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Will one F on my transcript murder my chances at getting into a top MPA program?
December 4, 2010 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Will one F on my transcript murder my chances at getting into a top MPA program?

I failed an accelerated summer calculus course when I was a freshman. Now I'm applying for MPA schools and wondering whether it'll really hurt my chances at schools like NYU, USC or University of Washington. My cumulative GPA is a 3.9 and my GRE is at the 81st percentile. I also a good background: Peace Corps, some non-profit work, and great letters of recommendation.

If the F does hurt my chances, should I address it in a letter when I apply for these programs?

Thanks for your help!
posted by jordanian2 to Education (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I got into Georgetown Law with 3 Fs on my undergrad transcript (from Yale). My overall undergrad GPA was just barely 3.0. Your GPA sounds pretty stellar. Not sure if you should address it in a letter - I'd lean toward saying no, and just letting your GPA and GRE scores speak for themselves. (I had to submit a letter when applying to law schools because Yale made me take a year off on account of those poor grades - and applications typically ask you if you've been the subject of any kind of academic discipline or forced absence. But since that apparently didn't happen to you, I think I'd just leave well enough alone.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:22 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not in your field, but I do grad admissions in my own. If you have had success in a math course or two since then, I wouldn't worry about it at all, and I wouldn't even bother mentioning it: admissions people will just chalk it up to normal late-adolescent immaturity that you have now outgrown.

But if that experience had an effect on your habits or career plans (changed your work ethic, made you think twice about your intended math major, whatever) you might want to address that in whatever sort of personal statement you write for these apps. Also, some applications might ask specifically for explanations of any poor grades. The correct strategy here would be to explain briefly (without trying to justify your failure!) and state what the experience taught you.
posted by philokalia at 1:23 PM on December 4, 2010

I got into a top graduate program (not MPA) with an F on m transcript. And a D, if I recall. A 3.9 is a great GPA, and with an F factored in, everything else must be an A or an A+ ... everyone gets a bad grade in a math class at some point, I'd just ignore it and chill out.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:24 PM on December 4, 2010

I a DGS, albeit not an MPA DGS, and we wouldn't worry about a single F if you had a 3.9. We'd be dancing up and down to have an applicant with a 3.9 :)

Moreover, graduate programs tend to look at your upper-division coursework with more care--in fact, when I applied to grad school many moons ago, some universities *only* wanted my upper-division GPA. We expect some screwups in the freshman year.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:58 PM on December 4, 2010

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