Written by: Jen Carlevatti // Nov 28, 2017
Last updated: Oct 31, 2019
Are your grades somewhat less than stellar? Think you have no shot at getting into college? Never fear! Grades are just one factor that colleges consider when evaluating your admission application. Take a deep breath, and read about how to get into college if you don’t have all A’s:
Remember That All GPAs Are Not Created Equal
If you’ve taken a number of AP or dual enrollment courses and earned B’s, there’s good news: the admissions office may consider them A’s. Universities often will recalculate your GPA and reward you with additional points for AP and dual-enrollment courses (since they are indicative of your ability to do college-level work).
Bring Up Your Grades
You may be thinking “it’s WAY too late for that.” However, many universities consider an upward grade trend in their admission decisions. It’s never too late to do better. Whether you have 2 years or 2 semesters left in high school, study hard and earn the best grades that you’re capable of.
Ace the SAT or ACT
One of the best ways to compensate for less-than-ideal grades is to earn excellent scores on the SAT or ACT test. Some universities place equal emphasis on GPA and test scores, so it’s important to prepare for the test and score well. If you don’t earn the desired score on your first attempt, take the test again. Also, many students find that they perform better on one test or the other, so take both the SAT and ACT at least once. Learn about the differences between the SAT and ACT.
Write a Killer Admission Essay
Not all universities consider essays as part of the admission process, but for the ones that do, it can be a crucial element of your application. Use this opportunity to highlight what’s unique about you and why you are a good “fit” for the university. Detail obstacles you have overcome. Feature life experiences that have shaped your world-view. Examine life-changing volunteer experiences. Above all, use your own voice and proofread your essay thoroughly before submitting.
Get Recommendations from Teachers
A strong recommendation from a teacher or mentor can make a huge difference for students with average grades. Teachers know your strengths and can give insight into your ability to perform well in college, your academic interests and motivations, your personal qualities and your contributions to your school community.
Offer an Explanation for Below-Average Grades
Was a there a compelling reason why your grades took a dive? Use your admission essay or the additional information section of the application to explain why. Compelling reasons could include a personal or family illness, a financial crisis or a death in the family. Universities will often take this into consideration. However, tread lightly – the fact that your favorite Netflix series was canceled will not impress the admissions office.
Consider “Non-Standard” Offers of Admission
For students with borderline grades, many universities will offer alternate types of admission. Consider these offers carefully, as they may provide a path to attending a school you might not qualify for otherwise. These types of admission may include:
- Alternate Admission Term: Most students want to enroll in the fall semester, so competition for these slots is fierce. If you don’t qualify for the fall semester, many universities will offer admission to the spring or summer semester.
- Conditional Admission: Think of this as “admission with strings attached.” Check your offer letter carefully to see which conditions you must meet - such as maintaining a certain GPA your first year at the university or enrolling in certain courses. If you don’t meet these conditions, your admission may be revoked.
- Admission to Special Programs: You may be offered admission to a program designed to help facilitate your transition to college. For example, USF offers Student Support Services, a program that starts in the summer term and offers a plethora of benefits to first-generation-in-college students and those who come from low-income families.
Start at a Community College, Then Transfer
Some state universities and community colleges have entered into partnerships to offer 2+2 programs. How does it work? You attend the community college for 2 years and earn an associate’s degree. You then qualify for guaranteed admission to the state university, where you will complete your final 2 years and earn a bachelor’s degree. USF’s version of this program is called FUSE.
Advisors help to keep you on the right track for your major and course of study. In addition, you may save money, since community college tuition tends to be less expensive than state universities.