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Oxford MPhil in IR - NOT meeting the min requirements. Should I still apply? Watch

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    Hi all,

    The following has been giving me immense trouble, so I decided to ask for advice on this forum.

    I just graduated from an ivy league school with a cumulative gpa 3.65. The gpa in my major (political science) is 3.9, and I got honors for my performance.

    I want to apply to Oxford's MPhil in IR course. The problem is that their minimum gpa requirement is 3.7. I emailed the department to ask whether somebody with a lower gpa would be considered, and the reply I got is the following:

    "Thank you for your enquiry about graduate studies in Politics and International Relations at Oxford University. Please note that we do require the overall mark, not selective marks. In the past our assessors have been quite strict in the application of the minimum entry requirement. Nevertheless, you are very welcome to apply."

    Of course, they encourage me to apply because that will drive their application numbers up, but I just don't want to put in the massive amount of work if a rejection is pretty much guaranteed. Instead, I could focus my efforts on the other schools.

    What do you think? Do you know of anybody who got into this course without meeting the minimum academic requirements? If so, what was different about this person?

    Thanks a lot!
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    They've said 'your welcome to apply', yes, apply. Otherwise you'll only doubt yourself.
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    I don't really know how gpa works, but surely a 3.65 will not make such a difference, seeing as the requirement is 3.7?
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    I think the 'welcome to apply' is a politeness - the key thing is that you don't meet what you are looking for in the overall GPA so you would most likely be wasting your time as well as theirs.
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    If you're happy at a £25 gamble, go for it. However, the course I'm on asked for a minimum of a 2:1, but they told me they could have filled the course several times over from those who had/were predicted to get firsts. If your references are sparkling, your writing sample is top notch and you can argue that your overall GPA is a false representation, you might have an outside chance. That said, IR is competitive at the best of times, so you could be struggling.

    However, lots of other good IR programmes are available in the UK- and many don't carry the £25 application charge. I'd have a look around elsewhere to be safe.
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    I would say that if you have a strong application in all other respects then give it a go. That said, I competition in recent years has been tough and I suspect that they may have been enforcing the minimum requirements increasingly tightly as a result. You sound borderline at best given the expected competition, but whether or not that is enough to put you off is entirely your decision. I suspect if the thought of £20 and a couple of hours' work is enough to put you off, it's not something you're dead set on.
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    You're just 0.05 off 3.7 right? Do they interview you (or give you a test)? 'Cos if they do, you'll have the chance to prove that you're better than your grade represents and maybe you'll impress them. Grades aren't all. Apply, really do!
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    You definitely won't get in if you don't apply. Otherwise, there are a fair amount of factors at play. A really good resume and/or reference letter could improve your chances, since you are so close to the mark. Also, the grade distribution at your university could make a difference; some Ivy League schools graduate a large percentage of their class with high honors and high GPAs while others are known to be harder graders. If you graduated in the top 10% or so of your class (with Magna or Summa *** Laude Latin Honors) I would think you've still got a good chance, especially if that is explained in a reference letter.

    I just graduated from an American university and am starting the Cambridge MPhil IR this fall. I was surprised that none of the schools I applied to asked for my GPA in major - they all only asked for cumulative GPA but they also requested transcripts.

    Have you considered LSE? Very strong MSc IR and a GPA requirement of 3.5 instead of 3.7 at Oxford and 3.75 at Cambridge.
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    I understand why you would be concerned but you may need to balance your application with something outstanding (extra-curricular acts, work, reference). Also, you should try to show a general interest in IR, away from what you do at University.

    I'm considering applying for the MPhil IR at Cambridge 2010/11 and I'm doing some research into a thesis proposal (which is compulsary). I'm having doubts about applying for the MPhil too because, although I've been predicted a 1st class, I'm a management undergrad and Cambridge state on the prospectus that a background in Politics, Law, Economics is prefered. This isn't going to stop me though, I was told today that to be successful you may need to take the odd risk and do things which do not seem certain/guarenteed at that time but which will bring about an expected end.

    I'll definately advise you to apply but you'll need to add to your application in other, more creative ways - i.e. find an interesting thesis proposal that is unique.
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    (Original post by international09)
    "Thank you for your enquiry about graduate studies in Politics and International Relations at Oxford University. Please note that we do require the overall mark, not selective marks. In the past our assessors have been quite strict in the application of the minimum entry requirement. Nevertheless, you are very welcome to apply."
    That's quite a noncommittal reply, really. Nice, but not terribly helpful.
    The administrator you emailed is saying that based on the information you gave him in your email (presumably just your averages), he can't discourage you from applying, as there's still a possibility that you'll get an offer anyway based on other factors of your application (which he doesn't know about because you didn't mention then, and it's not his decision anyway), but he can't wholeheartedly encourage you either, since an average which is lower than required would usually rule you out. Ultimately the assessors' decision, though and the administrator can't speak for them, obviously.
    So what you've got there is basically just a polite "I can't tell whether you have a chance, sorry". Nothing much in the way of either encouragement or discouragement. So it's up to you to judge whether the rest of your application might be strong enough for the assessors to make an exception to their general strictness about GPAs.:dontknow:
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    (Original post by Flying Cookie)
    You're just 0.05 off 3.7 right? Do they interview you (or give you a test)? 'Cos if they do, you'll have the chance to prove that you're better than your grade represents and maybe you'll impress them. Grades aren't all. Apply, really do!
    No interviews, no tests. What is there on the application is what you are judged on. That is to say: your CV, your GPA and classes, your two writing samples, and your statement. To the OP - I too came into Oxford Politics from a top US school. However, I do want to say - they were pretty harsh on my GPA cutoff. They were very clear that even though I had above a general 3.8 in total GPA and a 3.9+ in my major, I still would only be accepted if my final grades were above a certain cutoff. I want to say mine was 3.75.

    However - if you have a strong writing style and can show them maybe where your grades were off, it cannot hurt - can it? But do know that Oxford IR is similar to Ivy League admissions. It's all a numbers game and a game of chance. Sometimes they will take from the lower groupings and other times they only pick from those with the top marks.

    What I would stress is to make your application unique. Present yourself and your writing style strongly. Additionally, if you have work experience or have been published in IR (not school related) - that could be a huge factor.
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    Thanks to all of you! I find the advice offered extremely helpful.

    I think what I'll do is focus on putting together strong applications for my top choices. If I have the time/energy left after that to put together another strong application, I'll give Oxford a shot.

    Thanks again!
 
 
 
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