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Some prestigious universities like Caltech, Stanford, MIT and Berkeley never disclose their information regarding their cut off major and cumulative GPA for M.Sc and PhD programs in engineering. I also aware of the fact that graduate schools will look at the whole package and make their decision based on sets of factors like letter of recommendation, statement of purpose as well as GPA.

However, since application fee is pretty high it is not worth it to apply to schools that you know you have a slight chance of getting into it so, I would like to know what would be the acceptable GPA (Both major and Cumulative) for applicants to be competitive for top five schools in the world?

  • You said it yourself. It is about the whole package. – StrongBad Oct 18 '14 at 9:53
  • I know but still GPA is one of the most important factor so I need to know what GPA is considered as really competitive GPA or what GPA is usually cutoff GPA for the top schools. – user59419 Oct 18 '14 at 10:16
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    GPA is meaningless without specifying the school. A 3.0 at some schools is better than a 4.0 at others. – David Ketcheson Oct 18 '14 at 12:05
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    @DavidKetcheson and the major and the classes and the ... – StrongBad Oct 18 '14 at 12:40
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    still GPA is one of the most important factor — [citation needed] No, really, at the top schools, it isn't. To first approximation, after the applicants with low GPAs are culled, GPAs don't matter. – JeffE Oct 18 '14 at 21:32
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As noted in the comments, there is no single answer, because when you are applying for a highly competitive graduate program you need to be both an "excellent student" and have additional strong qualifications that set you apart from all of the other excellent students.

That said, GPA is definitely a negative filter, and one can still extract some guesses. Here are MIT's requirements for entry of its own students into the internal EECS 5th year M.Eng. program: 4.25 on its 5-point scale (equivalent to 3.25 on the usual 4-point scale), plus at least 4.0 (3.0) in the most recent term. Since these are internal requirements, you can assume it is likely that external applicants for graduate programs will be measured a bit more harshly since they will be less well known.

Assuming a 4-point scale, I think that a safe rule of thumb for Ph.D. admissions is that if you've got at least a 3.75 both overall and in your field, you can stop thinking about GPA and start worrying about the rest of the package. If you're below 3.0, it will be extremely hard (though not necessarily impossible) to convince people that you are a strong enough student, even if you are very good in non-GPA aspects of admission. In between, the lower your GPA, the more you have to shine in other aspects in order to overcome GPA-based concerns: e.g., 3.6, not so hard, 3.25 very hard. This are rough heuristics, of course, and every case may differ...

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