right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
We’ve got a new look! Walk through the key updates here.

I joined a fraternity and partied for the last 3 yrs- now I'm paying the price. help?

stridddestriddde 1 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2 New Member
edited January 2008 in Parents Forum
Three years ago, I came to CC as a well-rounded valedictorian curious about the art and tricks associated with applying to highly selective institutions. You taught me about hooks, helped me find what ivy I was a match for, and helped me get in early. I'm very thankful - and I've tried to do my part to help new applicants learn what you've taught me each subsequent year.

Now, 3 years later I approach you once again for help. But this time I'm a very different candidate, which I'll explain. I write this with two goals: to plea for advice, and maybe scare some people who still have time into doing their work. I could go into tons of detail, but I'll try to just stick to the quick facts.

These grades, while mediocre, did require work, a lot of work - but not nearly the level of work required by an ivy. I tried to balance a highly social life with a serious academic life, and sometimes I'd prioritize the first.

First semester, I was excited and ready to work, and got a 3.4. Not great, but I had a lot of fun, and that's not disaster territory.

Second semester - I joined a fraternity while taking the max load for classes. Bad idea. My GPA plummeted to a 2.8, and my would-be major GPA a fantastic 2.6. The next year and a half was pretty similar - I got really involved with the fraternity, became social chair, and actually started planning the parties that were responsible for my academic demise. Don't get me wrong - I had a lot of fun, more fun in one and a half years than in my entire life, but all at the price of my future options.

As this happened, I stopped caring about grades - and began justifying my work ethic and poor grades because I didn't want to end up like the sops in the library on friday night (lame, antisocial, slow, nerdy, etc). While I'd still study frequently - more often than not it was social studying, where we'd mostly goof off instead of doing any serious work. I spent my weekends with girls instead of studying for monday midterms, learned but never memorized material because I was lazy, and never did more than the minimum asked or attended a single office-hours for the same reason.

Now I'm learning the graduate school game, and I'm terrified of these average GPA's I'm seeing. The partying did sort of pay off- for example, shmoozing got me into a nobel-quality lab of which I am now a star (I seem to be much better at real work than grades). The variables of the biology (my major) graduate school game seem to be GPA, GREs, lab work/work experience, LoR's, and interviews. I'm a biology major with a minor in math. My GPA(s) are: 3.05 cumm, 2.99 biology, 2.82 chemistry, and 2.50 math - making my science GPA a 2.81. But this is not a chances thread - I'd like to propose a very specific question:

I will get grad school interviews because I've been lucky enough to make good connections and impress the right people while I've been at school. However, the question is going to come up:

Why are your grades so bad?

How would you answer it? Should I tell the truth:

My grades suck because I'd rather party and meet girls, I don't feel like memorizing something I can look up in minutes, and some of the teachers I've had have managed to make an intrinsically fascinating subject boring. I never cheated myself from learning, but never went the extra mile.

Or do you have a more tactful response? Thanks, I sincerely appreciate it, and sorry for the novel.
edited January 2008
20 replies
Post edited by striddde on
· Reply · Share
«1

Replies to: I joined a fraternity and partied for the last 3 yrs- now I'm paying the price. help?

  • APOLAPOL 1752 replies30 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,782 Senior Member
    IMHO...you know your GPA will cause some admissions officers to discount your application right off the bat. At the same time it looks like you had options and made decisions that in retrospect may cost you your first or second choice grad program, but may still allow you to attend your third or fourth choice depending in how you "package" yourself.
    You are asking good questions-and crafting some good explanations. You may not be the "steller" applicant based on GPA, but you seem to hold promise based on your lab work/connections. You have everything to gain by putting your best foot forward, and know that you may have to pay a heavy price for decisions made while in college. Don't despair-give it all you have got.G'Luck!
    · Reply · Share
  • BigredmedBigredmed 3726 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,752 Senior Member
    1) This isn't the fraternity's fault. It doesn't seem like that's where your placing the blame, but I know that many on CC will make the conclusion, especially as you've titled this thread. This does fall on your decision making and you seem to make a lot of statements that recognize that.

    2) Honesty is the best policy always. You have to address these issues because they're plain and obvious. You don't want people guessing why you got certain grades.

