I have an above-average undergraduate GPA (7.5/10.0, top 20% of my class), but it is not exceptional. I have top scores in all my labs, but my written test scores are all over the place. However, I do have ~2 years of research experience and three good publications, two being in the top-5 conferences of my area (CVPR second co-author and ECCV second author, for Computer Vision) and a paper in a top-tier conference workshop (ICLR workshop, first co-author).

I know for sure that I want to pursue a Ph.D. My question is, with a mediocre UGPA, would it be better to first apply for MS to boost my grades, or directly apply to top Ph.D. programs (Berkeley, CMU etc.) with professors working in my sub-area within Vision?

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    If you are the lead author of a paper in CVPR, I'm sure many academics will accept you. Good luck! You probably want to mention where you want to pursue a PhD to get a more specific answer. Jul 20, 2021 at 5:30
  • Thank you for the response. I'm a second co-author of the CVPR paper and the second author of the ECCV paper. Updated the question. Jul 20, 2021 at 5:31
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    First, make a broader search. Your narrow choice of top schools works strongly against you. Also, note that getting an MS isn't guaranteed to improve your grades. Note that admissions in US is broad based, not focused on GPA more than other things. But if you apply to only Berkeley and CMU (and very similar schools) you will almost certainly be disappointed as the competition is broad and deep.
    – Buffy
    Jul 20, 2021 at 16:52
  • @Buffy thank you for your response. I will be applying to other schools as well. Jul 20, 2021 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


Your research background is definitely suitable for a PhD, even with your GPA (and being top 20% of your class is still a good thing), especially since you have publications. Assuming you plan to apply to schools in the US, I'm not sure what a 7.5/10 would equate to. This may be something worth asking prospective advisors at the schools that you apply to. In some cases, PhD programs may have an option to defer to the MS program if you are not accepted, so that may be something you could look into as well. (One thing that you should note is at many, if not most, schools, an MS degree would be a terminal degree, so you would be better off applying directly to the PhD program anyway)

While it doesn't hurt in your case to apply to PhD programs, beware that programs like Berkeley and CMU are the top-most programs that everyone wants to apply to. Many of these applicants will have similar research credentials (if not more) as you, in addition to having strong GPA's so it becomes that much harder to stand out among the applicants there. I'm not saying you can't apply, especially with your credentials it's worth a shot but I'd also remind you to not count out lower ranked programs as well. Keep in mind, the advisor you work with is the most important aspect of your PhD, so make sure you are looking into advisors at multiple schools.

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    Thank you for the detailed answer! Jul 20, 2021 at 19:57

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