I am currently a final-year undergraduate student of economics. I am among the top ten of my class. I am in Europe so my degree program would usually take me 3 years; I am going to complete it in two. My plan for the last semester is to take some advanced/graduate level courses while working on my bachelor thesis, so academically things are going pretty solidly.

However, my academic track record from before is not that good. I graduated high school when I was 17, but didn't like what I was studying, so I first slacked off and then quit. I started studying something entirely different at a different university (but related to what I am studying now), enjoyed that greatly but failed in 99% of my classes for a variety of reasons (illness, lack of housing security, etc). I stopped attending university for a year, worked a bit and stayed at home. Obviously not a good look on my CV. I'm 21 years old now, and will graduate with my BSc at age 22 from a university that is ranked among the top 150 worldwide according to times higher education.

I am wondering if there's anything I can do to improve my chances of getting into a (really) good statistics masters/PhD program in the US. My grades, GRE score and letters of recommendation are all more than enough but I can't say the same about my academic track record. Would love to hear some insight before I spend hundreds of dollars on applications.

  • 1
    academia.stackexchange.com/questions/38237/… Does this answer your question? It has a section on GPAs.
    – Allure
    Apr 11 at 9:45
  • Is there a reason you want to rush it to two years vs stay and build a stronger CV for grad school?
    – Dawn
    Apr 11 at 14:59
  • @Dawn : Yeah, multiple reasons actually the most important being that frankly it would be a significant financial strain
    – user169876
    Apr 11 at 16:00

2 Answers 2


My track record is not unlike yours. At an admission interview for a graduate program, an interviewer, whom I knew well and from whom I expected no surprises, said: "I see CrimsonDark that we have some truly excellent referee reports about you. How do you explain that in the light of your appalling academic record?"

It sounds as if you fear you might face something similar! The question, as I have said, took me completely by surprise. Nonetheless, I commented that it was true that my early academic record was very poor; but it was also true that since a particular point in my undergraduate years, it was clear that I had settled into my studies and my record showed a rapid improvement from terrible to excellent. I also said that I saw no reason why that trend would not continue." Whatever discussions went on between the interviewers after I left, I don't know. But I was admitted to the program ... and my undergraduate record has never been mentioned since.


Here is a famous case of someone who didn't do well during undergraduate studies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Huh

What compensates for low undergraduate performance are stellar recommendation letters. The recommender has to be convinced that your research skills are truly extraordinary. After all, academia is about research. Presumably you'll already have done some research as an undergraduate student. Do another research project during your years as a Master's student.

In the case of Field medalist June Huh; he applied to 17 graduate schools and got into one, thanks to the recommendation letter of a famous mathematician he had done research with.