- I failed a course in one of the last few semesters of my undergrad. I had poor grades in most courses in that particular semester.
- In the summer just prior to that semester, I had a disturbing experience in a foreign country (sexual assault by a guy, against my will and sexual orientation). It affected me very much while I was there, but assumed that I was alright after I came back to my home country.
However, in retrospect, I think #2 was indirectly responsible for #1. My grades were much better in all previous semesters and they recovered after that one.
I have already graduated from university and now wish to apply for PhD in the US/Europe (including few top univs).
Overall, my GPA is 8.9 on scale of 0-10, I have one conference presentation (conducted by top scientific society in my field) and one journal paper. However, the course in which I failed is important for my PhD field.
I know that a fail grade is a huge red flag in PhD admissions, so I really wish to address it in my statement of purpose (SOP). But due to the disturbing nature of my reason, I am afraid that it might make my SOP "controversial" or just too "negative". I am also slightly afraid that it may be interpreted as seeking sympathy.
Most importantly, I'm afraid of bringing the fail grade into focus, which might have gone unnoticed otherwise.
Should I address my fail grade in the SOP or just let it be? Will transcripts be thoroughly checked?