Going to Grad School with a Low GPA

For one reason or another, you didn’t perform well while earning your bachelor’s degree and you’re wondering how to get into a grad school with a low GPA.  You're in luck! There are a fair number of grad schools that accept low GPA.

But, you’re in luck. While some schools have strict GPA requirements, most look at your entire application, including professional experience and test scores, which means there are plenty of graduate schools that accept a low GPA.

On this page, we’ll help you figure out if you actually have a low GPA, best ways for you to get around having a low undergraduate GPA, and list some top grad schools that accept low GPA students.

List of 9 Grad Schools that Accept Low GPA

If you’re still worried about finding grad schools that accept a low GPA and how to get in, we’ve compiled a list just for you of nine schools that have low GPA requirements--and some of the graduate degrees offered at the school.

In fact, many of the schools accept students with a 2.5 GPA or lower.

Look through the sponsored list of grad schools with low gpa requirements for details about the school, common curriculum, and you can even request more information directly from the school to learn how to apply.

#1: Widener University

GPA Requirement: No minimum GPA (Specific programs may have different requirements)

Widener University believes that academic excellence, career preparation, and civic engagement are the foundations for success. With a close-knit community of top-notch teachers and nationally recognized researchers, Widener is passionate about learning and making a difference.

With nine different colleges and schools offering graduate degrees, Widener has a variety of programs, each with similar, but unique admissions requirements.

For instance, all of the graduate degrees require:

  • Complete application
  • Resume
  • Personal Statement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • GRE or GMAT

While the school doesn’t list any specific minimum GPA requirements for their graduate programs, some degrees don’t require students with a higher GPA to take the GRE or GMAT.

Some of the graduate degrees available at Widener include:

#2: Tennessee State University

GPA Requirement: 2.5

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational institution in Nashville that is committed to excellence. Offering 24 masters degree programs and a variety of doctoral degrees, TSU prepares you for leadership, professional success, personal achievement, and service to your community.

With seven colleges offering graduate degrees, many of the programs have similar, but different admissions requirements. As a whole, TSU doesn’t have a minimum GPA requirement, which may make it a good fit if you have a low undergraduate GPA.

For instance, the business programs require you to score higher on your GMAT if you have a low GPA. Other degrees, such as the College of Engineering, don’t have any GPA requirement.

Some of the graduate degrees available at TSU are:

#3: Full Sail University

GPA Requirement: 2.5 (Lower GPAs may be accepted)

Full Sail University offers graduate degrees designed for the world of entertainment, media, arts, and technology with a creative approach to education through immersive, fast-paced, and relevant learning experience that mirrors real-world workflow.

The graduate school at FSU requires that students have earned a bachelor’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher from an accredited institution. In addition, your degree must be of a similar scope of subject matter as your intended graduate program.

However, applicants with a GPA lower than the required 2.5 must submit:

  • Letter of intent
  • Resume
  • College transcripts

The Program Director will review your application to see if you qualify for admission based on these additional requirements.

Some of the graduate programs at Full Sail are:

#4: Liberty University

GPA Requirement: 2.0 (Some programs have higher GPA requirements)

Liberty University offers a world-class education with the solid Christian foundation you’re looking for. The many degrees and programs focus on teaching the values, knowledge, and skills so that you can make a lasting impact on your profession and your community.

Most of the graduate degrees at Liberty only require a 2.0 GPA while earning your bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

However, there are some programs, such as the Master of Arts in Public Policy, that require a 3.0 GPA for admission, though students with a 2.0 GPA may be accepted on a cautionary basis.

Some of the graduate degrees at Liberty University are:

#5: McNeese State University

GPA Requirement: 2.0 (2.75 GPA on all upper division course work)

McNeese State University is a major influence in the rich and cultural and economic success of Southwest Louisiana and continues to lead through innovative education, dynamic programs, dedicated service to the region and beyond.

General graduate degree admissions requirements include having a minimum 2.0 GPA for all undergraduate work and a minimum 2.75 GPA on all upper division courses. Yet, each college may have additional requirements.

For instance, the MBA at McNeese State requires a 2.75 minimum GPA. Other graduate degrees at McNeese State include:

#6: University of the Rockies

GPA Requirement: 2.0 for Masters, 3.0 for PhD

As an accredited graduate school where learners become leaders, the University of the Rockies inspire students to reach a higher level of understanding and embrace the values, attitude, and self-knowledge.

The University of the Rockies offers 13 graduate degree programs. For most of the masters degrees, the school accepts students with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA while earning your undergraduate degree. However, students that fall between a 2.0 and 2.74 GPA will be placed on academic watch.

