I'm intending to apply to biostatistics PhD programs this fall and can't stop worrying about the fact that I'll almost certainly have a lower-than-average GPA (< 3.5) when I apply to the institutions in which I'm interested.

By the time I apply this fall, I anticipate having a GPA of 3.3. However, I have two publications, one being a first author and the other of which is a third author, both of which are in top 20 journals. I'm also hoping to publish a second first-author paper before applying.

With excellent letters of recommendation (one from a senior statistician at the CDC who has cooperated with me on research), near-perfect GRE scores, and the publications stated earlier, do I have a chance at top PhD programs?

I am in the United States.

Any advice at all is greatly appreciated!

  • Thanks, added the country
    – Detr4
    Mar 16, 2022 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


In the US, acceptance into doctoral programs is normally based on a large number of items, none of which is likely to be decisive on its own (unless extreme). The GPA is a bit low, but not extreme. If you are talking about undergraduate grades, then the grades in the major mean a bit more than the overall GPA in any case and recent grades a bit more than older ones.

On the other hand getting into a "top" program, as opposed to a good, or even great, program, is very difficult and competitive. You have some plusses and a negative. No one can predict unless they are on the admissions committee.

I suggest that you cast a wide net in application. Sure, try a few "top" programs, but also those from a broader selection. It increases your chances. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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