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Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses?

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Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 12 Nov 2017, 10:06
Hello,

Applying for Fall 2018 on Jan. Getting my essays ready before the Holidays. I've gotten a good portion out of the way, but I'm stuck on the optional GPA essays many schools ask to provide. I was wondering if anyone can guide me on what parts of my story work (and what I should edit)?

Bio and History:
- Double Degree from a big public Uni in Business with 2 minors (BS) and Economics (BA). GPA is 2.67. Had a 0.7 after my 1st semester, and 1.1 by my 1st year.
- Had great grades but a poor academic background before college. Came from a very bad HS and Junior HS. Had almost no HW and no tests (except Regents). Barely had English and only 1/2 of the required Math was covered (no Geometry or Advanced Algebra). Also missing many basic Math concepts also that should have been ingrained in me by HS...
- I also had very poor social skills coming out of HS, and spent a significant amount of time practicing small talk, eye contact, and making friends when starting school. Didn't have anyone I knew at college so I needed to start fresh.
- Had a severe outbreak of eczema my 1st semester that I didn't treat until it became infectious. Was on both hands and both feet, so I was almost incapacitated for a month. Still treked to classes in pain, but I couldn't complete homework assignments.
- After recovering by mid-October, I did what most college students do: I indulged in partying, many late night gaming sessions, and other 1st year pastimes throughout my first year (and somewhat into my 2nd)
- Decided to take Advanced Calc and Physics to pursue Engineering my 2nd semester...which I was completely ill-prepared for.
- Spent semesters 3-5 trying out several different majors to explore myself, getting involved on-campus, and catching up material beyond my classes (to the extent it doubled my courseload). I also needed to learn how to learn: proper note taking techniques, studying habits, etc. Learned a lot of basic Math concepts and practiced my Writing skills (as my diction and grammar skills required massive improvements). By my 5th semester, I improved my GPA to a 2.7.
- Decided to go for Accounting, as I enjoyed my Accounting coursework until that point. It's also the 2nd hardest discipline in my college, with each class requiring a C+ to continue the major, and a 40% curve who are weeded out each class (meaning the class size gets reduced 40% per semester no matter the grade disparity). This made my classes ultra-competitive, and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the tactics employed by my classmates to continue. At the same time, I started disliking the material and emphasis on memorizing terms rather than concepts more and more. Plus had a leadership position I enjoyed a lot where I created Marketing collateral and informed club members of new events (which I became increasingly interested in Marketing).
- On my 7th semester, I had my biggest falling out with Accounting. With 3 on-campus positions, 2 volunteer commitments, and losing interest in the material, I had a hard time being committed to the intense study schedule. The straw that broke the camels back was a mandatory conference I traveled for due to my leadership position in the Accounting club, and my teacher's unwillingness to reschedule my Midterm (which was the day I flew back). Ended up coming back sick and completely bombed the exam. It was just past the resignation date and thus had an F that semester for the class. In general, the intensiveness of the Accounting courses negated attention from other courses, and thus my grades slipped.
- My final 2 semesters I focused on volunteering and internships. Because my internship was paid and fairly intensive (25 hours) I did not attend all my classes. By this point, I was more interested in securing a Full-Time position and interning than my studies, especially given that with 150 credits by the end acing all my classes would of only bumped my total GPA to just .1.

Post studies, I learned a lot more about time management and I've done further studying on Math concepts to keep building on those skills and not lose it (nothing official...just Udemy and Coursera stuff).

In terms of academic accomplishments, I got the highest grade of my graduating class in my final Economics Thesis, and 1st place in our main Marketing project in developing an IMC (I developed out the concept and worked on collateral, while others on my Team worked on commercials). There's a few others, but I think those are the most noteworthy.

So, that's my story... I don't know how it sounds from an outsider perspective. Learned a lot in college. I was far from developed coming in, and part of the learning experiences was all the failure, and understanding how to overcome lots of obstacles and deficiencies. I know (especially after studying the GMAT) that I would of been a lot more prepared for college now than before.

Problem is...I don't know how I sound. There's a lot to take in from what I wrote.

