I'm a rising senior at a Chinese university. I'm really interested in pursuing a master degree (as a stepping-stone to a PhD) in the US.

I do not know what "Minimum Requirements" for admission really mean. For example,

Applicants should have at least a B average (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) in an undergraduate curriculum which includes a strong emphasis on mathematics.

My undergraduate school applies a mixture of the British and Chinese grading systems. While 4.0 represents a perfect average, less than 5% of students have an average above 3.5, and only about 25% of students achieve a 3.0 (I do not know exact number).

Do minimum requirements like the one above mean "if you get grade lower than 3.0 in any grade system, do not waste your money on applying," or something else?

  • 2
    The question How to convert from one grading scheme to another? is related, but not a duplicate.
    – Nobody
    Jul 20 '13 at 8:52
  • 1
    One way to judge how competitive you will be is to see where others from your university have gone to get their Master's degrees. If you would consider yourself comparable to them in terms of your grades and other experience (e.g., research), you should be just as competitive. Jul 20 '13 at 10:51
  • The TOEFL requirement is sometimes a stricter requirement than others.
    – Tom Church
    Dec 24 '17 at 18:27

No direct conversion of grades is possible between various systems. So, you will have to argue your way into their program, by presenting your results in the best light possible and making a convincing case that you would fulfill their requirements if you were in their system. Because in the end, your application will be judged by people, not computer. At least if you make it clear that your system is quite different.

One of the ways to do it is, as you started to do, by comparing percentiles: figure out what their grade requirement equals to in terms of quantile, and start from there. “I am in the top 25% of my school, which is equivalent to a grade of XX (based on these official statistics)”. That sort of reasoning.


In general, yes. If your grade is well under 3.0, you may be wasting your money for the application fee. Your application may be filtered out by some secretary.

However, I would strongly recommend you to use other criteria to determine which schools you want to apply. You want to consider the programs and the faculty the schools have. If they have the program you are interested in and the professors you would like to go with, then go ahead to apply no matter what. You never know.

Another factor is the school you'll graduate from. Many admission commitees are aware of the different standards that different schools use. They understand that 2.9 from school X may be actually better than 3.5 from school Y. If you can afford to the application fee and you really like that school, go ahead try.

Other factors such as TOEFL and GRE scores, recommendation letters and research potentials are sometimes even more important than your GPA.

Good Luck !


This belongs more as a comment than an answer, but I lack sufficient reputation to comment.

In my experience (based on programs I applied to in my field), the listed minimum requirements are well below the de-facto requirements of the program. This is definitely field specific, though.

The above comment was based on applying to American universities, coming from an American undergraduate and graduate background. In your case, you should be able to convince them on the application essays of why the listed gpa doesn't tell the whole story.

  • I actually think this is an answer, and it would have been wrong to post it as a comment.
    – David Z
    Dec 24 '17 at 1:22

Essentially, this means that they would prefer applicants to have a B-grade (3.0 out of 4.0) minimum as an average of their final results. However, having said that, if you get less (by not too much), I would still apply.

I would also advise to include details of other relevant activities (research activities and initiatives you may have done), any and all publications and any professional memberships.

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