There's been a couple of questions along the lines of "Can I get into X program with x.xx GPA?"

Should these questions be allowed? My concern is that are too broad or too particular. Thoughts?


5 Answers 5


I would like to see one nice CW question asking how to get into grad school with answers that would cover low GPA, low GRE, low TOEFL, limited research experience, bad references, bad undergraduate school, etc. A single answer with subsections might be better than multiple answers, just because a lot of information would be the same. We could then close these types of questions as duplicates.

I have created the CW question and started an answer: How does the admissions process work for Ph.D. programs in the US, particularly for weak or borderline students?

  • 3
    If we can get something like this started, I'm fine with typing away the section on the GRE. Then we can mark all questions as a duplicate of the primary question instead of closing.
    – Compass
    Feb 3, 2015 at 17:35
  • @Compass Please do! I really like this solution!
    – jakebeal
    Feb 3, 2015 at 22:32
  • 1
    @jakebeal potentially we want one question for masters programs and one for PhDs.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 3, 2015 at 22:41
  • @StrongBad Yes, I think that makes sense.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 3, 2015 at 23:27
  • 1
    I think that's a great idea. The only concern is whether these aspects would differ a lot between countries / fields (if we end up having to write something specific for applying to physics in Europe with low GRE and no research experience it would be better to have multiple questions than one super-long one).
    – xLeitix
    Feb 4, 2015 at 11:40
  • 2
    Pragmatically, I would keep this CW question about applying in the US (or US-inspired admission systems, as in some places in Asia). Admission in Central Europe seems different enough that I see little value covering it in the same question.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 4, 2015 at 11:43
  • 1
    and we can bracket the gpa by values of .2 with a scale from 0-100 of probability for acceptance for each group of 10 schools based on times rankings, applied to all fields... i it jokingly extreme, but i think these questions keep coming because there are so many times someone will say 'yea but i want to apply for physics phd, and my masters is chemistry with gpa 3.0, so my situation is different'. or is this pessimistic? Feb 4, 2015 at 12:11
  • @user1938107 I think there is a general answer about how admissions work that can handle the majority applicants, but PhD/MS admissions and US/UK/etc are very different. I think a general US PhD question would capture a lot of the problem questions.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:51
  • @user1938107 Sure, people would ask this - and we would close because we wouldn't agree that this is completely different.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 4, 2015 at 12:53
  • @Compass you should add something to the GRE section of the CW question I created.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 4, 2015 at 14:12
  • Noticing this recent question, I added a section for mismatched background. I don't have an answer, myself...
    – jakebeal
    Feb 6, 2015 at 14:46
  • @jakebeal I tried to cover that in the GPA section.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 6, 2015 at 15:02
  • @StrongBad Ah, I see that now... I've changed the header to make it clearer that this covers issues of major as well, and am voting to close the new question as duplicate.
    – jakebeal
    Feb 6, 2015 at 15:09

My immediate emotional response is well summarized by Ripley's line from Aliens.

Putting things in a somewhat less inflammatory way: I think these are terrible questions and epitomize the "specific advice for a very specific situation" closing reason. The reason why they are terrible is because:

  1. They are almost never generalizable (how many people are there with a 3.7 GPA from a mid-ranked Elbonian institution who double-majored in electrical engineering and llama-wrangling but did two semesters of research in an unrelated area with a nice professor who probably still remembers their name)

  2. The answers pretty much always boil down to "It will probably be pretty hard, but not necessarily impossible."

Because of this, I generally vote to close these questions whenever I see them, except in the unusual circumstance that neither problem #1 nor problem #2 applies.

  • 1
    And yet neither of the specific questions mentioned by RoboKaren has any close votes or downvotes, from you or from anyone else.
    – ff524
    Feb 3, 2015 at 7:14
  • 2
    @ff524 This is because both of these questions actually do not fall into the pattern that jakebeal mentions. The first one asks about any CS program (i.e., not all that specific, imho), the second one about any physics scholarship with a bad GPA. None of those questions is the epitome of "specific advice for a very specific situation", unless we assume that there are almost no people with crappy undergrad grades who wish to do grad studies.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 3, 2015 at 10:06
  • @xLeitix then... I'm not sure how this answers RoboKaren's question, which specifically cites those two examples.
    – ff524
    Feb 3, 2015 at 10:08
  • 1
    @ff524 I agree that it kinda doesn't. Jake's statement is completely correct, but the questions that RoboKaren means are not at all so clear-cut.
    – xLeitix
    Feb 3, 2015 at 10:09
  • Sorry, bad cases make bad precedent. :-(
    – RoboKaren
    Feb 3, 2015 at 17:42

My concern is that are too broad or too particular.

Hmm, how can they be both too broad and too particular :) ? Honestly, I think they are neither. The first question talks about getting into any CS program with mediocre grades, the second one about getting any physics scholarship with terrible grades. Both seem not super-specific to me. The only thing that is probably "wrong" with those questions is that it is very unlikely that there is a good, objective answer to them, more than "it's unlikely, but you can always try".

I personally don't find these questions overly interesting, but there is probably a large number of students out there for which they are relevant. So I would just let these questions be.

  • 6
    Just picking on your first sentence: questions can be (and often are) both too broad and too specific. E.g. we can't answer what will/should happen for the individual OP (too specific) and we also can't enumerate the entire range of possibilities that might occur for people like the OP (too broad). Sometimes there is no happy medium.
    – ff524
    Feb 3, 2015 at 10:32

I think these questions should be closed due to the fact that there are now such varying types of graduate/masters programs in these fields (e.g., Computer Science, the MBA, Law, MSIS (MBA + CS), etc).

At some schools it is implicitly known that the masters program is much more like the bachelors program, and at other schools, this may be explicitly made known (along with some requirement that remediary courses be taken the first year exclusively). While at others still, the curriculum may be designed to be totally soul-crushing from the beginning. There is a wide-range of hand-holding from 0-100 at institutions, and it hasn't really been quantified anywhere.

Thus these kinds of questions aren't really apples to apples unfortunately.

  • What does the difficulty of the programs have to do with these questions? Feb 7, 2015 at 15:28

I have taken the liberty of adding a generic question and answer for the questions we get regarding the GRE level required for entry to programs. There were a lot of these questions and they were very specific to the student, so I have tried to give a general answer that allows students to assess any GRE score against the data on their cohort. This could be a useful question to link to as a duplicate for questions of this kind. Hopefully that contributes something to this issue.

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