There's also two other tibits on why I didn't succeed as much as I should of in college in boosting up my GPA to a 3:
- Competitiveness in Accounting: When I said peers made me 'uncomfortable', I meant less than savory ways in beating the odds. Collaboration was extremely rare. Adderal use and cheating were common. Since a 90 can be a fail if the class gets a 98, it was incentivized to cheat. I did so myself...and felt extremely uncomfortable doing so. This was the turning point for me where I started resenting my classes.
- I was a poor test taker: OK, maybe not after the GMAT (I can see the tricks that used to 'get' me), but I used to stumble when taking multiple choice exams, especially when memorizing terms and acronyms (my recall for names in general is very poor). Worse, I'd get questions similar to GMAT Sentence Correction in History or even Marketing class, where you'd have similar statement but different verbs that change the meaning. Felt that 80% of test questions were actually on material, and 20% were trick questions designed to make it harder to get an A. I'm really good at digesting information and summarizing it. I'd always ace papers, presentations, project assignments, excel assignments (like regression tests) or written tests. Unfortunately, most of my college classes relied on large multiple choice exams. When I needed to get extremely granular with multiple choice tests, I'd often stumble. This is why I have a lot more B+ and B's than A's (I think I only have a few A's in my whole transcript).

Neither of these I think are appropriate in mentioning to admissions committees.




So yeah... I'm not sure how to tell my story. Especially when there's just 500 words to tell. Should I just highlight a few parts? If so, what parts should I tell and what should I omit? Thanks!

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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 13 Nov 2017, 00:17
greatmightypoo wrote:
Hello,

Applying for Fall 2018 on Jan. Getting my essays ready before the Holidays. I've gotten a good portion out of the way, but I'm stuck on the optional GPA essays many schools ask to provide. I was wondering if anyone can guide me on what parts of my story work (and what I should edit)?

Bio and History:
- Double Degree from a big public Uni in Business with 2 minors (BS) and Economics (BA). GPA is 2.67. Had a 0.7 after my 1st semester, and 1.1 by my 1st year.
- Had great grades but a poor academic background before college. Came from a very bad HS and Junior HS. Had almost no HW and no tests (except Regents). Barely had English and only 1/2 of the required Math was covered (no Geometry or Advanced Algebra). Also missing many basic Math concepts also that should have been ingrained in me by HS...
- I also had very poor social skills coming out of HS, and spent a significant amount of time practicing small talk, eye contact, and making friends when starting school. Didn't have anyone I knew at college so I needed to start fresh.
- Had a severe outbreak of eczema my 1st semester that I didn't treat until it became infectious. Was on both hands and both feet, so I was almost incapacitated for a month. Still treked to classes in pain, but I couldn't complete homework assignments.
- After recovering by mid-October, I did what most college students do: I indulged in partying, many late night gaming sessions, and other 1st year pastimes throughout my first year (and somewhat into my 2nd)
- Decided to take Advanced Calc and Physics to pursue Engineering my 2nd semester...which I was completely ill-prepared for.
- Spent semesters 3-5 trying out several different majors to explore myself, getting involved on-campus, and catching up material beyond my classes (to the extent it doubled my courseload). I also needed to learn how to learn: proper note taking techniques, studying habits, etc. Learned a lot of basic Math concepts and practiced my Writing skills (as my diction and grammar skills required massive improvements). By my 5th semester, I improved my GPA to a 2.7.
- Decided to go for Accounting, as I enjoyed my Accounting coursework until that point. It's also the 2nd hardest discipline in my college, with each class requiring a C+ to continue the major, and a 40% curve who are weeded out each class (meaning the class size gets reduced 40% per semester no matter the grade disparity). This made my classes ultra-competitive, and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the tactics employed by my classmates to continue. At the same time, I started disliking the material and emphasis on memorizing terms rather than concepts more and more. Plus had a leadership position I enjoyed a lot where I created Marketing collateral and informed club members of new events (which I became increasingly interested in Marketing).
- On my 7th semester, I had my biggest falling out with Accounting. With 3 on-campus positions, 2 volunteer commitments, and losing interest in the material, I had a hard time being committed to the intense study schedule. The straw that broke the camels back was a mandatory conference I traveled for due to my leadership position in the Accounting club, and my teacher's unwillingness to reschedule my Midterm (which was the day I flew back). Ended up coming back sick and completely bombed the exam. It was just past the resignation date and thus had an F that semester for the class. In general, the intensiveness of the Accounting courses negated attention from other courses, and thus my grades slipped.
- My final 2 semesters I focused on volunteering and internships. Because my internship was paid and fairly intensive (25 hours) I did not attend all my classes. By this point, I was more interested in securing a Full-Time position and interning than my studies, especially given that with 150 credits by the end acing all my classes would of only bumped my total GPA to just .1.

