How should I explain a medical leave on my transcript when transferring to a new graduate school?

I recently took a medical leave from my M.A program in rhetoric and composition. My plan is to take a semester to recuperate and then transfer to a different program because the one I was at didn't work well for me. My grades suffered a little bit because of the complications leading up to my leave. How can I show prospective schools that I'm still an excellent student and that those grades were an anomaly?


Christine VanDonge, Senior Research Analyst

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Do you know where you are hoping to transfer? If so, could you start to form a relationship with professors in the department you are looking to apply to? A general conversation starter could be asking about their program (i.e. course work, research, opportunities for professional development). If you decided the program feels like a good fit for you, I would suggest bringing up the concern with the individual you are corresponding with. Is the program you want to transfer to nearby? You could possible request to meet with a faculty member and bring a list of well thought and organized questions to ask. During this meeting you could also bring up your situation and see how they suggest you move forward.

I would also wonder if there is a faculty member from you current program who could supply you with a letter of reference that can address your concerns while also suggesting you ability to successfully navigate a new program. Was there one course you excelled in or formed a positive relationship with an instructor? Consider meeting with him or her to discuss a letter of reference further.

Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Christine's advice is excellent. Do you have a good relationship with any of the professors in your former program? In addition to offering you a reference, perhaps he or she could refer you to a colleague at the institution you are considering. As I'm sure you know, when professors want to work with certain students, they will find ways to get them into their programs.

Something else to consider is how you might spend your time now contributing to research in the field. Could you work on an article for publication, or contribute research to another's? Even if it isn't published, it is something you could mention in your personal statement that shows your motivation and dedication to scholarship... and it would show your resilience and tenacity.

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