It's a scenario that many students applying for college face -- they got terrible grades during their first year of high school. Now they fear they won't get into college. However, a semester or even a year of bad grades won't keep you out of college if you know what colleges look for and how to turn the situation around.

College Criteria

When deciding on who to accept in their ranks, colleges and universities accept a student based on a number of factors. Grades and the types of classes that you took count chief among them. This includes advanced placement courses. While colleges also like to see extracurricular activities and a solid SAT or ACT score, these don't count as heavily. That said, they also want to know that they can help mold you into a well-rounded person, so don't neglect these activities, just keep them in perspective.

Myths vs. Facts

If you did poorly academically in your 9th- or 10th-grade year, depending what year high school begins for your school, it may not represent the end of your college dreams. According to the website, universities actually look at the totality of your high school years. If you did badly the first year, but then buckled down and improved each year following the first one, it shows you can improve and possess a willingness to do the work. According to the Princeton Review, what universities really want to see is either consistently good grades or grades that improve.

The Exception

Despite colleges liking to see improvement from the first year of high school until the last, don't expect them to accept your application if you've performed poorly for three years and then tried to pull everything together at the last minute. Universities looking at your transcripts might conclude that you are a capable student, but lazy.

Other Factors

Students who have disciplinary problems or who had great grades until the very last months of high school can get a few surprises. Along with your GPA, a college will want to know if you've been a good citizen at your school and avoided disciplinary action. Additionally, if you've suddenly gone from getting "A's" and "B's" to having several "D's" on your transcript, colleges have been known to rescind acceptance offers, according to the New York Times. Both of these factors indicate that you don't take your school work seriously and wouldn't be ready for the rigors of college life.

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