Preparing for College

Explaining Effect of Grandmother's Death on Grades

Question: In the first semester senior year, I experienced the loss of my grandmother (she passed away). My grandmother and I were really close, and her passing away greatly impacted my life personally. As a result, I had problems, and this had an impact on my first semester senior year grades (my mid year report). I don't think my mid year report accurately reflects my normal performance in school. Should I send a brief note to college adcoms regarding this matter?

I'm very sorry for your loss. My own son, a 10th grader, lost his grandmother in November (she was my mother-in-law) and I do understand the stress and sorrow that this brings to a family.

So it's fine to send a brief note to admission committees to explain your situation. Be sure to point out to the admission committees, as you have to me, that you and your grandmother were very close. And, if her death was not only sad but also disruptive to your school routine, you can explain this, too (e.g. if you missed more than a day or two of school to visit her or to attend a funeral, if you spent extra hours with her during her final days, or if she moved into your home).

In addition, a short letter from your school counselor that points out your atypical grades and their tie to your grandmother's death may carry a little more clout than your own note alone. If you have a good relationship with your counselor and think that he or she might have the time and willingness to write on your behalf, it can't hurt to ask.

Again, my condolences to you and to your family.

(posted 3/4/2013)