Dear Career Doctor:
I am Ugandan, attended university in Uganda and didn’t really pass well (CGPA 3.1 on a 5 point maximum). My desire however is to study Global Health at Emory, Harvard or University of Washington, so I have postponed grad studies to obtain experience that might make my application appealing to these universities. The down side to this is, accumulating the experience will take me long (3 more years) and I have got a chance to instead study something else (which I am not passionate about) starting next year. Should I take the offer, or wait and apply for my dream graduate program in my dream university later?
When my son wanted to visit the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college slightly less difficult to get into than Harvard, the admissions officer said to the prospective students, “I assume you all have straight A’s, or you wouldn’t be here.” My son looked at me and said, “I thought you were lying when you said grades count so much.”
The good news is that you will get extra-credit in your admissions application for being from Uganda, since American universities like diversity. They also pay attention to recommendations from people whom you have worked for after college. But I don’t think you will be able to get into Harvard or Emory with the equivalent of a C average, since you will be competing against people with much higher grade point averages.
Here is my advice: take the job, especially if it will give you experience in the health, or global health field. Do well and hope that your boss will write you a great recommendation for graduate school. Also, take some science courses and try to get A’s. This will show graduate schools that you are capable of doing the work.
Don’t give up your dream of getting a graduate degree and working in global health. However start researching some “safety schools” that are less competitive, but will give you a good education. There are plenty of them.