How To Get Into College With A Low GPA

“I really want to go to college, but my GPA is low…”  Does this statement apply to you?

Don’t let a low GPA stop you from furthering your education by giving up on college.  Although the “low GPA” dilemma will perhaps require you to be a little more creative and tackle a few extra challenges than some of your high school classmates with higher GPAs, it is still possible to get into college with a low GPA.

Below is a list of things for you to consider as you navigate the college admission process:

1)  Community Colleges

If your GPA is low, attending a community college for the first couple years is a good way to continue your education after high school. Community colleges typically have more lenient admissions requirements.  This will give you another opportunity to raise your GPA and show the admissions committee at the 4-year college you want to attend that you deserve to be admitted.

Another benefit of community colleges is that they tend to be a lot less expensive than 4 year colleges and universities. It’s possible for you to save a lot of money if you consider attending a community college for two years and then transferring to a four-year college for your remaining two years. Not only will your tuition be significantly cheaper, but since you’ll most likely be staying at home, you’d also be saving tons of money every semester on room and board.

Caution: One thing to keep in mind…make sure that the college you plan to transfer to will accept the credits from the community college.

Many states participate in what’s called a “2+2 Program.” Essentially, this program is an agreement among certain community colleges and universities to ensure that any student who graduates with an associate’s degree will be admitted to a participating university.

Community colleges also have much smaller class sizes. Since there are fewer students who attend community college, class sizes are typically between 20 and 50 students. These smaller classes allow the professors to develop relationships with the students and get to know them better.

Also, since the first 2 years of college are typically spent taking general education courses, like English and science, there is no reason why these courses can’t be taken for a lot cheaper at our local community college. As long as you make sure your classes transfer to whatever school you want to attend later, you shouldn’t have any problems.

I know it might be difficult to watch all of your friends move on campus at a 4 year university, but sometimes it’s for the best. You have to make your decision based on what will work with your particular situation, personally and financially.

2) Special Programs

Some colleges will have special programs that cater to students who may not have maximized their full potential in high school.  Programs like these allow students to get into college with a low GPA.  One example of a program like this would be the“Chance” Program at Northern Illinois University (NIU). Another example would be the “Access to Success” Program at the University of Minnesota. 

You can check to see if any colleges or universities that you’re interested in attending have a similar program…after all, it won’t hurt to ask.  You just may be surprised by what you find out; this could be a way for you to get into college with a low GPA.

3)  High Standardized Test Scores

So it’s the last semester of your senior year and based on your current grades, there’s no chance of you raising your GPA above a 3.0.  Now what?  Score high on the ACT and/or SAT!

In addition to GPA and extracurricular activities, the admissions committee will also be looking at your standardized test scores. Now just might be a good time to dig into your savings account and invest in an ACT and/or SAT review course.  Scoring high on the ACT and/or SAT will give you another shot at impressing the admissions committee.  This is another method to help you get into college with a low GPA.

Here are a couple of our more popular posts to help you get prepared for the ACT and/or SAT:

4) High Quality Essay

A lot of students fail to understand the importance of submitting a high quality essay or personal statement with their college application. A well written essay could definitely help sway the admission committee’s decision.

Some students have low GPA’s because they just didn’t take their classes seriously early on in their high school career, while other students experience certain special circumstances that affect their ability to perform well in the classroom. The college admissions essay is an opportunity for students to share their unique stories and provide some context around why their GPA may be lower than other applicants.

Some of the important factors that admission committees evaluate when reviewing essays are as follows:

  • Does the essay showcase the applicant’s growth and maturity through past experiences? In other words, is there evidence of leadership skills, character development over time, cultural insight, and community awareness?
  • Does the applicant explain why he or she is interested in a particular field of study?
  • Is their passion for their chosen major demonstrated through their involvement in related extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, or course selection in high school?
  • Is the essay well-written? Is it free of spelling and grammatical errors? Does it keep the reader engaged? Does it give the reviewer a compelling reason to admit the applicant into their respective college or university?

If you are looking for some sample essays, check out these posts:

If you’re a student who’s wondering how to get into college with a low GPA, I hope these tips help inspire you to continue pursuing a college education!

If you have more questions, there’s a wealth of additional information in the comments section below. It’s likely that another student is in the same or similar situation as you, so you can probably find some advice that’s applicable to your situation simply by reading through all the questions and answers already posted.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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