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I've been researching getting into a Ph.D. program for neuroscience, and I'm seeing stuff like this:

A minimum average of 3.00/4.00 for the final 60 semester hours (90 quarter hours) of undergraduate study. - https://catalog.uic.edu/gcat/graduate-college/neus/phd/

This appears to be a new thing, at least to me. For what I learned over a decade ago, it was important to have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.5/4.0. It looks to me that the admissions requirements have decreased. Maybe on average people in their junior and senior years are taking more advanced courses relative to their major; but I don't think that holds in all cases.

What's the value of seeking the GPA from the last two years of undergraduate study? To measure a person's academic maturity in seeking a good grade?

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    This appears to be a new thing -- Even back in the 1970s (and surely much earlier than this), data asked for when applying to U.S. graduate programs (many, but of course not all) often included various things such as GPA in major courses, GPA in upper level major course, GPA in last 2 years of undergraduate study, etc. In your case it's a required minimum GPA for these, but I also recall this being the case for some programs I looked at in Fall 1980 (earliest I applied to any graduate program). Jul 3, 2023 at 18:15
  • Also note that minimum GPAs like this are often an absolute minimum - it is necessary but by no means sufficient. It doesn't mean that a person with a 3.00 GPA necessarily has any realistic chance of admission - just that they will still be able to apply. It's quite possible that in practice the GPA needed for a realistic chance is more like the 3.5 you have in mind, or higher. Jul 4, 2023 at 1:55

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I think you have the reason. It is the upper division courses (in the US system) that are a better predictor than the first two years.

If you can do well in more advanced undergraduate courses than you did earlier, you are probably advancing. You are probably better prepared for what is to come than if it was only your early courses in which you did especially well.

And people are looking at grades not for the grades themselves, but for the indication of learning. An imperfect measure, of course, but little in life is perfect.

And, as you note, none of this is true universally, but there are probably no universal predictors.

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    It can also be interpreted as "forgiveness" for those who had a rough start to their undergraduate studies. Jul 4, 2023 at 1:52
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There are two reasons I am familiar with:

  1. Performance in the upper division classes is more likely to be related to a student's performance in graduate school because of the greater similarity of grad work to these courses compared with introductory courses.

  2. Performance over the first two years, when a student is less mature or may still be adjusting to college, is not very predictive of a student's performance in graduate school.

This also has equity implications. Students who went to less challenging high schools will have more adjusting to do in college, and therefore might have lower GPAs for the first few semesters. These students are more likely to be lower income or first generation college students. By considering only the last 60 credits -- the credits most likely to predict a student's success in graduate school anyway -- the schools can reduce this irrelevant advantage for students with intergenerational privilege.

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Your last 60 credits reflect your GPA following some adjustment period to college, where some students may have issues that they've managed to overcome. Presumably, the later credits also include some of the more challenging advanced coursework in your major.

All in all, it sounds like a reasonable policy. It doesn't guarantee a student that meets the requirement is guaranteed not to flunk put of a grad program for GPA issues, but I bet it correlates positively, while not barring entrance for those who have overcome on ramp issues.

Note also that's a minimum requirement that certainly doesn't guarantee admission, so it's not a "low bar", just a screening tool. Your 3.5 gives you a better chance at admission than someone who has a 3.0.

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