Disclaimer: The GRE Program discontinued the Computer Science Test

I'm from an unknown school in Georgia. I want to apply for grad school in U.S, but I don't have a good GPA although I am at the top %15 of the class. Here we have some strange grading system - we use 4.0 system but grading is not similar to the western world. I am confident on my knowledge and I believe that I can do well on GRE CS Subject exam.

So do you care about or value GRE Subject test results ? If so, what score do you expect from a candidate ? Is it possible to get some funding at top 40-70 range schools? Regarding research, I don't have possibility of doing any research and it is not a top priority here, so we aren't provided opportunities for research.

  • Help, yes. Compensate, yes. Overcome? Probably no completely.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 12, 2017 at 16:02

4 Answers 4


Regarding research, I don't have possibility of doing any research and it is not a top priority here, so we aren't provided opportunities for research.

For purposes of graduate school admissions, any self-directed intellectual activity counts as research. Have you contributed to any open-source projects? Have you written any Android or iPhone apps? Did you solve all the double-starred problems in Hopcroft and Ullman? Did you write a confluently persistent graph data structure library? Did you participate in (or better yet, coach for) the International Olympiad in Informatics? What about Google Summer of Code? Do you contribute regularly to a StackExchange site? Have you rebuilt a pinball machine? These are all real examples.

Research opportunities are not something you're provided; they're something you hunt down and kill.

  • 1
    How do you provide proof of such accomplishments as part of the application? I think committees (or at least the ones I've been involved with) prefer organized activities, because the record-keeping is more extensive and traceable.
    – aeismail
    Aug 20, 2012 at 21:02
  • 5
    How do you provide proof of such accomplishments as part of the application? — Make a web page with links to your work. Include specific and credible technical details in your research statement. Show off your work to your references. Whatever it takes.
    – JeffE
    Aug 21, 2012 at 2:50
  • 3
    I want to tattoo that last sentence on my arm.
    – Potato
    May 1, 2015 at 18:21

The GRE subject tests are useful measuring sticks in disciplines where it's available, as they test understanding in a single discipline in a way that is hopefully "neutral" across different schools.

That said, you'll need to have a very strong overall package in order to overcome the weakness in your GPA. A strong showing on the GRE subject test will help, as will strong letters of recommendation from several of your instructors. These letters should clearly indicate structural reasons why you can't do research, and should find some way to indicate your aptitude for graduate studies. If it is possible, you should also get an official note on your transcript indicating your class rank.

I can't really comment on the funding situation in CS; perhaps one of our other site users can fill in that part of the picture.

  • 1
    I don't think my recommenders know how to write a good academic letter. We don't use letters here in a way u are used to. Usually they are perfunctory.
    – Mikheil
    Aug 19, 2012 at 12:58
  • 4
    In that case, you'll need to show them examples of what a good letter are, and provide them with material that can help them to write a better letter.
    – aeismail
    Aug 19, 2012 at 14:01
  • I wish it were so easy as you said. Ofcourse it is a method but probably our professors will take it as a disrespect. And it might have serious consequences and deteriorate the situation.
    – Mikheil
    Aug 20, 2012 at 9:10
  • 3
    Actually, if the people you want to write letters aren't really willing to get additional information to do a better job, then they probably weren't worth asking to write you a letter in the first place. It won't do you any good to get a "boilerplate" letter at a US graduate school.
    – aeismail
    Aug 20, 2012 at 12:50

Pure anecdote.

I got a peak at the notes that were written on my file1 at one place I applied to after a ... uh ... less than stellar performance at my undergraduate institution.

Things on the lines of

Great test scores. What was he doing in school?

That program offered to admit me without support. In fact, a lot of places offered to admit me without support.

Grad school is very hard if you have to work too. The program I eventually chose gave me support about a year in, and it is just as well because I wouldn't have been able to keep it up much longer.

1No cloak and dagger stuff here, the reviewers wrote summaries on a sheet affixed to the front of the file which was left were I could see it while the departmental admin stepped out to flag someone down.


In short, a good GRE score does compensate for your getting an undergraduate degree from "not among the best institutes". As for funding, a graduate student in US generally gets funded through either (1) some research project funding, or (2) the department. In the former case you become a Graduate Research Assistance (GRA) where you assist a professor or a researcher in his/her research. In the later case you help the department (through some professor/teacher) in work related to teaching e.g. grading homework and so on. This position is called Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). Apart form these two ways of getting financial support there is fellowship but that is achieved generally by those with exceptional academic and research experience.

With your background and expertise, the only feasible option is to get a GTA. I would suggest doing your best to get good GRE score (general and specific -CS) and then do a good search on available GTA and write to the professors (top and medium level universities) how you can hep them teach classes. Your cover letter must clearly and honestly state your abilities and interests.

  • Fellowships often also have citizenship requirements associated with them, so that can make them difficult to obtain as well.
    – aeismail
    Aug 19, 2012 at 14:02
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    I suggest contacting specific schools to ask how much they value the GRE, both subject and general. When I applied to a top ten grad school in CS (long ago), they didn't care about the subject test, but they were somewhat picky about my scores on the general test (I actually took it a second time to score higher to make them happy). But my main point is that this varies noticeably from one school to another.
    – Dan C
    Aug 19, 2012 at 17:35
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    Correction: A good GRE score might compensate for your getting an undergraduate degree from an unknown school.
    – JeffE
    Aug 20, 2012 at 16:58

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