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How badly would my grades from 9 years ago hurt me?

  1. Sep 8, 2015 #1
    Applying for graduate schools (Masters) in ECE. Mostly top 10s and top 20s.

    Cumulative GPA: 3.35
    GPA for the last 3 years: 3.85
    GRE: Q170 (98% percentile) , V167 (97% percentile)

    Nice research experience. I also got an award for an innovative product I designed on the side, an honors mention in a national invention competition sponsored by the US Patent and Trademark Office. I also performed impressively in a national undergraduate math competition (Putnam, which I got 3 problems right)

    As for letter of recommendations, I got 2 very strong ones, and 1 decently strong one (I think).

    The reason my cumulative GPA is low is due to a semester in freshman year which I messed up due to a medical issue. I have documentation for this and it has long been resolved. I took a 6 years break, and for the last 3 years I got a 3.85. So that bad semester is from 9 years ago.

    My SOP is strong, basically detailing what I did in those time and what I want to do in the future.

    I've also contacted a few professors at the schools/ I want to get into, and some has agreed to meet me in the coming weeks.

    Overall, I think my application is strong except for the semester from 9 years ago. How badly do you think it's hurt me? I did say I have documentation for it and the issue has long been resolved in my application.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2015 #2
    Hard to say. Press the flesh and visit and talk to profs in the research groups you'd like to work in.
  4. Sep 8, 2015 #3


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    If a previous poor performance was for a documented medical reason and you have since demonstrated that is no longer a problem, it's highly unlikely to hurt you at all.
  5. Sep 8, 2015 #4
    3.35 isn't necessarily that bad. If they see your transcript and see that it was just your freshman year and everything else was a 3.85 then as long as you just explain yourself (you had a documented medical problem, a difficult transition period, or weren't really sure what you wanted to do yet) I think you should be okay. And 9 years is a long time ago.

    But I do get that the first thing they look at is cumulative GPA. A 6 year break sounds like a long enough time for you to reasonably be able to ask for freshman forgiveness, especially given that there were documented medical issues. What was the policy at your undergraduate school? Can they redact the old grades from your transcript or replace them with medical excuse marks to take them out of your GPA calculation?
  6. Sep 8, 2015 #5

    I've already submitted the application. I'm in the anxious "waiting period" now which is why I asked. My school doesn't have a policy of forgiveness, but I might have a shot if I try to talk to the Dean. But at this point, it's probably too late.

    I'd much rather have the school I'm applying to "forgive" me, which is why I spent a lot of effort on the SOP.

    Grad school looks at 4 things: GPA, GRE, letter of recommendation, and SOP. Only one category, the GPA, is relatively weak and it's due to an unique situation. It's not like I got 3.35 throughout my college career.

    I made an appointment with the Director of graduate studies at the school I'm applying to, plus I will be talking to professors I want to work with. I think my effort will be better spent on this than try to have my current school forgive me.

    Overall, I just want to get a feel of how much I should worry about my previous grades, and everyone seems to tell me I should be okay. Thanks.
  7. Sep 8, 2015 #6


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    It sounds like you're doing everything one can do at this point.

    That last point about visiting the school is a big one that often gets overlooked.

    Good luck.
  8. Sep 9, 2015 #7
    Choppy, is visiting the school something that'll boost my chances? Is that what you meant by "big one"? I guess that's not something most applicants do huh?
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