Is your GPA just plain scary? If so, you’re not alone. Plenty of students get a shiver up their spines when they think about their GPA—how will I ever go to college with bad grades like these? Fear not: No matter where you are on your college admissions journey, there are steps you can take to fix your broken GPA.
Fixing your GPA: Freshmen and Sophomores
Good news! It’s early yet. You have time to bring up your GPA before college applications roll around. Here’s what you need to do right now:
Talk to your teachers.
They (probably) aren’t going home at night thinking of new ways to torture you. On the contrary—your teachers WANT you to succeed. Ask them for help! Even if they won’t allow extra credit, they will usually be more than happy to help you understand the concepts that you’re just not getting.
Do your homework.
This one seems like a given, but it has to be said: If your grades are bad because you didn’t turn in your homework all semester, stop that now. Do your homework EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT.
Ask for partial credit.
If the problem is missing assignments, ask your teachers very, very nicely if you could earn partial credit by turning in late work. Even a 25% is better than a 0%! Remember: your teachers are under absolutely no obligation to give you any credit at all for missing assignments—but you never know if you don’t ask.
Identify the problem.
Once your identify the problem, you can take steps to fix it.
- Are your grades bad because you don’t get the material?Ask your teachers, classmates who are excelling, or a tutor for help. The longer you wait to get help, the further behind you’ll fall, so don’t put it off.
- Is the problem that you freeze on tests?If you do all the homework and you study for your tests, but you still freeze up and do badly on test day, testing anxiety might be the problem. Check out this post for help with testing anxiety.
- Is the problem that you forget about due dates and test dates or lose your homework?You’ve got an organization nightmare on your hands. Clean out that book bag. Shovel out that locker. Get some folders, binders, and dividers. Download a good calendar app. And most importantly: WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING.
- Are you rushing through assignments at the last second?You have a procrastination problem. You should stop that. Check out some tips to stop procrastination here.
Even if you can’t fix the grades you have now, you can—and should—fix the underlying problems so that you earn better grades going forward. If you struggle to understand the material in your classes or you have study skills problems that you can’t seem to solve on your own, get the help of a qualified tutor to build the foundation you need to succeed in the future.
Improving Your GPA for Juniors
Junior year is tough. In addition to all the other stuff you need to do to get ready for college applications, you’ve also got the pressure to excel in your classes because (sorry to stress you out even more) junior year grades are arguably the most important grades on your transcript. After all, these may be the last semesters to show up on your transcript before you apply to college, which means that these grades will offer the clearest view of your current academic abilities.
It’s no wonder you’re having nightmares.
Here’s what you need to do:
Math. Yes, math.
Do some calculations to figure out what’s possible with your GPA. The reality is that you have a finite amount of time to fix your GPA. Depending on the time of year, you might only have 1 or 2 semesters of grades to try to dig out of the hole you’ve found yourself in. If you’re a junior with a 2.0 GPA, it’s just not reasonable to think you’re going to somehow bring it up to a 3.5—and no one will be helped by setting an unattainable expectation.
Let go of the past.
What’s done is done—you haven’t change the grades you’ve already earned. What you CAN do is show a pattern of improvement. Even if your overall GPA is low, you can still show colleges your potential by demonstrating that you’ve improved your performance. You can’t change that bad grade from last semester, but you CAN get a good grade this semester.
Fix the underlying problem.
What’s causing your bad grades? Whether it’s trouble understanding the material, difficulty studying for tests, or problems with organization and procrastination, once you’ve identified the reason for the bad grades, you can take steps to fix things. And if you find that you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your teachers, counselors, and tutors are there to support you!
Bolster other parts of your application.
Even if you can’t totally fix your GPA, you can make the other parts of your college applications as strong as possible. Maximize your SAT or ACT scores, go for the leadership positions in your extracurriculars, find some meaningful volunteer opportunities to dig into, and take some SAT Subject Tests in the subjects you feel most confident in.
Seniors, There’s Still A Chance to Fix Your GPA.
Never say never! Here’s what you need to do:
Don’t apply early.
If your GPA is borderline, hold off and apply to college through regular decision so that you can include your fall semester grades in the mix. Really strong fall semester grades might help.
Take the moon shot.
If you’ve got a college on your radar that you know your GPA is too low for, apply anyway. The worst thing that could happen is a rejection letter, and you never know…you might have that special something that overcomes your bad grades to win admission.
Know that you WILL be able to go to college.
It just might not be the college you always dreamed of. Despite the record-low admission rates published by elite universities year after year, the overall admission rate for all four-year colleges has remained steady at around 65%. There are absolutely schools that you can earn admission to, even if they aren’t top 100 colleges.
Come up with your backup plans.
You have options.
- Four-year colleges with high admission rates.Look at the least competitive campuses in big state university systems. Oftentimes, once you’ve built a good GPA at these schools, you can transfer to a different campus that better matches your long-term goals. For example, at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, more than half of accepted students had high school GPAs below 3.0.
- Community colleges.A lot of people overlook the community college option, but it’s a great choice regardless of your GPA. Community college offers you the opportunity to rebuild your GPA and apply to a 4-year school as a competitive transfer student—while saving boatloads of tuition money in the process. Bonus: a lot of competitive universities have transfer agreements already in place with community colleges.
You can’t hide from a scary GPA—you’ll have to face it head-on. C2 Education’s got your back. If you think you need help with your grades, visit your local C2 center for a consultation.