Have I ruined my chance?
May 17, 2010 7:02 PM   Subscribe

I am an undergrad double majoring in Ancient History and Classics at a well known Classics department. I am about to start my senior year in the fall and I would like to enter into either an Ancient History or Classical Archaeology program following my senior year, but I believe I may have ruined my chances with some poor marks.

Up until now, I have been able to keep my grades high, 3.8966 GPA, but after this semester I believe I will make a handful of Bs if not worse which would drop my GPA down close to the 3.5 cut off point for many programs. For some reason, I decided at the end of last semester that it would be an excellent idea to take a bunch of rigorous history courses on top of my languages. Anyhow, will this bar be for getting into top grad programs?

By the way:

The GPA above above is just my current university GPA. I took a lot of course work at a community college where I earned a 4.0. I am involved in a personal research project with a faculty member in my department in an attempt to writing a senior thesis concerning a topic of Roman history. I should have enough of it done by application time to use it as my writing sample. I should have 2 years of German along with 3 years of both Latin and Greek once I graduate. I have good letters for know faculty members. And lastly, my GRE should be about average if not a little below. For, I am and never have been very good at those kinds of exams.

Well, do you think that I have ruined my chances of getting into top grad programs by making poor marks in a handful of classes in my major(s) so late in the game? Or am I just over reacting.
posted by Carnifex to Education (3 answers total)
Hi, I'm you a year from now. I got into a top 10 history program (with an Ancient History focus) with barely above a 3.5, due to some ill-advised choices as an underclassman. Don't sweat your GPA too much. What matters way, way more is that you use your application to convince professors that they should take a chance on you, via a clear and well-thought-out statement of purpose, a very polished writing sample, and letters from faculty members who aren't just well-known, but who have also worked with you personally and can speak to your research and writing skills.

That said (and I'm sure you're already planning on this), you should try to pull your grades back up so you have as close to a 4.0 as possible next semester, even if it means having no fun at all-- I think most reasonable professors understand that there's a serious learning curve involved with writing history well, but if you're ready to move onto the PhD level, you should really be shining in your department by the time you graduate (MA programs will probably be more forgiving if you want to go that route).

Good luck, and feel free to memail me if you have any questions about applications.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:29 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Apply to schools you have a good fit with, get great recommendations and you'll be all set. Your grades probably aren't as bad as you think they are---a few Bs shouldn't work that much against a 3.86 GPA! Unless you haven't taken many credits at your current university, you would have to do a LOT of damage to lose .36 points in one semester.
posted by supernaturelle at 6:21 AM on May 18, 2010

Listen, I am an archaeologist, a faculty member, and I look at graduate applications (although in anthropological archaeology). Low grades would be better early on in your career but are not fatal now.

At most schools it is the faculty you are trying to impress and different faculty weight each factor in a different way. Some faculty may look at those grades and instantly dismiss while others will not care and will look more at your GREs, your letters of rec, your statement, or your preparatory work.

It sounds like you are doing the kinds of preparatory work that is needed for these programs and that is really crucial. For the applications you will send off in the fall have your letter of recommendations speak to that semester and hopefully notify the schools that it was an aberration and you are now doing A work. For those you send off in January you will be able to include your fall grades. Most grad admissions will be done in the spring and you can voluntarily amend your early transcripts with your fall grades if that helps your case.

When I do graduate applications the first thing I ask is whether the student can do the work. I look at grades: can the student finish assignments and excel. I look to see if there is evidence the student can write: what is the verbal score on the GRE, how well is the statement of purpose written, and are there any red flags. If the student can pass that threshold I then ask whether they would be a good fit in our program this next year. Each faculty member will do this thought process a little differently.
posted by Tallguy at 12:19 PM on May 18, 2010

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