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Optional Essay Conundrum

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Optional Essay Conundrum [#permalink]

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New post 30 Aug 2017, 11:47
Long time lurker, first time poster here.

Last edited by kyharr2012 on 31 Aug 2017, 21:13, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Optional Essay Conundrum [#permalink]

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New post 30 Aug 2017, 15:00
kyharr2012 wrote:
Long time lurker, first time poster here. I'm having a really hard time deciding how/whether to address some of my academic performance in an optional essay - and wanted to see if anyone had any previous experience with things like this. For context, the rest of my application is (I think) fairly strong - very good career impact (multiple promotions, team members, interesting projects completed), great recommendations, and high GMAT (770, 50Q 46V).

However, my big sticking point is my undergraduate academic performance. I went to a top tier school (non-HYP Ivy) and had a double major (Chemistry and Political Science) so that might help some, but my overall GPA is only a 3.23. The thing I was looking to address, however, is my performance particularly in the last semester of my undergrad career. I was dealing with (what seemed at the time) a couple of considerable personal issues. First, I went through the end of a long term relationship/engagement, which really flattened me and took me out of the game academically. I also became of some issues in my parents' marriage (infidelity related) that were pretty personally crushing and that I did not handle well at all. I ended up getting 3C+s and one D+ for the semester, which tanked my overall GPA pretty well as you'd imagine. I also understand that having this kind of aberration so late in my career won't reflect well.

I'd planned to not talk much at all about the actual issues, but instead emphasize that I hadn't handled these stresses responsibly. I internalized and retreated inwards rather than reaching out to friends and professors for support, mostly out of shame and an unwillingness to let people be close to me. I'd planned to talk about how I'd learned from these experiences, and now recognize that using one's network for support during tough times is the adult way to handle these kind of issues. I do really think working through that time made me a better professional, and don't think I could have accomplished what I have post-college without those lessons.

I'm worried that explaining all of this (in a more concise way than what's here) will seem like I'm making excuses, and invite other concerns about my character or maturity. I could just go with a generic "went through personal issues" option, but that seems even worse than spelling out what was going on. It's frustrating that this really seems to be the one thing holding me back, and I have grown a lot since this point. I wanted to see if anyone had spelled out similar issues in their application, or if there was any expert advice as to how to address these essays in general in a way that won't turn off the admissions committee. The aberrance from the rest of my record just makes it seem like not addressing it in some way isn't an option. Thanks in advance for any insight.


I'm not an expert.. just a fellow applicant.
I'm actually in a similar situation with a fairly strong application overall (GMAT 770 as well), but low GPA. In my case there wasn't even any external situation - I just was not focused on my studies.

In your case I feel there are genuine external factors and I feel you should maybe specify those factors in a slightly general way (without going into too much details). You're being too harsh on yourself when you say that you should have handled it better. Of course, handling it better would have been great, but handling it the way you did was not negative.. it was the default way most human beings would have reacted to the situation. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that. I'm sure the experience made you a stronger person and must have helped you evolve in many ways.

I also think in the overall scheme of things, just the last sem score may not be that big a factor. Specially with a 770 GMAT. That pretty much shuts down any doubts any one can have on your "skills/abilities".

If I were you, I would mention on my optional essay that my final sem results were below par because of a couple of personal situations - one of which was related to my own long term relationship and another related to my parents' marriage issues. However, those situations have taught me a great deal and enabled me to emerge stronger.

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Re: Optional Essay Conundrum [#permalink]

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New post 30 Aug 2017, 15:12
I don't think this is necessarily holding you back especially if your transcript backs all of this up. You have a really strong GMAT that should help prop up your low GPA.

I think it's work explaining the drop in your performance senior year. I would avoid the GF bit but the family stuff is reasonable, and mention how you've learned how to handle personal situations like this moving forward
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Re: Optional Essay Conundrum   [#permalink] 30 Aug 2017, 15:12
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