Post studies, I learned a lot more about time management and I've done further studying on Math concepts to keep building on those skills and not lose it (nothing official...just Udemy and Coursera stuff).

In terms of academic accomplishments, I got the highest grade of my graduating class in my final Economics Thesis, and 1st place in our main Marketing project in developing an IMC (I developed out the concept and worked on collateral, while others on my Team worked on commercials). There's a few others, but I think those are the most noteworthy.

So, that's my story... I don't know how it sounds from an outsider perspective. Learned a lot in college. I was far from developed coming in, and part of the learning experiences was all the failure, and understanding how to overcome lots of obstacles and deficiencies. I know (especially after studying the GMAT) that I would of been a lot more prepared for college now than before.

Problem is...I don't know how I sound. There's a lot to take in from what I wrote.

There's also two other tibits on why I didn't succeed as much as I should of in college in boosting up my GPA to a 3:
- Competitiveness in Accounting: When I said peers made me 'uncomfortable', I meant less than savory ways in beating the odds. Collaboration was extremely rare. Adderal use and cheating were common. Since a 90 can be a fail if the class gets a 98, it was incentivized to cheat. I did so myself...and felt extremely uncomfortable doing so. This was the turning point for me where I started resenting my classes.
- I was a poor test taker: OK, maybe not after the GMAT (I can see the tricks that used to 'get' me), but I used to stumble when taking multiple choice exams, especially when memorizing terms and acronyms (my recall for names in general is very poor). Worse, I'd get questions similar to GMAT Sentence Correction in History or even Marketing class, where you'd have similar statement but different verbs that change the meaning. Felt that 80% of test questions were actually on material, and 20% were trick questions designed to make it harder to get an A. I'm really good at digesting information and summarizing it. I'd always ace papers, presentations, project assignments, excel assignments (like regression tests) or written tests. Unfortunately, most of my college classes relied on large multiple choice exams. When I needed to get extremely granular with multiple choice tests, I'd often stumble. This is why I have a lot more B+ and B's than A's (I think I only have a few A's in my whole transcript).

Neither of these I think are appropriate in mentioning to admissions committees.




So yeah... I'm not sure how to tell my story. Especially when there's just 500 words to tell. Should I just highlight a few parts? If so, what parts should I tell and what should I omit? Thanks!


Well, I think there are two things to do here:
1. Keep it short and to the point
2. Allay their potential concerns about your capacity to academically succeed by PROVING that you are smart.

Keep it brief. Keep it positive. Don't go into all the detail about all the reasons... just tell your background, say how much you learned, and own up to your poor GPA (take responsibility).

And that's the best you can do.
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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 13 Nov 2017, 00:46
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greatmightypoo wrote:
Hello,

Applying for Fall 2018 on Jan. Getting my essays ready before the Holidays. I've gotten a good portion out of the way, but I'm stuck on the optional GPA essays many schools ask to provide. I was wondering if anyone can guide me on what parts of my story work (and what I should edit)?

