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How to Get into College with a Low GPA

July 27, 2010 By: Category: Get into College

Today we have a guest post by Breana Orland, a writer for Student Grants. Breana also gives advice on the pursuit of higher education and career options for young adults.

Good grades alone can’t get you into college, but a well-rounded character can. Unfortunately good grades tell a lot about someone’s character. It takes hard work and sacrifice to do well at any level in life; be it high school or while climbing the corporate ladder. The good thing, however, is that your personal character can also be revealed through many other means. Here are a few ways you can market yourself to the admissions board without a stellar GPA.


  1. Senior year counts. Many schools are beginning to place increased importance on academic performance from the last semesters of high school. Good grades later in your high school career are more relevant to your current character. 
  2. Ask for help. If you are heading into your senior year and you know your GPA is low; you still have time to amp it up. One year is 25% of your total GPA! If you crack down, you can achieve a pretty big jump in your grade point average. Do anything you can to raise your GPA. The moment you find yourself in trouble with classes, talk to your teacher. Ask for guidance, extra credit or recommendation for a tutor. It is also a great idea to get your guidance counselor involved in your commitment to getting into college. He or she can provide invaluable support and encouragement through your final year.
  3. Take both the ACT and SAT. Actually study for them! There are websites that provide practice tests and many tutors that specialize in these national tests. It’s also important to note that many schools are beginning to place more weight on standardized test scores than actual GPA due to the incredible discrepancy amongst the nation’s schools. Don’t be afraid to re-take if needed.
  4. Challenge yourself. The numbers matter, but content does too. AP classes are great indicators of being a go-getter. Participating in post-secondary education classes screams it even louder. If your school has a partnership with a local College or University, go to your guidance counselor and ask what you need to do to get into one or two classes. Then do really well in them. Taking these classes will show initiative and that you set the bar high for yourself.
  5. Exploit the written essay. Take your time to really nail down this part of your application. Make sure you are specific with its content and use it to demonstrate both knowledge and your own personal characteristics. An extraordinary essay that reflects your work ethic, your desire and your goals is almost guaranteed to get a second look.
  6. Show off your extracurricular activities. Are you an athlete or musician?  Flaunt it. Even if you aren’t planning on participating in college, this experience is a huge plus. Make sure you make use of buzzwords like teamwork, desire, dedication, goal setting, leadership, fair play and time management skills when you discuss how you benefited from such activities. Colleges are looking for students who will make something of themselves post-graduation. Typically, those people are the type that put their neck on the line and actually do things. Be a doer and parade it around. If you are in need of this type of participation, it’s not too late. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in every community. Community service shows dedication and activism.   Plus, if you choose wisely, your volunteer work could be seen as in-the-field experience. Think about it: a summer working with abandoned animals at a wilderness refuge is worth its weight in gold compared to your environmental science class.

If you still end up without an acceptance letter, keep your head up because you are not out of luck. If you do your research. you will find that there are many quality community colleges across the country. Find one that has good accreditations and partnerships with local universities, and then get to work. Take your general education classes and be that annoying kid in the front who becomes the teacher’s pet. Be the student who volunteers to be the team leader in all the group projects. When your two years are coming to an end, transfer your credits to the partner University. As long as you have done well, you will have easy admission into the school due to your proven success at the college level.