I am an international student with a 3.7 US equivalated GPA. I applied to a grad school program in the US fresh out of undergrad and was accepted.

I was a part-time student at that grad school. During the next semester, I took up some courses at a local community college instead of the grad courses (physics 1, chem 2, o-chem 2, o-chem lab). I ended up having situational depression and got help really late in the semester. I was only able to withdraw from one course early in the semester, and failed two courses, and got a B in one.

I am currently re-thinking the grad program I applied to at first and want to apply to another one. However, this program is more prestigious. While my undergrad GPA and experience are good enough for the school, I am worried about how my recent bad semester at the local cc will be interpreted to the admissions office.

BTW: These courses that I bombed are not pre-requisites for the program I am applying to.

Should I discuss this bad semester in my personal statement? Are my chances of acceptance really low because they are recent grades?

  • Instead of the poor grades, the real problem will be trying to drop out after getting some bad results, which will be seen as incompetence, low endurance, poor persistence. Be more careful about touching these issues, rather than just pointing the failures.
    – user91300
    May 19, 2018 at 12:43
  • 4
    It is important to say what you are going to do differently in the future to make that bad semester an exception. May 19, 2018 at 15:49
  • These are good points- i did not drop out, just took the courses I wanted to but my mental health got in the way .. :/
    – Lina A
    May 20, 2018 at 0:22
  • I think you should be open about your mental health issues in your personal statement but phrase it in an optimistic way. Try conveying that you are getting better and motivated to improve over your recent bad performance.
    – japhwil
    Apr 12, 2020 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


If you explain as eloquently as you have here what happened, I cannot imagine a semester hurting you.

What impresses admission officers is when they see people who have a passion about themselves, and express intellectual curiosity, but at the same time, are willing to be vulnerable.

If you explain what happened on your statement of purpose, just as you have here, that will go along way with admissions.

My answer is that one semester of subpar grades will not hurt you.


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