How to Get into College with a Low GPA [2024 Guide]

Ready to start your journey?

There are many reasons you might find yourself wondering how to get into college with a low GPA.

How to Get into College with a Low GPA

Since your GPA is based on all of your high school and pre-collegiate grades, the classes you struggled in can bring down your overall GPA, but a bad GPA doesn’t mean you have to skip college.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Here we’ll discuss some steps you can take to help you get into college with a lower high school GPA.

How to Get into College with a Low GPA

It’s encouraging to remember that your GPA is just one thing college admissions teams will consider. Your overall transcript will likely demonstrate your strengths and weaknesses.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Additionally, there are ways to share your capabilities and talents with the admissions team beyond your GPA.

1.  Explain the Low GPA

Explain the Low GPA

Sometimes life gets in the way of our academic achievements. This is particularly true in high school because it can be difficult to make up classes or retake tests.

If circumstances have gotten in the way of your education for a period of time, you may wish to write a letter to the university admissions board to explain your GPA. Perhaps there was a family crisis or you experienced an extended illness. Many universities will sympathize with situations like these.

While it is not a guarantee of admission, including a personal letter explaining your troubles can provide the admissions team with some basis of understanding.

If your school requires a candidate interview, you may also wish to bring up these issues and the impact they had on your education.

2.  Get Strong Recommendation Letters

college Recommendation Letters

There are likely other people who understand that your accomplishments as a student go beyond the cumulative number on your report card.

Many schools require recommendation letters or accept them as additional documentation. If it’s appropriate for your school, you can include recommendations from teachers, coaches, tutors, counselors, or even employers. You may ask that these letters of recommendation specifically call out your bad GPA in high school.

The writer of the letter can choose to explain or validate the circumstances that led to lower academic performance.

Documentation from a member of your academic team or a professional who employed you can offer an additional perspective on your talents. It is up to each school, though, whether a letter of recommendation is accepted.

3.  Get Good SAT or ACT Score

Good SAT or ACT Score

While your GPA reflects your performance in all of your classes throughout your pre-collegiate career, your test scores demonstrate your ability to think critically under pressure.

Many colleges look at SAT or ACT scores carefully, as they indicate your ability to study concepts and apply them to materials you may have never seen before. This is a valuable skill not only for college but also for your future career.

Having higher test scores can show college admissions teams that you take your academic performance seriously. Higher test scores could also cause them to reconsider a low GPA. You even have the chance to retake each test to try for a higher score.

4.  Write Stellar Personal Essay

Write Stellar Personal Essay

Your personal essay is a time to share why you chose to apply to this school and what you hope to accomplish with your education. You can take this time to not only reflect on your goals for the future but also to reflect on your GPA.

You may choose to include your explanation of your grades in your personal essay. If you do, you might consider sharing what you learned from your experience. For example, if the root cause of your low GPA was a difficult class, you can explain what you would now do differently.

Instead of making excuses or assumptions, you can describe how your study habits have changed. Your personal essay can be a chance to shine. You can share with the reader the many accomplishments you’ve had, such as performance in sports or clubs, awards, volunteer work, and more.

5.  Check Out Alternative Admissions Programs

Alternative college Admissions Programs

Another option is to check out alternative programs, such as colleges with no GPA requirements or with conditional enrollment. You can also consider online programming.

There are some schools that allow students to take classes online as long as they have completed high school and pay for the course.

There are also some accredited colleges who accept low GPA candidates or who have no GPA requirements at all. These programs may offer students the ability to retake classes that caused them problems in high school.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Conditional enrollment is another option that some colleges offer. These colleges set performance metrics that must be met in order to continue your education. This can allow you to get your foot in the door and start your education.

6.  Consider Starting at a Community College

Starting at a Community College

Community college is also a strategic place to start your college career. Gaining admission into a community college is often a more streamlined and easier process than the processes at more selective schools.

A community college setting can give you the opportunity to gain an education while benefitting from the access to the helpful resources many community colleges have, such as tutors and study groups. Time at a community or junior college can give you the opportunity to prove you can succeed in a college setting.

Many students who attend community college choose to transfer to another college or university after a few semesters. Your community college transcript can demonstrate that you have what it takes for collegiate success.

7.  Share the Positives

applying to colleges

When applying to colleges, it’s helpful to take some time to highlight your accomplishments.

Despite a lower GPA, your achievements in sports, clubs, the community, or your job is worth sharing. These extracurricular accomplishments can help demonstrate your critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership skills, all of which are applicable in a variety of settings.

Showing college admissions teams that you have outstanding performance beyond your grades can help them appreciate the situations in which you thrive.

You may also wish to include letters from coaches, sponsors, or others involved in your activities to speak to your experience. In addition to sharing your experience, you may also want to include a statement that ties your accomplishments to your future goals in college and beyond.

