Responses from survey
In our survey to faculty members, we asked the following questions:
Is it true that a high GPA means someone can afford a low GRE score and vice-versa?
(Note: some of these responses come from MA programs. It’s more common for MAs to not require the GRE than for PhDs, at least in the US.)
- GPA is much more important than GRE; no one is getting in without a bunch of very high grades in PHL courses. A super-high GRE might offset a patchy transcript with some weak terms, though.
- Yes, but I think it’s harder to overcome low GPA than low GRE.
- We don’t use GPAs or GREsNo. Almost all applicants have a high GPA.
- Not vice-versa. I think the GRE is the less important of the two.
- We do not use GRE scores.
- Yes, I think this “can” happen. But attitudes towards these scores vary significantly.
What would inspire your confidence in an applicant with low undergraduate GPA?
- Overall GPA can be on the lower side if there are some A+ courses, and a great writing sample. If you’ve never scored higher than A- in a philosophy course, do not apply to graduate school. If your GPA is 3.0 or lower, you are out of the running (and our website makes this clear, so it’s puzzling to me that students below that line waste their $$ on applications). We get some applications from PhysEd majors with C- averages: what are they thinking?
- An excellent writing sample and strong letters of recommendation.
- A well researched, well structured and well written project or letter of purpose She had a very challenging curriculum or extenuating personal circumstances.
- Some As or A+s in courses where the candidate is interested in the topic, and a good writing sample.
- Useful, thoughtful notes in the Statement of Interest. Situating your poor performance in a given year as part of a health issue (including mental health issue) that you have resolved and is not under control is a great way for us to see that the GPA is not a reflection of your ability or dedication. Using the Statement to explicate the trajectory you took up till now is very helpful. It does not have to be apologetic, or even particularly detailed. Just seeing that you have grown and have a reflective understanding of what went wrong does a lot to help. Students with a ‘hot and cold’ GPA can do a lot to situate this: lots of high grades and lots of low grades means that they were doing *something* right, sometimes. The same GPA value that is ‘lukewarm’, with a lot of the same grade in the middle, doesn’t look as much like a good fit.
- A strong writing sample. Perhaps a letter which explains the low GPA.
- A satisfactory exculpation, good GRE scores, letters from trusted faculty, and an exquisite writing sample