How to Get Into College With Bad Grades

Two Parts:Finding an InstitutionWriting Your Application

Do you have bad or less than acceptable grades and want to attend college or university? If so, you may think that a degree is unattainable with your academic record. But this may not be the case. By finding an institution that may consider your bad grades and writing a solid application, you may be able to get into a college or university and obtain a degree.

Part 1
Finding an Institution

  1. 1
    Consider your academic performance. Before you can find an appropriate institution for your desires and needs, even with bad grades, think about your tenure at school. Considering factors such as types of classes you took, extracurricular activities, and other extenuating circumstances may help point you in the direction of the right college or university for you.
    • Make a list of everything you have to offer, both positive and negative. For example, you may have bad grades but are taking challenging college preparatory classes instead of regular level courses or have very high SAT scores.[1] Likewise, maybe you participate in activities and your local community, which may help offset your bad grades.[2]
    • Note if you have a mix of bad and better grades. For example, maybe you have a D in chemistry, but a B in ceramics. This can indicate to potential schools that you are better at certain subjects, especially if they are related to your suggested major.
    • Be honest with yourself about what you have to offer. If you’re not sure, speak to your school counselor, a parent, or friends.[3]
  2. 2
    Formulate a realistic list of potential colleges. Make a list of colleges and universities that interest you. Keep your expectations realistic so that it’s easier for you to narrow down and apply to an institution that may accept you.[4]
    • Keep in mind your assets when formulating your list, but also that you have bad grades. This can help keep your choices within the realm of realistic options.
    • Maintain your perspective when selecting schools. For example, Ivy League institutions aren’t likely to accept a student with bad grades, even if you are an athlete. However, state institutions and community colleges, and many smaller private colleges may be more flexible.<ref</ref>
    • Compile a list of top choices, potential institutions and “safety schools” to which you may be more likely to receive an acceptance letter. For example, you could list your top choice as the University of Wisconsin, your second level choice as Colorado State and your “safety school” as Indian River Community College.
  3. 3
    Research your choices. From your list of potential colleges and universities, conduct research on each institution. This can help you put together a final list of schools you may want to contact, visit, and apply.[5]
    • Check the web pages of your potential colleges. Most will offer admissions statistics and describe special programs they may have for students who need help.
    • Ask you school counselor if she has any information about the institution.
    • Speak to someone from the college or a person who is attending or has graduated from the school.
    • Read publications such as magazines about college rankings that offer statistics
  4. 4
    Explore further options. Beyond your list of potential colleges or universities, explore additional institutions. This may give you a longer list of schools that not only interest you, but also that may accept your special circumstances.
    • You can search online for colleges with lower admission standards, including grades.
    • Check satellite campuses of universities. These may not have the same requirements as your top choice schools. For example, if your grades may keep you out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, look into the program at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.[6]
    • Speak to school counselors or teachers. They may have some ideas of additional institutions that may interest you.[7]
    • Visit a local college fair, which will give you the opportunity to learn more about a specific school and ask a representative any questions you may have.
  5. 5
    Visit campus. If you are able, make campus visits to any colleges or universities that interest you. This can give you a better sense of the institution and if it is a possibility for you. It will also give you the chance to speak with admissions counselors or ask questions about the school or application process.[8]
    • Schedule a campus visit at a time convenient for you by calling a admissions representative. She can set up a campus tour and meetings with students or professors.
    • Attend a potential students’ weekend to give you an idea of as many aspects of what the university has to offer as possible.
    • Take a virtual tour. Many schools now offer virtual tours for students who can’t visit in person and may also have admissions counselors with whom you can chat online with potential questions.
  6. 6
    Discuss your situation with an admissions counselor. Consider speaking to an admissions counselor at the universities that really interest you. She can answer questions you have or give you tips about how to best apply with your bad grades.
    • Be absolutely honest with the counselor. This can demonstrate maturity and that you are willing to take responsibility for your situation.[9]
    • Show as much interest as you can in the school to the admissions counselor by asking a lot of questions and demonstrating that you’ve researched the programs. This may help offset the bad grades and help her make a case for your admission.
  7. 7
    Narrow down your list. After you’ve had a chance to explore the thousands of colleges and universities you could attend, narrow down the list to places to which you’d like to apply.[10] This can help you create a manageable number of applications to write and may improve your chances of getting in to a university.[11]
    • Keep the number of schools to which you apply within a reasonable limit so that you can focus on writing quality applications. For example, you may want to apply to 5-10 schools instead of 20.
    • Remember to have a list of different types of institutions such as community colleges, satellite campuses, smaller institutions and your top choice schools.

Part 2
Writing Your Application

  1. 1
    Compile application requirements. For each college to which you plan to apply, compile a list of application requirements. This can help ensure that you don’t forget to enclose any documents or miss the deadline.
    • List all of the documents you require including essays, the form, and how many recommendation letters you need.
    • Note the deadline and aim to submit well before that date.
  2. 2
    Avoid applying too early. Most universities offer early admission, which is very competitive. Avoid this option to help improve your grades or standardized testing scores.[12]
    • Some schools work on rolling admissions, meaning that they continue to accept students until the freshmen class is filled. These types of schools may leave you a little more wiggle room in terms of when you can apply.
  3. 3
    Request recommendation letters. You’ll likely need 2-3 recommendation letters from teachers or counselors as a part of your application packet. Ask for your references at least 4 weeks in advance to give the referee plenty of time to compose the letter.
    • Ask teachers or counselors who know you and your work well, and who can write a strong letter for you. For example, if you have better grades in history than other subjects, ask your history teacher to submit a letter on your behalf.[13]
    • Give your referees any relevant information that can help them compose a strong letter for you. Make sure to let them know the deadline for the letter, too.
  4. 4
    Fill out the application form. Obtain a copy of the general application form and fill it out. Be as honest as possible with your answers, which may help you gain admission if you can explain them.[14]
    • Write in your standardized test scores and grades. If there is a section where it asks you to explain anything about either, compose a brief answer that demonstrates your awareness of your bad grades and how you are trying to improve them.[15]
    • Explain anything about your grades, scores, or other information that may be relevant. For example, perhaps you got bad grades one year because you were dealing with an illness. This may help make your case to give you a chance at a college.[16]
    • Call an admissions counselor if you have any questions on the application form.
  5. 5
    Compose required essays. You may have to submit personal essays about why you want to attend that specific college. Writing about your motivations while acknowledging any potential problems can help strengthen your case and counterbalance bad grades.
    • Read the question(s) closely and answer it honestly and as to the point as possible.
    • Include any information about your grades and the reasons why you have them or that you are trying to improve them. This demonstrates maturity and that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions.[17]
    • Consider submitting a short supplemental essay that addresses the issue with your grades.
    • Stay within the page limits given on the application form.
  6. 6
    Check your application. Before you submit your application, check over your answers and essays. This can minimize the risk of errors and help make a good impression of you.
    • Read your essays and answers aloud, which can help you more easily spot mistakes.
    • Put the application together in the order of required documents, which may minimize the risk of accidentally forgetting to include information.
  7. 7
    Submit your application. When your complete application package is ready, submit it either online or by mail. It may take a few weeks to a few months to receive the college’s decision on your application.
    • Make sure to submit it before the deadline. Aim to file your application the day before it is due to give yourself some breathing room if you have any problems with it.
    • Consider sending the application by registered mail to ensure it arrives on time.
    • Track its progress online if you are able.
    • Improve your grades and re-apply the following year if you don’t receive an acceptance letter.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (14)

Article Info

Categories: College University and Postgraduate