your main GPA is depends on the particular program you are applying to. While many programs only request your Undergrad Cumulative GPA, other programs will specifically ask you to provide your main GPA., Some programs may even state a specific major GPA that applicants should apply to. These expected large GPAs are usually much higher than the minimum GPA required for approval.

The good news is, if your cumulative GPA isn't particularly high, a formidable major GPA can make up for the deficit as it proves that you have the skills to be successful in your chosen area (assuming your major is the same as the field you are entering).,

However, if your major has nothing to do with your chosen field of study, a major GPA isn't really any more useful than a cumulative GPA. In this case, your best bet is to emphasize the most relevant grades that you have. For example, if you were a biology student who is now applying for an M.F.A. in creative writing, draw attention to any good grades you received on English-language or creative writing classes that you took as a student.

4 Easy Steps to Find GPA Information for Graduate Schools

While you may be tempted to dive right into your graduate school applications, take some time to research your programs' GPA expectations first. That way, you can weed out any programs that you clearly aren't qualified for and get a feel for which ones you need to work extra hard for to prove that you are a worthy candidate.

To find the GPA expectations of your degree programs, follow my brief step-by-step guide below.,

Step 1: create a table

Start by organizing all of your information into a simple table. In the leftmost column, enter the names of each school you are applying for or want to apply for. Then, at the top of the table, write “School,” “Minimum GPA,” “Major GPA,” “Average GPA,” and “Notes.” Finally, write down your Undergrad GPA somewhere below (preferably both your Cumulative GPA and Major GPA , if available).

let's look at an example. Ava studied English and earned a 3.4 major in GPA and a 3.7 major in GPA. Now she plans to do a PhD in English literature; However, she has no idea how her GPA stacks up against the GPA expectations of the programs she is applying for.,

Here’s how Ava would fill out her table:

SchoolMinimum GPAMajor GPAAverage GPANotes
Ohio State
UC Berkeley
University of Chicago
My GPA: 3.4 | My Major GPA: 3rd, 7th

Step 2: check school websites

The easiest way to find information about your programs 'GPA expectations is to search your schools' websites. Pay special attention to the FAQ and Eligibility Requirements pages. If you're not sure where to look online, you can also try searching for "GPA."

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But exactly what information are you looking for? Basically anything to do with undergrad GPAs, lly offered in one of three ways:

  • Minimum GPA: the lowest GPA with which you can apply for a program; normally required (or strongly recommended) for admission
  • Major GPA: the recommended GPA for your main field (if the field you enter matches the one you studied); usually higher than the minimum GPA
  • Average GPA: the average GPA of incoming students; usually higher than the minimum GPA

Not all schools present information in the same way, and very rarely do they list all of the types of GPA expectations described above. That is, a majority of schools should clearly state whether they have a minimum GPA requirement for prospective grade students.

Minimal GPA requirements are almost always set in stone. So if the minimum GPA for a school is 3.0 and you have a 2.95, you will not be considered for admission (unless you convince the school to make an exception for you). As mentioned earlier, some schools are less strict about GPA requirements than others, but in the end, a low GPA will still be a challenge for adoption.

Returning to Ava for a moment, while looking at the Ohio State English Program webpage, she discovers that there is a 3.0 minimum GPA requirement for the grade school. She reads on until she hits the following sentence: "Typically, applicants should have a GPA of at least 3.4 overall and 3.6 in English courses." In other words, 3.0 is a required minimum (for grad school), 3.4 is a highly recommended minimum (for the program) and 3.6 is a highly recommended major GPA.

Ava writes down what she found:

Next, Ava turns her attention to USC., USC's English Literature Program has no GPA minimums or high GPA expectations, but the graduate school requires all applicants to have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Ava then looks up UC Berkeley's English programming. This graduate school also requires at least 3.0 GPA. In addition, the English PhD program has an average GPA of 3.85. Ava records all of this in their table:

Unfortunately, Ava is having trouble finding GPA information for the University of Chicago., After a little research, she comes across a short passage on GPA on the university's English department website: “The admissions committee does not have specific cutoff levels for GRE- Scores and GPAs. ”With no specific GPA expectations, Ava now needs to take an extra step and conduct some research into the competitiveness of their programs.

Step 3: Compare Program Competitiveness

If a program you are applying to offers little or no specific GPA information, it is time to compare the competitiveness of your programs. I recommend starting with US News, a helpful and robust resource with lots of information about degree programs and their rankings.

