I'm in the process of applying to graduate school. Naturally the University will require transcripts from all coursework. The school doesn't just look at grades, and they place an emphasis on recommendation letters and a strong GRE quantitive score. I have academic issues which naturally need to be disclosed.

I first started my undergraduate studies in the early 2000s. I was young, dumb, and self-medicated for depresssion by drinking. Additionally I had an other illness which caused me to lose consciousness, and I had multiple concussions from falling and hitting my head. I didn't do well in school, and after 5 years was academically disqualified. I maintained a GPA just under 2.0.

I moved back home and turned my life around. I transferred whatever credits I had, took classes at the local community college, and transferred all this to a local university and finished my Bachelor's degree with a 3.6 school GPA, and a 3.1 GPA including my old coursework.

Even though I had a non-technical degree, I landed a contract at a big tech company through a contact. Shortly after that contract ended I got an offer from another company and did some interesting work in testing core mobile applications and my skillset grew.

I felt I had hit a ceiling in my career and lacked the knowledge base to progress because I lacked a CS degree.

I decided to do a post-baccalaureate program in CS instead of a masters. Shortly after I started my program my dad passed away unexpectedly in a violent manner. I was present when it happened.

I was emotionally messed up to say the least. My family was not near me . So I spent a lot of time traveling home to help my family. My performance was up and down, I got some B's, a few A's, and two F's, and withdrew from several courses.

Fortunately I did complete an intensive internship last year at a tech company, and have a lot of skills and strong recommendations to show for it.

I've moved home now and am figuring out if I want to continue this program (it will take several years) or just apply for an MS CS since I already have a bachelor's degree. I'll have family support near me in all the places I'm applying.

My strongest assets are my work experience, and a solid quant GRE score.

Sorry for the long story. How I should address all this. My dad's cause of death was very traumatic and violent. Should I disclose details to admissions officers so they can understand why I didn't perform academically? How should I address the issues during my first undergraduate program?

-This question was marked as a duplication to another question. I believe addressing a death in the family is a different process which wasn't addressed in the other question. There is also past academic problems.

  • First of all, I sympathize with your loss. Few questions though. How many years do you have left on your post-baccalaureate program? I am not familiar with such degrees but can't you accelerate its duration (by taking more courses). Also, would not a MSc degree be more expensive and with two inherent risks: a) that you might not get accepted b) that you do not have the necessary theoretical CS foundation to make it through, if you get accepted.
    – Alexandros
    Jun 17, 2016 at 18:57
  • I have 2.5 years left on the degree. The CS program I'm applying to is tailored for individuals without a CS background with accelerate introductory courses. I've already got a few years of programming experience, so I can skip some of those perquisites.
    – RR84
    Jun 17, 2016 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


You haven't said what country you're in, and the answer may vary somewhat.

From my experience in the US, I'd have concerns about an application with the kinds of grades you've described that didn't come with some explanation of the personal circumstances that caused the poor academic performance. When I see bad grades with no explanation, I'll typically vote no on the applicant.

However, even with an explanation of why you did poorly in the past, I'd also have to consider whether or not you'd be likely to do well in the future. If the personal problems that you've had are ongoing, then it's likely that you'll continue to do poorly in your academic work, and you'd be a high risk applicant. If the personal issues are well and truly resolved, then I'd be more likely to vote yes on your application.

My advice would be to include a statement explaining your past poor academic performance, pointing out how you've done well at times when you weren't having these personal problems, and that you're confident that you won't have these problems going forward.

If any of your recommendation letter writers can also address this, it might help too- many recommendation forms have a specific question asking the recommendation writer whether the student's grades are fully representative of their performance or whether special circumstances should be considered. .

You don't need to go too far into the details of your experience ("a family member died suddenly and I struggled with this during the xxx semester" is more than enough detail.) What's more important is showing that when you aren't having such personal problems you have been a successful student and that these personal issues are no longer going to affect your academic performance.

  • Thanks, I'm in the United States. I do plan on including an explanation of the poor performance. I can say that not being physically closer to my family and lacking proper mental health resources was a big problem. I'm getting the help I need to deal with the grief now, and am spending time with the family. While the grief is still there, I believe I won't have these problems going forward.
    – RR84
    Jun 17, 2016 at 19:12

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