How important are grades?

Grades alone are less important than the overall combination of qualities (which might include research, service, leadership, and so on), but they are still significant.

  • General:  Nominees for prestigious fellowships generally have GPAs at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Marshall: The Marshall Scholarship requires a GPA of 3.7 or higher, and in practice most fellowships also look for a similar level of academic achievement.
  • Truman: 3.5 - 3.6 with outstanding grades in upper-division courses in their field of interest, along with several years of public service.
  • Udall: The average GPA of Udall Scholars is 3.7, but some Udall winners have had GPAs as low as 2.8 or 2.9 combined with exceptional accomplishments related to the environment in other areas
  • Goldwater:  Most Goldwater Scholars have GPAs in the range of 3.9 - 4.0. 
  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship: Most applicants for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowships have GPAs of 3.7 or higher, but applicants with less competitive GPAs have won awards if they show substantial improvement in their grades and a very strong application in other respects, including the proposed plan of research and very supportive letters of reference.

Near perfect grades are never, by themselves, enough to win.  So many students with excellent grades apply for these awards that other aspects of the application are more decisive.