I have a mediocre (3.3) GPA in undergrad due to illness (legit - I had to take a medical leave and was hospitalized), but I have great grades from my graduate institution. I worry that search committees will not look highly upon my application. As I would like to apply for these positions, so how should I tell the search committee why I did poorly in undergrad?

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    Fortunately, a tenure track search committee will not care about your undergraduate GPA, nor would they have any way of knowing it. However it's unlikely that they will know/care about your graduate GPA either. So your question makes me wonder if you have a clear picture of how the tenure track market works (as does the fact that you don't mention your record of success in research at all).
    – Tom Church
    Oct 9, 2015 at 3:00
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    I'll second Tom Church's comment. I'd strongly recommend talking in detail with your advisor about what's involved in applying for tenure-track jobs. (Without a clear idea of what search committees are looking for, it's easy to submit disastrously bad applications, even if you could have submitted good applications given proper guidance.) Oct 9, 2015 at 3:51
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    @Adrift_in_Academic I would suggest that "most" is not correct. I've never been asked for one.
    – Fomite
    Oct 9, 2015 at 4:19
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    A few years ago when I was applying for tenure track jobs (math, US), there were certainly a few that required an undergrad transcript. Not the majority. I also don't know what they actually did with them - it could be that once upon a time, they had an otherwise promising applicant who turned out to have lied about his/her undergrad degree, so they started requiring transcripts to avoid a future occurrence. It's quite possible they don't actually look at GPA. I would say it's still worth applying to schools that require transcripts, if they're otherwise a good fit. Oct 9, 2015 at 5:42
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    I've been on many community college hiring committees. We require undergraduate transcripts, and I do carefully scrutinize people's undergraduate grades when I'm going through the apps. Many people applying for these jobs lack basic competence in their field. You would think that such people would be unable to obtain a graduate degree, but that turns out not to be the case, and we see this fact repeatedly at all stages of the hiring process.
    – user1482
    Oct 9, 2015 at 16:17

2 Answers 2


Don't mention anything about your undergrad GPA in your application if it is not mandatory. During interview, if they get to know and ask, you can tell every problem you faced during undergraduate career and show up your proof such as medical certificate. They will consider it.

If it is a mandatory option, then write it down. However, in such mandatory situation, be straightforward (as said by @AlexandersWilliam below) and mention about your poor performance in undergrad period somewhere in your CV or resume, but not necessary always. Because selection committee care less about undergrad GPA, they mostly see your recent records. Hope this will work.

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    I would not recommend talking about this in the cover letter. I would upload the undergrad GPA and simply never mention it, assuming that there is a very real chance that the requirement to upload it was put in place by administrators or policy requirements, and none of the reviewing professors actually care about it.
    – xLeitix
    Oct 9, 2015 at 6:12
  • Yes @xLeitix.. You are right. But in case it is mendatory to mention the undergrad GPA in the application, then it may give a bad impression to the selection commette while doing shortlisting..
    – Kay
    Oct 9, 2015 at 6:17
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    @Kayan In that case, be straightforward and tell them (on your resume or CV) what you told us.
    – user42055
    Oct 9, 2015 at 13:03
  • Well said @AlexandersWilliam, if it is mandatory, then applicant should be straightforward...
    – Kay
    Oct 9, 2015 at 13:09

3.3 is not so bad, actually, at the undergraduate level.

You have your medical situation as a valid explanation.

For the right sort of tenure track position --an institution with a true commitment to student-centered education-- someone who overcame obstacles as an undergrad, and can connect well with students dealing with all sorts of problems of their own, can be a real asset.

Keep any explanations you give of the not so good grades you received calm, succinct and matter of fact. (Avoid the emotional approach, and avoid giving a laundry list of difficulties faced.)

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