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How do I explain my Ws?

collwicollwi Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
edited August 7 in Graduate School
Hey everyone, I am projected to graduate in December with a degree in Poli Sci from a small state school. My dream has always been to attend a great MPP program, and I've spent a lot of time working towards that.

I currently have a 4.0 with 2 withdrawals (1 from overcrowding my schedule first semester freshman year, the second I dropped second semester sophomore year after going to the hospital). In addition I have had several internships and fellowships, as well as 3 independent research projects published and presented. I am an Eboard member of a political group on campus. I have not taken the GRES yet because most MPP programs want to see some full time work experience first. My GPA is unaffected by semesters abroad, though the credits and course names do appear. I spent one semester in Washington DC where I got all As, and another in Ireland. Here lies the problem.

I am unsure of how to state this politely because its integral to the post. I was sexually assaulted during this time, and when I sought help from my study abroad institution, I was blamed for the event (extremely, almost stereotypically so) by the therapist to whom I was assigned. This, coupled with the fact that I was alone and away from home, left me depressed and I let my grades fall to an A2, a B2, a B3, and a W.

I'm really, really nervous about how this will effect my chances of getting into a good grad school. I have spent a lot of time trying to understand what happened - one of my research projects was even about the treatment of women in Ireland.

Do you think any of this could be explained in an essay? I really want to stress that I'm not looking for a free pass and I do take responsibility for my grades. I understand that there are probably many people who have been in my situation or worse and have handled it better. I just want to know if this is the kind of thing a good school would care about or be willing to hear. If not, are my chances destroyed?


Post edited by juillet on

Replies to: How do I explain my Ws?

  • mademoiselle2308mademoiselle2308 Registered User Posts: 331 Member
    First, I am so very sorry to hear what happened to you. I really hope that since returning to the States you have gotten the help that you need - both physically, mentally, and emotionally. Please make sure you put your health (including mental and emotional health) first!!

    Anyway, to the question at hand. In my experience, most grad school apps have an "additional information or additional essay" to explain difficult circumstances. I think sexual assault would certainly fit the bill to fall in these sections. Anyone with a heart will understand how difficult that must have been for you. If you can and feel comfortable tying it into your essay about wanting to study the treatment of women in Ireland, I think that would not only be very brave of you, but also make a very compelling essay.

    I am in graduate school studying cancer and talked about how my mom's battle with and death from cancer while I was in undergrad was the motivator behind my interest in cancer research (and unfortunately took a toll on my grades). I got interviews at the overwhelming majority of grad schools I applied to. Many of my interviewers told me that at the end of the day, admissions committees are committees of people, and people understand when extenuating circumstances come up. Sexual assault certainly qualifies as an extenuating circumstance in my mind.

    In short, I think your chances are far from destroyed. Best of luck to you!!
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,304 Super Moderator
    First of all, I think you are a person who can get away with NOT explaining this at all, if you didn't want to. You have a 4.0. That means other than those two classes you dropped, you have PERFECT grades. You also sound like a competitive candidate otherwise - internships, fellowships, research projects, a semester in DC and in Ireland...you sound like an excellent candidate and I am sure that your two Ws and the Bs in Ireland will be a blip. In the face of the overwhelming evidence that you are an excellent student, I don't think those will matter. (In fact, if you are not admitted to good MPP programs, I would wager it's more likely because of lack of work experience post-college rather than anything in your record. Most MPP students have 2-3 years of work experience.)

    Your semester in Ireland is also a pretty good semester. Certainly nothing that needs explanation.

    That said, if you want to explain, you can use the same level of explanation that you used here in a brief supplemental essay. You can be explicit about the nature of the attack ("I was sexually assaulted and dealing with the aftermath thereof") or you can be vaguer ("I was the victim of a crime/I was assaulted and had to deal with navigating a foreign-to-me legal and support system").

    And many people have this situation and do far worse. Getting an A, two Bs and a W in the same semester you were assaulted in a foreign country actually shows a tremendous about of strength and fortitude. Your chances are definitely not destroyed - they wouldn't be even if your grades were not due to an assault.
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