It’s not unusual for a grad school applicant to worry about how their undergrad GPA might affect their admissions chances, notes Senior Consultant Heather Macneill. Many misgivings can be put to rest by understanding how admissions committees look at academic records.

“Many schools will look at several GPAs when reviewing an application,” says Heather. “Your cumulative GPA is almost always reviewed, but many schools will also ask you to calculate your major GPA, as well as a ‘recent’ GPA. That gives them a better idea of how you performed in your major classes and in your recent coursework.”

Admissions committees typically distinguish between undergraduate and graduate coursework as well, says Heather. “Graduate programs will usually consider your undergraduate and graduate GPA separately. Certainly, doing well in a recent masters program will work in your favor for admission to a PhD program, since it proves that you can succeed academically at the graduate level.”

The most important thing to remember, says Heather, is that your GPA is only one part of your application file. Admissions committees will consider your GPA in the context of the other materials you submit. “Most of your application will come down to the telling your story,” says Heather. “It’s critical that you communicate to the admissions committee your motivation and readiness for graduate study. That’s why it’s important to provide strong letters of recommendation and essays that detail the unique skills and experience you can bring to a graduate program. These are the elements of an application that often have the biggest impact in admissions decisions.”

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