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lateforsun

Can I overcome "F's" on an otherwise great transcript?

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First time here, so forgive me if this isn't the right place for a question like this. It's a big long -- I think certain details matter.

I'm applying to masters programs in higher education -- I want to work in academic affairs and advising and also learn about higher ed affairs and research.

Okay. I have a liberal arts degree from what I would say is a very respected university -- GPA 3.87/4.00. Letters of reference will good but not stunning -- it's been a while since I was a student. Unfortunately no direct experience or research in higher education or student affairs, but I've worked in K-12 education since graduating, and I've volunteer-mentored some students through the college admissions process. I'm quite confident in my GRE scores (taking in a couple weeks) for the programs that want them. And I'm a good writer -- I think I'll be able to articulate my story and professional and academic interests very well.

But -- I think I have a big problem. After graduating college, I went to work as a K-12 teacher, in a program that also enrolled me for a master's degree in teaching. I was young and immature, and while I did a good job as a first year teacher, I wasn't as interested in the masters coursework and decided that classroom teaching wasn't for me. After a summer and a fall semester of getting all A's, I decided that I would leave the program after the spring, a year before getting the degree. And... I decided that it didn't make sense to finish the master's courses that spring. So I withdrew from the program, and my spring semester ended with two big fat "F's". As I said, very immature and naive of me.

Now, applications for the higher education programs I'm applying to now ask for transcripts for ALL classes taken before, undergraduate and graduate. I'm worried about how much damage the transcript showing those two "F's" is going to be. I thought for a second about not submitting them, but concluded it was risky, and frankly dishonest. I have to own it. I can talk about it in my personal statement about how the uncertainty of my life post-college caused me to make mistakes. And the rest of my academic record is very good (even counting the failed courses, my GPA for the graduate courses overall was 3.26/4.00 -- not great but not terrible). But I'm worried that admissions committees are going to see those failures and immediately discount me, or say "This person wants to work at a college and be an academic counselor?" I'm not proud of the way that experience shook out, but I've gotten older and more mature since then, and that experience is actually part of the reason that I want to go this route. I guess I have to own my failures.

But does anyone have insights on how much this is going to affect my viability as a candidate for masters programs? Am I screwed for the higher end programs like Penn or Vanderbilt? What can I do or say that would minimize the negative impact this can have on my candidacy?

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I'm curious - why do you have two Fs when you withdrew from the program? Is it because you didn't withdraw properly from the program and just stopped going to class?

I'd try to mitigate this on two fronts. Once, go back to the university where you tried that master's degree and I'd try to administratively get those Fs changed into Ws. I'd explain the situation to the registrar, perhaps providing some sort of evidence/proof of what happened. There's nothing wrong with withdrawing from a master's program once realizing it's not for you. And it doesn't sound like you couldn't handle the work, only that you were disinterested in completing it.

If that doesn't work, or will be too slow to make a significant difference, you can write a supplemental essay explaining that the Fs were a result of you withdrawing improperly from the program. I like the bit about how the experience motivated you to go into advising in the first place, so that might support this case, too.

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On 10/1/2019 at 1:55 AM, juilletmercredi said:

I'm curious - why do you have two Fs when you withdrew from the program? Is it because you didn't withdraw properly from the program and just stopped going to class?

I'd try to mitigate this on two fronts. Once, go back to the university where you tried that master's degree and I'd try to administratively get those Fs changed into Ws. I'd explain the situation to the registrar, perhaps providing some sort of evidence/proof of what happened. There's nothing wrong with withdrawing from a master's program once realizing it's not for you. And it doesn't sound like you couldn't handle the work, only that you were disinterested in completing it.

If that doesn't work, or will be too slow to make a significant difference, you can write a supplemental essay explaining that the Fs were a result of you withdrawing improperly from the program. I like the bit about how the experience motivated you to go into advising in the first place, so that might support this case, too.

Thank you for the advice. I never thought I could petition to change my transcript. I would love to look into that option -- the problem is that the way I went about withdrawing from the program was kinda unorthodox. I just informed one of the staff early in the spring semester that I was going to withdraw from the program -- I didn't think to go through any administrative channels. The program staff were fine with it, but I don't know what kind of documentation for the withdrawal there is, if any. I will email the registrar's office in any case and see what can be done.

I would also welcome the option to explain my circumstances in more detail on applications, if for no other reason than give them the most information with which to judge my suitability. It looks like most online applications don't have the option to upload an extra document. I mention it in personal statements, because I can't ignore it, but of course there's never quite enough space to say as much as you want, especially when you have to dedicate words to discussing professional and academic goals. But I will do what I can.

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On 9/27/2019 at 2:02 PM, lateforsun said:

I have to own it. I can talk about it in my personal statement about how the uncertainty of my life post-college caused me to make mistakes.

What can I do or say that would minimize the negative impact this can have on my candidacy?

I respectfully recommend that you take a closer look at the two sentences in bold--there's a tension between your commendable efforts to own your choices and the desire to place those choices in a context of circumstances potentially beyond your control.

My concern is that a person having a hard day (or who is simply a hard ass) could use that tension to not give you the benefit of the doubt.

Are there ways that you can remove the tension by rephrasing the role of the uncertainty so that it is subordinate to the choices that you made?

A stark example would be writing something along the lines of Upon deciding to withdraw from X, I failed to submit the proper paperwork in a timely manner and thereby earned the marks I received. From there, you could pivot to an elegantly concise discussions of "lessons learned/moving forward." 

IMO, such a rephrasing would send a clearer message of who you actually are now -- a person of considerable personal integrity.

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On 10/2/2019 at 8:48 PM, Sigaba said:

I respectfully recommend that you take a closer look at the two sentences in bold--there's a tension between your commendable efforts to own your choices and the desire to place those choices in a context of circumstances potentially beyond your control.

My concern is that a person having a hard day (or who is simply a hard ass) could use that tension to not give you the benefit of the doubt.

Are there ways that you can remove the tension by rephrasing the role of the uncertainty so that it is subordinate to the choices that you made?

A stark example would be writing something along the lines of Upon deciding to withdraw from X, I failed to submit the proper paperwork in a timely manner and thereby earned the marks I received. From there, you could pivot to an elegantly concise discussions of "lessons learned/moving forward." 

IMO, such a rephrasing would send a clearer message of who you actually are now -- a person of considerable personal integrity.

That is a very interesting perspective that I hadn't considered before. It does seem better to keep the explanation simple and straightforward, and one that kinda isolates the bad judgment I had in not going through the withdrawal process correctly. It was a mistake but one that doesn't define me. Thanks for your insights.

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