I have a bachelors degree in Mathematics, but with a weak GPA. I’m applying to a masters program, and my application requires a Statement of Purpose.
I believe that my weak GPA is not an indicator of my skills and capabilities, and still believe that I would be successful in the masters program. I didn’t have a chance to talk about my experiences elsewhere in the application, so is it fine for a Statement of Purpose to include a few sentences in the opening paragraph explaining how personal problems and depression hindered my academic performance in my bachelors degree, or is that considered unprofessional and not the right place? Thanks for your help.
A weak GPA can be a huge obstacle, no matter the cause. I wouldn’t mention the reasons in your SOP because, to be brutally honest, most admissions offices won’t care, and there’s a 90% chance your readers will assume you’re not taking personal responsibility for your previous performance.
If you must mention it at all, then do so in the “Additional Information” section of the app, or in a private email to someone specific in the grad office or department. But remember that you need to give them a compelling reason to consider your candidacy, something to counterbalance your previous track record, and it needs to be a lot more rock solid than a promise.
I recently worked with a student who DID write about mental health issues as an undergrad in the first paragraph, but that student is now applying to be a psychologist at Top-5 programs and has insane credentials. It made sense. This is probably the ONLY time I’d want a student mentioning this in the SOP, because it throws off the tone of the whole narrative. Every word after is distorted by the opening image of a bad student with mental health problems. First impressions are nearly inescapable. It’s far better to portray yourself with unwavering and justified confidence, not as someone forced to explain away failures. Grad school admissions is a cutthroat game.
The real pro move? Take a year off. Sign up for 2 or more part-time classes in your target field. Make As. Next year, point to this as an indicator of your readiness for grad school. No one ever takes this advice, but it works unbelievably well. It’s the cheat code to graduate school.