If I spend two semesters as an exchange student in an university and apply to grad school, how bad would it be to apply without submitting the transcript of my period there?
You have to submit your transcripts – even if you only take one class. I agree that the level of scrutiny on that poor semester will depend on the program (PhD or Master’s) you apply to.
Strategically, you can increase your chances for admission by getting to know the faculty and graduate admission officer at the institution you want to attend for grad school. Visit with them in person before you apply. Build a relationship. That way when it is time for you to apply, your application will stand out and you may get the opportunity to explain the poor performance beyond the supplemental essay.
Supplemental essay = Is there anything else we should know about you
You will write something to the effect of, “My first semester at Cal is not representative of my academic abilities.”
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