When you are transitioning from undergraduate to graduate study, GPA is of the utmost importance due to the fact that admission committees at Graduate Schools perceive GPA as an indication of your long-term performance and potential as a student. Although, actual requirements vary, most graduate admission committees typically expect applicants to have GPAs from 3.0 to 3.3 for Master’s Programs and from 3.3 to 3.5 for Doctoral Programs. That being said, not all GPAs are weighed equally. For example, a 4.0 GPA on a transcript that primarily includes courses in pottery, belly dancing, and mixology is less impressive on a Graduate School application rather than a 3.4 GPA on a transcript that primarily includes courses in advanced statistics, research methodology, and rhetoric studies.
If you are concerned that your undergraduate GPA is too low for a successful graduate school application, there are several things that you can do to raise your GPA. Firstly, take challenging courses and apply yourself actively in doing the best you can. Secondly, you can take summer courses, which generally progress more quickly but allow you to focus on only one course at a time. Finally, you could even consider delaying your undergraduate graduation for a semester so that you have time to take a few more courses to improve your GPA. If this is not an option for you, remember that your GPA is only one element of your overall graduate school application; having strong scores on standardized tests, strong transcripts with a variety of challenging courses, well-written admission essays, and glowing recommendation letters can offset below average GPAs.
Graduate schools differ in their requirements for admission. Some graduate schools state that they have a minimum 3.0 GPA requirement for an application, while for others the minimum requirement might be a 2.7 GPA. This means that they may take applicants below their stated minimum GPA if those applicants have other significant qualities that strengthen their application. For example, the applicant might have gone to a good school like Cal-Tech or has very strong Letters of Recommendation or test scores. Hence, grades in the intended field or in related fields will be looked at more carefully than overall grades. For example, if a person’s grades in the intended field of study were much better than the overall grades, the graduate school might be willing to overlook a lower total GPA. For some schools, a 3.0 indicates that you are not likely to possess the academic skills and the motivation necessary to successfully complete their program.
If you don’t believe that your undergraduate record reflects your true ability, post graduate work offers a fresh start with a clean transcript. If your grades are low, you may not be able to get into the graduate program of your choice, but a strong performance in getting a Masters (or in the case of medical school, a post-baccalaureate program) may provide entrée with the choice of a much more competitive Ph.D. program. It is also possible to enhance your credentials by taking demanding courses outside a degree program. Taking classes related to the graduate field that you want to enter in order to demonstrate your ability in that field strengthens your application.