The academic profile and admission requirements vary from university to university. It’s important to find a department that feels like an academic home to you.

Academic opportunities

You do not need a defined research proposal to apply to graduate programmes in the USA. However, if you know what you want to study, make sure the university offers degree concentrations in the areas that interest you.

There’s also more to the academic side of university than the subjects on offer. Think about which of the following are important to you, and in what ways:

  • Areas of faculty expertise
  • Core curriculum requirements and electives
  • Opportunities to work with faculty on projects, papers and conferences
  • Discretionary funds for academic opportunities
  • Available facilities and equipment

Admission requirements

It’s important to be realistic about your university choices in terms of what academic profile they are looking for.

Some of the top-tier graduate programmes in the USA admit fewer than 10% of all students who apply. These universities are looking for academically excellent applicants who have exceptional extracurricular involvement.

However, there are thousands of graduate schools in the USA, so academic expectations range from high to low. You do not need a high first-class bachelor's and a master's degree with distinction to be admitted to a good graduate programme in the USA.

In general, American graduate schools will at least be looking for:

  • Bachelor's degree with a minimum 2:2
  • Very few modules with lower than average results
  • Some sort of extracurricular involvement


US universities don’t have specific entry requirements like British universities.

They do publish the grade point average (GPA) that their first year (freshman) students achieved in high school. This can be usually be found on the admissions section of a university’s website, and is out of 4.0.

Use the table below to average all your university results into a GPA.

This will help you know if a university’s academic profile is within your reach.

Graduate schools will also publish the average or range of admissions scores their admitted students typically receive.

You should always report your UK grades when applying, not your GPA equivalent. This is not an official conversion, and is only to be used in judging your competitiveness.
GPA UK module marks UK degree classification GPA
4 70+ First class honours 4
3.7 65-69 Upper-second class honours 3.7
3.3 60-64 Upper-second class honours 3.3
3 55-59 Lower-second class honours 3
2.7 50-54 Lower-second class honours 2.7
2.3 45-49 Third class honours 2.3
2 40-44 Third class honours 2
1 35-39 Ordinary/Unclassified 1
0 Below 35 Ordinary/Unclassified 0