I am currently in a public university (top 50 nationally, top 10 among public schools) for undergrad (3rd year), double majoring in operations research and economics. The past quarter I took 5 major courses because two of them were easy, and I ended up with 3 A's, an A- and a C. The C is a core math upper level course (real analysis serial B, about Riemann integral and Jordan regions) and the reason that I got the C is because of the professor's harsh policy that nearly 80% of students received C or worse grades. I planned to apply for master programs next year, and I am not pretty sure is that C a big problem to me? I am interested in master programs like applied economics, business analytics or finance. My GPA overall now is 3.43 with operations research overall 3.2 and Econ 3.6. This is the first C on my transcript. Thanks!

  • A lot depends on what your other upper level math grades look like. – aparente001 Mar 29 '17 at 3:55
  • @aparente001 I only took 5 upper math courses until now, with others A, A- B+ and B. – Can Liang Mar 29 '17 at 4:13
  • What were the other four courses, what order did you take them in, and what was the grade for each one? Any discernable trends are helpful, and since math learning builds on itself in certain course sequences, this would be helpful information. So far the specifics you shared in your question look encouraging. – aparente001 Mar 29 '17 at 14:02
  • @aparente001 Took Abstract Algebra last quarter got B+ and Real Analysis I for B, and this quarter, Real Analysis II for C, Probability for A and Combinatorics for A-. Next quarter I have also three major math courses, Optimization, Mathematical Finance (an enrichment) and Stochastic Process. This quarter's other two Econ courses are enrichments of my math major and got A+ and A for them (Corporate Finance and Econometrics). – Can Liang Mar 29 '17 at 18:27
  • I suppose an admissions committee might think that perhaps your major strengths don't lie in Real Analysis (B for part I, C for part II). Can you figure out which of the courses you plan to take will rely heavily on what you learned in Real Analysis? An advisor or mentor might be able to help you figure that out. If your future studies won't depend much on that subject matter, then you could let it be water under the bridge. Otherwise, it might be helpful to zero in on those topics to get more solid on, for your own benefit. – aparente001 Mar 29 '17 at 18:37

The short answer is "yes". However, depending on the school you're applying at, they may use a holistic approach to your application, meaning the C could have a small negative impact. However, if it came down between you and another candidate and you're the one that has the C, the other candidate will most likely get accepted.

  • Thanks! May I ask for some suggestions about what I should do next to neutralize that negative effect? For example like doing well in the next two quarters (before application)? Or any other suggestions? – Can Liang Mar 29 '17 at 0:46
  • @CanLiang The obvious answer is get all A's :) but in all seriousness, I would start to show interest in applied econ, business analytics, or finance outside of school. If it's applied econ, maybe do research with the World Bank. If it's business analytics, maybe learn SQL and do an internship that uses that. If it's finance, do something finance related. – Michael Mar 29 '17 at 2:01
  • Thanks! I think I was okay on the track, since last quarter I did pretty well in the hardest econometrics course with the professor's promise of a strong recommendation letter, some undergrad research experiences in Econ and mastered the usage of a data analysis software. That should be the track. Also I will try my best to get as high grades as possible for my remaining courses. Thanks for your comments and suggestions! – Can Liang Mar 29 '17 at 2:04

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