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Low GPA, late bloomer; grad school a dream? Label a risk?


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Joined: Jun 19, 2005
Posts: 3
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Posted Jun 19, 2005 at 3:39:46 AM
Subject: Low GPA, late bloomer; grad school a dream? Label a risk?

For the past ten years, I've been struggling through undergrad courses. (I got a three-year BA in five years; went back to school part-time to improve my GPA with the idea of applying to grad school, with no better result.)

While I've tended to start the semester on a strong foot, excelling in exams and tests, the essay-writing process is painful for me; many times, I've simply not turned in the final paper (still wound up with a C -- not that this is any source of pride -- though other times I've gotten the deserved F for incompletion). When, through miracle and misery, I have managed to get a paper together in time, I've done quite well (at the cost of torturing myself and anyone with the misfortune to live with me).

Profs would always be surprised that I did so poorly given the quality of my class participation and early test scores. I often handled things badly (asking for extensions, getting them, and still not turning in papers or communicating with generous, bewildered profs because of my frustration with the papers, and embarrassment.)

Taking all the Cs, Fs and As together, my GPA averages around D+ - C.

I now know for a fact that it counts for nothing, but my IQ has been tested at 135 and 140. While I've never been diagnosed, I strongly suspect that my organizational issues may be related to ADD. I was counselled (ineffectively) for depression, but it just never occurred to me or my therapist that ADD might be the problem. Also, I was so demoralized by failure - at school, and even in therapy - that I lost the guts and energy it takes to get real help.

I'm now with a more on-the-ball therapist, who thinks ADD is probably the issue. For the moment, we're working on non-academic concerns, but may pursue testing at a later time.

The question -- I'm wondering whether the diagnosis itself might be a hindrance rather than a help, down the road ... I know there are laws against discrimination, but it's hard to prove (especially because there are so many good reasons not to admit me).

ADD appears to remain controversial, and I've heard many people call it a moral rather than a psycho/neurological issue (sort of a "lazy, not LD" kind of thing...) I'm talking about rumours among students, here, and can't say for sure...

I was thinking that with the help I'm getting (which is the same psychosocial treament I'd be getting w/o the label), I could maybe try to do better in a year's worth of courses and the GRE, and hope for the best, though my record is reason enough not to admit me. Never mind the fact that I've aggravated my profs enough to ensure that I wouldn't get a recommendation letter... Is this plan riskier than going the "official" route?

Thanks in advance

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Sue
Joined Jun 14, 2003
Posts: 1845

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I don't think it's any riskier unless it's going to keep you from following through... and that does sound like a real risk. However, there are *lots* of supports available that don't require a label, because there are a lot of reasons (including ADHD) for people to struggle with papers. Having a good therapist sounds like your biggest asset.

The ADHD label in my experience isn't going to get you accommodations that would help with papers; making a connection with somebody at the school's writing center would seem the angle to take there, or teaming up with somebody in the class and working together. If you're good with the thinking part, somebody who struggles with that but is good at keeping deadlines might be a good partner.

Sue J, webmastress www.resourceroom.net

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tallya
Joined Jun 19, 2005
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Thank you for responding, Sue -- it's true, I haven't taken the best advantage of the resources available at my university. (Though I was required at one point to take a course on time management, which did help with keeping track of tests, for example.) I've been thinking of taking an introductory course on essay-writing, as well, and have looked into software programs that could be helpful (DraftWriter seems promising, though it doesn't seem to be available for home use).

I suppose I was also thinking (and forgive me for appearing overly guileful, here) about how I could overcome/explain my track record.
Do you think that -- presuming I take the steps necessary to improve my writing, continue work with my therapist, do well in future undergraduate courses, and achieve a high score on the GRE -- I can make myself a more appealing (or less noxious) candidate for admission to a graduate school? Would a letter of support from my therapist be helpful or harmful in this regard (again, presuming some measure of success)?

I realize I may be looking too far ahead, but I guess the core of what I'm trying to get a feel for is - given the level of competition for grad admissions, can an initially compromised student prevail over a checkered academic past through hard work alone, or is it beyond reach without some kind of explicit explanation on the part of someone who can "name" the reasons for previous failure?

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Sue
Joined Jun 14, 2003
Posts: 1845

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Unless you're going into something really competitive, then absolutely, you can recover from a "checkered past." I remember an employer looking over my interesting academic record and noting that semester with the 0.73 average -- they changed the rules for academic probation because of it, I'm famous :) -- but also noting that later averages steadily improved, and almost all the post-B.S. stuff was in A-B territory, though still not "star pupil" stuff - more "diamond in the rough" nature. And since that's what I am, I don't mind looking like that... if you're looking for something polished you don't want me anyway :-0
I've found that the quick-thinking natural intelligence that makes for good GRE scores also makes for good interviews -- there is an *awful* lot of prejudice in favor of verbal quickness couched in a positive attitude, based on the assumption that if you've got that native intelligence, you'll be able to figure out what to do and polish up any rough spots. (It's not always a valid assumption, sigh )

Sue J, webmastress www.resourceroom.net

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pattim
Joined Jun 15, 2003
Posts: 221

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Posted:Jun 23, 2005 12:05:33 AM

Sue knows my "checkered" past. I got an AA in business administration...raised my kids and then I went back to college in my 40's. I was a professional artist, I knew SQUAT about speech pathology but I stuck to it. I hightailed right over to the office for students with disabilities. That was where I was diagnosed with ADD, I already qualified as a student with a disability as I have a hearing impairment. So I went through my BA program and my MA program with accomodations, like a note taker, an assistive listening device, extended time on tests, I could have a reader if I needed it. I made it and what was fun my graduate project partner was also in her late 40's also recently diagnosed with ADD like you...she also had a history of starting out great and then not turning in things, taking incompletes etc... We did our project together...I turned in my paperwork, got credit for the project and graduated in 2003...My mentor professor told me a few months ago..Guess who FINALLY turned in the paperwork to get credit for the project? My girlfriend!! She graduated this MAY!! I was so stoked...because this means she FINISHED she completed all her classes after 30 years of trying!!!

So if we can do it you can DO IT!!!

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