What Is a Bad GPA in High School?
Most colleges nationwide require a 3.0 GPA in order to be considered for admission.
If you have particularly low grades, it's recommended that you hold off on pursuing your dream school right away. Instead, you could earn an associate degree at an online college with plans to transfer your credits. This offers you the opportunity to demonstrate your work ethic and raise your grades in a college setting.
Additionally, online degrees are significantly more approachable than on-campus degrees. They're much more flexible in terms of their learning format, and in some cases, their admission requirements.
All in all, there are plenty of ways to get into a university with a low GPA; however, it's important to recognize where your grades stand before pursuing postsecondary education. If you've graduated high school with a low GPA but you're on a path of improvement, you can still find success at the collegiate level. In fact, many students find they study better in a college environment than they did during high school.
There are plenty of lucrative careers you can pursue with just a two-year degree at a community college. Check out our article that covers the highest paying jobs you can get with an associate degree.
Can I Still Raise My GPA in High School?
Yes, you can raise your GPA if you're still in high school. First and foremost, it's important to speak with your teachers to learn why your grades are low in the first place. They can provide insights into your performance in specific areas. It's also a good idea to speak with a counselor if you find yourself struggling to focus or you need special arrangements to complete your work. Tutoring is another option that can drastically improve a student's ability to learn new information. In fact, the Brookings Institution notes that 80% of the 96 tutoring studies they analyzed showed "statistically significant effects."
Can I Get Into College With a 2.0 GPA?
If you are wondering whether you can get into college with a 2.0 GPA, there are several factors to consider. The first consideration involves the program you plan to attend. For example, while many STEM programs (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) require a 3.0 GPA, other programs that rely less on academic performance and more on experience and portfolios may not require as high of a GPA.
Furthermore, some colleges don't have a GPA requirement at all. You can read more about these schools, along with tips on how to get into good colleges with bad grades, in the sections below.
How To Get Into College With a Low GPA
There are several ways to get into a good university with bad grades, ranging from getting your high school grades remediated to putting extra effort into your admissions essay, or just properly filling out the Common Application. In many cases, you'll be required to show a good deal of patience during this process.
To provide a better understanding of the obstacles low GPA students face, we reached out to Rachel Coleman. She's a certified counselor and college admissions expert with six years of professional experience helping students pursue their academic goals.
Coleman offered five ways for low GPA students to increase their chances of attending college:
"If a student has a D… they are eligible to get that grade remediated, essentially re-taking the class for a better grade. In many cases, the student can take an online class over the summer to accomplish this, thereby raising their GPA. This is especially important with Ds and lower [grades] because there are many colleges that have a policy of not accepting students with Ds."
"Students with a low GPA have an opportunity to explain the reasons behind the GPA in the 'Additional Information' section of the Common App. Anything health-related or family-related that caused the low GPA is important to address… That way, colleges know the GPA is not reflective of the student's current academic potential."
"If the cause of the low GPA was COVID-related, there is now a 250-word 'how did COVID affect you?' question on the Common App. If applicable, the student should use this space to talk about how distance learning hurt their GPA and how they are improving now that school is back in person."
"Lastly, students with a low GPA should make sure they have put together a list of colleges that they will be accepted into. Building a college list that is reasonable and fits the student's academic profile is extremely important."
How Do I Write a Letter of Explanation for a Low GPA?
A letter of explanation is an additional way for low-GPA students to explain their situation during admissions and outline the cause of their poor performance. Some examples of causes for a low GPA may relate to your physical or mental health, family struggles, or the status of your home environment.
Here are some helpful tips for writing a letter of explanation:
Be honest. It's critical that you tell the truth in your letter and that you don't overembellish your situation to a degree that may cause the admissions officer pause.
Acknowledge your difficulties. This is what an explanation letter is all about. Don't try to generate sympathy. Instead, provide all the details needed for an admission officer to understand what you were going through.
Demonstrate your desire to improve. Include the concrete steps you took to get back on track and surpass your past performances.
Colleges With Low GPA Requirements
If you aren't able to remediate your grades prior to applying to school, you should look for colleges with low GPA requirements. There are countless examples of universities with online degrees that have GPA requirements lower than the standard 3.0: Saint Mary's University of Minnesota asks for a 2.75 GPA, while Tennessee State University requires only a 2.5 GPA. The requirements are even lower for Western Governors University, which — as a part of its community college transfer program — requires only a 2.0 GPA.
Colleges That Don't Require a GPA
You may also look for colleges with no GPA requirements at all, such as the following examples:
- Purdue University Global does not have GPA requirements for students applying for an undergraduate program.
- The same goes for Southern New Hampshire University, which promises to accommodate all GPAs for undergraduate students.
FAQs About Low GPAs
Is It Hard To Get Into College With a Low GPA?
Starting off your college journey with a low GPA may make the process more difficult. However, there are plenty of options to pursue your ideal degree through online schools, which generally have lower admission standards.
How Do I Get Into a Good University With Bad Grades?
First, you'll want to see if you can remediate or re-take your high school classes with the lowest grades. If these options aren't available, it's recommended that you search for online schools with low GPA requirements. From there, it's important to score highly on your entrance exams, write a thoughtful personal essay, and even include a letter of explanation outlining your poor secondary grades.
What Is the Lowest GPA To Get Into College?
Some colleges don't have GPA requirements at all. Instead they simply ask for your high school diploma or GED, along with other relevant documents. For schools that do have requirements, albeit on the lower end, they generally do not go below 2.0.
How Do I Explain My Low GPA to a College?
If you have a legitimate excuse for your poor performance in secondary school, you should write a letter of explanation to include in your admissions package. This allows the admissions officer to better understand your circumstances as they relate to your low GPA. The Common App, as described above, also offers an opportunity to explain your grades in the additional information section.