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I am a final year undergraduate student of Mechanical Engineering from Nepal. I plan to do master's in aerospace engineering (propulsion systems, to be specific) at a prestigious university in the US. With virtually zero scope for aerospace engineering research in our country and little to no guidance from experts, I have been involved in many research projects for years and have already got a number of papers published so far. I hope to add at least three more conference papers to my profile before I apply to any graduate school. But the problem is that I am going to have a very low CGPA, anywhere between 2.4 - 2.7. I have heard that many schools don't bother to look at anything else in an application when they see a low GPA and reject it straightaway. Does that mean I have no chances at all? I have been working very hard to offset my low GPA and make my resume look better than those of most other applicants. MIT, for example, recommends a minimum of 3.2 as a guideline. What does that mean for me? Please respond.

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  • One of the problems you probably are going to have is funding. Do you have your own funding? Or funding from the government of your country? If you have no funding source, you probably need to apply for PhD because most master programs do not provide funding. This is why I believe your question is a duplicate of the question I linked. If you do have your own funding, please update your question and I'll retract my close vote.of duplicate question. Thanks.
    – Nobody
    Mar 28, 2017 at 9:51
  • My undergrad gpa was about 2.5, got my PhD (with full funding) few months ago from a top school in my field (Engineering). When i applied for MS, I had about 5 publications. When I applied for PhD, I had about 14 publications. It's doable!
    – The Guy
    Mar 28, 2017 at 9:58
  • @Rüdiger even better, MIT doesn't offer my field :)
    – The Guy
    Mar 28, 2017 at 10:08
  • @TheFireGuy if an engineering uni like MIT doesn't offer your field, it must be a field in which perhaps 10 or 15 people work
    – Rüdiger
    Mar 28, 2017 at 10:10
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    As The Fire Guy noted, there is a chance, but as it stands you haven't provided enough information to give you an informed answer. In my eyes, a solid publication record as an undergrad can balance the poor gpa. Undergrads are rarely expected to have publications! However, if those papers are not in respected journals or in major conferences in your field, their help is questionable. If they are in journals or conferences that are of dubious quality, they will actually hurt your application. If this is the case, I have confidence stating you have absolutely no chance at all.
    – user58322
    Mar 28, 2017 at 17:22

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If a department doesn't say they have a minimum GPA, then there is certainly some chance of admission - many departments make it a point to review all applications in full and refuse to use individual cut scores for any element of the application. And yes, some departments use cut scores anyway so if you don't meet their (often unpublished) minimums your app gets tossed.

Is it worth applying? If you can spare the ~$100ish US dollars, sure - the worst case scenario is you don't get a yes, and you'll most likely get a nice generic rejection email telling you how many applications they had this year and they just can't take everyone who's great.

The more important point is that you have only mentioned a few of the world's most famous institutions on planet earth at this time in history. All of them receive many hundreds of applications, and some applicants with no obvious negative marks, letters of reference from leading professors at that institution, and a masters degree from another famous institution (sometimes even that same place) and/or a bachelor's from another famous place...still do not get accepted routinely. If you'll only be happy with the least likely outcome, you are most likely to be disappointed. So if it's potentially a good fit for you and you have the extra funds, you can certainly apply - but I don't think it's helpful or wise to make it Plan A.

I suggest you apply to the famous places just to satisfy that drive to do so, but dig deeper. Look for places with a more specific fit to you with 2-3 people who are doing work that excites you, look for places you'd have an awesome opportunity at even if the institution name isn't a Hollywood-shorthand for smartypants (as the Batman Lego movie says, "Harvard for cops", or in this case "Harvard for engineers"), and search for places that also offer a variety of expertise that you think is interesting even if it doesn't seem like a perfect fit at first (if you get in you might find on a visit that there is something that just blows you away you never thought about).

The process has a serious random component, and there is no well-ordered universal ranking of students, faculty, programs, departments, or institutions - i.e., there is no true best-worst that everyone agrees on. You just need to find one "yes" that works for you and your goals. Don't talk yourself out of aiming high, but don't let other people's marketing get in the way of your long-term happiness. Be strategic, apply broadly, work hard, have back-up plans, and you'll be ok.

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