Arachnophobia Tanked My GPA – What Now?

by Judge Josh on September 17, 2014

Hi Josh,
I’ve been reading your column for a few weeks now and must say I am impressed with your ability to combine brevity and artistic writing style. You strike me as the perfect person to query regarding my dilemma!

I will be a Senior at Idaho State University in the fall so I am gearing up for graduate school applications. I already visited and fell in love with my prospective program, and then proceeded to fall into a pretty serious depression because of the Just-Out-Of-Reach Syndrome.

I guess I need to back up and explain my first few years of college. I started a private school in Tennessee. My major was American Sign Language Interpreting and at the end of my first year I discovered I inherited my father’s congenital hearing loss. A job which requires good hearing and comprehension was not the right career for me. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life anymore, so I moved back to Idaho and went to Boise State University for a few semesters. I hated it and my motivation for school took a hit.

Also worsening at the same period was my arachnophobia. I’m not talking about, “Oh, I hate spiders! I scream when I see them!” … I’m talking paralyzing fear, sobbing mess, near-anaphylactic-shock reactions at even dime-sized spiders. I couldn’t go down the insecticide aisle at the grocery store, I was very wary of any movie I watched that could potentially have a spider, even inanimate plastic spider rings (the kind you see at Halloween) elicited a panicked reaction almost on the level of the Maury show.

I ended up with an infestation (really only 3 or 4 sightings a month) in my apartment, and encountered one in my bed. The only “safe” place that remained was the living room floor (phobic logic; figure that one out!) so I slept there for the remaining 6 months of my lease. Well, “slept” is not exactly what happened. I was taking a 2mg bar of Xanax and a Lunesta to sleep at night and during the day loaded up on more Xanax (usually .5-1mg at a time, but I would take a full bar if I encountered a spider and that would bring me back to “normal”).

Clearly, I had a problem. It was affecting every aspect of my life, including school. Most days, I didn’t have the motivation to leave my apartment (more phobic logic), and when I did it was to go sleep at my boyfriend’s place an hour away. I had no motivation for school work, and even if I did, I couldn’t focus on anything except my phobia. I lost a few friends who couldn’t stand my fixation and self-centered attitude.

I eventually looked into exposure therapy and as of August 2009, I consider myself a recovered arachnophobe. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of my most-valued accomplishments. I’m a productive member of society again and it’s great. I got my motivation for school back and with more fervor than ever. But that couple semesters tanked my GPA. I had transferred with a good GPA (3.6 or 3.7), but in the spring of 2009 I was placed on academic probation (very new for a girl who had graduated high school as Valedictorian with a 4.1 cumulative GPA). My cumulative GPA at the beginning of SP2010 was a 3.2. And that’s not bad. Ordinarily, I would have no problem with a 3.2. However, my prospective program expects a high GPA and by my calculations, if I ace every course until I graduate, I can get no higher than a 3.5.

I took the GRE today and received 550 Verbal and 710 Quantitative, which puts me at or above the mean of accepted applicants at my desired program. I know I’m smart enough to get in. I definitely have enough passion and motivation to get in. But my GPA doesn’t show that.

My question is: what can I do to strengthen my portfolio so that the graduate program will understand that my GPA isn’t representative of my skills and passion as a student and life-long learner?

If you can’t get to my question, I’ll understand. I’m sure you get way too many emails to address! I just figure it’s worth a shot, and either way I’ll keep reading your column.
All the best,
Ashley

Usually I “interrupt” these submissions with comments here and there, but Ashley’s story was far too fascinating for me to butt in, so I left all of the comments for the end here.

My best friend used to have a mild form of arachnophobia, but your situation is like nothing I’ve ever heard before.  It’s fascinating, to be honest, but at the same time terrifying that a phobia can rob so much from someone.

Anyway, you want to know if you have a fighting chance to get into grad school with a lower-than-expected GPA?  You – the high school valedictorian who overcame a crippling, life-controlling phobia, did well on her GRE and has a 3.2 GPA – wants to know if she can overcome a barrier?  I think you know the answer to that, Ashley. :)

Now, it may not be easy, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for you.  First, you definitely need to do all you can to bolster your portfolio outside the classroom (in addition to trying to ace all of those remaining courses).  Do research, internships, volunteering, and anything else you can to impress the admissions committee.  Just like anything else in life, if you’re short in one area, overcompensate in another.

Also, remember that there is likely an appeal process, wherein you may get a chance to explain yourself.  Tell them the truth.  It’s not like you drank away a couple of years of school like many people are prone to do.  You had a real, diagnosed disorder that profoundly affected your entire life, including school.  And then you buckled down and overcame that phobia, got back on track, got a great GRE score and did very well in the GPA department during the last several semesters of her college career.

