I'm applying to top 10 CS PhD program in the USA. During my undergrad semesters, I sometimes (for financial reasons, ie, to pay the bills) had to work part-time jobs (sometimes as a developer, sometimes even more unrelated), while also taking full credit load and double majoring with Math. So, sometimes I got less than optimal grades (B, B- etc) in some courses (whereas in some semesters I have perfect GPA, and my overall GPA is 3.9+).

Should I mention this? I'm not going to explicitly blame those grades on the work or even mention the grades, but I will say that I had to work during semesters for financial reasons, hoping that they would connect the dots?

1 Answer 1


If you mention it, don't try to overemphasize it. Many students need to (or choose to) work part time. And if you try to use it as an excuse for poor performance it will not help you. But, I wouldn't really worry about it for several reasons.

You don't say where you got the "low" grades, though B's would be good by many standards. If they are in your major courses it has a different meaning than if they are in general education courses.

Your overall average seems quite high to me. There are, of course, lots of "perfect" students, but they don't always do well in graduate study as it is possible they have never been challenged and fall apart when things get hard and they aren't prepared for it.

Also, a grad school application in the US depends on many things, not just GPA. Decisions are made by people, not computers looking at numbers. What courses have you taken? Any research experience? Can you write? What do your letters of recommendation say? Any standardized testing evidence? People will be looking to make a prediction about your future success. Make sure that you provide plenty of that. A few "lower" grades won't be a deciding factor.

But to say that you worked your way through school financially does say that you work hard. That can be a point in your favor. But don't make it an excuse.

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