Statement of Purpose question

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Unnatural Log
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Statement of Purpose question

Postby Unnatural Log » Mon Sep 15, 2008 10:37 am

I'm sure this topic has been gone over plenty of times before but here goes...

My second-to-last semester of school was awful... hardest set of classes I've ever had by a wide margin, started a thesis project, took the general GRE, and took the physics GRE long before I was ready to do so. General GRE and thesis ended up fantastic, but pGRE and grades for that semester, not so much.

I know a lot of people say don't talk about your negatives in your statement of purpose, but it's the only chance to explain those grades. I want to mention the reasons why that semester was poor without coming off as making excuses. Looking over my transcript, my grades that semester were clearly an outlier, and I expect to raise my pGRE a lot when I retake it in October (from about the 40 percentile to somewhere in the 80's), so it's not like I'm just BSing when I say that semester doesn't reflect my true abilities.

My question is, how much weight should I give in my statement to writing about this? Or should I just not mention it at all, and let my scores and transcript do the talking?

calphys
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Re: Statement of Purpose question

Postby calphys » Mon Sep 29, 2008 12:58 am

I'd say it depends what you have to say. If all you've got is that taking hard classes while doing a research project was too hard, that might not look good to an admissions committee who is expecting you to take hard classes while doing research. Not to mention, that's very likely the message they'd take away from looking at your transcript anyway. If there are other reasons, then it's up to you to make them not sound like excuses.

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Unnatural Log
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Re: Statement of Purpose question

Postby Unnatural Log » Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:14 am

Right, I thought about that before. In my defense, my next (ie last) semester was probably even more busy - classes were a little less difficult but the increase in intensity in my thesis research/writing more than made up for this - and I excelled at everything there, with the grades and a rec letter or two to prove it.

So, now that I think about it, I guess my question really is this: is the stereotype of writing "I sucked at _____, but I learned from it and now I'm good at it" really an effective thing to say in a statement of purpose?

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grae313
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Re: Statement of Purpose question

Postby grae313 » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:21 am

Unnatural Log wrote:I'm sure this topic has been gone over plenty of times before but here goes...

My second-to-last semester of school was awful... hardest set of classes I've ever had by a wide margin, started a thesis project, took the general GRE, and took the physics GRE long before I was ready to do so. General GRE and thesis ended up fantastic, but pGRE and grades for that semester, not so much.

I know a lot of people say don't talk about your negatives in your statement of purpose, but it's the only chance to explain those grades. I want to mention the reasons why that semester was poor without coming off as making excuses. Looking over my transcript, my grades that semester were clearly an outlier, and I expect to raise my pGRE a lot when I retake it in October (from about the 40 percentile to somewhere in the 80's), so it's not like I'm just BSing when I say that semester doesn't reflect my true abilities.

My question is, how much weight should I give in my statement to writing about this? Or should I just not mention it at all, and let my scores and transcript do the talking?


My opinion:
If you do manage to improve your score greatly when you retake the test, and your grades for the one semester were "clearly an outlier," then why mention them? If your grades for the semester were bad enough that you really feel compelled to mention them, give them no more than a sentence or two--like maybe just allude to a challenging semester that you learned from...

calphys
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Re: Statement of Purpose question

Postby calphys » Wed Oct 01, 2008 2:15 pm

I'm with grae on this one. If your grades go up like you say, then you have nothing to explain. I would avoid giving them that sentence. And I'm ignoring the GRE scores cause I assume that if you're serious about grad school, you will in fact fix them, and then you don't need to say anything about those either. You never need to give excuses for improvement.

By the way, I had the same thing happen -- one term of horrible grades my junior year, but then I pulled everything up. I never said anything about it in my SOP, and I got into grad school anyway.

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Unnatural Log
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Re: Statement of Purpose question

Postby Unnatural Log » Fri Oct 03, 2008 9:08 pm

Thanks for the responses guys. I've heard basically the same thing from everyone I've asked - that there's really no need to mention them, admission committees will see for themselves the improvement I make in my pGRE score and grades. So I'll take the advice and focus on my research interests and abilities in my statement.




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