About That D in Freshman English…

December 2, 2013

If your high school career has been an uninterrupted parade of top notch grades, near perfect standardized test scores, and saintly behavior then you can stop reading… Except you probably won’t since you perfectionists like to finish every single thing you start, right?

Academic blemishes come in all shapes and sizes, from bombing sophomore year entirely to a lone C minus breaking a string of trips to the honor roll. On the non-academic front, perhaps you were disciplined for a fight, had a series of unexcused absences, or were caught plagiarizing an essay (did you really think your overuse of the word “moribund” wouldn’t set off red flags?).

No matter the severity of the stain, our advice for beginning the cleansing process is the same—deal with it head on.

Use essays or short response questions as a chance to explain the story behind that semester or grade that is not like the others. Maybe you found out you had a learning disability or ADHD. Maybe your parents were getting separated. Or maybe the reason is unspectacular but gives insight into you as a human being – a bout of depression, a philosophical crisis, or full blown ennui.

Elicit recommendations from those who are familiar with your flawed past and can speak to your growth process. Research is showing that “grit” is a better predictor of success in college than raw ability. Colleges expect that in their rigorous and challenging environment you will experience a setback or two over the course of four years. How you responded to adversity in your life may impress an admissions officer every bit as much as if you had sailed through high school under storm-free blue skies.

If your transcript has more blemishes than highlights, you may want to consider starting at a community college or holding off on applying to college until you turn things around. But if your high school career is generally solid with a few imperfections, you have nothing to fear.

College Transitions always tells clients that we all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels. Okay, we admit it; that was Shakespeare. Like we said, nobody’s perfect.