I am applying to the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, and they require a transcript. Now, I have a problem with my grades, in that I had good grades until my final year, where a combination of depression and a death in the family tanked my non-major GPA. During my final year, I went from a cumulative 3.55 to a 3.07, and also failed two courses. More specifically, my first semester of my senior year was awful, with a 1.22 GPA, and in my second semester, I managed to get a respectable 3.0, where I had to take 21 credit hours so I could graduate on time. So it's not as if I am a bad student, it's just one semester of badness which has to be explained.

How do I make this not look bad? I would like to explain myself in the personal statement that I am capable of rebounding from hardship, that I can rise to the challenge when confronted with adversity, that my performance in that one semester is not indicative of my abilities.

I am upset at the moment because after looking at my transcript, it's worse than I initially thought. As for my other materials, I believe I have good letters of recommendation, good industry experience, and I can write some kick-ass essays, despite the fact that English is not my first language.

Also, the bad grades are not in my major (CS), where I managed to keep a GPA above 3.5 during my studies.

Any tips on how to deal with this? Any other tips I could use? I really appreciate it?

2 Answers 2


They require a transcript, but do they allow any kind of supplemental statements as part of the package? If so, I would try to include some kind of simply explanation – something like:

During the fall semester of my senior year, my grades slipped due to some personal family issues.

You might even try put a positive spin on it:

During the fall semester of my senior year, my grades slipped due to some personal family issues. Even though my grades suffered, I learned a lot about priorities and biting off more than I can chew. Though my GPA might not reflect this, I emerged a better person because of that trying experience.


If there are extenuating circumstances that precipitated this dramatic drop in grades, use the opportunity provided by your personal statement to address this, as suggested by J.R.

A second point you can emphasize that - in my experience is quite important - is that you rebounded from this very sub-par semester by doing respectably in your final semester. This provides more evidence that it was a fluke and that you are on the upswing. From speaking with admissions committee members (which is admittedly a bit different), I've been told that bad grades earlier in a record, followed by good grades are almost a non-issue (if you get passed the initial GPA screen, of course). Between this dynamic and a well-written personal statement, you should be able to mitigate the damage of a single bad semester.

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