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Grad School -- Do I have a chance?

webbkswebbks Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
So. I'm starting to research graduate schools to start applications. Right now, I have about 15 schools on my list. 3 of them are masters programs, and 12 are Ph.D. programs, but the 12 are at top schools for my field, which is history.

I had a miserable freshman year; I got a D the first semester and failed a class the second semester. I ended up with a 2.9 GPA, or something like that. Since then, my GPA hasn't been less than a 3.5 per semester. I haven't taken the GRE yet. I have had three internships in my field, and volunteer experience in my field as well. I'm able to read, write, and speak three relevant languages. I'm in the honors society for my major and have presented, or plan to present, at the conference all four years. I was published in an undergraduate review. I'm also graduating with departmental honors because of my honors thesis.

I have something written in a personal statement about my grades: It would be disingenuous of me not to address the problems in my background, in relation to poor grades that I received freshman year. I faced a learning curve my freshman year while adjusting to a new environment, but have since excelled in my courses. Since then, I have committed myself to my studies and have made them my top priority, Because of the changes I have made, my GPA has been at least a 3.5.

Do I have a chance at getting into a good grad program? How many programs should I apply to?

Replies to: Grad School -- Do I have a chance?

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,783 Super Moderator
    You should only address/write something in your personal statement about your grades if you have some kind of good, compelling reason for the grade drop.
    ...The only time you should explain is if you have a good, compelling, and finished reason why your GPA is low. By "finished" I mean that the issue is unlikely to threaten your grad school progress, because it is either under control or doesn't exist anymore. A death in the family is an example - that's something that is very stressful and very compelling for tanking your grades, but also does not happen that often and is unlikely to have a big impact on graduate performance. A newly discovered illness is another - before you got the illness controlled it wreaked havoc on your life, but now that you know better and are in treatment you are controlling it, and look, you even got a 3.6 for the last three semesters in college.

    If your reason is that you goofed off earlier in college but got serious later, or you didn't realize you wanted to go to graduate school until junior year, or you just had a difficult adjustment to college that wasn't due to any particular illnesses...I wouldn't explain. Those are all really common things, but they're also not terribly compelling partially because they ARE so common. Moreover, they are not necessarily "finished." Who's to say that you won't also goof off the first two years of your PhD or that you [won't also] have a hard time adjusting to your new city for the MA program?

    For the reasons above, you don't want to write about difficulty adjusting to college - you have the potential to give off the impression that you have difficult adjusting to new environments, which a graduate program will be. You also definitely don't want to give off the impression that academics weren't your first priority (not because it's not realistic - that happens all the time - but rather because you just don't want that to be the focus).
  • webbkswebbks Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    So... what should I do? Not mention them and leave that open?
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,783 Super Moderator
    You can write a strong personal statement that doesn't necessarily mention them, yes. If you are super concerned you could have a single sentence in your statement that refers to it, or you can ask one of your recommenders that you trust to address it in a letter.
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