I'm currently graduating with a M.S degree in Mathematics and looking into applying to PhD programs in Mathematics this Fall.

My GPA overall is in the 3.90+ range. Course grades are either A- or A. About 30% of them are A- with two or three courses I would assume to be critical.

I was wondering how PhD admissions view these A- in general. Talking with some of my professors and adviser, either admission committees would take A- as an A (not care) or have some concern, especially in those critical courses. Within the department, A- is more of "you did what you're supposed to, but you could've done better".

Overall, I think I have a strong application (great recommendations, high Subject Math GRE score, some experience in research), so I'm not too concerned, but how concerned should I be?

I will admit I'm being nit-picky, pedantic, and need to worry about more important things in life.

  • 2
    You have the grades that you have. Worrying about them is completely pointless.
    – JeffE
    May 16, 2017 at 10:37
  • If the mentality "you could have done better" was applied at many admissions committees, then so many people would not have made it to graduate school. You're fine. May 16, 2017 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


Your letters of recommendation will be much, much more important than the difference between an A- and an A. Spend your time on getting the strongest letters you can (and learning how to do this, if necessary).

Source: I have served on grad admissions for a top math department.


You could take a small hit on them, but I suspect it will not be a huge issue, especially if it's really true that you have great recommendations and high subject scores. Those will likely be seen as more important, and I think the grades would only hurt you if they seemed to confirm some worrying sign from those other materials. Grades between different schools are so variable that admissions committees can't really worry about a point or two on your GPA. It could also depend on the type school you're attending and what lead you to a master's program. A few A-'s could tell many different stories depending on the context.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .