The students sometimes think a higher CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) is everything to secure graduate admission or funding. But, this is not everything or the sole criteria for assessing your candidature. While a strong academic record is important for graduate admissions, it is not the only factor universities, and graduate programs consider.
Graduate programs also consider other factors such as research experience, work experience, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. These factors help admissions committees to assess the applicant’s potential for success in graduate school and their fit for the program.
Your extracurricular activities and research can enhance your overall profile, even with a lower CGPA. While academic performance is important, it is not the only factor universities consider for admissions, especially for graduate programs. Admissions committees also consider extracurricular activities, work experience, research experience, and other achievements.
Your involvement with a club and two organizations and your part-time work experience demonstrates your ability to balance multiple responsibilities and commitments, a valuable leadership and networking skill in many fields. These experiences can also showcase your leadership, teamwork, and communication skills. Similarly, research experience can demonstrate your academic potential, even if your grades do not reflect it.
It is important to note that different universities and programs may have different requirements and priorities. Some may place more weight on academic performance, while others may prioritize work experience or research experience. Therefore, it is important to research the requirements and priorities of the universities and programs you are interested in and tailor your application accordingly.
In addition to highlighting your extracurricular and research experience in your application, you can consider taking additional courses or retaking courses to improve your academic record. This may demonstrate your commitment to academic excellence and willingness to work hard.
While a lower CGPA may present some challenges, it does not necessarily preclude you from pursuing your goals of studying abroad and conducting research. By showcasing your strengths and accomplishments in other areas and improving your academic record, you can strengthen your overall profile and increase your chances of being accepted into the programs and universities you are interested in.
Many students are seeking tips for obtaining a fully funded studentship at the postgraduate level, either for a master’s or PhDs. Getting fully funded admission for a PhD or Masters program can be a competitive process, but this is not impossible either. The people getting the fully funded admissions are human beings like all of us; they are not aliens from mars!
Below I am providing some tips on improving your potential for postgraduate admission. There are several criteria that universities and funding organizations consider when awarding scholarships or fellowships to students. Some of the main criteria include the following:
- Academic Excellence: Academic excellence is one of the most important criteria for getting fully funded admission to a PhD or Masters program. This includes a high GPA or equivalent and other academic achievements such as research publications, academic awards, and relevant coursework.
- Research Experience: Relevant research experience, such as working in a research lab or conducting an independent research project, can make a strong case for funding. This demonstrates that the applicant has the necessary skills and experience to undertake research projects for their graduate studies.
- Strong Letters of Recommendation (LoR): Strong letters of recommendation from professors or mentors who can speak to the applicant’s academic abilities, research potential, and work ethic are important. These letters should provide specific examples of the applicant’s achievements and potential for success in graduate school. Try to manage at least two LoRs from academics and one from professionals.
- Relevant Work Experience: Relevant work experience, such as internships or jobs in a related field, can demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to the field and ability to apply their academic knowledge in a practical setting.
- Research Fit: The applicant’s research interests should align with the research priorities of the department or research group they are applying to. This demonstrates that the applicant understands the field’s research landscape and can contribute to the research community.
- Publications: Publications in a good quality journal proves your research quality. Having at least 1/2 articles in any indexed or good-quality journal will improve your chance of getting admission with funding.
- Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose (SOP): The personal statement is an opportunity for applicants to explain their motivations for pursuing graduate studies and to showcase their interests and goals. It should demonstrate a clear understanding of the program, research group, and research area and explain how the applicant’s skills and experience align with the program’s goals. Look here to learn HOW TO WRITE A WINNING STATEMENT OF PURPOSE (SOP).
- Research Proposal: A well-structured research proposal will prove that you have a clear plan for your research project, including the research goals and outputs, the significance and nobility of your work, and a clear idea and knowledge of the methodology you explained. If this matches the research field and expertise of the professor you are approaching, it’s a further addition to your overall application.
