By the end of my undergraduate at the University of Utah I will have a year and a half of research and a GPA of about 3.8 overall.

  • 9
    Ask Harvard. Realistically, no one has much of a chance. Too many applicants, too few slots. Tremendous competition. It's more that GPA. Set your sights wider to have a better chance to find a slot.
    – Buffy
    Apr 16, 2019 at 23:10
  • 1
    your GPA is by no means the most qualifying quality, if fact, it doesn't tell Harvard much about you: thousands of people apply to Harvard with an excellent GPA. To differentiate candidates, they'll also look at your work experience (if any), your research experience (if any), your letters of recommendation and letter intent, your extracurricular involvements (were you a part of any relevant clubs ?) Apr 16, 2019 at 23:45
  • Like 3.2 or so (seriously, because GPA doesn't matter much).
    – xuq01
    Apr 18, 2019 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


As summarized in the comments, there is absolutely no way of determining what chance you have at any college. I think it's kind of a subjective decision of the college by taking into account several factors besides your GPA, even the amount of scholarship you need to complete your education.

I'll suggest not to tailor yourself depending on the college. Most people whom I read/watch about on how they got into so and so place, I get a feeling that they kind of belong to that place (or more formally what the universities call a good fit). It's the set of values they intrinsically have or have developed that align with what the admission officers envisage for the incoming class. The student might be curious about how nature operates and spends most of their time reading Physics, despite being in CS core course. The admission officers see this and they immediately think about the personal aspects of the student in pursuing something they love. And if other objective things fall into place (test scores, interviews, recommendation letters, other such traits etc.), they offer admission.

Universities always wish for people who can be successful in life. And that cannot be predicted by things like test scores or GPA (although they are important factors in determining the intelligence level or more simply if one can survive the course load at the university). What is better for the university is to observe the response of the student to their environment, the challenges they face, how far do they go pursuing their interests, their creativity, their work ethics, their respect for original work, and in general their interaction with the world outside. Then the university simply considers whether a combination of such a character and their resources would be impactful on the world at large. If they get such a feeling, they simply go after it.

Of course I do not consider other factors here, like if the university has to create its handball team and prefers a handball amateur over you, or if the university has enough funds to finance your education if you can't (don't really know what PhD financing though).

All in all, the point I wish to put across is you can't control such factors, but you can develop a set of values that make you a good fit. The best thing, however, is to try and be the best version of yourself without any end goal of being a good fit for some university, making the best of the opportunities you have and trying to give back to humanity at large. You'll develop values that will help you succeed in any setup and be a better person. And Harvard, though one of the best, is not the end of the world. There would be other colleges where your values fall in line with their vision, and other factors being fine, you would definitely get your chance.

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