How bad will this hurt my grad school prospects?

  • Schools
  • Thread starter Hunkydory
  • Start date
  • #1
So my scores, research, letters are all pretty good. I've got a 3.7 gpa as a math and physics major from a top 25 school (physics gpa is 3.85).

Here's the problem, I failed a 500 level math course as a sophomore. I took the course before I had had a good introduction to proofs and abstract math, not realizing how proof based the course would be and I got my *** handed to me; it wasn't required for my math major so I never retook it (I can still retake it next semester if you think it will help). I should have withdrawn from the course but... I'm an idiot.

My question is how much does this one class detract from the rest of my application. As stated above, in spite of that class, my total gpa is 3.7 which is I think, in the range of consideration for many top programs. Do you think they will evaluate the 3.7 as basically a just another 3.7 or will the fact that it's a result of failing a class make me significantly less attractive?

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Most people evaluating you are likely to be familiar with the term 'outlier' so I wouldn't stress over it too much if it's an isolated case.
  • #3
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2021 Award
Also, what difference does it make? What action will you take differently depending on whether the answer to your question is "a lot" or "a little"? The past is the past.
  • #4
I had a similar experience when I applied to graduate school in engineering.

I received one bad grade ('D') in a lower division physics course but later repeated and received a 'B'. Where I went to college, you could not take upper division engineering courses if you had a 'D' or 'F' grade in any required physical science, math, or engineering class.

Anyway, I read at that time that the best way to deal with these situations is to discuss and explain the bad grade in your graduate application and the last thing you want to do is avoid or try to hide it.

So I discussed this in my application. Later, the department chair wrote me a letter (a real letter in the late 80s) and thanked me for explaining this. He said based on the rest of my record, he was happy to accept me and I was offered a fellowship and TA position.

Related Threads on How bad will this hurt my grad school prospects?