    3) I think there are better ways of telling your situation though. You have a lot to talk about though. A more tactful way of saying what you wrote at the end of this post is an appropriate place to start, but you need to then talk about what you've realized, if and how you've changed, why your performance in the future will be different, and how this experience doesn't disqualify you from going to grad school, and perhaps most importantly - how/why this will make you a success in your career as it progresses.

    I don't know what all the answers are to this, but you need to figure it out. I'd spend a lot of time working on this exact interview question...or even figuring a way that you can broach the subject early in an interview. This is not something you can hide from, and if you don't set the record straight with a thoughtful, carefully constructed explanation, it will cripple your chances at many places. Your best hope is to never shy away from talking about it.
    · Reply · Share
  • ClassicRockerDadClassicRockerDad 6202 replies163 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,365 Senior Member
    Here's what I wouldn't say (I always get a kick out of this one).
    "I don't think these grades really reflect what I've learned".

    I think the approach you want to take (assuming it's the truth) is that working in the lab gave you a lot more perspective than just taking classes and that you wished you had started it sooner because you believe it would have led to great synergy and you believe you would have performed better, both from a motivation and a perspective point of view.
    · Reply · Share
  • minimini 26172 replies259 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 26,431 Senior Member
    The truth is better than "I simply couldn't cut it academically, but I think I can now." (what are your recommendations going to look like?)
    · Reply · Share
  • MarianMarian 13163 replies83 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 13,246 Senior Member
    I suggest something along the lines of "I didn't take my classes very seriously until I got involved in research in Professor X's lab and realized that the world of research was really fascinating."

    With regard to your statement
    My grades suck because I'd rather party and meet girls, I don't feel like memorizing something I can look up in minutes, and some of the teachers I've had have managed to make an intrinsically fascinating subject boring.
    I suggest avoiding the latter two parts of your sentence. They sound disrespectful of the academic experience. (You will have to take courses in grad school; it's not just research. Some of them may involve memorization, and some of the professors may not be exactly inspirational.) The first part is OK, but remember to express it in the past tense, i.e., "In my early years at college, I was too focused on partying and meeting girls and not focused enough on academics."

    The idea here is to convey the impression that the you of right now is not the same guy who goofed off during much of college before getting involved in research and seeing the light, as it were.
    · Reply · Share
  • jonrijonri 7256 replies134 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,390 Senior Member
    Tell the truth, more diplomatically. Hint: leave out the part about boring profs. Throw in some: I grew up a little late-ism.

    I'd also suggest that if you can afford it--and maybe if you can't--you also look into some terminal master's programs at schools with good Ph.D. programs. I'm sure others can give you better advice, but maybe you can go somewhere and get some good grades in a master's program and use them to win acceptance to a Ph.D. program.
    · Reply · Share
  • afanafan 1681 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,686 Senior Member
    Well, slow down a bit. Are you really sure you want to go to grad school? Most people who go to top grad schools really liked their undergrad courses and made them the focus of their college years. If you found them boring, then more of the same may not be for you.

    Many grad schools expect their students to get A's in their coursework while in grad school, and may counsel out those who do not seem to be with the program.

    Before you make such a big career and financial decision, make sure that it really fits with what you want out of life. You might take a pause in formal education and get a job as a lab tech for a year or two. Work full time in the lab, this will be much like the later years of grad school (although you will have less expectation to design your own studies). Perhaps take a few courses while you are at it. This will give you a taste of grad student life, and see whether you are prepared to buckle down and do the work. If not, then at least you were getting paid, not a fortune, but probably better than a grad student, and you can find out what you really want to do.

    It will be much cheaper than a master's program. If a year or two in the lab, hopefully with a few A's in grad courses, could produce really strong recommendations, and the experience might outweigh the lackluster college grades.

    This is really a question for your advisor. The quality of the lab, and the strength of the recommendations could make a huge difference to anyone who actually reads your application. If you apply to top programs right now, your grades might keep you from even being considered.
    · Reply · Share
  • 2331clk2331clk 1648 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,657 Senior Member
    Hey, what's wrong with wanting to be with girls on the weekend rather than memorizing in the library (you sound like a normal 21 y.o. to me!) ?

