I'm an uprising sophomore, majoring in science. I just transferred out of a public university, to another public university. I'm just wondering, what's the impact of transferring between schools to graduate school admissions? Taking into account that I don't have a great GPA from the previous school (like a low 3), even though I get a 4.0 GPA from my current school, how hard would the low GPA from my previous school affect my graduate school admissions? Do graduate schools look into freshman year GPA that heavily?

Since I have an amount of AP credits, I can graduate in 3 years. Is it really a good idea to do so, if I wanted to go to graduate school? Since I don't have a really high GPA from my previous school, should I just do 4 years instead?

Also, as a add-on question: I'm not sure what field or career I should go into, how do you know that you want to go into academia? Or is it a little too early for me to decide?

Thanks for the advices and opinions in advanced!

  • There are 2 separate questions here I think. 1. Impact of transferring and graduate early and 2. How does a person know which field he wants to get into for graduate school? – Shion Jul 26 '13 at 2:10

Disclaimer: I am a PhD student with some outside knowledge (as an applicant) and some inside knowledge (admissions committee student member) on an average doctoral admissions process.

There are a number of factors which affect a candidates acceptance (or conversely, rejection) into a PhD program. They are standardized test scores, GPA, research experience, publications, letters of recommendation and the personal statement.

In my opinion, from what I have seen your numbers (GRE and GPA) don't do a good job of getting you in but can keep you out. What this means is that you have to clear whatever internal cut-offs there are. This can be subjective or objective depending upon the department, the field and the university. For instance, this could be 3.5 in one department in one field or could be 3.8 in another department in another field in another university. Standards can also be relaxed for candidates with exceptional research records and letters of recommendation written by trusted researchers.

The most important factors which matter are previous, relevant research experience, letters of recommendation, personal statement and publications. Some optimum combination of this must convince the admissions committee that you are worth admitting.

In fact, I would venture to say that there isn't much of an impact in graduating early or transferring to and from different programs. Focus on selecting whether a research career is right for you and what field you actually want to get into for graduate school.

The second part of your question is a little broad as I have noted in a comment. If you search this platform, you will find numerous relevant advice from folks much more knowledgeable than me. There are different approaches here. Some people just know what field they want to get into from the very outset. Others (like me) bounce around in different fields until one feels very right to them. Yet others get into a masters degree program to try out a discipline in terms of exploring research before committing to a full time PhD program.

  • Thanks for the advices! I'm also wondering, does it help if I get a high GPA in my current school, like say a high 3.9? Since the GPA from the previous doesn't transfer, how would the graduate school look at this? – user7912 Jul 26 '13 at 2:14
  • This will differ, as I pointed out previously from department to department. Basically, try to get the highest GPA that you can but if you are serious about graduate school, then select a field and get some good research experience in it. That will help you more in the long run than a 0.2 increase in GPA. – Shion Jul 26 '13 at 2:20
  • Alright, sounds good! Thanks for the expertise! – user7912 Jul 26 '13 at 2:23

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