I am applying for PhD in US universities and my CGPA is lower than they ask for. But I believe my research experience is good enough to get a position. When I contacted a professor with my CV, he showed interest. Also, he asked why my CGPA was low, and if there was any specific reason for that.

Honestly I don't have any valid reason, I did not pay attention earlier to my academic studies. But I think I can't mention that. What can be some possible reasons that I can tell him?

  • 22
    Are you seriously asking us to come up with lies you can tell your prospective supervisor? No thanks.
    – Louic
    Nov 7, 2020 at 18:59
  • 4
    I don't want to lie, that's why I am asking what can I tell him so that it makes sense. If I wanted to lie, I could have come with a story and wouldn't ask here for suggestions Nov 7, 2020 at 19:02
  • 7
    Then just say you did not pay attention before and say why this has changed now.
    – user111388
    Nov 7, 2020 at 19:04
  • 7
    So tell him the truth then: there was no specific reason for the low GPA, but you have done X and Y afterwards to compensate.
    – Louic
    Nov 7, 2020 at 19:06
  • "But I think I can't mention that." Why not? How did you reach this conclusion?
    – Mast
    Nov 9, 2020 at 6:56

3 Answers 3


Honestly I don't have any valid reason, I did not pay attention earlier to my academic studies. But I think I can't mention that. What can be some possible reasons that I can tell him?

On the contrary, if you think that was the cause, then that's exactly what you should say. Prospective supervisors are interested in a lot of aspects of candidates, and one of the important aspects we are interested in is the capacity for students to objectively review their present deficiencies, or deficiencies in their past work. It is possible to assist a candidate with lower level grades to improve their work, but it is much harder to deal with a student who is not honest about their own work, or unwilling to be honest with their supervisor. Thus, demonstrating the capacity for self-reflection and self-criticism may be viewed positively, even if it involves admitting you slacked off. (Academics are humans too --- we know that there are other fun things in life for young people to do besides studying hard.)

Setting aside whether that will assist your application or not, you need to grow some character --- start to make a habit of being candid with people about your actions regardless of whether this will advantage you personally. Deficiencies in your work can be fixed over time, but getting into the habit of searching for false excuses is a deficiency that will damage a lot more than a PhD application. Reframing your question, there is no "valid" reason or "invalid" reason for your lower grades --- there is just the truth, and not the truth.


Providing that you have done better recently, then the reasons you give here are fine. "I didn't pay attention early in my studies." People look for growth, not just excellence overall. In fact, that growth can be a strength.

Just be honest, both about the past and more recent things. And focus on the ways you are prepared to move forward.

Honesty works in a case like this if you have grown out of past bad habits.

However, if you did badly in essential subjects you will need a plan to fill any holes in your education.


There can be confusion over academic standards between the US and Europe. If this is the case, you can send to your prospective advisor, samples of the exam papers you have taken. It is not possible to say whether this might have any effect, but think about it. I am quoting advice given to my son by his British advisor before applying, successfully, to MIT.

  • Institutions will normally make standard adjustments for international GPA. You can't do anything about that. Advisors understand the effect of grade inflation and will be helped by an understanding of your grading system. Forwarding exam papers may also be a good idea if you have a potential advisor who is interested. I wouldn't start there.
    – david
    Nov 9, 2020 at 2:44

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