I got quite a few B's and also a C, but then also very high A's, which then brought my GPA up again so that I ended up graduating with a distinction.

I would now like to apply to PhD programs at top schools, and most of them require their candidates to have a distinction.

Might I be at a disadvantage if compared to candidates who had A's throughout (so instead of A+, B+, = A (my situation) they might have A, A= A, or is it the other way around: does it look good that I was able to score some exceptionally high marks?

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    You probably should say what country the "top schools" are in that you're interested in and what your field is, since what you're asking seems like it is very specific to country and field. For example, I don't recall "graduation with distinction" coming up at all when I was applying to graduate programs (both math and physics). My recollection of what was important was not GPA or "distinction" so much as how well you did in the most advanced courses you took and how highly those writing letters of recommendation for you thought of your potential. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 15:39
  • My field(s) are Political Science / Political Theory, and I am thinking of the top departments in the UK & US. Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


I do not know what discipline you are in. However, in the programs I served on with PhD programs (health and social sciences), we would first weed out those who didn't make the minimum criteria (which your distinction seems to put you ahead of). Then, we would look at which candidates make the best fit for our program. For instance, if your high A grades are in areas of focus in the PhD program, that might make you still very competitive. However, if the Bs and C were in coursework related to the PhD program, but the A's were in areas less relevant, that might hurt. The committee would also most likely assess for fit for the writing and research requirements for their program as well as if there is an appropriate advisor for you there. If the programs require writing samples and/or personal statements, this is where you can make up for that. Typically, though, admitting students to a PhD program is often more about just their transcripts. Good luck!

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