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Should I send a letter to colleges to explain a situation with grades?
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I’m a rising senior and my top schools are reach schools. This is due to personal issues that significantly affected my freshman year leading me to nearly fail some classes and not do well in any of the others. This caused my GPA to be significantly lower and to be excluded from certain opportunities.

Should I send a letter to my colleges to explain what happened to provide some context for my situation? Also, should it be in an essay or a separate letter sent to the college? I just don’t want colleges to interpret my freshman year as examples of laziness.

GPA
grades
applications

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Accepted answer

Depending on what kind of application portal you are using, there are different places on the application to address your specific personal journey with grades, opportunities lost and missteps.

COMMON APP

If you are using the Common Application there is a section of the Application called Additional Information.

(Copy and Pasted directly from Common App) Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. For more information, check out our COVID-19 FAQ.

Do you wish to share anything on this topic?*

Do you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application?*

You may use the space below to provide any additional information you wish to share. Min: 1 / Max: 650 - You have 650 words to describe your unique circumstances.

COALITION APP

If you are using the Coalition Application there is a section also called Additional Information. (copied from Theo Wolf at The Spike Lab)

All open-ended questions (essays, additional questions, and additional information) are handled by each individual college in the Coalition application. Therefore, whether or not they require the essay or even offer an additional information section is at each college’s discretion. If schools do offer one, we recommend following the same guidelines outlined further down in this post. However, because of the Locker, Coalition gives ample opportunities to express sides of yourself you may not have had opportunities to showcase in your Common App (you can use SlideRoom for these, but it’s not as common). We recommend using the Locker to do much of what you would use the Common App Additional Information section for Showing off your Spike (via photos, videos, news articles, etc), exemplar academics (you can include a copy of a research paper), and any other achievements you’re proud of. However, if you have pieces of your profile that you feel can’t be represented in the Locker (for instance, complications in your school’s grading system or explanations of potential red flags) or if a school you’re applying to doesn’t allow you to upload supplementary items from the Locker, then you should make use of the additional information section.

I have used the Locker feature in the Coalition app to upload things like a 1.) resume 2.) videos 3.) articles featuring me etc. So you can write a letter and upload it to the locker or upload a Video explaining your situation and uploading it to the Coalition Locker.

UC APP

Similarly, the UC Application has an additional info section capped at 550 words where you can write about your freshman year.

Hope this was helpful to you.

Thank you!
No probs. Definitely look into the Coaltion App. The locker feature is very flexible.
CommonApp and possibly others have a Covid/natural disasters section so if you are out of space in addition info and the grades were becuase of Covid that is another valid place for you to put the info
*covid and or “ godly” acts such as sickness death in family flood can be talked about in that section