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How awful does a W look in terms of PhD applications?


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Hello All,

 

I realize that these decisions are best made by talking to advisors and the professor directly. That said, I have done both of these things with little guidance, so I wanted to outsource to some other advice.

 

I am currently in a master's program and I plan on applying to PhD programs this fall. My program is extremely interdisciplinary so I often have to take courses outside my "home" field, psychology. That said, this semester I am enrolled in an industrial engineering course on a topic related to my focus, but not quite. It is essentially an elective. It is not required for me to graduate.

 

I have had several family issues this semester. Right before my midterm, my mom was involved in a severe car accident. My sister who is chronically ill, also had to have 3 surgeries in the span of two weeks while this was going on. As you can imagine, I spent many nights in the hospital with both of them and had to take a week or so off of work since my mom is the only one who cares for my sister. I am enrolled in classes full time and I have an on campus assistantship (as well as an unpaid research position). I missed the midterm because my mom got into the car accident the night before. I emailed my professor and was able to make up the exam after speaking to him about my situation. However, it was an essay exam that I did not prepare well for, given my time constraints with my family and other obligations.

 

I'm not making excuses, I'm just trying to plan the best course of action here. The professor has still not graded said midterm and the withdraw deadline is today at midnight. I honestly have no idea how I did on this test, and it's worth 40% of my grade. I did the calculations and if I get a 95 on the next two assignments, I can pass the class with a B, even if I failed the exam. This is not unmanageable, since I did some extra credit work at the beginning of the semester for 5 points extra credit on my final.

 

My question is: should I withdraw from this course, and if so, how bad does this look when applying for PhD programs? Does it look better to try and push through rather than withdraw? My other classes do not have midterm exams, so I am doing well in both of those, it just so happens the timeline for this course was the only one that was affected. I have tried talking to my advisor, but I am not really getting anywhere other than "those both look bad. Maybe you should stay in the course and talk to the professor?" My professor hasn't answered my email for days now, and I realistically cannot expect an answer by the end of today. I planned on talking to him after class today, but he cancelled class and office hours today. Any advice on how to proceed?

Edited by harrisonfjord
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I widthdrew from two classes in my Master's degree and it had absolutely no impact. People withdraw for all kinds of reasons, as the poster above has said, and unless you have a particularly judgmental department, I don't see it making a huge difference.

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Man this class seems to be giving you stress. Withdraw from the class! You will feel super relieved once you do.

 

This will make no difference at all to PhD programs. They will look at trends in grades and will not obsess over small issues on your transcripts. I applied to PhD programs half way through my MS program. My MS grades were good but undergrad grades were terrible (had a couple Ds in important classes). No one brought this up at all during interviews! Instead, everyone commented on my strong letter of recommendation and essays.

 

I interviewed at a lot of schools this year and was able to see what programs actually care about (by talking to directors/professors and also by looking at the qualities of the students chosen to interview). PhD programs want people who are passionate about their field and hardworking... not someone with a perfect transcript.

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This will make no difference at all to PhD programs. They will look at trends in grades and will not obsess over small issues on your transcripts. I applied to PhD programs half way through my MS program. My MS grades were good but undergrad grades were terrible (had a couple Ds in important classes). No one brought this up at all during interviews! Instead, everyone commented on my strong letter of recommendation and essays.

 

I interviewed at a lot of schools this year and was able to see what programs actually care about (by talking to directors/professors and also by looking at the qualities of the students chosen to interview). PhD programs want people who are passionate about their field and hardworking... not someone with a perfect transcript.

 

@bsharpe269: Thanks for giving me hope. I had a few Ws (medical withdrawals) on my undergrad transcript, and didn't want it to be held against me too hard, especially if my overall GPA was still above average. 

Edited by Infinito
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I interviewed at a lot of schools this year and was able to see what programs actually care about (by talking to directors/professors and also by looking at the qualities of the students chosen to interview). PhD programs want people who are passionate about their field and hardworking... not someone with a perfect transcript.

 

Seconded. The people I talked to about applications look at grades and GRE of course, but they're mostly concerned with experience and enthusiasm. At the interviews I went to no one said a word about my GPA (sub 3.0), but instead raved about my LoRs and work experience.

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Yeah, I agree - One W is not going to completely destroy your prospects. If the W deadline weren't tonight at midnight I would encourage you to talk to the professor first and see what he thinks, but since it's so close I think you should go ahead and W (or maybe drop to P/NP if that's an option).

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