    The problem I see is you didn't show some kind of upward trend in your grades. Apparently they're consistently below what you're capable of. And have maintained for three years. So it would be hard to convince grad schools, hey look I had to figure out the game but look at my grades now! In fact, it's the researching of gpa's for grad programs that caused you to feel remorseful...but you haven't acted upon that feeling to buckle down, gradewise at least. And you're running out of time.

    I would expect your grad school grades to be more of the same...why would I think otherwise?

    What about a year or two working? You say you're better at work that studying. Work experience would look great, and you'd manage, hopefully, some significant recommendations.


    Edit: cross post with afan.
    · Reply · Share
  • 2331clk2331clk 1648 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,657 Senior Member
    Hey, what's wrong with wanting to be with girls on the weekend rather than memorizing in the library (you sound like a normal 21 y.o. to me!) ?

    The problem I see is you didn't show some kind of upward trend in your grades. Apparently they're consistently below what you're capable of. And have maintained for three years. So it would be hard to convince grad schools, hey look I had to figure out the game but look at my grades the last couiple semesters. In fact, it's looking at gpa's for grad programs that caused you to feel remorseful...but you haven't acted upon that feeling to buckle down, gradewise at least.

    I would expect your grad school grades to be more of the same...why would I think otherwise (if I were grad adcom)?

    What about a year or two working? You say you're better at work that studying. Work experience would look great, and you'd manage, hopefully, some more meaningful recommendations.
    · Reply · Share
  • maritemarite 21343 replies243 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member
    So you are now a junior? Try to work hard in the second semester and the first semester of senior year so that you can truthfully say that working in a lab has (re)kindled your love of the subject and made you eager to go to grad school.
    · Reply · Share
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions 12571 replies759 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 13,330 Senior Member
    YOu can do all of the above; follow Marite's guidance to pull up your grades very dramatically this Spring and next Fall. If everything you say about yourself is true, then you need to demonstrate this with all the available semesters remaining.

    Then apply, and see if you like your outcomes for graduate school.

    Set up a backup plan to go to work in a lab, which would give you some work ethic recommendations from working professionals to add to your application.

    I can't imagine why you'd go directly to grad school. You seem like a good candidate to take a pause in schooling to get some more dimension to your grad school application.

    Try to operate on several levels at once: improved grades, a set of grad school apps, and the fallback of working at a lab. I think you'll know what to do by around next January or a few months beyond.

    Can you quit the fraternity? OR cool it a lot? Only do what you need to but find some new time to turn your grades upward dramatically.

    It's your responsibility to make a subject interesting when presented with a boring professor; hasn't anyone every clued you into that?
    · Reply · Share
  • thisoldmanthisoldman 1026 replies19 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,045 Senior Member
    No need to explain anything.

    Bush got to be President by partying well. Kerry almost President and didn't party as much. Gore cheated out of President because he didn't who to party with.
    · Reply · Share
  • ErewhonErewhon 427 replies14 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 441 Junior Member
    Fraternity debauchery didn’t hurt Chis Miller. He became a famous author and playwright. His partying at the Dartmouth chapter of ΑΔΦ was the basis for his screenplay, Animal House, which was one of the most successful moves of all time. ;)
    · Reply · Share
  • dmd77dmd77 8597 replies66 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 8,663 Senior Member
    You might want to check out Randy Pausch's description of how he got into graduate school at CMU. The fact that you're doing research with a great professor may matter more than you think.

    "I went into Andy’s office and I dropped the rejection letter on his desk. And I said, I just want you to know what your letter of recommendation goes for at
    Carnegie Mellon. [laughter] And before the letter had hit his desk, his hand was on the phone and he said, I will fix this."

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/Randy/pauschlastlecturetranscript.pdf
    (page 20)
    · Reply · Share
  • afanafan 1681 replies5 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,686 Senior Member
    Yeah, but I had the impression that Pasuch was a typical ace student.

    It is certainly true that academic success is not required for career success in most fields. However, we are talking about graduate school in science.
    · Reply · Share
This discussion has been closed.

Recent Activity