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Explanation of blemishes on transcript in SOP?

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To start with here is a brief timeline:

2006 Graduated high school 

2006-2011 took a few classes here and there, did well in some and not in others, switched from abnormal psych to nursing major, was diagnosed with ADHD after this time and after finally getting medicated I suddenly actually cared about my classes/future/knew what I wanted to do 

Fall 2013 - May 2016 Finishing bachelors in biochemistry and molecular biology

Research experience: 2 undergraduate labs, biochemistry related for one semester and computational chemistry/biology/drug design will be 3 semesters at graduation with minimum 1 publication as first author, internship with NASA over summer with microbiology and engineering which I've been approved to continue collaborating on from my school for next 2 semesters 

Other: GRE coming up in 10 days or so but based on full length practice tests I should do very well, will have excellent letters of rec


So on to the actual question! I will be applying to minimum 3 programs, 2 of which I am not concerned about so this is solely about the MIT Biological Engineering program. I know with my previous history it's not totally realistic for me to apply but I see no reason in not at least trying. Obviously my previous grades will show on my transcript and my GPA is not up to standard, should I briefly explain this in my SOP. I don't want to draw attention to it but I also don't want them to see those grades and immediately reject if they're ISN'T an explanation. Also, in general is GPA calculated from all courses ever taken, select courses, or all courses in your "major" coursework? If that is the case I'm okay. The program website does not specify and I am still waiting on a reply back. 




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It really depends. Do hold on and wait for the reply from the department. Chances are they might not consider the grades from the abnormal psych and nursing majors, but they will see them. Explaining your situation on the SOP should help, as should your (stellar!) research experience and (hopefully awesome?) current grades. It doesn't hurt to try.

Include a bit more than 3 schools this application season; 5-6 ought to be good.

Good luck! :)

Edit: Since this is the SOP forum, I should add that you shouldn't make what didn't work out the focus of your SOP, but rather how it helped build you and your interests right now + how <insert institution/program here> fits into the picture.

Edited by shinigamiasuka
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Thanks! Yes I will be applying to more than 3 but I am still searching around more for the best fits, I am narrowing it down now over the next week or so. The application for MIT doesn't open until mid-September so I definitely have some time to wait to hear back from them. I was planning to make the explanation very brief and turn it into a positive learning experience type thing, which is completely was. And yes my current grades are not PERFECT but my GPA in my major course work is 3.67 I believe.

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I'm not in the sciences, but I'm not sure if it's necessary to bring it up in a Statement of Purpose since it's already present in your transcript and essentially speaks for itself. When I was applying last year, I had a year-long gap in my transcripts between my sophomore and junior years and was concerned that it made me look non-committed or something, so I lightly brushed over it in two of my SOPs and explain how it was a motivating force in my life in spite of putting a stall on my goals. Unfortunately I didn't get into those two schools, though I doubt that was why.

One of the schools I did get into though (and the one that I'm attending) had an extra input box in their application for any additional explication on things that you weren't able to cover in your SOP, letters of recommendation, writing sample, etc., so I used that opportunity to explain that I was ill for a year and was in and out of the hospital for surgeries. I had thyroid cancer, though I didn't say exactly what it was I had; I was intentionally vague about it in order to avoid looking like I was asking for sympathy or something, but I wanted them to know there was a valid reason why I had to withdraw for a year, and that it wasn't because I was goofing off or lazy. 

As far as grades, the department boards are unlikely to throw out your application immediately just because you weren't a 4.0 student. Maybe if you had like a 2.0 GPA, but a 3.67 in your major is not grounds for them to remove you from the race at all. That is a very good GPA. I believe I had a 3.75 overall GPA, and a 3.89 in my major, but I think the extent to which they use your grades as a determining factor varies from school to school, as well as discipline to discipline. I know there were people who applied to the same program I did with grades better than mine, and they didn't get in. There are no guarantees in any of it, so my theory was to just be as honest as possible in my applications, while also highlighting my strengths.

What is your cumulative GPA going to look like when you graduate? You seem to have a lot of relevant experience and internships, and that will inarguably be valued in your applications, especially since you're going into the sciences.


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