How can my application to a prestigous graduate school be strengthen?
I have recently graduated with a Bachelor of science majoring in physics and mathematics-a GPA of 2.8-2.9 / 4.0.
After graduating from a good polytechnic with a diploma in material engineering equivalent to second year University in most countries -after credit transfer-I opted instead to pursue a three year bachelor of science in physics and mathematics in another country.
I received a grade A- for a one year long research program core to the diploma program in the polytechnic I was enrolled into. My supervisor for this project was a research in my polytechnic and now a technical director of a firm involved in research into polymers and composites.
The year I was involved in my final year research project is the year I lost my brother to an accident; my mum passed away at age 11 of me.
Turning this around:
Graduate admission typically requires a personal letter and, par for the course, would help for me to turn the above into strength in the face of adversity.
Undergraduate grades suffered in my second and third year-primarily due to severe mental health issues and an inability to cope under time pressure in an exam; failed three final year subjects at ~30 but consequently scored 58-60 for the same subject retaken in the following year.
This is a doubling of the grades into a credit/ close to credit range-not the best but a huge improve while keeping in mind my struggle with my mental health.
I have a physics professor Y who took me for two semesters for most subjects and is fully aware of a genuine inability of mine to cope under time pressure in an exam - questions published in an assignment for which I score full marks, I score poorly in the exam for that same question and this general trend is observed in many instances.
The faculty head of physics-an alumni of an Ivy league- say, professor X, whom I communicate with often is aware of this issue communicated to him - both by me and the professor Y.
2.1) I have demonstrated solutions to the exam questions for which I panicked under time pressure - either right after the exam paper or as a causal take-home back-of-the-envelope attempt.
2.2) Questions on the exam for which the class is unable to answer, I was the very few who could.
The department head of physics has offered to be my referee for academic and employment purpose- and so has a math professor who is the chair of a national research group.
Turning around 2) and 3):
In light of 2), I have no reason to think that any professor who has volunteered to be my referee or/ and willing to comment on my enthusiasm has any intention to speak poorly of me-it seems superfluous work to achieve what could have been by simply not being my referee.
If the letter of recommendation provided by my academic referee is able to shed light on the fact that my GPA is not an indication of my abilities and that I continued to persevere through my program despite the setbacks , I may in fact have a strong application, I think.
I'd like to know what my chances are and if my application can further be strengthen.