13 Bad things

What should you do if there’s something in your school history which is bad?

I take a controversial position on this.

I think you should tell the truth.

Suppose, for example, you have a “disappointing” grade somewhere. You can’t hide it. You have to put it on the form. So the admissions tutor will know about it. Which means you need to address it in your personal statement. What happened? What went wrong? And – crucially – what did you learn from it?

Perhaps you just didn’t do enough work. Fair enough. Admit it. And then say that the grade gave you a wake-up call. You’ve taken a study skills course. You’ve dropped some of your extra-curricular activities. You spend an hour in the library every day after school. Or whatever it is that you do now.

(Incidentally, if you did get a disappointing grade at some point and you haven’t changed the way you study, perhaps you should. There’s no point getting an offer from a university if you’re not going to get the grades they ask for. And there’s no point going to university if you’re going to make the same mistakes you made at school. Dropping out of uni is a very expensive mistake to make.)

Admissions tutors typically respond in one of two ways to poor grades. Some will rule you out immediately, no matter what you say. That may seem unfair and even short-sighted of them. But they have a stack of applications to get through and a big chunk of them don’t have bad grades that need explaining away and it’s just much easier to take those people.

But others will be more impressed with you than if you had got a set of top grades. You’ve learned from your mistakes. You’ve shown growth and self-awareness. You have the maturity needed to study at undergraduate level.

Talking of mistakes, don’t make any in your personal statement.

NEXT: 14 Cheque, Please