- English Language skills: English language proficiency is important for graduate funding for several reasons. Firstly, this is essential for proper communication. As a graduate student, you must communicate effectively with your advisors, peers, and colleagues. The ability to read, write, and speak in English is crucial for effective communication, especially if you are studying in an English-speaking country or working with an international team. Secondly, it is essential to carry out your coursework. Most graduate programs require coursework that is taught in English, especially in English-speaking countries. If your English language skills are not strong, you may struggle with understanding lectures, participating in class discussions, and completing assignments. Thirdly, this is required for conducting your research project. Graduate research often involves reading, writing, and presenting academic papers, usually in English. If your English language skills are not strong, you may have difficulty understanding the literature in your field, communicating your research findings, and publishing your work. Finally, it’s for securing your funding. Many graduate funding opportunities require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in English. Communicating effectively in English is often considered critical for graduate school success. Often you might need to face an interview with the professors or the recruiting department with whom you will work. These meetings are arranged in English, so you must have strong English language skills. Overall, having a strong command of the English language, which you can prove with a good IELTS or TOEFL score, is mandatory. Some graduate schools, especially in the USA, may also ask for GRE or GMAT scores.
- Special achievement or awards: Having special achievements or awards can help demonstrate your excellence and suitability for the graduate research funding or admission you seek. For example, if you have received a research award, scholarship, or fellowship relevant to your proposed research or the graduate research program, you should mention it. Similarly, if you have received any academic awards or honors, such as graduating with distinction or receiving an academic scholarship, you may also want to mention them.
- Extracurricular activities: while academic achievement is undoubtedly important, a student’s participation in extracurricular activities can provide valuable additional information about their leadership and networking skills, administrative skills, character, talents, and potential. Therefore, it is wise for students to participate in activities beyond their academic coursework and document their involvement to showcase their potential when applying for graduate funding and admission. Students should get involved with student, youth, academic and professional societies or their activities to get their future work directions.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV): A well-structured CV is a crucial component of the application process for graduate funding and admission as it provides a comprehensive summary of an applicant’s academic achievements, extracurricular activities, work experience, and other relevant qualifications. Although there are some differences in the format and content of student CVs between Europe and North America, these differences are not necessarily significant if you provide all the key information needed for the admission committee to judge your candidature.
- Relevant software and technical skills: Software and technical skills are becoming increasingly crucial in graduate students’ admission and funding process for various reasons. Firstly, many graduate programs are becoming more interdisciplinary and require students to have diverse technical skills to succeed. For example, a graduate program in data science may require proficiency in programming languages like Python, a graduate program in social science may require quantitative software skills such as STATA or R and qualitative software skills such as Nvivio or Atlasti, and experience with database management and statistical analysis software. Secondly, in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, having relevant software and technical skills is becoming critical for success in many industries. Employers often look for candidates with specific software and technical skills that align with their business needs. These skills can help graduate students stand out in the job market. Thirdly, many graduate programs have research or teaching assistantship opportunities that require specific technical skills. For example, a student working as a research assistant in a biology lab may need to be proficient in using software for analyzing genetic data. Finally, relevant software and technical skills can demonstrate a student’s ability to learn quickly and adapt to new technologies, a valuable skill in any field. Admissions committees and funding organizations are looking for students who are well-prepared for the rigors of graduate study and have the potential to make meaningful contributions to their field. Possessing relevant software and technical skills can be one way to demonstrate that potential.
- Diversity: Many funding organizations value diversity in their scholarship recipients and consider factors such as ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background when awarding scholarships.
- Application Deadline: Being aware of application deadlines is essential for graduate students seeking funding and admission. Meeting deadlines allows students to be considered for opportunities, apply early to increase their chances, plan and prioritize their application materials, etc.
- Email sent to the professor/admission secretariat: Emails are essential for graduate funding and admission because they help students establish contact, demonstrate early interest and skills, create a positive impression on applicants, build relationships with their academic supervisor, and clarify doubts. See here HOW TO EMAIL A PROFESSOR REGARDING RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES OR A STUDENTSHIP.
- Membership in academic or professional society: Membership in academic or professional societies can provide graduate students with networking opportunities, access to research and professional development opportunities, scholarships, and funding opportunities, and can demonstrate their professionalism and commitment. These benefits can make a difference regarding graduate admission and funding.
Overall, getting fully funded admission for a PhD or Masters’s program requires a strong application that showcases the applicant’s academic abilities, research potential, and fit with the program and research group. Applicants should also research potential funding opportunities and apply to various programs to increase their chances of success.