That sounds like someone I would want as the poster child of my grad school, not someone I would deny the chance to prove herself.

What do you think?  Can Ashley overcome yet another barrier and get into grad school, or has the damage been done?

{ 0 comments }

Should I Go To Europe Or College?

September 15, 2014

Hello your honor, Thank you…you may be seated. Well, I’ve been debating whether or not to ask you a question for a while now. I thought I’d finally thought I’d go for it. I decided to cram like fifty different questions into one…It’s long so PLEASE bear with me Go for it! I’m a Senior […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should I Go To Go To My Dream School, Or Stay In-State & Pay Less?

September 11, 2014

Okay, so I don’t know what to do. I want to go down the “pre-med” track in college, and I have always thought that I would go to a big, showy, pricey university with lots of bells and whistles. I was always content with the amount of college debt I would have after school as […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

I Want To Be A Stay At Home Mom, But Also Want A Degree. What Should I Major In?

September 9, 2014

Hi Judge Josh, I have a rather unoriginal, yet complicated dilemma. I’m a college sophomore with zero direction. I went to a Minnesota college last year and transferred this fall to a college in my home state of South Dakota. I like this college much better, and feel its a better fit. I declared my […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

What Are The Best Jobs For Students?

September 8, 2014

I want to continue being a full time student… but I also need to find some source of income. What kind of jobs should I be soliciting that will not take up too much of my time but will still be somewhat profitable? -Danae Hi Danae, and thanks for stopping by!  The standard answer, of […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Will My Son Be A “Show Off” At A Scholarship Interview?

September 4, 2014

Hi! My son is a year high school old senior. He has been invited to a “scholar’s day” event this weekend at a college where he has been accepted. He has been offered a partial scholarship. They will be conducting interviews with small groups of students. From these interviews, certain students will be selected to […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should Having Diabetes Be Considered A Hardship On A Scholarship Essay?

September 2, 2014

Hi Judge Josh, First off thank you for doing this site- it has been a great help. You’re quite welcome, Teresa – but I couldn’t do it without people like you! Okay I’m just going to tell you the problem. I’m a first/second year student(I did a semester away from home and things didn’t work […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

How Should You Answer The Question, “Have You Received Any Other Scholarship Awards?”

August 29, 2014

I always enjoy reading the posts, but I never thought I would have my own question to ask. As far as I know this question has not been adressed yet. It’s a fairly simple question that I have come across while filling out scholarship applications, yet no one has been able to give me a […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should I Go To College If I Don’t Know What I Want To Do With My Life?

August 28, 2014

After taking a two year hiatus from high school and working like a dog, I am pleased to announce that I’m set to graduate in June and have been accepted to college. Congratulations, Katlyn.  Although these days it seems like everyone is expected to go to college, a) not everyone should and b) just being […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

I Want To Make A Lot Of Money As A Lawyer & Use It To Help Animals – Is That Okay To Tell Scholarship Judges?

August 26, 2014

I’ve been reading your site and emails for a while, and definitely have found them to be super helpful in a general sense. I would like your advice on my situation in more specificity though. Shoot it at me, Hannah! I’m a senior in undergraduate, and have been accepted to one of my top law […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should You Work During High School?

August 21, 2014

Josh, I’m 17, a senior in high school. I’m taking three AP classes (Bio, Literature and Comparative Government) as well as Choir and Yearbook, which I am the business manager of. I’m not taking a ton of classes, but the ones I am taking require a lot of effort! On top of that, I’m working […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should She Take 2 Free Years of Community College?

August 5, 2014

Dear Mr. Barsch, Stop it, call me Josh. I feel old enough already. My name is Lindsey and I discovered you through scholarshipdude.com and have read every email I’ve gotten with your advice from your blog on various and important topics that many students face. Excellent. ScholarshipDude.com is a site where we list various individual […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

What’s Old is New Again: Or, the Return of the Judge-Eye!

July 8, 2013

Short Version: So, yeah. I’m back. Long version: Man, life does take its funny twists and turns, doesn’t it? One minute you’re blogging like a fool every day, knocking it out, everything’s going smoothly. And seemingly in the blink of an eye, you take some time off to catch up on a couple of weak […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Caitlin & the State-School Blues

June 9, 2011

Caitlin’s feeling a little down in the dumps about the college aspirations she once had for herself and the reality that’s seeming to be a little different these days. I’m guessing there’s a few dozen of you out there feeling the same way. Hello! I’m a recently graduated senior and salutatorian from a high school […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should a Man Go To Cosmetology School?

