How Can I Change How Universities Perceive My Application?

  • #1
I made Dean's List my senior year of undergrad, I double majored and double minored, I volunteered often and I communicate in both the social and scientific realms well. So why am I still getting turned down or "wait listed" from graduate programs?

One theory; three semester near the middle of my undergraduate education my family suffered a falling of the dominoes, so to speak, in the form of deaths, hospitalizations, and everything that came along with these things. The stress and sadness took a toll on my academic career and unfortunately those C's show it.

How can I show these institutions that I am a great student with a lot to offer without cluttering up the application or my resume? How can I explain that those grades were a product of something other than general laziness as it may appear to be?

(If I could afford non-degree seeking coursework, I would take them. However I'm on a budget and the estimated time frame for me being able to afford them is mid January. Applications are typically due between October and January 1st.)


Answers and Replies

  • #2
Education Advisor
Gold Member
Hi JOules, welcome to the forum.

Did your apps to grad schools go out before your senior year marks were available? As I recall, it was third year marks that were the kicker for getting into grad schools. Or possibly mid-term from fourth year. As you mention, there are deadlines for sending out the apps.

Possible choices for you now: Maybe you can get one or two of your profs to write you letters of recommendation. A well written letter from a respected prof can often weigh more in the mind of an admissions committee than a transcript. In the mind of the scholarship committee as well, so you might get yourself some urgently needed assistance as well. If there are one or two profs you have a good relationship with, maybe you can get them to put in the good word for you. Especially if one of them works in the area you are most interested in doing grad work in.

Also, speaking of scholarships: For many of them you don't get considered unless you apply. So find out from the admissions department of any university you apply to what scholarships you should apply for. Often, getting the scholarship is identical with getting admitted.

If you don't manage to get admission right away, maybe apply again in 4 months. Some schools will admit you to graduate programs mid-year. Maybe somebody they admitted did not work out, or went to a different school or whatever. 4 months might not be the right time. Google up the admissions office at the schools you are interested in and find out what the admission cycle looks like for them. When you are "armed" with a final transcript and the letter showing you were on the Dean's list, you might get more open doors.

Find something useful and interesting to do in the intervening time. See if you can get some kind of job that looks good on the application. Maybe you can work for a prof or get some kind of job in an industry that is in some way related to your desired area of grad work. If you wind up working short-term for an employer, be sure to make a graceful exit. Inform your employer as early as you can that you would be leaving to return to university. DO NOT piss off potential employers. You might want to come back. Or get contract work from them while in grad school. Many industry people and academic people are pals.
  • #3
Homework Helper
What sort of program are you applying for? That might impact the nature of the expectations.

From my experience applying to grad schools, the transcript and GRE were checks to make sure I met the minimum requirements. The real decision seems to have been made from my statement of intent, where I laid out the why and how for my graduate studies. If you can craft a solid statement detailing why you know you will be successful as a researcher in the field of your choice, that will go much farther than any transcript or resume. Transcripts and resumes only show what you have done, not what you plan to do.

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