As an undergraduate, I had a few F's and was on academic probation but graduated with a 3.2 in electrical engineering from a mid level ranked uni. Then I thought about going to graduate school in engineering so I registered as a non degree graduate student and I got a F in that single graduate class.

But that was ten years ago.

I then worked ten years as an engineer realizing my passion was never in engineering, I only studied it for the career opportunities and high salary. I was more interested in the business / economics side of things so I applied for a MBA (I got probationary acceptance) and graduated with a GPA of 3.7 for my MBA.

Now I want to apply for a PhD in economics in a higher ranking school (not an ivy or top 25 school) and I am panicking because economics has similar math classes as for engineers. Will they look at my old grades and reject my application? I am afraid they say 'you had a few Fs as an undergrad and then another as a graduate student and even though it was ten years ago - sorry no chance'.

My bad grades are obvious on my transcript, I cannot hide them. I admit I was a lazy student with no goal in life until the real world hit me. I feel my poor study habits and mistakes made me a more serious, more studious and more driven student now and I can transfer a lot of my engineering skills to economics. Should I give a reason for my bad grades in my SOP? The schools I am applying for did not ask for an essay of 'additional information'. The SOP requirements want me to talk about my future plans and current qualifications. All my economics and statistics prerequisite grades have so far been straight As as were my MBA grades but I am afraid the graduate admission committees hold my past mistakes from 10 years ago against me in particular because I got a F in a graduate class ten years ago.

Do they care about my old grades?

Any advice? What should I do?

  • Do they care about my old grades? — Probably most won't, but probably a few will. — Any advice? What should I do? — The same thing every other applicant does. Present the strongest case for admission you can, and then hope for the best.
    – JeffE
    Feb 26 '17 at 21:34
  • Which classes did you fail? Did you retake any of them? It might be helpful to do some retaking -- but it depends on the relevance of the courses. // If you really have something helpful to say about the bad grades, you could include an additional short statement. In most cases there is not much reason not to let your more recent grades speak for themselves. // But you mentioned math, and I believe math is important for economics. Feb 28 '17 at 2:47
  • The classes where I did not do well have zero relevance to economics but the fact they are on my transcript is worrisome. I am debating discussing them or not because the SOP instructions state to discuss future plans. I am hoping I can pull a Bradley Voytek scenario. Mar 1 '17 at 4:17

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