General Question

hug_of_war's avatar

Should I mention my poor first semester on my grad school application?

Asked by hug_of_war (9868 points ) November 25th, 2013 from iPhone

My first attempt at college went awful (undiagnosed Asperger’s). I have a really, really low 1 semester gpa. The following year I started again at a different school and finished with a 3.8 gpa. I now am applying to grad school after 2 years of working. I have essays.

Should I just let my huge upward swing and quite good and unique experiences speak for themself or should I mention it briefly?*

*I will not mention my diagnosis, just that I was overwhelmed and have matured since

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11 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

If I’m doing the math correctly, your disastrous first semester was over five years ago. Let your record speak for itself. What matters on your grad school application is your GRE scores, excellent gpa for sophomore, junior and senior years and the quality of your essays (assuming your program is in the Liberal Arts and not math or science).

Should anyone ask, which is unlikely, skip the “overwhelmed” and simply say that you were immature. Then move on to your successes.

Bravo, by the way, given your earlier history that you did mention several years ago.

hug_of_war's avatar

That was my inclination.

marinelife's avatar

I agree with @gailcalled. Prepare a response if asked about it.

hearkat's avatar

Good to hear from you, @hug_of_war!

I agree with the above advice. If your GPA was that bad, you won’t even be submitting the transcript from that school, right?

I’m curious – what graduate degree have you decided to pursue?

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Don’t if you have no intention of sending the transcript.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Admitting to it may actually help. It shows that you were able to recover from the situation and also that you did not give up. Anything that shows maturity and general seriousness will help. I’m pretty sure my senior year and gre score got me in, they do look at that closely.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t think you should not mention your diagnosis, it explains why you did poorly which they’ll see in a transcript. Good luck.

glacial's avatar

There will likely be a place in the application to explain any abnormalities in your record. If I were you, I would use that space to very briefly state that your first semester grades are lower than they should be due to your then undiagnosed Asperger’s, and that you are now focused on achieving whatever academic goals you have set for yourself.

The improvement in your grades speaks for itself, and Asperger’s is not a condition that people will interpret as a warning sign – rather, they might think it will make you an overachiever academically. I think it’s better to mention the Asperger’s than to say you were young, but then matured… pretty much anybody could say that. It won’t be convincing to the committee reviewing your application.

Smitha's avatar

I agree with @glacial. Explaining poor grades for first semester by briefly mentioning your diagnosis would be appropriate. Colleges like to see progress and if you’ve shown you’ve done better, they will notice that.

wildpotato's avatar

I would not mention it at all. I was told to explain any odd-looking weaknesses in my applications and did so for the one I had. After I sent out all 12 I realized that I sounded like I was trying to excuse myself and that it probably came across as me seeming unsure of my ability. I suspect this was especially damaging coming from a woman applying in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. I still wish I had never heard that advice and had written the essays in my usual unapologetic and confident manner.

Cupcake's avatar

I don’t think you need to mention it, unless it naturally fits into your essay. First you need to determine the arc of your essay, then determine if it fits in and how.

Be prepared to discuss if you get an interview for the program. I had to review my transcript with a fine-tooth comb with questions such as “Why did you withdraw from this class” and “Why did you have a lower GPA this semester” and “What is different for you now”.

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