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I have a plan to apply for a computer science master's degree in the US. In my home institution my GPA is about 3.7/4.0; I have some research experience with a paper published. I was heading for a Top 30 or even a Top 10 university in the US.

However, during my exchange study (one semester) in the one of the Top 15 universities in the US, I didn't get very good grades, it was only around 3.3/4.0. (In one of the courses there was not even a single A in the class, just bad luck and some of my own reasons). Will it be really bad for my graduate school application? It kind of indicates that I can do well in my home university but not good in the US. Is there any way I can avoid the bad influence or can I not submit the transcript of the exchange university?

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    I didn't get very good grades, it was only around 3.3/4.0 - A 3.3 semester GPA for one semester is really not bad. – ff524 Dec 20 '16 at 2:08
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Will it be really bad for my graduate school application?

You need to be clear about the policy of the program under which you undertook the student exchange. These programs differ widely, and so do their effects on your transcript. In my university alone, one exchange program allows students to undertake courses with NO EFFECT on their transcripts while another program requires students to undertake courses for credit equivalent purposes consistent with the original degree programs in their home university. You need to be clear, because the same two universities may be operating a number of exchange programs simultaneously at the level of the faculty, school of department.

Is there any way I can avoid the bad influence or can I not submit the transcript of the exchange university?

If you've determined that there is a credit-bearing grade policy in effect, then there's little you can do about this, because the credit exchange occurs automatically between the Registrars of both universities. If you are in a position to lodge a mitigating circumstances claim, then you might do so under the policy of the exchange university. However, once the grades have been approved by the moderating body, then only procedural irregularities may be the only reason for a review of the grade. In this case, you will need to be clear about the assessment policies of the exchange university, which are probably an order of magnitude more complex than the policies for exchange.

To be clear, under particular policies, you can't simply choose to not submit the transcript of the exchange university for two reasons: (1) the results may be incorporated within your transcript or (2) your transcript will contain fewer credits than is usual. Either way, a graduate program admissions officer will spot the discrepancy easily.

If you're really worried, you might choose to mitigate the effect by turning to your statement of purpose. You could use that to explain under what circumstances the 3.3 GPA was received. Be careful, though, because placing it on the SOP will call attention to it and, as @ff524 states, 3.3 really isn't all that bad.

Good luck to you.

  • Thank you so much! Just add some information. I totally took four courses there, but I only need to do credit-transfer for one course. The grade of that course shows on my home university's transcript will only be Pass/Fail. Just don't know if there is any way to avoid submitting the exchange university's transcript. – Li Wangqi Dec 21 '16 at 3:26
  • Thanks @ff524, I can accept one semester with GPA 3.3 and I know it is not all that bad. But since it is from the university in the US, I am afraid the bad effect is more than the number. It kind of indicates that I can get good grade in my home university but not in the US. It might be what called "proved failure" whose bad effect is way more than only the number. – Li Wangqi Dec 21 '16 at 3:32

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