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Top Tips For Getting Into College With a Low GPA
If you’re wondering how to get into college with a low GPA, fortunately there’s a few things you can do to boost your chances of admission. Although your GPA is an important part of your application, it’s certainly not everything. Standardized test scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation also play a big role in the college admissions process. Read on to learn what you can do to overcome your low GPA.
Related: College applications: What looks good?
What is considered a low GPA?
What’s considered a “low GPA” is relative to the colleges you’re applying to. For instance, a 3.5 GPA may be considered low at selective colleges, but high at schools that are less competitive. That’s why it’s important to understand the academic expectations of the schools you’re considering. Check to see how your GPA compares to that of students recently admitted to your target schools. If your GPA is on the lower side, don’t get discouraged! Admission is still within reach by taking the following steps.
What can I do to make up for my GPA?
You may not be able to improve your GPA at this point, but what you can do is focus on the things you can control. Here’s five steps you can take to move forward in a positive and productive fashion:
1. Explain any extenuating circumstances
If you dealt with difficult life circumstances that were out of your control and prevented you from doing well in school, address this in your application. For instance, maybe you dealt with illness, family emergencies, or economic hardship. Colleges will understand and take this into account when evaluating your application. Even if your low GPA is a result of mistakes on your part, you can still spin this in a positive manner if you worked hard to bring your grades up. Own up to your mistakes and describe what you’ve done to correct them.
Whatever the case, just remember to explain instead of making excuses. Avoid taking an accusatory stance and blaming others. Rather, lay out the facts in a straightforward manner and if necessary, take responsibility for your low grades. Additionally, avoid using your essay or personal statement as a place to explain your low GPA. Most applications leave room for you to provide additional information if needed, so use this space instead.
2. Earn high test scores
Colleges will usually be more willing to overlook your low GPA if you have impressive SAT or ACT scores. Although they don’t count for everything, high test scores can give your application the boost it needs. To get a sense of what to aim for, check the average scores of students recently admitted to the colleges you’re considering. A score within or above the range of your target schools can be an essential asset to your application. Even if the schools you’re applying to are test-optional, you should still take the SAT or ACT if you’re trying to make up for a low GPA. Another option is to do well on AP tests and demonstrate your proficiency in certain subject areas. Keep in mind that AP exams are open to all students, even those who didn’t take the AP course.
Related: How to improve your SAT score in 6 steps
3. Get stellar recommendations
Most colleges ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation to gain additional insight into your character and work ethic. Whether they’re teachers, counselors, or coaches, your recommenders can speak to your strengths and even help provide some context regarding your low GPA. For instance, maybe you’ve had a teacher who witnessed your academic growth and knows how hard you worked to improve your grades. A good word from someone like this can go a long way in boosting your application. When requesting recommendations from teachers, it’s best to ask the ones you had during your junior or senior year.
Related: How to ask for a letter of recommendation
4. Write strong essays
You’re much more than your GPA, and your college entrance essay is a great opportunity to demonstrate that. Here’s your chance to show admissions officers who you really are and why you’d be a great fit at their school. When brainstorming ideas, think back to the most important experiences you’ve had in your life and how you could shape them into a meaningful essay. By writing a strong and impactful essay, you can greatly increase your chances of admission.
We’ve got a great wealth of resources to help you write the best essay possible. You can check out our guides to write an essay about yourself, how to write a 250 word essay, and a 500 word essay. And to kick you off, here’s our guide on how to start a scholarship essay, which can also be useful for admissions essays! You can also check out our behind-the-scenes guide to the admissions process that shows you how your application will be evaluated.
Related: How to answer the 2021-2022 Common App essay prompts
5. Consider alternative paths to college
Getting an official acceptance from a four-year college isn’t the only path to higher education. Some colleges offer conditional admission, where students take remedial courses and participate in college-readiness programs. Upon successful completion of these classes, students continue on with their education.
Another option is to start at a community college and build a GPA that’s strong enough to get into one of your desired schools. You can spend your first two years earning an associate degree before transferring to another school and earning your bachelor’s. Plus, community college is relatively affordable compared to the cost of traditional four-year schools.
You can also try applying to a branch campus of one of the colleges you’d like to attend. These branch schools typically have lower academic requirements than flagship campuses, meaning admission isn’t quite as difficult. If you get accepted and establish a strong GPA, you can then transfer to the main college. The bottom line is that there’s many paths to college, and they don’t all require an incredibly high GPA.
Related: Top reasons to attend a community college
Most importantly, don’t give up…
In the end, you shouldn’t let your GPA prevent you from attending college. Having a low GPA can be discouraging when you’re applying for college, but just keep your head up and stay focused on your goals. With some hard work and perseverance, it’s entirely possible to make it into college and achieve a quality education.
Frequently asked questions
What is the lowest GPA that colleges will accept?
There is no rule across-the-board when it comes to what GPA colleges will accept. With the right essays, extracurriculars, and test scores, any GPA can get you into college. Many students who don’t complete high school and earn a GED still gain admission to college.
So, remember that no matter your GPA, college is an option for you. Whether that entails starting at community college and transferring into a four-year institution, or lucking out with a college admissions officers who finds your application compelling, you can find a way to receive a college education.
Are there scholarships for students with low GPA?
There are many scholarships out there that prioritize other factors over GPA, such as community service, demonstrated leadership, and innovation. Try out our list of scholarships for B students and our list of leadership scholarships for starters!
What colleges can I get into with a 2.5 GPA?
While a 2.5 GPA will make it difficult to get into the most competitive colleges, it does not actually disqualify you from any colleges! If you have impressive extracurricular accomplishments, great essays, and great recommendations, you could theoretically get in anywhere. Additionally, many schools accept students with 2.5 GPAs even if their extracurriculars are not out-of-this-world.