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Articles / Applying to College / Should Guidance Counselor Explain Course Drop Due to Surgery?

Nov. 21, 2011

Should Guidance Counselor Explain Course Drop Due to Surgery?

Question: I am applying to several Ivy league and similar universities. A few weeks ago, I was hospitalized rather abruptly and had to get surgery, forcing me to miss about a week's worth of classes. The surgery has rendered me weaker than normal, and as a result, I tire very easily now. Because I have a zero period class, it is hard for me to get through the day and to reacclimate to school work post-operation. If I or my counselor were to explain this situation, would those colleges be sympathetic if I dropped the class (it is an honors class in a schedule of five other AP's)?

Sorry to hear of the unexpected interruption in your senior year. Yes, it is a good idea for your guidance counselor to explain your situation to your target colleges. Admission officials should certainly be sympathetic. Five AP classes (with an early-morning class to boot) is a heavy enough load ... even for someone who hasn't been through recent surgery!


Although you are certainly not required to disclose the specific nature of this surgery to the colleges, it may be worthwhile for your guidance counselor to do so IF your medical condition is not one that is likely to require ongoing surgeries or frequent absences next year. Given the uber-competitive nature of the Ivies and their ilk, it’s possible that some admission officials will have concerns about accepting an applicant who may not be up to the task of handling a rigorous academic program next fall. Of course, no school will come right out and say that they’ve denied a student for health reasons, but it does happen nonetheless.

So my advice would be to have your counselor explain your dropped course due to your health issue, and if he or she can also honestly say that you are not likely to have ongoing serious medical problems next year, then this should be added to the letter, too.

Good luck to you and here's to a healthy 2012 for you, too.

(posted 11/21/2011)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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