In his answer in How do you get a bad transcript past Ph.D. admissions?, InquilineKea says:
By the way, elite private schools (for whatever reason) tend not to have GPA cutoffs. If you're a student with a low GPA applying for an elite private school, you probably have something else in you that's extremely unusual, since very few students with low GPAs apply to them.
Sooo, what exactly are they? I guess, you are thinking this right now:
Research ability. Number of papers. Period.
But that's nothing new for me (do I miss something?). I'm looking for the extremely unusual things that he mentioned. Googling around, I don't see much information given for grad students, only for the undergrad. In an answer in Quora, a women who self-claimed to used to interview applicants to MIT lists four qualities (again, for undergrad):
- Deep intellectual curiosity and a passion for learning that goes far beyond the norm.
- Self motivation, tenacity and grit.
- Lack of arrogance.
- A burning desire to attend MIT above all other schools, and can explain why.
Do those unusual qualities ever exist? How heavy are they in the final decision? And where should I represent them? In the emails to the professors, or in the SOP to the adcom, or just in my website? Or should I just stick to the research ability?