How bad do low-grade semesters look on graduate school applications?
I'm a journalism major at a public research university. I was told by many professors that my experiences would trump my GPA so I wanted to do well but I definitely didn't obsess over grades. This year, I realized I want to get my master's degree in International Affairs and work either with an international non-profit or more likely in foreign policy/diplomacy.
In my fall freshman year semester, I had a 3.55 GPA, then a 3.54 GPA. I was an A/B student. I spent my full sophomore year doing an external study abroad program in Spain to learn about Spanish language and culture. I received credit at my home university but those courses didn't affect my GPA. They count as transfer credits.
When I came back fall semester, I had a 2.92 GPA and it wasn't because I was slacking. I had 2As (my school doesn't do A plus), a B, a C+, and a C-. (These were my first Cs!) One was in a math GenEd which I've always struggled in. The other was in a broadcast writing course and I got a bad grade on my final exam.
This semester though, I'm only taking 12 credits. I'm definitely going to get an A in one class but it looks like all my other courses are going to be Bs. I'm freaking out that I'm going to have a low GPA again and that grad school will look negatively and my junior year GPA will be a liability and I won't get into grad school. It will be above a 3.0 but it won't look like my freshman year GPA. I'm expecting a higher GPA senior year because I will be taking all courses in my major that I have hand-picked rather than required courses.
I'm a low-income, minority, first generation student. (I was taken away from my parents by child services as a kid and then adopted which is something I wrote about in my undergrad application). I attend college on scholarship. I think I'll write a good statement of purpose essay because writing is my strong suit. I'm professionally proficient in Spanish. I studied in Europe for a year (supported by scholarship and an international fellowship). After graduation, I want to teach abroad for a couple years in Asia because I'm interested in Asia and think it's an important area to focus our diplomatic efforts.
THEN, I want to apply to grad school. My dream is George Washington University. Their average GPA is a 3.44 so as long as I get my grades up senior year, I think I can get in. I'm just nervous about this year's grades. I'm waiting a bit after undergrad to apply so I can learn more about the type of international work I want to do and get some work experience. Also I saw the average age of several of the grad programs I was looking at were in the mid twenties.