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Guide to Applying to Grad School with a Subpar GPA

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 12/31/2010

Here is a look at how you would get into graduate school with a subpar GPA. Getting in to a graduate program with a subpar GPA will be difficult, but may not be impossible with these helpful tips.

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    Subpar GPA

    One of the main reasons to focus on GPA is because of the possibility of applying to graduate school, because these grades really do matter. Most graduate programs have at least a suggested GPA that they want from their applicants, if not an outright requirement. The GPA is not every student's strength, and in reality more students need to find something else to make their proposed graduate program attracted to them. You can still get into grad school with a sub-par GPA, but you are going to have to work at it a little bit more.

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    Standardized Test Scores

    The main thing that is used to counteract a subpar GPA when applying to grad school is going to be the standardized test that is associated. This is going to be specific to your program, and could be the GMAT or GRE. These tests are incredibly difficult and if there are insufficient preparation periods for these tests you cannot expect to get a stellar score, at least not one that will counter a subpar GPA. If you are asking yourself the question "can I get into grad school with a subpar GPA?" the real answer is going to be if you can make it up in your standardized test scores.

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    Building Up

    Scores and grades are not going to justify your transcript entirely, and instead you really have to prove that you can do well outside of the classroom. This is especially true if you are looking to attend grad school in a professional field rather than purely academic one, and to do this you need to show diversity. If you know that you are going to have subpar GPA scores then you should look into extracurricular activities immediately. Showing leadership and work using your professional skills is going to be incredibly important, and it will build up your resume in an effort to counteract your sub-par GPA. A study abroad program is a great way to build up experience that graduate schools especially find valuable, and if you have the ability to take an internship directly correlated with your Master's degree options then this is going to play greatly in your favor.

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    More Classes

    If you feel that the graduate degree program that you are applying to is going to base decisions around acceptance, or even internal funding, on GPA then your best bet is to actually repair your GPA. There are a few ways to really go about this, and many people just like to add another term or two of easy classes that they know will earn those high scores. This is pretty obvious to many admissions departments and is not necessarily a good use of tuition fees, so instead you may want to look at deferring graduation until you can complete another major or minor. This is going to add to your marketability in general and show your range of skills, as long as you believe that it will be related to your field in some way and will not be overly difficult. A great option for this is to add a dual major in a foreign language as this is one of the most marketable and important professional skills there are, and grad schools look on bilingual students in a great light. This is often somewhat easy for students since B.A. students are often required to complete two full years of college foreign language studies and complete a proficiency test anyway.

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    Choosing Different

    The real answer to whether your can go to grad school with a sub-par GPA is about what type of grad school you want to go to. For-profit graduate programs are popping up at record numbers and you can easily go to almost all of them without any GPA requirement. If you are trying to get into a more competitive program, then you need to take a look at what those requirements are and where you could succeed; however, if you have not spent several of your undergraduate years preparing for graduate studies in a competitive program, you are not likely to be a prominent candidate for programs with a high pedigree. Instead, what you should take a look at is what your career goals really are and what range of graduate programs will get you there. Many people get stuck on wanting to be in one particular program that they may not be eligible for, and instead should look at available programs so that they can find a program that will accept their low GPA and still allow them a career choice they love.