How important are grades for grad school admission?

Grades matter for admission

A recent op-ed piece in UCLA’s Daily Bruin asked students how important grades are to the grad school process.  Here are their comments with some insight into how the admissions committee may feel about the subject.

Cerina A.
First-year mathematics student
“Good grades do matter … if you have good grades, you’ll be doing more activities and internships and doing well in those activities.”

  • This comment points to the fact that many admissions committees use holistic reviews to somehow balance grades with leadership activities, community involvement, and work experience.
  • It is not clear if good grades lead to the other activities, but having both is certainly better for your application than only one or the other.

Margarita M.
Fourth-year microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics student
“Extracurriculars are a lot more important (than grades). Some students are better test-takers than others. Grades don’t reflect the intelligence of a person in a hands-on work area.”

  • It is likely a rare admissions committee that would deem extracurriculars more important than grades.  This suggests grades don’t matter, but in reality they are quite important.  If a student shows no academic potential through their past performance, they are less likely to gain admission.
  • Test taking skills do vary from student to student, so standardized tests are interpreted with caution.
  • Most of the indicators admissions committees have to review do not indicate intelligence.  They do however show success in past academic and professional settings.  This record of an applicant’s behavior is very valuable to the decision process.

Fabiola G.
Third-year history student
“I don’t think grades matter as much versus internships where I get experience. For grades, I go to a class and probably end up never using what I learned in the real world.”

  • Internships and other professional experiences can matter a great deal to admissions committees, depending on whether the program is “professional” or “academic” mostly.
  • For PSM, MBA and other types of professional programs, experiences matter a great deal.  Indeed experience can be a tiebreaker between two otherwise qualified applicants.

Shamim N.
Third-year microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics student
“Really, both are extremely important in terms of getting into grad school … and in the long term in getting a job. There’s a balance of two that is required.”

  • I couldn’t agree more.  Each admissions committee looks for their own balance of academic and professional qualifications.  Applicants that present a portfolio of qualifications matching that balance are those most likely to earn admission.
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