Does anyone know how and where to apply for a Master's degree in the European/North-American regions as someone with poor UG grades? For a number of reasons, I was able to score only a meagre 2.5/4.0 GPA at a Japanese university which is extremely below-average. Currently, I work as a banking (risk) analyst with JP Morgan and I'm planning to switch back to academia.

I'm interested in applied math and I figured, while applying to universities, that I do not meet the eligibility requirements for most universities.

  • How do I get out of this chicken-and-egg situation where I need better grades to enter a degree program and to get better grades, I need to enter a degree program? What can I do to be eligible for a Master's degree (or perhaps directly a PhD or a pre-doc)? The eventual goal is to enter graduate school for a PhD.
  • Which countries/universities are more lenient in this regard? (I personally felt that the US/Canada are much more lenient in this regard, and view candidates more holistically. However, the amount of money required will bleed me dry.) I would appreciate if someone explains how universities in different countries stress on the GPA, research experience, internships/job experience, extra-curriculars and other things.
  • I suggest doing a master's in your home country first. And re-applying.
    – Team B.I
    Commented Apr 23 at 5:56

2 Answers 2


Roughly speaking, most German and Austrian universities don't care as much about your undergraduate GPA. For example, TU München, KIT or UniVie offer English-language M.Sc. degrees in Mathematics and do not have any GPA requirement. Once you have a Masters degree, that - especially the research experience/thesis component - will be weighted much more heavily in PhD admissions than long-ago B.Sc. grades.

  • This is exactly what I was searching for. :) There are universities that do not have a criteria mentioned but (still) focus on it heavily. Are you sure that is not the case? I'll do my research after this, but you helped me immensely by showing me the starting point. Commented Apr 24 at 0:35
  • "There are universities that do not have a criteria mentioned but (still) focus on it heavily." I would be very surprised if this were the case in Germany: while I don't think it's illegal (as would be the case for a job advert), it would be uncharacteristic. Commented Apr 24 at 9:45
  • Do you by any chance know universities in Netherlands and Switzerland that do not stress on the GPA and are affordable (or at least have options to get loans)? I don't mind learning their language up to a certain level if needed. Commented Apr 24 at 17:12
  • I don't know much about the Netherlands, although Switzerland is known for its high cost of living. The universities I named about were also mostly examples at random- there should be many more options. Commented Apr 24 at 20:49

We would usually refer to this as a Catch-22 rather than a "chicken-and-egg" situation, but in any case, it's actually not the unsolvable situation you think it is. If you cannot gain entry to a Masters program, a reasonable approach would be to first gain entry to a lower-level postgraduate program (e.g., a graduate certificate or graduate diploma) and demonstrate good grades in this program to gain entry into the Masters program. The lower-level postgraduate degrees generally have lower entry standards and are more suitable for someone with a poor undergraduate record.

Some universities will allow you to do a lower-level postgraduate program and then transfer into a Masters program with course credit if you get sufficiently good results in your courses. Some will even allow you entry into a low-level postgraduate program without an undergraduate degree in that field (perhaps only having done a few courses in the field), which allows a pathway into postgraduate study for someone coming in from another field. I would recommend you look for a university that allows this approach so that you reduce the total number of courses required for completion. As to the entry standards for particular universities, this varies greatly on a case-by-case basis, so consider casting a wide net to gain initial offers of entry.

  • Yes, you're right. It is indeed referred to as a 'Catch-22' situation. Thank you for the correction. Commented Apr 23 at 14:17

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