Years ago, I remember getting back to my apartment after meeting up with a friend for dinner. I was in a fairly positive mood as I mindlessly checked my Gmail inbox and scrolled my thumb down to refresh the page. One new email had arrived with the title “New Grade Released.” I knew I had done less than spectacular on my final exam for one course in particular and decided to ignore the email for fear of ruining my evening.

Fast forward to the SIPA application process several years later, and I found myself wondering whether this grade would ruin my chances for admission. Luckily, this was not the case, and here are a few things for you to consider if you are having a similar experience.

First, it is important to remember to breathe and adopt the right mindset. One bad grade does not signal the end of the world and it most definitely is not any measure of your intellect as a student. While it is okay to feel upset at the result, you should try to approach the situation with a desire to grow rather than giving in to anger or avoidance. A bad grade is simply a part of the student experience and something that we can all overcome if we put in the effort.

Second, make use of the optional essay that is available on the application. Here, you have a chance to explain the circumstances surrounding the grade you received. In other words, use it to explain why you received that grade. If you can, try to highlight your ability to recover and succeed in your later coursework. It might help to note the strategies you’ve employed to turn things around. And keep in mind that the SIPA Admissions Committee will consider situations in which you may have received a bad grade for a course that is not considered relevant for SIPA.

Third, given SIPA’s focus on quantitative coursework, it’s understandable that you may be concerned if you didn’t do so well in your statistics or economics courses. An option here is to simply retake the course if you have enough time. Doing better will show your determination and dedication to fully understanding certain concepts and reflect positively on your capacity to succeed at SIPA. Alternatively, the optional GRE/GMAT scores are an additional piece of information for the Committee. For example, the GRE quantitative analysis component might bolster lacking academic or professional quantitative analysis skills. Choosing to not submit your scores may not necessarily disadvantage you but doing so may provide a fuller snapshot of your quantitative skills.

And, finally, don’t underestimate the work that you have accomplished outside of the classroom. If you have relevant work, research, and/or internship experience in your intended field of study and have demonstrated a desire to learn and cultivate that passion, the Admissions Committee will see this and take note.

Take comfort in the fact that grades are not the only component of your application at the end of the day. The Admissions Committee is searching for individuals who will make a significant impact during and after their time at SIPA.