I am an undergraduate student who is majoring in physics and computer science (two majors) at Baylor University, but had a bad first semester while taking Elementary Chinese, Calculus I, General Physics I, and Introductory Chemistry I. I withdrew from Calculus I, but received a B- in physics and a C in both Chinese and Chemistry. In the summer before beginning at the university, I took Calculus I twice at a junior college during 6-week courses, receiving an F the first time and a C the second, but began it again under recommendation from the math department until realizing that I lacked the time management skills necessary to complete all the courses successfully in the first semester. After receiving an A in every class after the first semester at the university, will these first grades harm my image in the eyes of graduate school admission boards or employers? I am seeking admission with universities such as MIT and the University of Chicago for graduate school, so I would like to know what is thought about this problem.


Your least important grades are those earliest in your college career; if you have shown improvement, that improvement will be considered by most admissions committee members, especially if you show improvement in related courses at higher difficulty level (for example, based on your majors, I expect you have had many mathematics courses and physics courses since your problem courses in those areas).

However, you should know that if you are applying to top universities in your field, you will need a strong application overall - not only grades count, and admissions might be tight even for great applications.

Although I would not stress these issues in your initial application, you can use this experience to show growth when you interview for jobs or graduate positions. The classic "what is your worst quality as an employee/student" sort of question is a great opportunity for you to discuss your struggle when beginning college and especially to discuss how you were able to turn things around. Congratulations for not being discouraged - nice work.

  • What else would constitute a strong application to graduate schools and job positions? Amongst other things, would study abroad experience, undergraduate research, and student organizations be examples that could be added to a strong application? – Nate B Nov 17 '16 at 20:44
  • Yes, all of those would be good examples; for graduate school, research experience (hopefully with a good recommendation from a supervising professor) is probably most important. Similar questions have been asked repeatedly on this site, check out the "related" section on the right. There may also be staff at your current institution that can assist in directing you. As a final note, and more of an opinion, if you are interested in graduate school, that should be your PRIMARY interest, especially for successfully applying and working in a top institution. – Bryan Krause Nov 17 '16 at 20:48

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