Dear Mentor:

Can my good GRE outweigh my bad GPA?

Mine is something of a unique case in that I have a decent GRE but I have low GPA. I am a student of Bangalore University and I have a 54% score (which maps to a low GPA). I have already taken GRE and my score is 2200: Quantitative-800, Verbal-680 and Analytical-720. I have worked in telecom companies for the past 3 years. I would very much like to do a Master's. However I have been putting it off for a long time because I have very poor academics. I can get excellent recommendation letters from people I work with, and from some of my lecturers too. Do you think that would help? In general, I think I am capable and can compete well, but my academics do not reflect my potential at all. Do you think I could make it through any of the top 50 universities in the US? I am planning to apply to about 10 universities. Where do you think I should apply? Which bracket of colleges should I go for - 75 to 150 ? Or, could I be a little more ambitious? Which colleges do you think would accept me? Please suggest some colleges. Any advice at all on any matter would be very helpful.

Academics vs GRE, Bangalore, India

Dear Academics vs GRE:

Although many schools would suggest that they would consider all aspects of a candidate's performance, the greatest emphasis is placed on the past academic performance and the GRE scores. Work experience is relevant - it offers additional insights into the potential for success - but it is seldom a significant factor (except for an MBA). Letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose do also make some difference. Of course, each school has its own selection criteria and there are exceptions. How a particular school would judge your overall application is difficult to determine. But we can make some informed observations based on the information you have provided.

Your GRE score is good. This is liable to attract the attention of admissions officials. As we have done in the iMahal College Finder, you should divide the prospective schools into three categories: Reach - where it is likely to be a struggle to get admission; Target - where you are likely to get admission; and, Safety - where you are all but assured admission. The iMahal College Finder is likely to give you somewhat biased results, since its results are based on historic GRE data only, and our assumption in the iMahal College Finder is that your academic performance reflects your GRE performance.

Because colleges do not disclose their specific admissions formulas, but only the elements of the criteria, the guidance we offer is based on our personal knowledge and experience. It is highly unlikely that you would be admitted to the top 10 engineering schools. The reason is simple: they can attract candidates who not only have excellent GRE scores but also have excellent academic credentials. There is a slim chance that you would be admitted to the top 11-30 schools. Since you wish to apply to 10 schools, you may wish to target 2-3 schools in the top 11-30 range. You may wish to target another 2-3 schools in the top 31-50 range, and the remainder in the top 51-100 range.

We do not rank colleges, nor do we recommend particular schools to anyone. There are many independent sources that are in the business of ranking schools. We direct your attention to the iMahal List of US Engineering Colleges and Universities and the Rankings Section for US Engineering Colleges.

We encourage you to attach a strong statement to your application on why you believe that your academic performance does not reflect your potential. Your letters of recommendations from current and/or former professional colleagues and superiors and from your university professors should also make a strong case for your potential for success. Letters of recommendation should be specific (not generic) and should cite specific exams of your intelligence, diligence, and ethics to show why the recommender believes in your potential for success. All in all, the recommendations should be enthusiastic and powerful.

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