I want to be realistic whether I am a material who can complete PhD at top universities such as Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley or Caltech. Grad school courses were hard. I scored 3.5 GPA in my specialization for MS with thesis. My overall GPA was 3.42.

Whether I will get in these universities or not, that is different question. My concern is: If I get into one of these universities, say because of other achievements like research, LOR, SOP etc., it will be harder to maintain this GPA at these universities. Given the fact that U of Michigan has its Electrical Engineering Grad program is ranked 6th in US.

Any suggestions? Reason I want to apply to these universities is because of my area of research.

Course directly related to my research: I have A-, A. Closely related to area of research, but in my specialization: I have B+, A-, B+, B.

I do not want to talk lot about my MS thesis, because I want to focus more on rigor of the course and qualifying exam at these universities.

  • PhD GPA matters basically not at all. Your question shouldn't be about trying to maintain your GPA. Jun 5, 2019 at 17:57
  • @Azor Ahai : Thanks for your input! I agree, but there is a minimum expectation, and then there is qualifying exam. It is not about minimum number, say 3.4, but more about that course expectation. My doubt is, I may not be top university material. So, I am stuck at this point whether or not I should try to get into these universities. Even if I make it, will I be able to meet the academic requirements.
    – user109553
    Jun 5, 2019 at 18:01
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    Don't worry about it, it signifies nothing. The challenge at the PhD level has very little in common with master's level coursework - if you can pass from any reputable institution, you are fine for that. The challenges you face in a PhD is far more about organization, self-management, interpersonal skill (with mentors esp.), mental health, motivation, and perseverance. The meaning of the prior GPA ends upon admission. Don't confuse University brand marketing with rigor or difficulty.
    – BrianH
    Jun 5, 2019 at 18:32
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    Changing the title to something like "Am I likely to struggle in PhD coursework if I struggled to get GPA of 3.5 in MS?" might help clarify that you aren't asking about admissions. And then someone can convert @BrianH's comment to an answer and you're all set.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 5, 2019 at 19:07
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    I edited your question to move the list of schools to the body because it a) clutters the title and b) makes people think this is a "shopping question." Would you please edit to add what "EE" is? I assume it's electrical engineering, but I can't read your mind. Jun 5, 2019 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


Michigan's EECS department is basically in the same tier as the others you cited. If you struggled but succeeded at Michigan, you should probably expect a similar experience at any of those other schools.

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