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I am applying to master's courses in theoretical physics. I see that good grades, especially in foundational courses, are important when it comes to having a good application.

I have had good to great grades throughout except that I had a fallback in my Statistical Physics course during my exchange semester. My grade translates to a B in the American system but a C in the college I went to the exchange for.

I think I should address this drop in grades since Statistical Physics is an important course. Of course, I have learned the subject better since then and have made up for the disruption. I would like to mention that.

On the other hand, I do not have any real reason for the drop. I spent a good amount of time traveling around Europe during my exchange and missed classes as a consequence. I had a decent hold of the concepts but lacked any practice leading to a B in the course.

Should I address this drop in any way? If yes, what might be a better way to put it across so as to minimize the negative look on my application.

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While you might address the drop elsewhere, the SoP is not the place for it. It isn't a place to make excuses or explain past lapses/failures. It is a statement of plans for the future (in the program and beyond) and how you intend to get there.

At most, a short phrase (less than a sentence) that leads into a statement about the plan: "Despite a low grade in ... ". And only do that if that particular course is vital to your future plans. Otherwise a low grade is just a low grade.

But, since the SoP is likely limited in length, use it for its intended purpose. The CV and such detail the past. A personal statement (not the SoP) can explain things if needed. But make the SoP entirely about the future and how you intend to get there.

You don't say where you are applying. In the US a single low grade is extremely unlikely to derail you. Especially if it was in an exchange semester where your environment has changed. And a B isn't a bad grade, just not an excellent one.

Again, if this is for US, the selection process is very broad, not just GPA, or even GPA in major subjects.

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  • Right. I get your point. But I am applying across Europe and they do not ask for a personal statement separately. At least in the programs I am applying to. That is why I don't have anywhere else to address this. In that case, do I just not address it since it is not that major a fallback?
    – Kabirk85
    Oct 22 '21 at 12:41
  • If interviews are part of the process, just be prepared to discuss it if asked. Otherwise, I'd try the "short phrase" approach in the SoP, and be very careful that the sentence in full is supportive of future plans, and future success. If everyone's record had to be perfect, grad schools would be pretty empty.
    – Buffy
    Oct 22 '21 at 12:45

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