SBC Scoop: D on the Academic Transcript

This week’s Scoop highlights an approach to managing a blemish on your academic transcript.

Our client, Joe, had a fairly solid 3.4 GPA from his days as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley.    Because his grades were high overall, he was inclined to ignore the fact that he did have one D in an introductory Economics class.  He figured that the admissions committee would give him the benefit of the doubt, and understand that this grade was a fluke.  Amidst a sea of A’s and a handful of B’s, he did not want to dwell on his low grade, and draw unecessary attention to it.

While I understood his reasoning and sympathized with his desire not to dwell, I fervently disagreed with this approach.  Bottom line – if you do not provide all of the details, assumptions will be made.  Those assumptions may not be in your favor.   Wouldn’t you rather supply the admissions commitee with the facts and tell them your story, than have them jump to conclusions?

In Joe’s case, the admissions commitee may have assumed that he did not like or value Economics as a subject, or that he could not get a grasp on basic economic theory.  They may think that he behaved irresponsibly or did not take this course seriously.  Finally, they may wonder why he did not feel the need to explain such a blemish on his record, which could lead them to question his judgement or presentation skills.

As it turned out, Joe had a very good reason for the low grade.  In fact, it was such a good reason that we decided the story behind the grade could actually become an asset to his application.   Ultimately, he did not write an essay about the grade and provide an explanation/excuse.  Instead, he drafted an essay that focused on helping his family in the middle of a significant health and financial crisis, driving back and forth between Berkeley and San Diego on a weekly basis, and all of the surrounding stresses.  One of the outcomes of this was that he missed many Monday lectures.  This, combined with a fairly inflexible professor, led to the D.

Rather than dwelling on the grade, he talked about how he grew through this experience and what he learned, and was very specific about where his family is now and how he helped.  This story revealed his personal priorities, work ethic, dedication to family and determination.  In many ways, it was the strongest essay he created, and oh, by the way, it also provided context for the D.  He did insert a couple of sentences to explain his disappointment over the grade, and to explain that business and quantitative subjects were actually a strength and an interest.

What do you think of the approach Joe took?  Any thoughts on benefits or drawbacks of highlighting a weakness in this way?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  I will fill you in on what happened with Joe in next week’s Scoop.

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

To read more SBC Case Studies, click HERE.

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