I have a very bad undergraduate academic record -- I failed or didn't attend the end semester exams for many courses (15 courses, to be exact!), and I had to clear these later on, towards the end of my course.

Admissions to graduate courses in my country (India) are based on entrance examinations (and not your profile or UG record) -- which I've cleared and I'll be going to one of the best universities in my country.

I wish to do a PhD, and I want to keep options in the US or UK open. I intend to study well in my masters and get good scores, and, going by what I've done in the past couple of years, I think I'll be a lot more disciplined in my masters.

My only worry is: will my undergraduate record be a bottleneck no matter how hard I try in my masters? Should I just go into the industry after my masters? I really want to do a PhD!

My overall undergrad GPA is bad (2.72), with, as I've said, 15 "backlogs" (exams that I didn't attend or failed, and cleared later on). However, during the last 3 semesters, I took no backlogs and I averaged above 3. During the final two semesters, I averaged 3.2 and in the final semester I got a 3.4.

  • @BryanKrause Not really a duplicate, since the question is about grad vs undergrad record rather than having a weak application. Jun 10, 2019 at 17:21
  • 2
    @ElizabethHenning Yes, but that answer already addresses how performance later on can possibly atone for poor early GPA, how interpretations of minimum requirements vary by institution, and I think the record the OP is describing would put them into the category of having a weak application so all the other advice there is relevant as well.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 10, 2019 at 17:27
  • @BryanKrause I think that this question has some unique component which I tried to address in my answer. While your link to the more general question is still extremely relevant. Jun 11, 2019 at 2:32
  • @BryanKrause -- I asked this question because other questions don't address the issue of having had "backlogs".
    – WorldGov
    Jun 11, 2019 at 7:42
  • @WorldGov I don't know what a "backlog" is, since it isn't something that exists in my system, but it sounds like you failed a bunch of courses/exams and had to retake them? Yes, to be blunt, that looks pretty bad and probably disqualifies you from graduate school unless you can explain it (i.e., if you had an untreated mental health issue that is now well-controlled, or some other life change). The other ways to cover for it are answered in the marked duplicate: have good letters, good research experience, good recent academic performance, etc. A 3.4 GPA isn't particularly stunning, either.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 11, 2019 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


In short:

You need to do some research-type work during your Master's to evaluate if your desire to get a Ph.D. has some foundation.

You certainly would have a chance to get into a Ph.D. program with strong enough application. However, you would have to work hard during your Master's.

There are several things you need to consider:

  • you have not yet finished (or, I guess, even started) your Master's degree. Therefore, you are planning way ahead.
  • you certainly want to do a research-based Master's degree with a thesis, as opposed to doing a pure course-based Master's. Doing research during your Master's would allow you to understand if you like doing research in the first place. Also, it would strengthen your potential application for a Ph.D.
  • a carefully written Letter of Intent would be crucial.
  • sometimes, only a GPA in your last two years of the undergraduate program is used for applicants with a Master's degree.
  • you should make a decision of industry vs academia closer to the time you are finishing your Master's degree. Moreover, even if you get into industry, nothing prevents you from applying to a Ph.D. program several years later if you still have research interests and, especially, if you position at industry had a research component that you were excited about.
  • Thanks. While these are tips for having a generally low GPA -- do you think it'll allow me to address the issue of having had backlogs as well? (Also, the reason why I'm deciding this is because I've been accepted into two good universities -- one known for it's strong research opportunities and one known for strong industry placements upon graduation).
    – WorldGov
    Jun 11, 2019 at 7:44

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .