How to Get Into College With a Low GPA

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We’ve outlined everything you need to know for how to get into college with a low GPA.

It can be worrisome when your GPA is lower than you would like it to be. You might be concerned about whether or not you’ll be accepted to the colleges that you want to study at. But don’t worry! There are things you can do to raise your chances, like improve your existing GPA, explaining your situation, and applying to certain schools that accept lower GPA scores. So if you’re wondering how to get into college with a low GPA, we’re here to guide you along.



What is Considered a Low GPA?

Your Grade Point Average (GPA) is relative. You may feel that your score is low relative to the scores that your target school looks for. But your GPA may not be so low in general. Highly selective colleges generally consider 3.5 to be on the low end. Many other schools consider low GPA scores to be in the 2.0 range. So it all depends on the school you’re applying to.


In the US, the average high school GPA is about 3.0 (or a B), but the average high school GPA for students applying to college is likely higher than a 3.0. And this is simply because it’s a competitive system. A 3.5-4.0 GPA (or A- to A+) is expected by the top colleges.


If you’re wondering how GPA is calculated or if you want to know surprising facts about your GPA, check out our article here. These are things that every student can benefit from knowing.



Why Your GPA is Not Everything

Your GPA is important, but it’s not everything. You can still be accepted into good universities if you can bring other valuable assets to the table, such as individual experience. Remember, just because you have a low GPA doesn’t mean you’re not intelligent or hard-working; there are tons of reasons why students leave school with a low GPA. Maybe you took difficult classes, or you had to work during a semester and you weren’t able to fully focus on your studies.


Here’s the good news: employers and universities understand this. And that’s why when you apply to a job or to a school, your GPA score is only one requirement. You will almost always need to submit a resume or CV, recommendations, writing samples, and other test scores. This is a good thing, because it’s your way to prove that you have a lot more to offer than the number that is your GPA.


Okay, so now what? What do you do now? Well, we’re going to show you ways in which you can raise your chances of being accepted into the college of your choice.



How You Can Raise Your GPA If You’re Still in High School

For those of you who are still in high school, there’s a lot you can do now that will raise your GPA and make you a likely candidate to a top college. What you can do will depend on which grade you’re in.



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Grades 9 and 10


If you’re a freshman or sophomore, you’re in luck — you have lots of time to dedicate to studying and achieving high grades! There are things you can do if you feel like your GPA is on the low side.

  • Are you struggling in a certain subject? Look into getting a tutor or ask your teacher for help.
  • Are you overwhelmed with other activities that your studies are falling behind? If so, then go over your list of demands and prioritize. Try to put your studies first. Keep room for hobbies like sports and extracurricular activities, but keep them in proportion. Balance is key.
  • Are you bored in your classes? Think about the elective courses you can choose. Maybe another subject will interest you more and will be easier for you to excel in.



Grades 11 and 12


If you’re already in the second half of high school, it’s a little bit harder to raise your GPA but definitely possible.

  • Even if your grades are low, but you’re managing to pull through and increase them, it’s important to show the universities that you’re going to apply to that your GPA is on an upward trend. This shows potential.
  • Are you taking difficult classes? Then you can ask your guidance counselor if you can get a weighted GPA. Weighted GPAs take into account the difficulty of your courses as well as your grades.



How to Raise Your Chances of Being Accepted

Here are things you can do to raise your chances of getting accepted into your target school.



Study hard for the SAT


SAT or ACT scores show how you rank compared to students across the country. They’re a key component of your college application. That said, a great score on this test will greatly improve your candidacy. For example, let’s say you have a GPA of 3.3, which is below the average of your target school. And your SAT score is 1290. You’ll have a 17% chance of getting in. But, if you get a 1450, your chances jump up to about 50%! This can be calculated using an admissions calculator.



Boast your non-academic skills and talents


This is where you can prove that you’re more than just a number on an application. You need to demonstrate why you’re a valuable student. Do you do things outside of school that you’re really good at? Consider these options:

  • Do you play sports at a high level?
  • Are you involved in theater, music, or art?
  • Are you a part of leadership programs, clubs or organizations?
  • Do you have hobbies in which you build robots, buildings, or machines?
  • Are you an entrepreneurial type that has started a little business?



