Many students pursuing their bachelor's in Bangladesh do not even apply for higher education abroad even though their goal is to obtain a master's or PhD in the USA. Why? Because they believe that an average or a low CGPA will lead to rejection or inadequate funding.
The writer has been in conversation with Tanin Zaid, Tuhinur Rahman Chowdhury and Mohaimenul Islam Chowdhury, who are studying in the top to mid-rank universities with an average CGPA in the USA, with good funding opportunities. They have given some insights, tips and tricks regarding the matter.
Make up for CGPA with other elements
Tanin Zaid, an Alumni of the Department of Political Science at Ohio University, while having a conversation with the writer, mentioned, “Universities actually evaluate someone based on their overall profile where CGPA is one part of the application.”
“If someone has a low CGPA, he/she can focus on other yardsticks like having good scores in IELTS and GRE, some extraordinary ECA, strong SOP, and so on. They will need to make up for their poor GPA with other things on the application package.”
For example, one may have a 3.25+ CGPA, 6.5+ IELTS score and a great statement. If someone has any publications or research experience, it would make the profile more competitive obviously, however, it is not required.
The admission package will be awesome if anyone has a good balance on everything or in most yardsticks.
Especially, the quant score in GRE adds extra value in STEM subjects as well as in Economics.
Tuhinur Rahman Chowdhury, doing a Master's in Agribusiness and Applied Economics at North Dakota State University, thinks the same.
“To ensure funding, it is essential that you focus on getting a high score in the quant part. You can get fully funded admission to a PhD program with no prior research experience and average CGPA if your quant score is above 163/165.”
He further mentioned, “To ensure funding and stipends, Verbal scores are the most essential factor in other social science programs. You should also think about getting a decent IELTS score.”
“The speaking section of the IELTS exam is crucial for funding. When a department provides a teaching assistantship (TA), the speaking score on the IELTS Exam is mostly considered.”
If obtaining funds for a PhD is not possible, one can pursue an M.S. degree. Even with a poor GRE score, having an M.S. degree from the United States will greatly assist you in getting a PhD offer from a top-ranked university, suggested Tuhinur Rahman.
Research can help big time
“Although research expertise is beneficial in securing funding, it is not required. You can still get in with funding if you have a high GRE score and an average CGPA,” he further added.
However, Tuhin advised conducting research during undergraduate studies for the ones who are planning to go for higher education abroad from the very beginning. It will assist the recommenders in writing a solid reference on your behalf. Even if the research isn't published, having a term paper or project to work on can be quite beneficial.
Go for the apply-based universities
About the university ranking and requirements, Mohaimenul Islam Jowarder, who is pursuing his master’s in Management of Information Systems at Lamar University, mentioned, “The universities which rank after 1000 often except students with no CGPA requirements, here one have to look whether the university program is apply based or research-based.”
“Usually research-based universities ask for higher admission requirements, the apply-based ones do not require a high CGPA.”
However, the candidates should pick universities which match their research interests, and state positions as well. If one doesn’t have any research experience he can still get funding by managing the professors for STEM programs; for Non STEM or social science programs, central funding is given.
The graduate coordinator should be the contact person for basic communication. However, for PhD, Professors should be contacted in most cases.
For mid-low ranked universities in the USA, one should search for it as Tanin Zaid mentioned.
“Higher CGPA is mostly expected by the top-notch universities in most countries. Low CGPA holders should look for the mid and lower mid-ranked universities that have minimum CGPA requirements like 2.5-3.0 on average.”
“To find the universities, usually, a google search is sufficient or there are some websites like usnews.com that share detailed information about universities with ranking,” remarked Mohaimenul.
Those who want to shift their career in a different stream from their bachelor’s also have several opportunities in the USA. Mohaimenul Islam obtained his bachelor's in Development Studies from Bangladesh University of Professionals but now he’s pursuing his master's in Business studies stream.
He said, “It is important to work hard during your higher studies in the USA, if you work hard you can take any subject in your master’s but you must match sufficient prerequisites while picking the university program.”
For the students who are pursuing their bachelor’s currently in Bangladesh, if they are sincerely committed to higher education, a low CGPA will not deter them. Many institutions accept applicants with low CGPAs, as may be seen on university websites. In that case, you'll need a solid GRE score to demonstrate your worth.
Tips for long-term planning
Tuhinur Rahman’s tips for them are - “If you are a first-year or second-year undergraduate student, my advice is to concentrate on coursework and maintain a respectable CGPA.”
A student's cumulative grade point average (CGPA) is an important factor in determining whether they will be admitted.
However, Tuhinur detailed, “At the same time, you can begin studying for the GRE as early as your second year. For the GRE, you don't need to study too much; one hour each day should suffice. Just maintain yourself on the track.”
Lastly, Tanin Zaid concluded, “Just try to make your application package lucrative. Make your other materials on the application package good enough to cover your average result.”
“For country preference, start with the USA as hundreds of universities accept students with low CGPA. In a nutshell, you have a fair chance to get admission with funding like other toppers in your class.”
Simply put, a low CGPA can snatch your chance for higher education abroad is a myth and many have shown the reality by busting this myth. All it needs is proper knowledge of the system and where to focus when CGPA is not strong.