I'm studying Computer Science with a double major in Math at a public university. I hope to attend a private school like Vanderbilt (Nashville, USA) to pursue an MS or PhD. My GPA is still above a 3.0, however:

  • I have received a U (unsatisfied, incorrectly submitted work) as a final grade in a single credit course that is part of an honors college program during my first semester in college.

  • I also had one terrible score (D) in a 200 level maths course during the same semester.

Will these early blemishes on my transcript affect my chances of getting into graduate school?

  • Is the course relevant/important to your major?
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 1:55
  • @JoshVo it should be noted that U doesn't necessarily imply a pass/fail grading scheme: GCSEs in UK secondary education are graded from A* through G as passing grades and U as a fail (at least when I took them). It wouldn't surprise me if universities existed with a related marking system Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 2:42

2 Answers 2


If a student did poorly in their first semester of college, but did well afterwards, admissions committees will conclude that the student learned from what ever problems they had the first semester, and will be unlikely to perform poorly again. However, if they can choose a student with a perfect record, they will. On the whole, first semester grades are of little importance except at the most selective institutions.

If you explain in your application what went wrong, why it will never happen again, and how it made you a better applicant, it may strengthen your application.

(us perspective)

  • Indeed, at some institutions, first semester (or even first year) grades can be retroactively rewritten. "Freshman forgiveness" one place called it. If you got a bad grade (I forget the precise language) in your Freshman year you could retake that course, and your grade the second time around would become your official grade, and the first grade gets expunged from your record. Commented Aug 4, 2015 at 22:00

Wow. Congrats on pursuing such a challenging major How relevant is that math course to your major? Is it one of the requirements? A lot of good advisors/faculty members understand that freshman year is only a summer from high school (think about it) so hopefully the graduate school will be understanding. Nobody is rarely ever perfect from the start- college is a learning process!

I'll be honest. I got straight C's my freshman and sophomore year. But I got lucky, went to classes, and got my sh*t together! My professors recognized that even though I did poorly early on, that I had potential, and gave me research projects (she pulled me out at the end of class- thought I was in trouble) Eventually, I got a project with NASA and it proved to graduate school that I was ready for research by the time I was applying.

So from my experience, no, it does not matter too much your freshman year. But make sure you have something to prove that you are academically strong enough now!

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