How Do I Apply to College With a Low GPA?

Colleges use GPA’s as a determinant of a student’s engagement in learning and willingness to work hard to meet academic standards. The GPA provides a comprehensive look at a student’s academic strengths and weakness.

The GPA and the standardized tests are used in the application process for most schools. For schools that do not ask for standardized tests, the GPA takes on an even more critical role in the student’s application.

A high GPA (3.5 and above) is a big asset in the college application process. This is especially so if:

  • The student has earned the GPA in high-level classes
  • If the student did not achieve high scores on the SAT or ACT
  • The student’s GPA stands out from other student’s in the class

How to Apply to College with a Low GPA?

Raise Test Scores

Apart from a GPA, standard tests are the most important variable that colleges will consider. Scoring high on standardized tests improves a prospective student’s chance of admission, despite a low GPA. Studying for standardized tests is much easier than improving a GPA. A strong showing on the SAT or ACT can make up for a low GPA. Excellent standardized scores will demonstrate aptitude and position as a competitive applicant. High test scores, coupled with recommendation letters will help to show that a student can succeed in college.

Amaze the Admission Officers with Your Essay

Another crucial element of the college application is the essay. The essay is a space that is reserved for a student’s voice, where they can address the admission officers directly as well as define themselves and what is important.

The essay is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate analytical skills, the ability to communicate, and gives a personal aspect to your application in a way that grades never could. Choosing an academic topic in the essay may boost the chances of admission by demonstrating a unique understanding of a particular subject.

Hype Nonacademic Skills

Admission officers look for well-rounded students who will excel not only academically, but also add value to the campus community and thrive in the real world. Take advantage of the activities performed out of the classroom and highlight your undertakings:

  • Community service
  • Volunteering
  • Participating in clubs and organizations
  • Athletics
  • Internships

If you have an interesting hobby, seek to take it to the next level by gaining some meaningful credentials that reflects your passion and ability. Highlighting extracurricular activities demonstrates that you are more than just a number. Admission officers do not judge applicants only by their academic ability. Several questions to reflect on and consider when highlighting nonacademic skills:

  • Are you deeply involved in theatre, music or visual arts?
  • Do you hold any unique leadership position in a given club or organization?
  • Do you spend free time doing impressive things like building robots?
  • Are you an entrepreneur who has started a business or two?
  • Have your received accolades for an instrument?

Challenge Yourself and Excel

Taking tough courses shows willingness to try challenging work. This can overshadow the average grade. Advancement placement classes, for instance, indicate academics are taken seriously by the student. Admissions committees have a concept they refer to as directional improvements. If a student demonstrates potential and is improving in the right direction, the admission officers will be impressed.

Get Letters of Recommendation from a Reputable Person

A good word from a high school counselor or teacher who knows a student well can go a long way in the college admissions process. For instance, a teacher can write a letter for students whom they have seen improve their grades from very low to very high.

Admissions officers give significant weight to letters of recommendation because this is how they get to know a student from an educator’s perspective. Allow the person writing the letter on your behalf to share their personal experiences as well as consider highlighting your recent accomplishments for the selected individual- you may help to spark a memory or an area they had forgotten about.

Hint: Always keep a close relationship with counselors and teachers. You never know when you might need them.

Start Out at a Community College

If you are aiming to go to a four-year institution, attend a community college for at least a year. Community colleges are better prepared to handle students who need to catch up on developmental coursework. Many Cal State universities now affiliate themselves with community colleges. Students can earn an associate degree from the community college and transfer more easily into the universities.

Look for Open-Minded Schools

There are many schools that do not receive as many applicants as they deserve, which can represent an opportunity for students with a low GPA. Applying to lesser known small colleges whether public or private is a great move for low GPA students since research shows that students succeed at higher rates in smaller learning environments.

California College Bound understands that sometimes life happens and you may end up getting poor grades. We also understand that how daunting it is to feel that you might not receive admission into a university. Fortunately, you are not the only person who this has happened to, and yes there are solutions to this problem. We encourage you to join us in finding the school that is right for you!

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