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Can I still get into college with a low GPA?

If you skated through high school, then chances are your GPA isn’t great. And now you’re realizing that maybe you should have put in a bit more effort because when you look through college brochures, admissions committees are all expecting at least a 3.0 GPA, a few extracurriculars, and high standardized test scores. Is it possible for you get into college with a low GPA? And can you get into a good one?

The short answer is yes, but you may have to take an unconventional route to get there. Here are seven things you can do to get into college, even with a low GPA:

1. Join an extracurricular that you can add to your college applications.

First things first: join a couple of school clubs and organizations and participate heavily. You could join:

  • your school’s yearbook committee; they’re always looking for help
  • an intramural team
  • a small club, one where there is a chance of you getting into a leadership position relatively quickly

Think of where your interests lie and put yourself out there.

2. Retake the SAT and/or ACT to offset your low GPA.

You should also retake the SAT or ACT. Sometimes schools will overlook a less than stellar GPA if your SAT or ACT scores are ridiculously high.

Related: What’s your best shot at quickly improving your scores? Test prep tutoring sessions. Book online SAT/ACT session with a top scoring tutor today.

3. Volunteer for a cause you care about. Show colleges your interest in helping others.

Volunteer hours look great on a college application.

Colleges want to see well-rounded individuals – students they think will eventually make a difference in the world. Choose a cause that you really care about and put in some overtime hours. Do more than the bare minimum.

4. Consider applying to colleges with lower GPA requirements.

It may sound surprising, but there are schools out there with less stringent GPA requirements. Rather than focusing heavily on GPA and SAT scores, these colleges are more interested in other factors.

Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland is a perfect example. This college asks applicants to create a two minute video about themselves. They are also asked to submit one graded writing assignment and one stellar example of scholastic work.

There are also schools like Florida Memorial University and Edward Waters College that are willing to accept students with lower GPAs. On average, the students that attend these schools tend to have lower GPAs than students from other schools, but the alumni from these schools are just as successful.

Another option may be a less competitive school. The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has a 93% acceptance rate. In comparison, the University of Florida has a 38.8% acceptance rate, so the odds are not in most applicants’ favor.

Do your research. You may be shocked at what you find. There is a lot of diversity when it comes to an admission committee’s priority lists.

5. Be honest about your low GPA in your college essay.

From the steps above, it might seem like you should just boost the other aspects of your college application, and hope admissions officers don’t care too much about your GPA.

But honestly, addressing it is better than saying nothing. And there’s no better place to demonstrate that you have grown academically and personally than with your personal statements.

In your college application essays/responses:

  • explain your low GPA, whether it was because of family issues, mental health problems, etc.
  • illustrate your new found motivation and love of learning
  • make it very apparent that you are excited about this specific school/program
  • if possible, speak on how your hardships and/or new found inspirations have informed your decision to study a particular subject

Colleges aren’t looking for perfect students with perfect lives.

It really is okay if you have encountered hardships, have a unique situation, or learned a hard lesson.

Don’t be embarrassed by your story – it can help you get into college, even with a low GPA.

Related: Here is how to write a college essay that will make admissions officers laugh, cry, and welcome you to their school with open arms. 

6. Look into alternative college programs that put less emphasis on GPA.

Some schools offer alternative admissions programs. These programs judge these students differently than the general population and have different sets of requirements.

Florida State University, for example, offers the CARE Summer Bridge Program. This program is geared toward first-generation college students.

The minimum weighted GPA for this program’s applicants is a 3.0. That’s a pretty generous offer coming from Florida State University, especially considering that 75% of applicants have a weighted GPA of 4.1.

Related: What’s the difference between weighted vs unweighted GPA?

7. Go to community college first to raise your GPA.

Community colleges are actually the best option for students that have had difficulties in high school and now want to refocus their energy in college.

Not only is community college a chance to “redeem yourself” in terms of GPA, it’s also a great way to save money.

Student loan debt is crippling many current (and graduated) students. So, if there is an opportunity to save on college, seriously consider taking it.

You can get your Associate’s degree from community college but then attend the college or university of your choice for your Bachelor’s degree, and you’ll have saved yourself some cash at the end of your undergraduate career.

8. Master a skill in trade school. You can transfer somewhere else later (if you still want to.)

If you have a special skill or trade then you can apply to a trade school or apprenticeship. These schools are career-centered, so they are more concerned with your talent in that specific skill set rather than your GPA. There are a lot of programs in several different fields to choose from, including: auto mechanics, plumbing, and cosmetology.

Considering the U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage in skilled tradespeople, going to trade school could be a very solid, lucrative move on your part. Trade school costs way less than a four-year school. And you typically start making money much faster than those who go to a four-year school right after high school.

Plus, if you decide you want to go to college or university later on, many four-year schools accept technical college/trade school credits as a component of fulfilling graduation requirements.

Here are the fifteen highest paying trade jobs right now.

But the most important thing to remember when it comes to getting into college with a low GPA is this: comparing never helps.

Maybe your siblings or friends are all excited about their college applications, checking their emails and running out to the mailbox all the time, just waiting for their acceptance letters.

This might make you feel less-than, or regret how you spent the previous few years of high school.

But the fact that you have read this entire article, and that you’ll (hopefully) take this advice to heart, means that you are worthy of a higher-level learning experience.

And it means that you are willing to change. This might mean taking your studies more seriously, dealing with any health issues, or finding a more stable environment/schedule.

It might also mean asking for help. And that’s okay, too.

If you need some extra help raising your GPA, enroll in our online group or private tutoring sessions

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