Sometimes It's Best
to Say Nothing About a Poor Grade
The axiom that 'no one's perfect' holds
as true for college students as it does for anyone else.
Even serious, dedicated, hard-working students sometimes
graduate with a transcript that includes one or two poor
or even failing grades. Those grades can later become a
major source of anxiety for students who decide to apply
to graduate schools. What should you do if you're a grad school applicant
with one of those less-than-perfect college records?
Senior Consultant Heather MacNeill says that it's often
best to do nothing. "In most cases, I discourage
applicants from taking time and space in their
application to talk about low grades," she says. "It is
often hard to come across to the admissions committee
without sounding like you're trying to make excuses.
That said, it can be done. Some schools even provide
'optional essays' or additional space on the application
itself where you can add extra information."
Whether or not an applicant would benefit by using that
application space to explain the circumstances behind a
poor grade depends on how relevant the course in
question is to the program you're applying to. For
example, if you're applying to biomedical programs and
the poor grade you received was for a foreign language,
the admissions committees may not care that much. But if
the poor grade was for a biology or chemistry course and
is not offset by other evidence that you know the
subject matter and can handle the coursework, you may do
yourself more harm than good by not anticipating and
responding to the doubts committee members may have
about your scientific aptitude.
If you do choose to provide an explanation for a poor
grade, Heather recommends keeping your answer focused on
your present abilities and future goals. "As long as you
show the admissions committee that you learned from the
experience and came away with some valuable tools to
prevent poor grades in the future, then explaining the
grades can work in your favor," says Heather.
– Contributed by Senior Consultant Heather MacNeill, former Assistant Director of Graduate Admission at Pacific University.
What Picture of You Will Admissions
Committees Get from Your Application? That question
can be harder to answer than you might think – and a
wrong answer might make the difference between getting
into your target schools and being dinged. Our
consultants can help you avoid making that mistake. Call
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