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advice on mpa programs - interesting undergrad transcript


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Hi guys, I'd appreciate any advice you might have on my concern. I'm planning to apply to MPA programs for the Fall '11 session. I have a UGPA of 3.4 (possibly 3.5 if I get straight A's my final UGA semester, which looks likely). My undergraduate degree is from a small but well-respected state school. Because of its small size, I had a lot of professor contact and have glowing recommendations, and I was also able to secure a relevant internship working for our town mayor. I scored a 1530 on the GRE (770V, 760Q) and will have worked for our commissioner for nearly a year before entering graduate school. In preparing applications, I've looked at a number of schools, and ideally, I'd like to go to a school that is more challenging than the institution where I completed my undergraduate degree, where I felt consistently undermatched and frankly very bored in classes. The problem is my transcripts are dicey, to say the least as the result of a medical issue that took root during my Freshman year (2004) and resulted in on-off hospitalization for the next two years. I've been formally enrolled in college since January of 2009, and about 3/4ths of my credits were taken between January '09 and December '10. This was done mostly by overloading both regular and summer semesters. My grades steadily improved and were mostly A and A-'s with two or three B's. Prior to Jan '09 I had some credits (12) accumulated during part-time study, and grades were shaky (some A's but also two C's and two D's). I also have my Freshman year transcripts at a different university in 2004, the year my medical problems began, and those transcripts show a B-, C, D, and seven WPs (withdrawal passing). I do plan on attaching a letter to my graduate applications providing a brief account of my Freshman year and the issues that lead to such poor performance, but I'm curious what sort of schools people would suggest I have a good chance at being accepted into. Two of my professors have suggested I look into Top-30 schools, but I feel that with such an odd-looking transcript, the application fees might be a waste of money. Additionally, my university offers a Masters of Science in Administration with an emphasis on Public Administration, and I've considered taking graduate level courses between December '10 and Fall '11 to show ability at the graduate level, as well as putting off admission for another full year to gain more work experience. Thanks in advance for any advice.

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