Again, did I hit a bull’s eye there? Were you not thinking about this since a long time? Of course this is true for those who could not or did not perform so well through their semesters in the undergrad college and are afraid that the admission committee may penalize them for their low GPAs.
To an extent, may be yes. Consistently low GPAs over the four years of college may raise a few eyebrows, because the admission committee is looking for candidates who are academically proficient. This proficiency is proved by the academic transcripts and the GRE scores together. If any of them go down, there is a red alert.
What is the minimum GPA?
The graduate schools do not publish a minimum GPA requirement for the applicants, but in the present situation where the acceptance rates at the best colleges in the country is in the range of 10 percent to 15 percent, GPAs can indeed play the screening role.
If you take a look at the median GPA of the class of 2011 and 2012 at various MS courses at US universities, you will get to see the clearer picture. A GPA of less than 3.0 is very rare, especially in case of students at the best MS universities in the US.
The low GPA can be because of the fact that the university you went to had strict review and grading system. It may be the case with you and in the most of the cases, the admission committee is ready to take this factor in account while evaluating your eligibility, provided it is aware of the grading and reviewing system followed. For example, for engineering students from Indian universities, the GPA of 7 or 7.5 is considered low as it is famous over the world that the Indian universities are lenient towards semester evaluation.
If you know that your GPA is low from the admission point of view, then you have to work hard to get high GRE scores. You cannot do anything about your undergraduate marks, but GRE preparation and exam scores are still in your hands. High GRE score can draw the attention away from the low GPA. The aim of both the scores is to highlight your academic competency. GRE scores are recent and high GRE quantitative scores can set all the differences right.
If your GPA is low because of the strict grading system followed at your university, then it is advised that you get at least two out three Letters of Recommendation from the professors in your department. If you have any say in the LOR, then ask the concerned people to mention your class rank or the percentile represented by the GPA.
Last but not the least, explain your particular circumstance deftly in the application essay. Do not go on and on about it or sound apologetic. Learn to take responsibility for your actions and their results. If your marks were low because you opted for an optional subject in which you lost interest or did not do well, then state the reasons in a formal and precise way. They key is to take responsibility for your results and make things right.
In any case,
Please do not refrain from applying to a college just because your GPA is low. If you are proficient in all other areas, that is have high GRE scores, strong resume, good application essays, LOR and work experience, then you still have very good chances of making it to your desired graduate program.