Here is what you can do to:

  1. Find a list of all the major grad programs in your field to compare. Try to find something no older than five years.,
  2. Locate all of your programs in the list and write down each of their rankings in the "Notes" column on your desk.
  3. Use the information found to estimate how much GPA you need for the unknown programs.

As we know, Ava is struggling to find GPA information for the University of Chicago's English PhD program. She decides to look up English program rankings on US news. Immediately she finds this 2017 list of the best English graduate programs (note that the list does not differentiate between masters and doctoral programs).,

According to this list, UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago are # 1, Ohio State # 30, and USC # 33. Therefore, with the University of Chicago being one of the top rated English programs, Ava can expect their GPA- Expectations are similar to those of UC Berkeley (and are also more difficult than those of Ohio State and USC).

Ava returns to her spreadsheet and notes the ranking of her programs in the Notes column. She then records estimated GPA expectations for the University of Chicago based on the rankings found and the GPA information she previously obtained for Ohio State and UC Berkeley wrote:

Step 4: Determine Which Graduate Schools Can Be Accessed

Now you have a clear sense of which schools to apply to and which are more difficult to reach than others.

the Ava is 3rd, 4 GPA is noticeably higher than the GPA limits for all of her schools, so she should have no problem looking at her grade applications; However, your chance of being accepted will vary depending on the program.

Your 3.4 GPA and 3.7 Major GPA are both high enough for the Ohio State English program and likely good enough for USC as well. On the flip side, a 3.4 GPA is well below the average GPA of current English graduate students at UC Berkeley and (most likely) the University of Chicago., As a result, Ava will likely have a much smaller chance of getting into those two schools than she does it will do Ohio State or USC.

However, a table based on GPA alone cannot tell for sure where you will be accepted. In reality, we cannot predict which programs will think of certain applicants. However, through the simple process outlined above, you should be able to develop a clear idea of ​​which schools to apply to and which schools you will need to work extra hard for to stand out.

But what if your GPA isn't high enough for one of your programs? The battle isn't over yet, I promise! Read on for the steps you can take to maximize your chance of getting into graduate school - even if your GPA just doesn't cut it.

How To Make Up For A Low GPA: 6 Options

Let's get something out of the way, first, a low GPA doesn't always mean you will be rejected. If your GPA is well below a school's minimum then you are very unlikely to be accepted. But if you can make a compelling case for yourself, or if your GPA is just slightly lower than a program's GPA expectations, an admissions committee might be ready to make an exception for you. Whatever you do, don't freak out - getting into graduate school with a low GPA isn't totally impossible!

However, besides GPA, what other factors and materials can prove that you are really ready for graduate school? Answer: a ridiculously powerful application., Here are our top tips for putting together a fantastic Grad School application - even if you have a low GPA.

# 1: Get a High GRE Score

Many degree programs consider GRE scores to be one of the most accurate indicators of your ability to study (and therefore understand) degree-level material. If you can score very well in every part of the GRE (or at least in the section more relevant to your field of study), your application will certainly stand out from the rest!

To do well on the GRE, the first thing you need to do is understand what makes a good GRE score overall., For specific cutting values, see our guides on setting a target score for the Verbal Thinking and Quantitative Thinking sections.

Also, make sure you know how to efficiently study for the GRE. Quick tips for studying include using high quality GRE prep books and taking as many practice tests as possible to improve your testing skills. And if your score isn't high enough, there is absolutely no shame in recapturing the GRE!

All of this applies to GRE subject tests as well. If your programs require a GRE subject test, study as diligently and as often as you can so that you can get closer to the test day and get a great score. If you want to get an idea of ​​how high you want to aim, take a look at the current GRE Subject Test Percentiles.

# 2: Discuss GPA in your letter of intent

Applicants with below par GPAs are usually expected to discuss their grades in their letters of intent., Don't use this essay as a time to apologize, but as an opportunity to explain why you got bad grades and how you got that want to compensate for low GPA as a PhD student.

Whatever you do, don't lie! Even if you are ashamed of your GPA or the reasons for it, be as honest and humble as possible. Most importantly, emphasize your commitment to the program and the field of study you have chosen. Ultimately, how will this program help you achieve your academic and professional goals? What can you bring to this program that other applicants cannot?

Oh, and don't forget to show off your exceptional writing skills! Typos and clumsy grammar are surefire routes to rejection, but eloquence and assertiveness will put you in a brand new light.

