Is My GPA Good Enough?

A Serbian student applying to graduate school in the U.S. asked the following question regarding how the different quantitative components of an application would be evaluated:

My current GPA is 7.5, and I am in the group of 50% better ones. So, my question is, does that automatically mean that I will be disqualified in application process because my GPA is not high enough? because, when I transfer my GPA to USA GPA, it is something above 2, which is,as I understand very low? …

about GRE, I will do well on quantitative, cause without preparation I had on my first testing something about 650 on my quantitative, and I write good essays, so I only have to work on verbal.. I I am aiming on 730-770 quantitative, above 500 verbal, and 4-5 on my essay task. Would that be enough for USA universities?

The full question and answer are on the International Student Forum, but I think the answer is interesting and useful for everyone, so I’m re-posting it here:

GPA

If you’re applying to any graduate school that is accustomed to working with international students, they will likely understand that your GPA is calculated differently and accommodate for the scale that your university uses.

For example, the website for the University of Michigan graduate school has a page about how to calculate your GPA for the application. On that page they say: “If you have attended or are currently attending an institution overseas you are not required to calculate a GPA.”

The FAQs for NYU’s graduate school include the following:

How will my international transcript be evaluated?
Every application from a student educated outside the U.S. is referred to one of the Graduate School’s advisors for review. The advisor reviews the transcript to ensure that the applicant has been awarded the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, or will be awarded such a degree by the time he/she is expected to enroll. If the applicant meets this criterion, the file is then forwarded to the department the applicant has applied to for admission. GSAS advisors are expertly trained, familiar with the educational systems and transcripts of many countries throughout the world, and have a wide variety of resources to call upon to assist them in reviewing credentials.

My university didn’t calculate a grade point average (GPA). How do I fill in that portion of the application?
The instructions on the application advise you to leave the GPA question blank if you attended a non-U.S. institution. Part of the training GSAS advisors receive prepares them to calculate U.S. equivalent GPAs based on the grades and grading scales used on international transcripts. The advisor who examines your application will review your grades and your institution’s grading scale, and will determine a GPA equivalent.

If you’re not sure how the schools you’re interested in will evaluate your GPA, you can always call their admissions office and they will be happy to talk to you.  For undergraduate admissions, the University of Michigan also has a great list of the qualifications they consider equivalent to a U.S. high school diploma.

GRE

Most schools don’t set a minimum GRE score that must be achieved. In fact, many explicitly state that there is no minimum GRE score that they require. Some schools do release information about the average GRE score for their incoming class though. Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, for example, says that the average GRE scores of admitted students in 2009 were:

Verbal: 572
Quantitative: 778
Analytical Writing: 4.3

This is based off the previous GRE test and not the new version, obviously. By contrast, many schools DO set a minimum TOEFL requirement, which we’ve written about in a previous post.

Now, let’s be clear.  The Student Union is not an admissions or advising service, and we’re in no way qualified to say what schools will or will not accept you.  Our specialty is sharing experiences and stories.  But we do know that most U.S. schools are eager to have international students, and they will make an effort to understand how your local educational system works when they evaluate your credentials.