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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?

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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.

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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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