Source: Unsplash



You might have skills and talents that don’t appear on your transcript that are highly valued and impressive. Make sure you highlight these on your application. And don’t be afraid to brag about them! Universities are impressed by extracurricular achievements and it can also explain why your grades fell a bit.



Explain your low GPA

Sometimes your GPA will suffer due to uncontrollable circumstances. And this is what you need to explain in your application, which will give context to your situation. Trust us, universities do sympathize and will take your explanation into consideration. You will need to cover this in your personal essay and make sure your recommendation letters include it as well.

  • Did you face a crisis in your home? Your family may have gone through a difficult period due to personal, financial, or health-related consequence. This is a perfectly understandable reason for why your grades can fall.



Write an amazing personal essay

The essay is where you really get to shine and show the university what you can bring to the table. Your essay should cover two elements: a) your enthusiasm for studying at the school and b) your talents, strengths, and issues you had to deal with in your studies (for instance, a family crisis as mentioned above).



Get good recommendation letters

Most universities will require at least one recommendation letter. Do you have a coach, teacher, or guidance counselor who believes in you? Ask them if they would be willing to write a letter that emphasizes your strengths and potential.


We recommend you ask for a letter in person and at least one month in advance of your application deadline because it can take time.



Look Into Alternative Options


Consider an online education


You can consider applying to an online university that is more flexible than the traditional schools. Online learning has become a respected option for many students and is gaining more popularity every year.


Online universities such as University of the People are fully online and the great thing about UoPeople is that it’s tuition-free! Check out the available online degrees — maybe one speaks to your interests. UoPeople really believes in education as a human right, and makes it very easy and accessible for students to apply. That’s why the only requirement is a certificate of high school completion and english proficiency. A low GPA? No problem there.



Going to community college first


Another alternative worth considering is starting out at a community college and later transferring to a top college after a year or two.


Some universities offer what’s called “2+2” programs in which they affiliate themselves with community colleges so that students can earn an associate degree. Once they have an associate degree, admission to a university is almost guaranteed.



Source: Pexels



Colleges That Accept Low GPAs

There are colleges in the US and around the world that are generally more flexible and easy going when it comes to GPA scores. Check out these reputable universities that accept low GPAs.



In the US


Southern New Hampshire University

  • No GPA requirement for undergraduates
  • Application Requirements:
    • Completed Application
    • Transcript Release
    • Electronic Attestation Form, stating that you’ve graduated from high school or received your GED


American Intercontinental University

  • No GPA requirement for undergraduates
  • Application Requirements:
    • High school transcripts
    • High school diploma or GED certificate
    • Proficiency in English and math


Colorado State University Global Campus

  • A GPA of 2.3 as a minimum requirement for undergraduates
  • Application Requirements for those with a GPA lower than 2.3:
    • Statement of purpose
    • Current professional resume
    • Complete 30-minute assessment


These are just a few examples of American schools. Check here for a longer list.



Around the World


Capilano University

  • A GPA of 2.0 as a minimum requirement.
  • The university is located in Vancouver Canada and has five faculties: Arts and Sciences, Business and Professional Studies, Fine and Applied Arts, and Global and Community Studies.


Source: Unsplash



Heriot-Watt University Dubai

  • A GPA of 2.5 as a minimum requirement.
  • The school offers undergraduate programs in management, construction, quantity surveying, and engineering. This university is accredited and approved by the Royal Charter in the UK. Its home campus is in Scotland.


Institute Of Technology Carlow

  • A minimum GPA of 1.98 is required.
  • The school, located in Ireland, offers programs in sciences, health, computing, engineering, business, and humanities.



Colleges That Don’t Require a GPA

Nowadays, it’s easier to get accepted to colleges. There are even universities that don’t even require GPA scores. They have alternative methods for applying. Take the following schools for example:



Goucher College:


Applicants only need to submit a two-minute video about themselves. No transcript and no test scores. You just need to prove why you deserve admission!



Bennington College:


This college also doesn’t require transcripts or test scores. Instead, applicants send in a self-curated collection of their work that shows off their creative and intellectual abilities.



Bard College:


The school does require a transcript, but you can opt to answer several college-level essay questions.



There you have it, folks. You don’t need a high GPA to get into a great college and accomplish your goals. Whether you choose to start early and improve your grades, take a year or two at a community college, or study online, you have lots of options! Good luck!