What To Do With Average Grades and Lack of Work Experience When Applying for Graduate Scholarships

We've all been there: that nagging feeling that we're not good enough. So when our dear reader Isabel asked us for some advice about what to do with her average grades and lack of work experience, we thought we'd post our two cents on how to make up for them, right here as part of our Ask Anything series.


I’ve just graduated last year and recently passed my board exam. My heart somehow tells me to study abroad immediately for a master’s degree even if I don’t have a work experience. I’ve actually gotten accepted at a UK university. However, I’m currently finding some scholarships to support myself. I also applied to an Erasmus Mundus programme and I hope I could get accepted. But my question is:

  1. Would it look bad on my CV if I didn’t have work experience? (I did have my internship, however). I’m kinda worried because I don’t have a work experience yet because I just recently graduated.

  2. My grades aren’t as good but I did have a publication and have a lot of extracurricular activities during my undergraduate years like being a president of an organization. But are grades really important in Erasmus Mundus?


Here's our response:

To answer your first question, it's true that work experience is valued in Erasmus Mundus applications. However, there's no harm in trying even if you're a fresh grad. I know several scholars who applied and got accepted straight out of college. As I always say, it also depends on other factors such as your motivation letter, your references, and whether or not you're a good fit with the programme (and vice versa). Concerning your second question, I'm living proof that grades alone won't make or break you. I didn't have straight A's (or 1's in our grading system ) and didn't graduate with honors, but I still made it. 


I suggest that you make up for these "weaknesses" by highlighting your publication and extracurricular activities on your CV. Having something published straight out of uni is no easy task, so you should definitely play to that. Craft a strong narrative of how these could be an asset in your participation in the master's programme. Grant judges are not just concerned with what you have already achieved but also what you're yet to do and become. So as long as you could show them that you have a clear idea of your purpose (respond to a social problem, pursue research, work in the community, etc.) and you're able to tie that neatly with the objectives of the programme, then the fact that you don't have stellar grades and work experience could be rectified. 


Follow the steps in our guide for writing an effective motivation letter and cross your fingers. You can only do so much, so relax and be okay with knowing that you did your best! 


Thanks for reaching out, Isabel, and good luck to all of you our dear readers! We wish you all the best.