Application 101: Academic Explanation

A student studies in the the CSU kindness lounge.

If you’re planning to apply to CSU, you may have heard by now that we consider a wide range of factors in our admission decision. We want to get to know you as a whole person and understand more than grades and academic achievements alone.

The academic explanation helps us understand your academic experiences more fully. For freshman/first-year applicants, these are viewed alongside your personal statement and recommendation (optional documents for transfer applicants).

Academic gap year(s)

Not every student goes through high school and directly on to college without a break. If the sequence of your high school and/or college enrollment includes time off or interruptions, we want to know more.

Here’s the prompt you’ll see in the application:

Provide an explanation of any break or interruption in your education of a semester or longer since 9th grade (or equivalent). Examples include sitting out for a semester or longer during or between academic year(s), completing a gap year, or taking time off between high school and college.

Be sure to include information about what you have done during your time away from school. A 250-word response is all we’ll ask for.

Academic explanation

The academic explanation prompt allows you to explain any dips, bumps, or inconsistencies in your academic record or grades. There are so many reasons why things can go off course, and we want to make sure we understand the full picture, far beyond numbers on a transcript. Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.

What freshmen/first-year applicants will be prompted with in their application:

If your cumulative GPA is below 3.0/B- average (on a 4.0 scale), if you have any D or F grades, or if you are missing units in our CSU Recommended Courses, this is your opportunity to explain. Tell us about the situation and/or what happened, what you did to fix it, and how your experience will help you be academically successful at CSU.

What transfer applicants will be prompted with in their application:

Is there any additional context you’d like to provide to help us understand your academic experience or performance?

As you complete your application, be sure to take these prompts seriously. Giving us a full picture of your academic history is important and allows us to make a well-informed admission decision.

Still have questions?

Questions about these prompts or how we’ll look at them when reviewing your application? We’re here to help.

CONTACT YOUR COUNSELOR