I'm a computer science student with a 3.8/4.0 trying to get into schools like MIT, Berkeley, etc. (at that tier) for their MS programs in CS. My undergrad school is a top 20 school (in the 10-20 range) in the US.

I have such a poor GPA because once I understood the material, I skipped doing homeworks for some courses because I would rather spend that time learning something else, working on research, etc. I also thought I'd go directly into industry so anything beyond the minimum threshold (3.6ish at the upper end) for the job was useless. Should I mention this reason in my statement of purpose or does it come off wrong?

If not like this, how should I bring it up in my SOP?

  • It comes off wrong, although isn't 3.8/4.0 stellar?
    – Allure
    Nov 17, 2021 at 12:27
  • @Allure - not particularly; I know quite a few people with 3.9 or 4.0, although I did clarify this a bit more in the title
    – afsum
    Nov 17, 2021 at 12:35
  • 1
    I don't know about CS, but in math (at least when I was in school; maybe a lot different now?) MUCH, MUCH more important are the courses you took (especially advanced undergraduate and graduate level, and how you did in the most difficult of those, and to what extent your ability and interest allowed you to go well beyond the minimum graduation requirements) and what your letters of recommendation say about your ability and potential (these are not the same thing) relative to the top handful of students at your university. Nov 17, 2021 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


Maybe you are having a bit of fun with us. Such a GPA from a top 20 school is pretty impressive. I'm wondering why you are applying for an MS and not a doctorate. I'd guess the chances of one are about the same as the other.

But since you are asking about a very narrow range of schools, it is impossible what you can say or do to make acceptance assured. Only their admissions system (likely a committee of faculty) can determine that. I'd suggest you apply a few other places as well.

However, the SoP is not the place to try to make excuses, no matter how unnecessary (or necessary) they might be. The SoP is a forward looking document detailing as best you can your plans for the future, both study and afterwards. Don't waste words there that can actually be better focused and contribute more if done correctly.

I'd suggest you ignore your GPA altogether in your application materials. Graduate admissions in US is broad based, not narrow. And, especially, not especially heavily dependent on GPA. Your letters of recommendation are more important.

And, TBH, I'd worry a bit about a student with perfect scores. I'd wonder whether they ever needed to work hard at things (some people would, others not). And so I'd worry whether they would hit a wall when grad study suddenly proves harder than what they have experienced before. I'm not suggesting that this applies to you, but it might run through the minds of some admissions people.

You should be fine for study, generally, but I'd cast a wider net than just UCB and MIT and wider still to consider a doctorate.

  • This is an honest question. I would estimate maybe 300ish CS students at my school have a higher GPA, most of whom are applying for grad school. 250*20 means as a rough back of the napkin calculation, we can estimate 5000 applications that are at minimum better than me GPA wise, which seems like a very large number
    – afsum
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:02
  • Again, GPA is only one element, and not the most important one. And not a subject for the SoP in any case.
    – Buffy
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:05
  • This answer says "The SOP is also your chance to explain negative experiences, such as poor grades ... it looks very out of touch if you write an aggressive SOP but never mention your awful grades, for example". Is this GPA not bad enough to mention or do you disagree with the answer?
    – afsum
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:07
  • Be aware that you are likely to be judged similarly by similar schools. Cast a wider net or risk not finding a slot at all. One or two backups. There are many fine CS schools in the top hundred, actually.
    – Buffy
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:12
  • I disagree pretty strongly that the SoP is the place to explain the past. If there is a "Personal Statement" you can do it there. Don't whine to the the admissions committee. And if the lower grades were not in important major courses (upper division) they are irrelevant anyway.
    – Buffy
    Nov 17, 2021 at 13:15

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