8.  Consider Taking Other Tests and Courses

college Tests and Courses

For some students, a low GPA is the result of one or more tough classes, poor test results, or a semester or two in which life got in the way of school. While you may not be able to retake a class, you may be able to throw your effort into other courses and tests.

If you are taking any AP (Advanced Placement) courses, you may want to consider taking the voluntary AP tests offered toward the end of the year. Some schools allow students to waive prerequisites based on AP test scores, and this can demonstrate your overall scholastic capability.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

You may also find college preparatory classes available to you, either online or through your local community college. Taking these classes prior to applying to college may demonstrate that you are capable of handling the coursework.

What Is a Good GPA to Get Into College?

Good GPA to Get Into College

Each school sets its own requirements for admission, so what is considered a “good” GPA varies by school, as well as what GPA colleges look at.

Sometimes individual programs within a college will require a higher GPA than the overall school. This is usually because some programs have more stringent courses, so they want to be sure future students will be able to thrive.

It’s beneficial to always check the admissions requirements for not only the college or university you hope to attend but also the program that interests you.

What Is a Low GPA?

What Is a Low GPA

The terms “low” and “high” in regards to GPA are somewhat subjective when it comes to college admission. The national average GPA is 3.0, which generally means an overall average of B grades on assignments, tests, presentations, and other graded projects. Any GPA below the national average is generally considered lower.

That being said, each school has its own standard for what is considered a low grade point average. Some selective schools require a minimum GPA over 3.5, while others admit students with lower GPAs. There are even schools with no GPA requirements.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that your GPA is just one part of your admissions requirements. Prospective colleges will be evaluating your overall admissions portfolio.

Can You Get Into College with a Low GPA?

Get Into College with a Low GPA

There are many colleges for low GPA candidates to explore. In fact, there are many accredited colleges or programs with no GPA requirements. These schools will focus on the other aspects of your application packet, such as your personal essay and letters of recommendation.

It’s strategic to take your time when completing your college application. Your accomplishments beyond your GPA can help convince an admissions panel of your eligibility.

High SAT or ACT scores can also help you stand out when applying to a school with low or no GPA requirements. You may choose to spend your time completing SAT prep courses if you have not yet taken the standardized test.

Many community colleges have open admissions policies, which means that they accept nearly anyone who has a high school diploma. If you choose to attend a community college, you have the chance to improve your academic performance. Does college GPA matter? When attending a community college, you may decide to use your college GPA and experience to springboard to another college or university after a few semesters.

Is a 2.3 GPA Good?

Getting Into College with a Low GPA

Your grade point average is an accumulation of all the grades you received during high school. A 2.3 GPA translates into around 78%, which generally means you received a C+ average on your coursework throughout high school.

This could mean that you often received Cs across your high school courses or that you had a rough course or semester that knocked down your grade point average. A 2.3 GPA is below the 3.0 national average, so it is often considered a lower GPA. There are many schools, though, that still accept candidates with lower GPAs.

You can also explore schools with open and conditional admissions policies.

Can I Get Into College with a 2.0 GPA?

While additional work may be necessary, it is possible to get into college with a 2.0 GPA. If any external factors affected your GPA—such as harder coursework or a family crisis—college admissions teams may take these into account when reviewing your application.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

A 2.0 GPA generally demonstrates a C average throughout your high school career, equivalent to 73% to 76%.

You can potentially offset this GPA with higher standardized test scores or additional coursework outside of high school. You can also explore colleges with low GPA requirements, specifically colleges that accept 2.0 GPA, as well as those that have open or conditional admissions.

What Is the Lowest GPA That Colleges Accept?

Lowest GPA That Colleges Accept

The lowest GPA that colleges will accept varies per university. Low GPA colleges are available across the country as well as online.

Many colleges accept GPAs in the 2.3 to 2.0 range, and even more colleges will accept students with GPAs in the 2.4 to 2.6 range. There are also plenty of schools that accept students with GPAs ranging from 2.7 to 3.0.

There are a number of colleges that even have no GPA requirement, focusing instead on the other aspects of your application packet.

When applying to a college, it’s strategic to carefully review any admissions requirements. You may also wish to contact an admissions specialist to discuss your circumstances.

Getting Your College Degree Online

Getting a college degree online

Getting a college degree is a valuable opportunity for all sorts of students.

Even if you received a lower GPA in high school, you can still consider college. Your admissions packet will likely include additional documents, such as letters or essays, that highlight specific challenges and successes you experienced in your pre-collegiate career.

You may consider starting your college journey via online classes. In addition to universities with low GPA score requirements, community colleges also offer fresh opportunities for you to demonstrate your academic ability.

College options exist for all students, so why not start exploring accredited universities and community colleges today?

Ready to start your journey?
Jason Collins
Jason earned his bachelor's degree in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University with a minor in history. A life-long learner with a love of philosophy, history, and science, Jason works in professional development, career enrichment, and improved business practices.