Keep in mind that there are some graduate degrees with additional admissions requirements. Some of the graduate programs at the University of the Rockies include:

#7: Texas Southern University

GPA Requirement: 2.5

Heralded as a pioneer, Texas Southern University has distinguished itself by producing a significant number of African American graduates and has become one of the most diverse institutions in Texas, with more than 9,200 undergraduate and graduate students from across the world.

Students seeking admission to the Graduate School of Texas Southern University, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • Undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or better; or 3.0 on the last 60 hours
  • GRE (or GMAT for business majors) within five years of application date
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume or CV
  • Personal essay (300 – 500)
  • Transcript

Texas Southern University offers 31 graduate degrees, including:

#8: Chicago State University

GPA Requirement: 2.75 (Conditional Admission)

With more than 7,000 enrolled students, Chicago State University has evolved into an outstanding, nationally acclaimed university that provides a value-added education for all students. Consistently evolving to reflect state-of-the-art trends in higher education, Chicago State prepares students for success.

To be eligible for admission to CSU’s master’s degree programs, students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Generally, students with a 3.0 GPA or better during their final 60 semester credit hours are eligible for admission.

However, there are conditional admissions available for students who earned between a 2.75 and 2.99 GPA during their final 60 semester credit hours of their undergraduate degree. Note: Not all programs at Chicago State offer conditional admissions.

Some of the graduate programs include:

#9: Western Connecticut State University

GPA Requirement: 2.5

Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters growth as individuals, professionals, and to be become leaders in society.

With more than 16 graduate degrees available, plus specializations or concentrations for many, Western Connecticut State University has plenty of options. Besides having earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, each program has unique admissions criteria.

For instance, a master’s in English requires that applicants have completed a substantial number of credits in English and submit an essay. On the other hand, the nursing master’s program requires that students with an undergraduate GPA of less than 3.0 achieve a satisfactory score on the Miller Analogies Test.

To find the specific admissions requirements for your desired program, click on the school’s link above or on any of the degrees listed below.

Do You Have a Low GPA?

When it comes to applying to graduate school, every little thing can make you nervous. Do you have enough experience? Are your GRE or GMAT scores high enough?

This anxiousness can make you think you have a low GPA, even if it falls into the national average. While there are no across-the-board minimum GPA requirements for grad school, anything above a 3.0 should be considered safe.

Did You Know?

According to Pew Research, the median monthly earnings of young adults with master’s degrees rose 23% from 1984 ($3,875) to 2009 ($4,772).

What Is a Low GPA?

A 2.99 GPA or lower is considered low for graduate school. With a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, you may not be able to get into some of the best graduate schools in the country, but you should have plenty of options.

In fact, many graduate schools are taking a more holistic approach to admissions. This means they look at you as a complete person and not just your statistics.

For instance, your GRE or GMAT scores can play an important role during the admissions process. So can your interview and essay, as they are an opportunity to address your weaknesses.

Yes, your GPA is important because it shows schools how you perform as a student. But that doesn’t mean your low grades automatically disqualify you.

Is a 3.3 GPA Good?

Anything between a 3.3 and 3.7 GPA is considered good and in the range of most students. But that also means you’ll be competing with many other students during the application process.

So, if your GPA falls in this range, you should be looking at ways to improve your chances of being accepted just like students with a low GPA.

9 Ways to Get into Grad School with a Low GPA

Can you get into grad school with a low GPA? Of course you can, but it will take a little bit more work.

First, you have to address your GPA in your application. Whether it’s during your interview, in your essay, or in a GPA explanation letter, tell the admissions department why you performed as you did while earning your bachelor’s degree.

Think about it this way: grad schools are looking for the best candidates to bring into their school. While reviewing your application, they’ll find your weakness, whether it’s a low GPA or low test scores.

You have a better chance of improving your odds if you address it up front rather than hoping they don’t find it. At least it gives you a chance to share your side of the story.

Below are some of the other ways that you can get around your low GPA when applying to grad school and how you can still make yourself an appealing candidate, even with a 2.5 GPA or lower.

#1: Achieve High GRE or GMAT Scores

Earning a high score on the GRE or GMAT probably won’t get you into a top graduate school if you have a terrible GPA. However, it can make the difference if you’re on the fringe.

Plus, some schools that accept low GPA students require them to earn a high score on the standardized tests or achieve a certain percentile. Achieving a high score on the GRE or GMAT shows admissions counselors what you can do when you buckle down, study, and truly apply yourself.

Did You Know?

