Can I really make it into a top graduate school if I’ve never been a stellar academic?

It appears from your question that you really don't have strong passion for academics. So, it might be a really bad idea to get into a top graduate school. It might make you even more hopeless. Life is not easy in top schools, however strongly other people may make you believe it is. You compete with people who have very strong academic record and they are very driven to achieve their goals (grades, etc.)

It would be better to choose an average school where you might have a better chance of surviving as it will be easier to get grades and build your confidence. Then, once you are confident enough and are able to cope up with a normal school, you can try for a higher ranked school for the next higher degree if you are interested in it.

Good luck and don't lose hope. Life is not easy at top ranked schools. It is easier to get into average schools now and in the future also, it makes a life easier, because you don't carry the burden of a "Stanford" or "Berkeley" for the rest of your life.

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I like to blog about various topics ranging from education in IITs to social issues in India and US. All opinions and views presented here are my own and not of my employer.

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