March 31, 2011

Jordan wants to go to cosmetology school, but is it too — you know, womanly? I have read many of your article and posts and I have come to a conclusion that you are quite a knowledgeable person, which is what I really need right now. Well, thank you very much. Glad to be held […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Supporting a Family While Going to School

March 23, 2011

Franklin’s a passionate guy with many interests. He also has many responsibilities, namely supporting his family. He wants to go to college. How can he pull that off? Hey Josh, how’s it going? I’m sleep-deprived but overcaffeinated, so it should balance out long enough for me to give you a decent answer here. Hopefully you […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

First Family High School Graduate. Wait For College?

March 18, 2011

Lashawn thinks she’s got it worse than I think she really does. Almost to the point where she’s considering skipping college for a bit, but I think that’s a bad idea considering her setup. I’ll be the first one of my family to graduate from high school, let alone go to college, so there is […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Summer School vs. Working For Extra Cash

March 15, 2011

Adam’s situation is much better than a stick in the eye. He’s been accepted to his dream school, but they want him to pack up and leave pronto. If he waits, he might make more cash at a summer job, and who knows, maybe even get a fat scholarship — at a less competitive school. […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Engineering vs. James Bond

February 14, 2011

Lots of students who write me have a career-choice dilemma on their hands, but none quite like that of RDX. Which is the writer’s name, btw. I like it. I think if I was going to have a three-letter moniker, I’d definitely have the last letter be X. JDX. How’s that sound? Anyway, here’s RDX’s […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should the Valedictorian Drop Out?

February 3, 2011

Stella’s got problems. She was the valedictorian in high school, headed for great things, and now things are off the rails. Hi, Judge Josh! First of all, I love your blog. I like you already. I’m in a bit of a tight situation. My college is more or less running me bankrupt. I graduated valedictorian […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Sneak Off To Another College?

January 25, 2011

Aly is a daring lass with a plan that might actually make a great screenplay, as long as there were a lot of screwball antics and coming-of-age challenges to overcome triumphantly. Dear Josh, My parents have decided that instead of allowing me to go off to college next year, they want me to attend a […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

From Canada to Harvard Law School?

January 17, 2011

Rebecca’s a Canadian student who’s transferring in the States to marry her CanadiAmerican fiance. Many congrats in advance to the happy couple. But she has big dreams of Ivy League law school and wants to know if her current plans will translate into admission there. Hey Judge Josh, Thanks for all the great advice you […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Is Tattooing Worthy Of My Art Degree?

January 4, 2011

Jacob’s a tortured artist — and he hasn’t really even started being an artist yet! I imagine his situation and mindset are not uncommon, though, for art students about to jump into the professional world. Hi Judge Josh, I am at a crucial moment in my educational life. I will graduate next semester with a […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

I Was Raped. Should I Tell The Committee?

December 28, 2010

Sarah was finishing up a stellar undergrad career at a very selective university, and then she was raped. That changed things, but it didn’t derail her, and she needs some advice on how to continue righting the ship. Hi Judge Josh, Hi! I’m a longtime reader and fan of your Q&A section, just never thought […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Should I Mention My Criminal History?

December 17, 2010

Shiro’s like a rapper. Or, at least like a lot of rappers pretend to be. He’s made something of himself, but his past is a little sketchy. Had to do a little hustlin’ to get by back in the day. Hi Judge Josh, I am applying for a scholarship program and I have difficulties deciding […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

I Want Baylor. Parents Want Ivy League.

December 15, 2010

Danielle wants to a be a neo-natal nurse, and she wants to go to Baylor, which is an expensive private school. Mom & Dad don’t approve…but not for the reasons you might expect. Hello there. Hi. I’m a Senior in high school in Oklahoma City. I’ve known all of my life that I’ve wanted to […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Bad College Advice, Volume I

December 13, 2010

Man, Rebecca’s been getting some terrible college advice. I want to thank her in advance for allowing me to smash some of it here in a public forum. My question has two parts. I will be graduating with my A.A.S in Accounting this December with a 3.6GPA after taking classes for four years. Congrats! It […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

When It’s OK to Lie

December 8, 2010

Sheri’s trying to get me in trouble today. Hey Josh, Hey! I’ve got a pretty great thing going on. I’m currently a debt-free sophomore in college with a 3.86 cumulative GPA, my family is supportive of me, and I’ve never had any trouble with people bullying me about my race, religion, or other attributes. To […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

Multiple Degrees, Same School: Bad?

December 7, 2010

Jennifer’s heard the chatter about getting your degrees from different schools, if you’re getting more than one. Is it worth listening to? I usually have a lot of input, but figured I would poll the troops. I am finally graduating with my Associates in Business from American Military University with honors – WOOHOO. It looks […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>

I’m a Lesbian. Should I Hide That?

December 6, 2010

Victoria’s a lesbian, and her experience of being a lesbian actually makes a pretty sweet answer to one of her essay questions that could win her some money. But she’s not sure if it’s a great idea. Hi Josh, I’m in my final year of University and though I know what I want to do […]

READ THE WHOLE THING –>