According to a study by Kaplan Test Prep in 2013, 51% of business school admissions officers shared that a weak GMAT score was the biggest application killer compared to 28% that said the same about a low undergraduate GPA.

#2: Low GPA Explanation Letter

As mentioned earlier, you'll need to know how to explain a low gpa for your grad school application. Many schools require that you write an essay, personal statement, or have an interview. These are all perfect opportunities to bring it up.

However, if the school you’re applying to asks specific essay questions or doesn’t have the other options, you can always write a GPA explanation letter.

Your letter shouldn’t be a list of excuses about how you thought getting a bachelor’s meant partying all the time. However, you should address the reasons why your grades were so low.

For instance, did you work full-time to avoid taking loans? Did you volunteer on weekends? Or, if you did just party the whole time, address how you’ve grown and why you’ll perform better as a graduate student.

#3: Major GPA vs Overall GPA

Sometimes, students don’t perform as well in classes outside their major because there’s no stress to perform at their best.

If this happened to you, and low grades outside of your major are dragging down your GPA, don’t be shy about addressing it, especially if you’re looking to earn a graduate degree in the same field as your undergraduate major.

This can show admissions counselors that you have acquired the foundation in that particular field to perform well while earning your graduate degree.

#4: References or Letters of Recommendation

Submitting high-quality references with your application can improve your odds of being accepted to grad school.

Some of the best references can come from professors of your higher-level courses while earning your undergraduate degree or your boss at work to show your professional experience.

#5: Professional Experience

Pursuing a graduate degree means you’ll perform in-depth analysis of a specific subject. And, while your low undergraduate GPA may hurt your odds, if you’ve had professional experience you’ve already performed some of the tasks that may be discussed in your classes.

When applying, most graduate schools ask for a resume where you can show your specific experience. But use your essay or personal statement to add more details about your responsibilities and how they would help you in your graduate degree studies.

#6: Apply for Awards and Competitions

Earning awards or attending conferences show that you’re an active member in your field. And, your goal as you apply to grad schools is to present yourself in the best possible way.

Add these awards or competitions to your resume or curriculum vitae (CV). This shows that even though your grades might not have been the best, you still learned the important lessons and are applying them outside of the classroom.

#7: Apply to the Right Schools

If you have a GPA below 3.0, you may have to search for schools that match your grades. This doesn’t mean lowering your standards. Instead, while some schools may have specific GPA requirements, others have different admissions requirements for different graduate programs.

Find the programs that are a good fit for you, your academic standing, and your future goals. For instance, some schools may place more emphasis on GRE or GMAT scores while others may focus on GPA.

Research a variety of schools and degrees to find the perfect program for you.

#8: Take Non-Degree Courses

Another way to show that you’ve grown from the person who earned a low GPA is to take non-degree or non-credit courses. Sometimes, these can even improve your GPA. However, most of the time they won’t.

Either way, taking these upper-level classes (and doing well!) will show admissions counselors that you’re ready for the rigors of earning a graduate degree. Plus, it’ll show that you understand the weakness of your GPA and that you’re trying to improve your odds.

#9: Seek Intermediate Degree

If some of the other options haven’t worked and you really want to earn a graduate degree, consider pursuing a graduate certificate. These are typically three to six courses in a specific subject and, similar to taking non-degree courses, can show that you’re ready for a graduate degree.

Plus, many graduate certificates allow you to use the credits you earn and apply them to your master’s degree. Of course, this is only if you attend the same school and a similar subject.

How Important Is Your GPA to Grad Schools?

Every school is different. For instance, top-tier schools such as MIT and Stanford are looking for as close to perfect a student as possible. But, there are plenty of other schools that focus more on test scores, your interview, your essay, and your entire application.

Everyone has a weakness. Luckily, if yours is a low GPA, there are plenty of ways to get around it to show schools that you’re ready to apply yourself and earn your graduate degree.

What Graduate Degree Do You Want to Earn?

At many schools, different graduate degrees have different admissions requirements. Usually, this depends on the school, the program, and the competitiveness of the degree.

For instance, at many schools, nursing graduate degrees are one of the harder programs to get into because there is so much competition. However, even at schools where the nursing program has strict requirements, the education graduate programs may not be as strict.

Therefore, it’s important to research individual programs and not just schools when it comes to applying to grad school with a low GPA.

And, if you’re pursuing an advanced degree in a competitive field, such as nursing, you may need to use more of the techniques mentioned earlier to improve your odds of being accepted.

Click on any of the sposored listings above for more information or complete the form at the top of the page to get matched to grad schols that fit your goals. 

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