Preparing for College

Will Repeated Junior Year Hurt BFA Hopeful?

Question: I'm a kid who came from an abusive household and during 10th and 11th grade it affected my grades. I went from a 3.4 G.P.A. to 1.8 G.P.A. I had to repeat the 11th Grade. I was adopted right before my repetition of the 11th grade. In repeating the 11th grade I decided to take AP classes for the first time. I took AP Lit, AP Lang, AP Government, and AP Economics. Except for Economics I passed all the exams and I raised my G.P.A to 2.9 unweighted 3.3 weighted. I also participated in the Drama program becoming a Cabinet member and an inducted member of the International Thespian Society. Over the summer I worked as a technician at a professional theatre and recently became an actor in a viral campaign for a comedy. Now, in 12th grade, I'm taking AP Physics, AP Statistics, AP World History, AP U.S. History, and AP Psychology. I plan on pursuing a career in theatre and I'm trying to get into a B.F.A acting program. Is repeating the 11th grade going to hurt my college chances?

It sounds as if repeating the 11th grade was exactly the right thing for you. Colleges will not hold this against you. In fact, it will probably actually work in your favor, since you obviously did such an excellent job of climbing back onto a good academic and extracurricular track.

Make sure that you tell your story to admission officials so that they fully understand why it was necessary to repeat your junior year. Whether you do this via your primary college essay, the "Additional Information" section that you'll find on most applications, through a supplemental essay, or via letter, colleges should receive a written account of what you've endured. If you have any college interviews, it’s wise to discuss your tumultuous childhood there, too, but it’s important that you also document this in writing. Ideally, your college counselor will also write about your background in your recommendation.

I think that most admission officials are going to be impressed by the way you have overcome the obstacles in your path. But also do keep in mind that B.F.A. programs can be cut-throat competitive. (“Harder than Harvard” is how I often describe gaining admission to the more selective ones.) The decisions can often seem confusing. I consistently see some B.F.A. aspirants accepted to the top programs while being turned down by less selective ones.

So you’ll need a thick skin as you go through the admission process … and, of course, an even thicker one if you pursue a theater career. But it sounds as if you’re doing everything you can to prepare for success, and the hardships you have faced already should help to give you the personal strength to deal with whatever lies ahead. Break a leg!

(posted 12/05/2010)