Can You Get into College with a Low GPA?

InGenius Prep

Can You Get into College with a Low GPA?

Getting a low GPA will definitely dishearten you and may lead you to believe that you might not be able to get accepted by your dream college. The question on your mind at this point may be can you get into college with a low GPA? Your GPA can be a deal breaker, but the good news is that there are ways for you to balance out a sub-par academic standing in high school and still have a fair shot in getting into college.

Now, you’re smiling. And you’re probably asking how. Your job is to convince the admissions office that other components of your application are more reflective of your academic potential than your grades. To help you navigate the question of “can you get into college with a low GPA,” we’ve first outlined what constitutes a low high school GPA, followed by how to take advantage of other components to still make sure you’re a competitive applicant and have a good shot at admission into a top school.

What counts as low GPA?

Before you get drastically upset over an A-, it’s important to know what kind of grades are considered low in the first place. You should definitely be concerned if you have multiple C’s or a D on your transcript. But if your GPA signifies that you have mostly A’s and A-’s, especially in rigorous courses where you’ve challenged yourself, you’re in a good place. You don’t have a low GPA. 

A “high” vs “low” GPA can definitely be relative, depending on where you’re applying. Top schools such as the Ivy League universities consider GPAs around or below 3.75 to be on the lower side. Whereas as for a big public university that is lower on the ranking than Ivies such as Boston University, a low GPA would be 3.0.  But again, it depends on the institution – you need to conduct research to find out what the average GPA for accepted students is at the colleges on your list so that you can determine whether you have a proper chance or not.

Can you get into college with a low GPA?

If you do have a bunch of Bs transcript, don’t give up. Instead of being upset over something that’s out of your hands now, here are some ways to improve other parts of your application to improve your chances of admission at a competitive university:                         

Aim for high standardized test scores

I’m talking about SAT, SAT subject tests, ACTs, and even APs. You can get high scores by taking plenty of time to study and prepare for these tests. This will help counterbalance your academic profile. The good thing about the subject tests is that you can choose the subjects in which you are most confident of your abilities. Then, do your best to ace them!

Showcase outstanding extracurricular leadership and success

When asking “can you get into college with a low GPA,” remember that admissions officers look for students who excel not only in the classroom, but also perform well in the real world as well. Take advantage of the activities that you participate in outside class and make sure to highlight interesting hobbies and undertakings that you do, such as speaking multiple languages or participating in competitive cycling. If you have an interesting hobby, try to always think about how to take it to the next level by gaining some kind of meaningful credential that reflects your passion and ability. Admissions officers at top schools appreciate students who are not afraid to take initiative and make an impact on their community. So, instead of just being a general member in a common activity such as debate club, think about how you can step up and pursue leadership positions in extracurriculars that are relevant to your interests and sustain your involvement in them.

Get strong recommendations from your teachers or mentors

Admissions officers give significant weight to letters of recommendation because this is how they get to know students from a human perspective. If they learn how strong a leader you are or how passionate you are about the things that you believe in – in spite of your mediocre academic performance – they can give you a fair consideration. So, when choosing your recommenders, think about who knows you the best and whom you’ve worked with the longest. Take the time to discuss with them what you want the letter to emphasize. Ask them to highlight your strongest assets and remind them about projects they have supervised you in so that they can use specific examples to provide the reader with a sense of why you’re great! For example, “Jack was the most hardworking student I’ve encountered. Compared to others in his class…” Comparative and superlative praise can go a long way to highlight your impressiveness!

Craft compelling personal statement and masterful supplements

Your application, especially the Common App personal statement, gives you the opportunity to showcase yourself and your talents in your own words and largely on your own terms. This is the chance for you to share your story and discuss a part of your life that is meaningful to you. You should also aim to write stellar supplemental essays. This component is where you can explain why you want to attend a particular college and why should they accept you. Include the qualities that you have and elaborate on how they can help you contribute to the school’s community. Be interesting. Be remarkable. Make your evaluation jump off the page, and the admissions reader might be more willing to overlook your low GPA.

Outside demonstration of academic expertise

When considering the question of “can you get into college with a low GPA,” think outside the box when searching for ways that can still convey your academic skills. Think about how you can explore your academic interests outside the classroom curriculum. You could conduct research at a lab if you’re a prospective STEM student. If you’re interested in being an English major, see whether there’s a journal where you can get your writing published. There are ways to set your experiences apart while still demonstrating your academic aspirations beyond just the number that is your GPA. 

Taking advantage of the Additional Information section, if applicable

If your low GPA stemmed from an extenuating circumstance such as a health condition or family emergency, you should definitely take advantage of the Common Application Additional Information section. Consider whether this applies to you very carefully. This isn’t the place to talk about how you spent too much time hanging out with your friends instead of studying for your tests. If you have a legitimate reason for your disappointing performance, let the college know further about it.

Showing growth

In case you’re concerned about the “can you get into college with a low GPA” question before your senior year of high school has begun, you’ve still got time to improve your grades. In fact, if you started poorly, and your grades show an upward progression, that’s a good thing! You will be perceived more favorably by admissions officers if your performance goes up as the rigor of your classes increases. Take the time to think about your current study habits and ways that you can change them for the better, whether in organization or in how much effort you’re dedicating towards classes where your performance hasn’t been the best. Colleges will appreciate knowing that you’re a hard worker who doesn’t back down from setbacks.

Considering your options if your GPA is really low

If your GPA towards the end of senior year is 2.50 or below, you might have to think about routes such as starting your freshman year by taking classes in community college. This way, you can use your college or university experience to demonstrate that you can keep up with the work and use these latest grades and apply to transfer to a top school of your choice. While it might not be an ideal scenario, it could be your best route. Hopefully you can really focus yourself, excel in your classes, and put together a stellar transfer application as well.

Although you are facing an uphill battle in the form of “can you get into college with a low GPA,” there are a lot of ways that can help you demonstrate your worthiness for a particular school even if you have don’t have the strongest grades. So, do not let your GPA upset you. If you’re in your senior year, there is usually nothing you can do to substantially change them at this point, so move forward with confidence and make up for lost time. Let it be a challenge for you to think of ways to set yourself apart and make the college you love, love you back.

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