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College Admission Despite a Blemished High School Record

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Perhaps your high school career hit a rough patch or two: a failing grade, a bad freshman year, a suspension, even bad SAT/ACT scores.

Can you still get into a competitive college? Yes, especially if you face your problem head on in your college application. You can use your college essay to do just that.

Here are some suggestions to handle a problem in your high school record with your personal essay.

Have the right attitude. Don’t write the essay to excuse a high school record problem. The essay should explain the problem and how you handled it, not make excuses for your problem.
Use the right vocabulary. Vocabulary should reflect that you take responsibility for your high school record, the good parts and the bad. You earned a bad grade, it was not given to you. You created a situation that got you suspended; the school didn’t punish you.
Identify the real problem. Often it’s is not just a bad grade but it is a poor response to pressure or the result of a slow transition from one year to another or one subject to another. Usually a suspension doesn’t just happen, but it is a result of emotion problems you might have had at the time.
• Always get to what you have learned from your problems. Maybe you have learned you should ask for help. Maybe you have learned to plan your time better or what your real interests are or how you study best.
Link your experience to the future. Indicate that if you react poorly to stress, you are planning to handle stress differently in future. If you have had slow transitions, explain you plan to pay close attention to making your transition to college easier. And, be specific. You are not done if all you write is you plan to make a better transition. Itemize how you plan to do it, whether through joining more activities and meeting people in your dorm to form a support system or keeping contact with home each weekend to talk though your feelings and activities.

The essay can get you over the hump of college admission. Colleges are impressed with maturity and responsibility, no matter how they are developed. The essay can explain you have both from your experience if you handle it correctly.