If you’re an upperclassman with a mediocre GPA, you might be worried about your chance of getting into your dream college. In this post, we offer some ways for you to mitigate the negative impact of bad grades at school as well as the steps to take proactively.
Extra Credit + Extra Help
If you’re struggling in any of your classes, let your teachers know as soon as possible. Teachers are always willing to help answer your questions if you show them that you genuinely want to improve your grades. Next, for most classes, there are certainly extra credit opportunity on assignments or projects. All you need to do first is ask your teachers about it. Teachers usually don’t bring up extra credit opportunity themselves so it’s worth asking. Even if you don’t do that well on extra credit assignments, at least you get to show them your effort and willingness to do well in class, and that helps too.
What If My Grades Didn’t Improve
If you’ve tried everything and it’s not working out, you should go the other direction and change your approach. Ultimately, you’re trying to get into good colleges, but you must also begin to look at less selective schools. This is not saying you should apply to bad schools, but rather you apply to schools that are not that hard to get in. Even, you can consider community college. Many students choose this route because they can have two extra years to do well academically, and then apply to their dream schools as transfer students. Public schools, for instance, are easier to get into if you go this route, especially if you attend a community college in the same state.
Do Well on SAT/ACT
Don’t forget there are essentially two things in your college application that showcase your academic capability—high school transcripts and standardized tests. That being said, if your grades have reached a point where it’s impossible to raise your GPA significantly in a short period of time, you should focus on the SAT/ACT and subject tests. Start taking practice exams and get familiar with the type of questions, so you can demonstrate your strength that way.
Write Exceptional College Essays
It is no secret that colleges are looking for more than just good grades in their applicants. They want students with qualities that can help the schools in positive ways, from academic achievements to good reputation. Therefore, if you cannot showcase your academic strengths with decent test scores and GPA, your best shot is to write exceptional personal statements and college essays. Colleges have their supplements essays and short-answer questions because they want to know more about students they have. Use specific examples to demonstrate the best of you in these essays, and remember to start early!
We recommend that you have your college list ready before your senior year begins, and sort the essay topics into different categories. Most of the time you will find colleges that share similar prompts. Write a first draft for as many essays as possible, and bring these drafts to your college counselors and/or English teachers so they can give you feedback. You might want to start with the Common App Essay because that’s the one essay every school will receive and always read first, so you can make a strong first impression with a carefully-written essay.