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# 3: Secure Quality Letters of Recommendation

Another step you should take is securing excellent letters of recommendation., Most of the time, these letters should be from (former) professors; However, you can also request letters from employers, mentors, or colleagues who can write about your academic interests, work ethic, and overall commitment in the field you wish to enter.

Although you can't see the letters your referrers write for you, you can make sure that the letters they write are of high quality. To do this, only select referrers with whom you have positive, professional, and memorable relationships., Don't just choose the professor who gave you an A in your sophomore year; Carefully choose people who can speak honestly and enthusiastically about your skills.

# 4: reach out to professors

Reaching out to professors on the program you are applying for is a great way to connect and ask questions about the application process.,

When contacting a professor directly, always take the time to introduce yourself first and explain why you are interested in the program and why you are contacting that professor specifically. Then explain why you are concerned that your low GPA is not high enough for the program. At this point, you can ask directly if the program has ever accepted applicants with similar GPAs or if you should include something in your application to make up for the deficit.,

Remember, professors are busy people and not all are open to sharing regulatory information, so don't expect step-by-step instructions on what to do. Just be polite and really enthusiastic about the program and you will be sure to get help!

# 5: Get experience in your field

Not everyone has the time or money to do this, but a little work or research experience in your field can give your application a huge boost., Most, if not all, of the time, a relevant professional background is a huge plus for grad schools as it shows your dedication and overall zeal for the field on a career-driven level.

If you've done research in your field as part of your undergraduate career, you can make up for a lower GPA, especially if you've done notable research or published work.

You don't need years of experience either - just enough to prove that the field is an important part of your life., If you can't find paid positions or prefer something shorter-term, opt for (unpaid) internships.

# 6: Take open enrollment courses

If you have a semester or two before graduate school applications are due, consider enrolling for individual courses at a local university. This is an excellent opportunity for you to demonstrate your commitment to the study of the field. It also shows your ability to handle a college workload and perform well in an academic setting.,

If your major is different from the field you want to enter, taking courses in that area is a convenient way for you to gain some of the basic skills that you would expect for graduate school.

Summary: What is a Good Graduate School GPA?

The most common GPA required for the Graduate School is 3.0, although the Graduate School's exact GPA expectations can vary widely depending on the program. Some schools set strict cutoff GPAs, which are generally between 2.5 and 3.5, but you may be able to apply (and possibly be accepted!) With a lower GPA.,

To determine what a solid GPA is for graduate school, we need to look at the following three factors:

  • How competitive a program is
  • Which degree you are looking for (master's or doctorate)
  • How important GPA is to a program

Strong GPAs are important for graduate schools as they emphasize your commitment to science and your chosen field of study. GPAs also give schools a clear idea of ​​how well you are likely to do at a more demanding educational level.

Occasionally, degree programs may want to see your main GPA, but the importance of a main GPA varies by program and focus.

Not all schools require a specific GPA for graduate school applicants, but if you'd like to find out what your programs' GPA expectations are, follow these steps:

  1. Make a table for organizing what you can find
  2. Search for GPA information on school websites
  3. Compare the competitiveness of your programs

Concerned Your GPA is Too Low for Graduate School ?, Here are some tips you can use to increase your chance of acceptance:

  • Score high on the GRE (both general and specialist exam if required)
  • Open up about your low GPA in your statement of purpose
  • Safe quality letters of recommendation, preferably from former professors you know well
  • Contact professors
  • Get some hands-on experience in your field
  • Take individual courses in your field

In the end, don't spend too much time worrying about the graduate school's GPA expectations. If you have a high GPA, great !, but getting into grad school with a low GPA isn't impossible either - it just takes a little extra elbow fat.

With that, I wish you the best of luck with your Grad School applications!

What's next?

Confused about grad school? Check out our article on what grad school is and what it can offer you to learn about the differences between a Masters degree and a Ph.D.

Wondering if you should take the GRE? Our detailed guide answers all your questions about entering the graduate school - with or without GRE points!

Do you have any questions about the GRE ?, check out our comprehensive GRE FAQ, and get information on how the GRE is formatted and what it tests you for!

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We have already written an eBook about the top 5 strategies you need to have a chance at improving your GRE score., Download it now for free:

Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor's degree in English and East Asian Languages ​​and Cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan through the JET program for two years. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel. View all posts by Hannah Muniz