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Addressing Deficiencies

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Hello everyone.


I'm writing my personal statement right now for the 2014 fall year of school, or for future programs in general, I suppose. I have a question. In my first year of undergrad and through a portion of my second year I failed two courses and did poorly in a third. This had a number of reasons, but mainly they were two: I underwent a surgery, and my father was placed into a home for long term health-care (and later passed in my senior year). After I took some time from school, I re-entered and raised my cumulative GPA from a 1.5 to a 3.1 by graduation. My last 3 years averaged a 3.7.


Under the right situations I think I have a very strong profile for graduate studies. I'm just wondering this; how to I explain this discrepancy without sounding like I'm making excuses?



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Considering how little space you have in your SOP I don't think you should waste a ton of space addressing this issue.  Did you retake those courses and do better the next time around?  If so then you could say something like "Unfortunately I did not do well in three courses, but retaking them gave me the opportunity to better understand the material and improve my grades."  Then go right into talking about your strengths.  Plenty of undergrads fail courses, especially in the first 2 years, and the reasons can vary. 


Now if you didn't repeat those courses and just took a semester off or something then you'd have to give a little more information.  You could say something like "During the beginning of undergrad I had some personal/family challenges that made it difficult to keep up academically.  I made the decision to take some time off, focus on those matters, and then returned when I felt better able to handle school."  Then go right into talking about your strengths.

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