How to Get into College With a Low GPA

10/09/2017 05:33 pm ET

Do not write off earning admission to a fantastic college simply because your grades are not where you would like them to be. Yes, it is true that 47% of college-bound high school seniors have an “A-” grade point average or higher. And, yes, if you have less than stellar grades, getting into college is harder – but it is definitely still doable.

An uphill, but doable task.
An uphill, but doable task.

Here are the things you must do to stand out and earn admission:

1. Study for the SAT or ACT. A strong showing on the ACT or SAT can make up for lackluster grades and demonstrate aptitude even if your transcript does not. If you didn’t achieve your anticipated grades and are, nonetheless, in the process of making your applications right now, you can still position yourself as a competitive applicant: do this by choosing colleges where your scores will be at the top end of the applicant pools. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, but it doesn’t mean all is lost. It can become a question of repositioning yourself and choosing the best strategy for the revised situation. Admission to a college that is a revised option doesn’t mean you can’t achieve great things in the outer world later on. Learning to see the long-view and the wider perspective is good training in itself for a healthy and successful approach to life!

2. Address your grade issues head on. Many applications allow for students to address any issues in their applications. If there is a reason for the low grades, tell the admissions officers. They are not mind readers and do not know if there was a valid reason for the lower-than-expected grades. Even if your grades resulted from not doing homework or something completely in your control, spin your transcript into a positive by discussing what you have learned from not getting the best results you know you are capable of.

3. Show an upward grade trend. If your high school grades started off rockier than expected, that is OK. Do your best to earn better grades later in high school. Admissions officers will give students with upward grade trends the benefit of the doubt and chalk up the improved academic performance to maturity and developing better study habits (both good things in the eyes of admissions officers).

4. Prove you are more than just a number. No one wants to be defined just by their GPA or test scores. Demonstrate excellence in a field beyond academia. For those whose forte is not in the classroom but shine in their chosen field in other ways, this is your opportunity to make up – and even supersede – the lost ground. Whether it is starting your own business, running your own club, or receiving accolades for an instrument, admissions officers value applicants who bring unique skills and leadership to their campuses in areas outside of the classroom. Make these parts of the applications as strong as possible.

5. Adopt a healthy mindset when looking for colleges. Stanford may be out of the question, but that is OK. There are still plenty of colleges that will provide you the foundation for long-term success. Keep an open mind and focus on how college can prepare you for the future and not just on the brand names.

Greg Kaplan is the founder of College Path, the first app that provides personal and affordable college counseling, a college application strategist, and author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges. College Path and Greg are dedicated to helping students develop and market their passions to earn admission to their dream college and create the foundation for long-term success. For more information, visit www.collegepathweekly.com.

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