A high grade-point average can draw the attention of college admissions boards, but GPA isn't the only factor that plays a role in college acceptance. A strong application packet can help offset the effects of a low GPA, and good test scores and an excellent essay can help boost your chances of college acceptance.
Minimum GPA Requirements
Most schools don't have minimum GPA requirements, and even a high GPA won't guarantee admission into a specific school. Instead, GPA requirements are often averages based on the GPAs admitted candidates typically have. If you fall below this average, you'll have to have an above-average application in other areas to boost your chances of getting in.
Role of Standardized Tests
Standardized test scores and the GPA are typically the two most important factors in college admission decisions. High standardized test scores can improve your chances of admission if you have a low GPA, so take plenty of time to study for the SAT and ACT. If your scores are low on the first round, you may want to re-take the test to increase your chances of getting a better score.
Other Application Criteria
Your school might also request a resume, essay, teacher recommendations or even an interview. While a compelling application packet won't necessarily offset a low GPA, it can cause admissions officers to take a second look, particularly if you offer a reason for your low GPA. For example, if you have a disability that interfered with your grades or suffered a family tragedy such as the death of a parent, be sure to explain this in your application.
Safety Schools and Transferring
If you can't get into the school of your dreams, all is not lost. Apply to a few safety schools that routinely accept students with your GPA. If you excel during your first year of school, you may be able to transfer to a better school. If you've struggled through high school, a community college remedial program can help to prepare you for college. After you've passed your classes, you can apply for transfer admission to a different school.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.