The grade point average (GPA) of an undergraduate is usually a barometer of how well the student will perform in graduate school. A high GPA generally indicates aptitude and understanding of the subject matter and a propensity to work hard and do well in postgraduate studies. However, a less than stellar undergraduate GPA does not always mean a student will be unsuccessful in graduate school. Many factors contribute to a low GPA, ranging from immaturity and work conflicts to health issues or family problems, and an improvement in the problem area may result in a successful graduate school student.

Score high on your graduate school entrance exam. Most graduate schools require one of the following standardized tests: GRE, MCAT, GMAT or LSAT. Scoring high on your entrance exam demonstrates your scholastic ability and offsets your undergraduate GPA.

Retake one or two of the undergraduate classes in which you received low grades. At most schools, when you retake a class, the higher grade replaces the lower one and will raise your GPA. The low grades may still appear on your transcript but they will not be calculated in your GPA.

Start taking graduate classes without being formally accepted. You should be able to take at least three or four classes without being admitted to a particular graduate school program. Making an “A” in each class will demonstrate your aptitude for graduate school courses and increase your chances of being accepted into the program.

Volunteer at organizations that are relevant to your area of study. This demonstrates that you are serious about your field and also that you’ve gained valuable work experience in the area.

Use the graduate school application to explain issues with your GPA. On every application, there is a section that will be loosely titled, “Why Do You Want to Attend Graduate School?” or “Why Should We Accept You into our Program?” Use this section to state your case. Explain why your undergraduate grades are low, such as a death in the family or problematic illness, and list the steps taken to correct the situation. Focus on how this low point helped you achieve something greater and combine with your high points, such as volunteering, work experience, test scores or retaken classes.

Apply to schools that have a lower GPA requirement. Academic requirements vary from school to school. Find one that evenly weighs other factors and won’t penalize you for a less than stellar GPA.

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