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How much will a failed course sabotage my grad school applications?

  1. Oct 3, 2014 #1
    I am a math student, but I was hoping I could find advice on this forum.

    In my third year, I retook a second-year stats course simply to improve my grade (the only time I've ever done this). I also ended up getting a work study position that same semester focusing on Bayesian statistical methods in data quality.

    Halfway through the course, I became extremely busy, and foolishly decided I could just forget about the stats course in favor of my work study research. I never even bothered to write the final for it. At the time, I thought I was making a smart sacrifice (I ended up winning an undergraduate research award for what I did in the work study position). However, without context, my transcript just says I failed a second year course, that I was retaking, in my third year.

    How bad is the damage? What can I do about it? (Specifically, should I address it in my application?)

    On the plus side, I do have strong references and an otherwise decent transcript. Also, I'm not applying to any Stats-specific programs.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2014 #2
    That is the important part especially if you retook the class and scored well. No one is perfect.
  4. Oct 6, 2014 #3


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    Gold Member

    Without a doubt, it will not help your application. On the positive side, it is probably not fatal unless you try for graduate work in that area. Is there any chance to repeat the course yet again and improve your grade?
  5. Oct 6, 2014 #4
    I'm by no means part of any grad student selection process, but if I were and I saw an F sticking out from an otherwise good transcript, my first thought wouldn't be "wow, this guy's too stupid for grad school." My first thought would be "that's weird, what happened?" Your post kind of answered that question: you ignored that class to focus on your research. Seeing that explanation, the next thing I would wonder is, "was that decision justified, or was it a mistake? Is he going to ignore his grad studies because something else catches his eye?"

    So if you're going to explain why you got that F, make sure you go a little further. Either justify your decision or explain how you've learned your lesson. As in, say something like "I feel that this was a justified decision because my research was more important than improving my grade" or "This was a foolish decision, I've learned my lesson, and I won't do anything like it again." I would guess either answer is fine, as long as you've thought it through and you explain yourself well.

    I don't know whether or not it's worth addressing in your applications, but I would definitely at least think about your answer in case anyone asks.
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