Bio and History:
- Double Degree from a big public Uni in Business with 2 minors (BS) and Economics (BA). GPA is 2.67. Had a 0.7 after my 1st semester, and 1.1 by my 1st year.
- Had great grades but a poor academic background before college. Came from a very bad HS and Junior HS. Had almost no HW and no tests (except Regents). Barely had English and only 1/2 of the required Math was covered (no Geometry or Advanced Algebra). Also missing many basic Math concepts also that should have been ingrained in me by HS...
- I also had very poor social skills coming out of HS, and spent a significant amount of time practicing small talk, eye contact, and making friends when starting school. Didn't have anyone I knew at college so I needed to start fresh.
- Had a severe outbreak of eczema my 1st semester that I didn't treat until it became infectious. Was on both hands and both feet, so I was almost incapacitated for a month. Still treked to classes in pain, but I couldn't complete homework assignments.
- After recovering by mid-October, I did what most college students do: I indulged in partying, many late night gaming sessions, and other 1st year pastimes throughout my first year (and somewhat into my 2nd)
- Decided to take Advanced Calc and Physics to pursue Engineering my 2nd semester...which I was completely ill-prepared for.
- Spent semesters 3-5 trying out several different majors to explore myself, getting involved on-campus, and catching up material beyond my classes (to the extent it doubled my courseload). I also needed to learn how to learn: proper note taking techniques, studying habits, etc. Learned a lot of basic Math concepts and practiced my Writing skills (as my diction and grammar skills required massive improvements). By my 5th semester, I improved my GPA to a 2.7.
- Decided to go for Accounting, as I enjoyed my Accounting coursework until that point. It's also the 2nd hardest discipline in my college, with each class requiring a C+ to continue the major, and a 40% curve who are weeded out each class (meaning the class size gets reduced 40% per semester no matter the grade disparity). This made my classes ultra-competitive, and I became increasingly uncomfortable with the tactics employed by my classmates to continue. At the same time, I started disliking the material and emphasis on memorizing terms rather than concepts more and more. Plus had a leadership position I enjoyed a lot where I created Marketing collateral and informed club members of new events (which I became increasingly interested in Marketing).
- On my 7th semester, I had my biggest falling out with Accounting. With 3 on-campus positions, 2 volunteer commitments, and losing interest in the material, I had a hard time being committed to the intense study schedule. The straw that broke the camels back was a mandatory conference I traveled for due to my leadership position in the Accounting club, and my teacher's unwillingness to reschedule my Midterm (which was the day I flew back). Ended up coming back sick and completely bombed the exam. It was just past the resignation date and thus had an F that semester for the class. In general, the intensiveness of the Accounting courses negated attention from other courses, and thus my grades slipped.
- My final 2 semesters I focused on volunteering and internships. Because my internship was paid and fairly intensive (25 hours) I did not attend all my classes. By this point, I was more interested in securing a Full-Time position and interning than my studies, especially given that with 150 credits by the end acing all my classes would of only bumped my total GPA to just .1.

Post studies, I learned a lot more about time management and I've done further studying on Math concepts to keep building on those skills and not lose it (nothing official...just Udemy and Coursera stuff).

In terms of academic accomplishments, I got the highest grade of my graduating class in my final Economics Thesis, and 1st place in our main Marketing project in developing an IMC (I developed out the concept and worked on collateral, while others on my Team worked on commercials). There's a few others, but I think those are the most noteworthy.

So, that's my story... I don't know how it sounds from an outsider perspective. Learned a lot in college. I was far from developed coming in, and part of the learning experiences was all the failure, and understanding how to overcome lots of obstacles and deficiencies. I know (especially after studying the GMAT) that I would of been a lot more prepared for college now than before.

Problem is...I don't know how I sound. There's a lot to take in from what I wrote.

There's also two other tibits on why I didn't succeed as much as I should of in college in boosting up my GPA to a 3:
- Competitiveness in Accounting: When I said peers made me 'uncomfortable', I meant less than savory ways in beating the odds. Collaboration was extremely rare. Adderal use and cheating were common. Since a 90 can be a fail if the class gets a 98, it was incentivized to cheat. I did so myself...and felt extremely uncomfortable doing so. This was the turning point for me where I started resenting my classes.
- I was a poor test taker: OK, maybe not after the GMAT (I can see the tricks that used to 'get' me), but I used to stumble when taking multiple choice exams, especially when memorizing terms and acronyms (my recall for names in general is very poor). Worse, I'd get questions similar to GMAT Sentence Correction in History or even Marketing class, where you'd have similar statement but different verbs that change the meaning. Felt that 80% of test questions were actually on material, and 20% were trick questions designed to make it harder to get an A. I'm really good at digesting information and summarizing it. I'd always ace papers, presentations, project assignments, excel assignments (like regression tests) or written tests. Unfortunately, most of my college classes relied on large multiple choice exams. When I needed to get extremely granular with multiple choice tests, I'd often stumble. This is why I have a lot more B+ and B's than A's (I think I only have a few A's in my whole transcript).

Neither of these I think are appropriate in mentioning to admissions committees.




