A number of recent queries from nontraditional and international learners have asked, “Are my marks/grades good enough?” As more people return to study or cross borders (and systems), this question becomes ever harder to answer. For the record: I am not in a position where I personally can ever give a definitive yes or no because that is always the job of the university or college but here are a few observations:
- Normally. This word, or its cousin ‘usually’, crops up frequently in admission criteria. That is because universities are well aware that outstanding students can have very unorthodox education histories
- Grade requirements are written with the ‘standard’ student in mind. If you have taken a few years out or are changing countries, it is possible that a grade does not tell enough of the story.
- Some people have frankly terrible grades when they are 18 but, two decades later, try a course, get an acceptable grade and suddenly get the study-bug and some great grades. This is where ‘normally’ becomes very useful but you still have to check for coverage of essential subjects.
- Essential subjects are rarely optional – but the exact title of the subject may be open to interpretation. For example, if a college says you must have studied American history that may be aimed at the traditional US American student and study of your own country’s history might be a suitable substitute.
- ‘Must have 70% or higher in X’ is almost meaningless when working across borders and even worse when working across a gap in education. Is 70% a high score for that subject in the country to which you are applying? Is your 48% from your own country at a higher or lower level and is it still current? Was it ‘almost impossible’ for anyone to gain over 50% all those years ago when you took the exam? Credit evaluation services exist to help you sort out this kind of problem but just asking yourself the basics can save time, money and effort.
- If you are fairly sure you can make a good case to invoke ‘normally’ and gain admission with different grades, it helps a lot if your spoken and written use of the university’s teaching-language is excellent.
- Good universities and colleges understand they have a duty of care to those they accept. When they accept someone, it is in the reasonable belief that the student can benefit from the programme and will be successful if the student does all the work. As an applicant, you may have to put in some extra effort in explaining why you want to enter without meeting normal admission criteria but, if you have a good case, it is possible – normally.