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Should I explain a recent part-time year (w/ mediocre grades) in my SOP?


theduckster
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I am posting this again to solicit additional suggestions from the helpful posters here, since many of my apps are due soon and I am completely torn on this issue.

Last year I suffered from some poor (non-math/stats) grades due to an illness and I also went part time as a result. The product of all this was a transcript for the year that looked something like the following:

Quarter 1: F, B

Quarter 2: B-, B-

Quarter 3: A-

Again, none of these are math/stats grades. However, I am very worried that since this was recent, adcoms will think I have not yet recovered (I have) and am not yet ready for grad school (I am). To give additional context: my math grades prior to this are very strong. Should I give a justification for this recent eccentricity, or should I just hope that adcoms will gloss over it?

Finally: I also have a letter writer who said they could mention the illness in a letter. Would it maybe be better to let my recommender be the one who mentions it? Or should I tell my letter writer to scrap any mention of the issue?

Thanks (as you can see, I am pulling my hair on this).

Edited by theduckster
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It would be great if some of the faculty posters or post docs could share with us what training they have had in regards to the ADA and what they do to insure compliance with it  in the admissions process

The Department of Education indicates that if you had a disability you should notify the school.  They are then required to make an academic adjustment as a matter of law.  Many schools have student disability services that can help greatly with the process and with the department

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Gauss, the ADA has nothing to do with this. Schools don't have to lower their admissions criteria because somebody has a disability by letting them in regardless of their grades.  This is bad advice.

Duckster, I am sure you are sick of hearing my advice but I will give you a slightly different perspective. Your Bs are not a big issue, so it's really about the F. If you don't mention an illness, they will have no reason to think you were even sick.  You got an A the last quarter, so this is not a trend as you are so worried about.  The thing I would be slightly more worried about is that they might worry you failed because of cheating or something like that.  

If you mention it, it would probably be best to mention the illness in passing, giving the impression that it was something more along the lines of getting mono.  "I became ill for a few months during this one quarter, and my work suffered and I failed a class.". Maybe even just say your work suffered because of an illness in your family - you are part of your family. 

If the professor mentioning the illness is not the professor of the class you failed or your academic advisor, I think it would make things worse and give the impression that this is a big deal ongoing thing. Again, I think regardless of what option you take, make as little of a deal out of it as possible.

Aren't you only applying for MS programs?  They might barely even read the SOP.

Edited by bayessays
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15 minutes ago, bayessays said:

Gauss, the ADA has nothing to do with this. Schools don't have to lower their admissions criteria because somebody has a disability by letting them in regardless of their grades.  This is bad advice.

Duckster, I am sure you are sick of hearing my advice but I will give you a slightly different perspective. Your Bs are not a big issue, so it's really about the F. If you don't mention an illness, they will have no reason to think you were even sick.  You got an A the last quarter, so this is not a trend as you are so worried about.  The thing I would be slightly more worried about is that they might worry you failed because of cheating or something like that.  

If you mention it, it would probably be best to mention the illness in passing, giving the impression that it was something more along the lines of getting mono.  "I became ill for a few months during this one quarter, and my work suffered and I failed a class.". Maybe even just say your work suffered because of an illness in your family - you are part of your family. 

If the professor mentioning the illness is not the professor of the class you failed or your academic advisor, I think it would make things worse and give the impression that this is a big deal ongoing thing. Again, I think regardless of what option you take, make as little of a deal out of it as possible.

Aren't you only applying for MS programs?  They might barely even read the SOP.

No, I appreciate your advice. Please don't think I don't. It's just that I wanted to get a multitude of perspectives on this before I made any drastic last-minute decision.

I'll make sure to give this a closer read, thanks.

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Basesays you are just wrong.  You are giving bad advice.  I suggest you take the time to read the ADA .  The ADA protects people with illnesses such as the duckster.  Schools are required as a matter of law to make academic adjustments for demonstrated illnesses.  The academic adjustment is what would take some time to properly craft for the duckster.   If the bad grade is as a result of the disability you can request that it be overlooked.

It is really serious violation to not consider the ADA in the appropriate cases

 

The cite is 29 USCS 794 et seq.

"No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance . . . . "

 

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"Solely".  If they decide to reject you because of your grades, having a disability doesn't magically protect you. Further, OP has never claimed to have a disability.  Schools are required to provide students reasonable accommodation for their disabilities - they are not required to admit students who failed classes.  Can you just leave this forum and stop polluting every thread with your incorrect advice?

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You are really talking about something you clearly know nothing about.  You are the one polluting this thread.  Stop calling names and using bullying tactics.   The OP stated they were ill at the time of the bad grade.  That can be a qualifying disability that requires an academic adjustment.  I have actually helped students with disabilities under the ADA.  Have you. If you are associated with an academic institution you would be wise to go to your disability office  and learn about the ADA.  It is the law whether you think it is fair or not

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I am not a troll so please  dont attempt to use that to discredit a law you dont like.  The ADA is actually fact intensive and each case depends on the facts .   Insert have you worked on disability cases and have knowledge of the extent and reach of the law?  I have worked with students with disabilities.

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Whoa, that sure blew up in a hurry.

My perspective is this: An admissions committee is not in a position to assess the degree to which your illness affected your grades, or whether it is a persistent problem that will continue to affect your performance. Further, as @Gauss2017 notes, it is clearly illegal to use this kind of disabling condition as the basis for rejecting you.

I think the best thing to do here is the simplest: Just say that you were ill for a period, and this negatively affected your grades. Most, if not all, admissions committees will take you at your word and adjust their assessment as they see fit.

Edited by cyberwulf
Accidental incomplete initial post
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Gauss2017 is missing the point. Nobody denies that the ADA prohibits universities that receive federal funding from denying an applicant solely because of their disability. However, universities that receive federal funding can still deny an applicant because of a poor academic record, even if a disability contributed to the poor academic record. More generally, they can also deny an applicant because they don't believe the applicant has demonstrated sufficient potential for research, even if the applicant hasn't demonstrated sufficient potential for research partially as a result of a disability. And while an applicant can certainly ask that a poor grade be overlooked or evaluated in light of the applicant's health at the time, the ADA does not require universities to do so when making admissions decisions.

Disability law is extremely complicated, and I'm clearly not an expert. But, quite frankly, a substantial amount of Gauss2017's comments in this forum are irrelevant, misleading, or just plain incoherent, so I would disregard them. If you're really concerned about the legal implications of disclosing your health, talk to a lawyer. But I don't think it will have to come to that.

Edited by speowi
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