5 College Application Strategies for Students with Poor Grades

GPA Isn’t Everything

Students don’t fall victim to the numbers, your added value to a college campus is more than just a reflection of your academic record. Build your academic portfolio both in school and out. There is no checklist for the perfect college student. Don’t let your grades define who you are and what you can bring to the table. Everyone has a unique background but your willingness to get an education must be greater than your desire to settle for less.


1.      It’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know – Establish connections with alumni and college representatives from your prospective university. These connections could provide a recommendation that will outweigh your academic record in the decision-making process. Building relationships gives you allies who can vouch for you and offer admission counselors further insight on your potential as a student at their university.

2.      Write a Statement to Admission Counselors – If your grades are not an adequate reflection of your capabilities as a student voice your analytical and critical thinking abilities through the personal statement. Be creative and highlight a significant moment in your life that contributed to your overall development as an individual. Or use the additional information section on the application to submit a brief statement (no more than 250 words) discussing any extraneous circumstances that contributed to your academic mishaps.

3.      Gap Year – Maybe you need a break from traditional classroom studies to recharge and decompress. During this time travel, shadow professionals in your aspiring field or conduct a research or community service project. You might discover a hidden passion that will give you experiences and skills to report back to admission counselors showcasing your net worth as a student.

4.      Highlight Achievements – Do you have any published articles or were you recognized for any awards or do you hold a leadership position? Admission counselors want to know your desire to excel and what motivates you. Recognition as a student shows that you earn the respect of your peers and others recognize the value you bring. Colleges will be more impressed with students who demonstrate a definite interest and commitment towards a specific goal than those with just perfect transcripts.

5.      Start at a Two-Year Program – Enroll in a community college. Upon completion, you can transfer to a four-year school to obtain your undergraduate degree. Remember, it's not how you start; it's how you finish the race.

Students, you are more than your grades. Even if you are not the most book savvy you still have options so don’t let a few misleading grades turn you away from pursuing higher education.