Letter to Explain Decline in Junior Year

<p>My son's junior year in HS was less than stellar... he was advised by his guidance counsellor to write a letter to colleges he is applying to to explain why this had happened (he "came out of the closet" and became ULTRA social - for a while - thank goodness, he's back down to earth now- can you believe, "coming out" has made him more popular - and very respected... oh how things have changed since I was in high school :-))</p>

<p>Anyway, does anyone have any suggestions on how to approach writing such a letter? My son is a wonderful writer and I'm sure will come up with something funny and witty, while explaining how his head became unscrewed for a period of time and is now most certainly back on track... </p>



<p>The letter will be more effective if it is written by the GC rather than your son. It will sound less "whiny" and special-case pleading.</p>

<p>If he wishes, your son can write an essay about coming out and becoming popular, whether as a result of accepting himself or of changed high school mores. But I still think the GC should be the one explaining the drop in grades.</p>

<p>Both his GC & an Ed. Consultant I've been talking with think HE should address it himself- so he shows responsibility for his mistakes and owns up to them.</p>

<p>He really did not want to write about the "gay thing" as it is only a small part of who he is. He's already written a fantastic essay on his love and desire to study neuroscience... that is is passion -not being gay - and he really wanted his essay to express who he is, not what he is.</p>

<p>Unless there is something that the GC knows and you have not shared, I don't think that having academic difficulties while trying to come to terms with being different from the majority of one's peers" constitutes making "mistakes" for which he needs to own responsibility. In last year's heightened public discussion surrounding gay rights, it must have been tricky. It would be better if a student could navigate coming to term with his sexual identity and maintaining high academic standards at the same time, but not doing so does not amount to irresponsibility. </p>

<p>But if the GC feels differently and won't be supportive, your S could write something in the box "Is there something more we should know about you?" or similar.</p>

<p>By the way, I like the idea of your son writing about his love of neuroscience.</p>

<p>I hesitate to disagree with paid professions in the form of your GC and educational consultant, but I agree with Marite. I sympathize with your son's desire not to build his identity around the "gay thing," and I understand that he may wish to write his essay about something else. But I am not comfortable with an explanatory letter about his junior year grades coming from him--there is a risk of sounding whiny and self-excusing. I think such a letter is more appropriate coming from the GC, though perhaps your son could draft it to provide some of the wit and insight that his writing skills would provide. (This is a procedure somewghat akin to the "autobiographies" kids at some schools are told to write to serve as a basis for their college counselor's letters of recommendation.) I suppose the "something else we should know" mini-essay is the next-best thing--better than an actual "To whom it may concern" letter anyway.</p>

<p>True Marite, they were not mistakes... but he did become soley focused on his social life (probably to keep reaffirming he was still accepted after revealing such an important thing about himself to his friends - and to the world)... and he really put school work and the responsibilities that come with it out the window for a period of time (Dec. - June).</p>

<p>You two have me rethinking this letter now...and who it should come from. If the GC were to write it, what insight could he really give... he does not really know how coming out effected my son. Other than saying "the kid came out of the closet and had some difficulty," I don't really know what else he could say.</p>

<p>If my son were to write it, I doubt it would come off "whiny." I think he will just give some insight to what was going on in his head at that time (something the GC couldn't do) and how it negatively impacted his school performance - and most importantly, what he's learned about himself and how he will handle things in the future.</p>

<p>Thanks for your help :-)</p>


<p>lelalellen: I sent you a PM</p>

<p>I think he COULD write such a letter for the section on "is there anything else you want us to know?" but it is the WAY he writes it that is very important. I think if he writes it he way you were describing about what he learned about himself along the way and his level of commitment to his schoolwork now and puts the focus on that, it would be best. However, I think the guidance counselor ALSO should address this in his rec and the two of them should be coordinated. The student should not come off whiny but more with what he learned from it, how he learned to handle the situation, and how to handle himself so that in the future his grades are not affected. I think both his statement is fine if it is told this way but it is pretty important that his GC also says something that validates the situation and brings forth a positive spin about the level of responbility your son has now and also how he positively handled what often can be a difficult situation for a teen. </p>


<p>I think that this is something he might include briefly in a cover letter that accompanies his application and doesn't at all have to mention that he is gay if he doesn't wish for this to be known. It can be couched along the lines: I want to acknowledge my drop in grades during this semester which I feel is due to some over-involvement in my EC's. I have learned from this to focus on my academics, stream-lined my EC's, and brought my grades up to ____." Something like that, anyway.</p>

<p>Thank you all for the really good advice. That said, I'm still not sure how we're going to handle this - whether we will ask his GC to mention somthing about it and/or my son will send a letter along with his applications (as guiltguru suggested). As we speak, my son is drafting a letter to address the decline in his GPA of his junior year. He is not embarassed to state that he is gay and how coming out, or should I say, how he handled coming out effected his grades in a less than stellar way. When he is done, I may post it (good / bad idea?) here for feedback (which I'm sure will confuse me even more on how to handle this :-)).</p>

