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Articles / Applying to College / Do Top Grad Schools Admit Applicants from Less Selective Colleges?

May 14, 2008

Do Top Grad Schools Admit Applicants from Less Selective Colleges?

Question: I am a freshman at a public university that is not very selective. I never got spectacular grades in high school and was the athlete who was "too cool" to study. I ended up with a 3.5 GPA and was admitted here with a full-tuition scholarship for four years. Now that I'm in college, I've put great effort into my studies and have a perfect 4.0 GPA. I like biology, and I think I want to go on to get my Masters. My concern is that, by attending a middle-of-the-road state university, I will not be accepted by a good grad school. Should I transfer to a better college?

Congratulations on your outstanding college record so far. You can certainly apply to transfer to a more selective college, if you so choose. Your best bet, however, would be to wait until next year to start the application process, with the aim of transferring as a junior. That way you would have three semesters of college work under your belt before application deadlines which would maximize your chances of admission to a highly competitive school. This would also enable you to keep costs to a minimum by staying where you are for as long as possible.


BUT ... there is really no need to transfer if your objective is to attend a top graduate school. Grad school admission committees--just like undergrad admission committees--value "diversity," and thus they like to see a range of undergraduate colleges represented in their incoming class. You may find that it will be beneficial (as well as cheaper!) to stay where are so that you can be a "big fish in a small pond." Keep up the good work you've done so far, and also ask your professors about research and internship opportunities, either during the school year or over the summer. Look for ways to get involved in extracurricular activities and, especially, to take on campus leadership roles.

Having strong credentials at your undergrad college is much more important to the grad-school admission folks than the prestige of the college you're attending.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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