I had trouble with college the first time around and I ended up dropping out. I have several A’s and B’s on my transcript but I also have a couple of F’s. How can I explain this to colleges if I want to apply as a transfer/mature student?


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Christine VanDonge, Senior Research Analyst

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You have some great tips, but a few other items for you to consider:

  1. How long ago did you fail these classes? Were they general education classes or classes that are germane to the field of study you hope to pursue. If they are classes you will need to retake, it might be worth while to do so at a community college (be sure the credits will transfer first).

  2. Where do you work now? Is the work you do relevant to the degree you hope to pursue. If so, obtain letters of recommendation from your current place of employment that address your knowledge and commitment to the subject area.

Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions!

Scarlet Michaelson, English and Writing Teacher

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Definitely address this in your college application essay. Your honest reflections will be important to the admissions committee. You should be commended for not giving up and for your resilience in pursuit of a college education. Best of luck to you!

Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, writer & speaker

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I believe that being honest and as transparent as possible is always the best approach. Anything you can do to explain your situation up front, ideally in an interview or another in-person encounter, would be terrific. Otherwise, I would think that writing a letter to an admissions counselor is a good idea. You may even choose to focus on this growth experience in an admissions essay. Another thought would be to have someone familiar with your situation write this in a letter of recommendation. Congrats on this decision and good luck!

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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FIrst, going back to school is a great accomplishment so feel proud of yourself for taking this step. You will likely have to explain those F grades to a new college as the admissions department will want to feel confident that you can succeed the second time around. There are two things you can do to help your case:

1) Re-take these classes (or a similar class) at a community college and aim for an A or B.

2) Write a letter of support as to what went wrong and how you have made steps to change the situation.

Either or both of these options will let an admissions officer know that you are ready to make education a priority and/or are at a point in life where you have the opportunity to be successful. One thing to avoid is a list of excuses. Provide a reason, but not an excuse. For example, if you had to work 30 hours a week to make ends meet and that took away from your studies, just say that. Working during college is a reality for most. If you simply weren't motivated, say that. Honesty can go a long way.

I hope that helps!

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