<p>Thanks again everyone! (gosh I love this site)!!!!!!</p>


<p>I think any good GC would know that coming out must have a huge impact on a student's work (i know college students who've gone into a deep funk). The GC would not need to go into details. He could just say that your S's decision to acknowledge his sexuality led him to be heavily involved in ECs (did they include advocacy?) to the detriment of his academic performance. The GC knows, however, that your son is far more capable than his GPA from last year would suggest and his work this year reflects his renewed focus on academics.
Such a statement seems to me both fair and supportive. It should certainly not be the sole topic of the GC's rec.</p>

<p>I just got off the phone with my son's GC and he told me that in his letter of recommendation, he will certainly mention my son having personal issues that were beyond what a typical teenager deals with, that effected his decline in gpa. He told me he will not be specific, but that my son's letter will address it in more detail... </p>


<p>That sounds fine to me. He wants to leave it to your son as to how much personal information to provide.</p>

<p>Here is a copy of the letter my son wrote explaining his decline in his junior year GPA... Please tell me what you think, as your opinions here, on CC, are welcomed:</p>

<pre><code>While reviewing my records, you will notice a drop in my GPA from my sophomore year to my junior year. Though deeply personal, I feel it is my responsibility to explain this slump. In the early part of the school year, sometime around Thanksgiving, I revealed to the people in my life something I had kept to myself since the sixth grade.
The fact that I was gay quickly spread through my entire school, which of course put undue pressure upon me. Coming out of the closet at this point in my life was a traumatic experience, and for a while I was bracing myself for a blow that fortunately never came. Fortuitously, people were fairly accepting of what I was, but for a long time I wasn’t. I became exceedingly social, putting off school work to reaffirm my value and acceptance with my family, friends and acquaintance.
This over compensation of social attitude caused my grades to slip, as I lacked the necessary zeal for my studies. All of my energies went towards making sure the “world” still accepted and liked me.
With Junior year behind me, and a more sound understanding of who I am and what I mean to people, I fully intend to redirect my focus and energy on my scholastic endeavers. It’s unlike me to be so uninterested in schoolwork, but as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures,” and I was extremely desperate. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider it’s meaning.

<p>I think the bottom line is he needs to have an outstanding first semester senior year. If he does, letter will have great meaning, without it, virtually none.</p>

<p>Good letter; however, audiophile's point is <em>very</em> important.</p>

<p>My son's application had a couple of warts on it: grades not stellar frosh and sophomore year (taking care of grandparents - explained in GC letter) and math SAT that should have been a bit higher. It was his experience that the more selective schools wl'd him - schools with huge numbers of applicants are hard-pressed, sometimes, to look past the numbers when they have zillions of val's and sal's. Your son is an erudite and courageous young man, and should apply everywhere he wants. But he has to make sure he as a good foundation of likely admit schools - especially important if GPA or class rank does not represent one's ability!</p>

<p>I think the letter is excellent. He might wish to add in the last paragraph something along the lines "I will forward my grades for each marking period as they come available as evidence of my commitment to my academics." Then, ace every class and send them.</p>

<p>I think the letter is VERY well written. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to say whether it's a good or bad idea to include it (vs. having GC comment); the pros and cons have been debated here.</p>

<p>However, I heartily agree with audiophile that first semester Sr. year must be stellar. Without it, the letter is worthless. No ED/EA here, unless to a school so safe that poor Jr. grades won't matter.</p>

<p>I am impressed with both you and your son's presentation of the situation to us here on cc. Best of luck.</p>

<p>I agree with the others and also think the letter is well crafted. If anything, I would have him add a line or two that emphasizes his renewed commitments to his studies and how he has learned how to handle difficult situations so that in the future, his schoolwork is not compromised. Something about having learned from such a situation and realizing that no matter how difficult life's issues are, he is commited to his schoolwork 100%. He needs to come off as responsible now and also as having learned how to handle a difficult situation in life. </p>

<p>All of this must be backed up by actually showing that he turns the grades around this fall and that they were excellent grades before this coming out period. He might refer to his stellar record previous to last year and his aim to return to that level which he sees as his "norm". </p>

<p>The GC might also reflect upon how positively your son handled himself in this situation, but also speak to if he believes your son is otherwise a stellar student and will be on top of things this year. This must be shown by submitting quarterly grades and likely putting off ED. Send updates throughout senior year and ask that the GC include a statement with the mid year report that validates improved academic performance (which hopefully WILL be the case, rather than merely a promise). </p>

<p>Your son's draft is good.</p>

<p>Thanks for the positive feedback everyone... and I'll show my son the great suggestions you've made!!</p>