I am Computer science major at University of Wisconsin Madison. I just want to ask you if i can get into graduate school with such a low GPA. My current GPA is 2.9 and i have 20 more credit which makes me possible to go over 3.0 But I have finished my freshman year with 2.0 GPA and took 2 years of ESL program.(English as a second language). I have done 2~3 internships in korea and plan to do 2 years of more working experience after i graduate from college this summer.

I am worried about my GPA because it is quite low and my CS GPA is only about 3.4 DO you guys think i have chance of getting into any top 30 or 40 graduate school out there in computer science field?

Thank you


In my experience, most graduate programs that have competitive admissions (as would probably be the case with "top 30-40" programs, whatever that means concretely) require a minimum GPA to be considered for admission (see for instance UC Berkeley).

The first thing you can do is look up some of the programs that interest you to see if they have a minimum GPA requirement. If they do and your GPA is lower than what they're asking for, then the answer to your question is almost certainly no.

Now, suppose that you were to satisfy the minimal GPA requirement of some "top 30-40" programs. Provided you satisfy their other minimal requirements, it is possible that you could be accepted. However, a low GPA will be seen as a weakness in your application. The admission to "top 30-40" programs are most likely going to be very competitive, and you will be competing against candidates who will have a high undergraduate GPA together with a strong application overall. Consequently, you would need to compensate for this. This could be done, for example, by managing to get well-known faculty write amazing letters of recommendation for you, or by demonstrating an exceptional aptitude for research.

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    +1, but I think the last sentence is unnecessary. Having great research experience and recommendations will (at almost any school) completely overshadow poor undergraduate grades, especially if one has a good explanation for said grades. How difficult that is to do is a completely different question, but it's definitely possible and the difficult of doing that may not be an obstacle. Take for example, a very intelligent slacker in undergrad who gets her life together and does great research after she graduates... – Steve P. Jan 23 '14 at 18:54
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    After reading your comment, I realize that my last sentence is perhaps discouraging and unhelpful. Edited. – user10761 Jan 23 '14 at 21:06

It depends on what you mean by graduate school. If you mean a masters program, then you can definitely get in, even at a top 30-40 school, assuming you have some sort of explanation for your grades and good letters of recommendation/evidence of work to ameliorate your application.

If you're referring to a PhD program, may I suggest that you instead apply to masters programs first. This allows you to get a new GPA to associate with your name, research experience and recommendations. Then, you can apply to PhD programs and not only have a much better shot of getting in, but you will also be more prepared and have a much better idea of what you want to do.


Anything is possible. In your cover letter highlight your strengths, perhaps mention that you have managed to have a BLAH GPA while at the same time learning English as a Second Language. If you word this properly, you can show that this is a strength, i.e. you had to properly manage workload balance while at the same time earning your degree. Highlight your internship experience. Make it known that you have a firm understanding of what is being done in industry and the type of problems one would regularly come across.

All in all, you have just as much of a shot as anyone. The worse that can happen is that you won't get in anywhere. I highly suggest you apply to as many schools as you can as this increases your odds of being accepted, at least somewhere.

  • While it is true that applying to more than just a handful of programs is in general a good idea to avoid only getting rejections, I would still advise caution. One of the most important factor for PhD admissions is how well adjusted the faculty research is with the applicant's interests. Someone applying to too many schools runs the risk of not being able to convince any department he is a good fit for them and spend a lot of money without increasing his "odds of admission". – user10761 Jan 23 '14 at 18:49
  • This depends if you already know the area that you want to research. A lot of times, you are at the point in your career where you are going to grad school to get a taste of what's out there, so to speak. At the very least, the OP should tailor his application / cover letter to each school he applies to. – nagniemerg Jan 23 '14 at 18:52

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