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Background

So, I got into a premier institute of my country but had a hard time there. I always had to look for some sort of a job to support my family and as a result I graduated with six technical internships and a very poor GPA.

Now after four years I got myself into research and have an otherwise good profile, it's just that my GPA is so low that I have to explain about it in my SOP.

Is it okay if I talk about this? Or will this further hurt my chances?

4 Answers 4

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With a low GPA, your chances are already quite slim. You need a way to explain it. But it is even more important that you can explain why the institution can expect that you will be a success in the future. Your poor background doesn't help with this, no matter the reason. If your situation can be expected to continue, then it will be especially difficult to convince anyone that your outcomes will be different.

You have to make a case for the future, primarily.

But the SoP isn't the place to explain the past and certainly not the place to make excuses for past failures. It needs to be future focused on plans for research and thereafter as well as how you intend to achieve them. If you have somewhere else to explain things, do it there, such as a personal statement. Make the SoP positive and future focused.

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Yes you should.

Low GPA is bad. You need to explain it, and you need a reason that 1) most people will sympathize with and 2) will not recur. Assuming your finances are more stable now, you satisfy both these criteria, so you have no reason to hesitate.

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I think the previous answers here offer some sound advice, but I’ll advocate the other opinion and say no, you should not mention it based on my personal experience (low gpa, didn’t mention it in SoP, got admitted).

I think your SoP should generally focus on the positives of your background and the reasons why you are a great fit for the program. Discuss your progress, as this can be a way to subtly address a troubling past and ease your reader’s worry about your potential success.

The SoP is not a place to make excuses (regardless of how valid they may be), and it certainly should not turn into a “trembling steps” narrative. My answer to this question offers some other tips on writing an effective statement.

As an aside, my recommenders took care to address my weaknesses (like my gpa) in their letters. I recommend asking your letter writers to do the same, as this can be an effective way to dispel weaknesses when the defense is coming from a trusted academic.

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According to Deans of Admission committee at Harvard and Princeton that I attend through one of their events, they said it totally make senses to write about it. You just have to keep it short. For example, "due to my personal problem,...." is one of the example they gave. I think the link to this video is also posted on their official websites, so you can also check there as well.

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