So yeah... I'm not sure how to tell my story. Especially when there's just 500 words to tell. Should I just highlight a few parts? If so, what parts should I tell and what should I omit? Thanks!


Hi greatmightypoo,

It will be essential for you to approach the GPA question with positivity. You could definitely bring in the time-management element and the fact that you were perhaps unable to cope up with the number of things you had taken on. However, do mention that you have had your learnings and have improved since then :) Keep it simple and honest, without trying too much :)

All the best!
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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 14 Nov 2017, 16:47
JonAdmissionado wrote:

Well, I think there are two things to do here:
1. Keep it short and to the point
2. Allay their potential concerns about your capacity to academically succeed by PROVING that you are smart.

Keep it brief. Keep it positive. Don't go into all the detail about all the reasons... just tell your background, say how much you learned, and own up to your poor GPA (take responsibility).

And that's the best you can do.


Thanks! Do you have any examples?

Also, how do you prove yourself by alleviating concerns? Job experience? The story? Every school I've been to so far has said they don't really care much for taking extra courses, and its a bit late for that to be honest.

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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 23 Nov 2017, 19:00
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I would recommend to avoid sounding like you're making excuses to just try and avoid making excuses. There is a difference between explaining your situation and making excuses so you will need to communicate your story in a direct fashion and where relevant provide examples where you have addressed these issues / red flags at some point in your life.

It will be difficult to really make wholesale corrections to some of your issues at this point, and with those situations you will have to do your best to mitigate and understand that it will just be a weak area in the short term. Hope this helps somewhat and good luck!
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Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 23 Nov 2017, 19:13
VeritasPrepDozie wrote:
I would recommend to avoid sounding like you're making excuses to just try and avoid making excuses. There is a difference between explaining your situation and making excuses so you will need to communicate your story in a direct fashion and where relevant provide examples where you have addressed these issues / red flags at some point in your life.

It will be difficult to really make wholesale corrections to some of your issues at this point, and with those situations, you will have to do your best to mitigate and understand that it will just be a weak area in the short term. Hope this helps somewhat and good luck!

Been thinking about it...would it be easier to just say I had A LOT of things to work on myself and didn't really focus on my grades and more so on finding out what I wanted to do post college, building interpersonal skill, and funding college via an eBay business? Then state that I focused on becoming more diligent during my career at building time management skills and became ambitious with my goals and projects, focusing on tackling the biggest assignments I could find?

Last edited by greatmightypoo on 23 Nov 2017, 19:15, edited 1 time in total.

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New post 23 Nov 2017, 19:15
I think that is a good approach obviously a more polished version of that. But own it in a way that aligns with your personal and professional story


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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 23 Nov 2017, 20:48
Is it wise to say that I got involved in too many extracurricular and hence my GPA took a hit?

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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 23 Nov 2017, 20:49
Is it wise to say that I got involved in too many extracurricular and hence my GPA took a hit?

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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses? [#permalink]

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New post 24 Nov 2017, 06:40
egmat750 wrote:
Is it wise to say that I got involved in too many extracurricular and hence my GPA took a hit?


Sorry to sound a little brusque here, but any "explaining" that you even try, will put you in a "risky" category. Schools have a strong need and the choice to avoid risks.

So, what can you do?
    1. When it comes to any weak phases in your application, keep it short, but own up responsibility. For example, if your GPA took a hit AND you have good Extra-curriculars (EC), talk about your EC, but don't even once say, the GPA fell BECAUSE of the ECs.
    2. Make sure you are able to demonstrate that you have learnt your lessons. Whether you have done extremely well in extra-curriculars, and/or shown a good GMAT score, or recorded promotions at your workplace, the adcomm needs to be convinced that you have the capacity to handle the class load (MBA programs are extremely hectic).
    3. Get help on your applications. Experienced counselors can tweak your essays etc to play with "how to represent things", without lying.

    Counselors may seem to be expensive, but look at the service as a cost of the MBA itself. Remember, any scholarships, any fin aid, any movement up the rankings pays off your expenses on the counselor.


Hope that helps.
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Re: Optional GPA Essay | How To Not Sound Like A Bucket Of Excuses?   [#permalink] 24 Nov 2017, 06:40
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