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If you’re getting close to graduating, you might be worried about your GPA. Even if it isn’t bad, some of the GPA’s required for the top schools can be intimidating. If you’re graduating soon or maybe have just graduated from high school, you may be worried that you’re not going to get into the university you’ve had your eyes on. If you’re thinking that the only really important factor is your GPA, you should be aware that there are several other factors that are just as important. These include your SAT scores or ACT scores and your personal statement, among others.
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What is a Low GPA?
GPA stands for grade point average. Most universities and colleges use the 4.0 grading scale. This means 4.0 is an A, 3.0 a B, 2.0 a C, 1.0 a D and anything below is an F. Some universities consider anything below a 3.0 to be a low GPA; others consider anything at or below 3.5 to be low. However, high school GPAs have begun to go up; now, on average, GPAs of high school graduates sit at about a 3.0.
All of this means that, if your GPA finished at lower than the average of 3.0, then schools will likely feel that you have a low GPA. Again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go to college. Most colleges use other criteria to help them make their admission decisions, not just your GPA.
Is GPA the Main Factor for Getting into College?
Your GPA is important for admissions officials; when they consider your request for admission, they certainly factor it in. But, if your GPA isn’t as high as it could be, you aren’t completely out of luck. Admissions personnel will look at a multiplicity of factors that you present or submit when you apply for admission. They are given considerable importance, along with your admission test scores, high school grades, and the strength of your curriculum (that is, were your high school classes academically challenging?)
However, different colleges and universities take other factors into consideration. A liberal arts college may look more closely at your personal statement, a top university may focus on personal achievement as much as it does academic achievement, and public universities may focus mainly on test scores and GPA.
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Other Factors that Help to Get Accepted
Letters of Recommendation
At times, those letters of recommendation from your high school principal, one of your teachers, or your high school ROTC instructor may be weighted more heavily than your GPA would normally be. Some colleges may routinely look more closely at those letters, such as for an arts degree or a niche program, than they will look at your high school GPA. These colleges want to see a professional opinion of you as a person rather than a number that represents a small portion of your life. These schools want to see what your total abilities are, not a dry assessment of your academic ability.
These letters should come from people who have gotten to know you well. If, for instance, you took AP German, you may have spent quite a bit of time in activities with fellow AP German students and your teacher, who would then have a good idea of your finer qualities.
The personal statement you write for college applications represents who you are. In so many words, you are telling the admissions committee who you are and what matters to you. You’re telling them why you want to go to their college, what you think the program you seek to enter will do for your education and career, and where you see yourself heading in your future.
It’s not easy to write a good, standout personal statement. This is why it’s important to study others, but not to copy them. A personal statement markets who you are to the universities and colleges you are the most interested in. In a personal statement, you have to communicate who you are in no more than 4,000 characters.
If, for instance, you’re going to major in journalism, you would touch on previous journalism experience you’ve had, such as editing your high school yearbook or newspaper. Highlight your new knowledge of your strengths and express how any past experience you may have had has shown you how important your new career is.
While extracurricular activities are important, don’t load your schedule down with them. It’s possible this could cause your grades to suffer. Instead, choose one or two that are really important to you. If you are involved in an extracurricular activity such as a club, winning awards or recognition will look good on your admissions packet.
If, for instance, you are involved in a club, being elected to a vice president’s position makes you stand out over other applicants. Or, if you are in a group that regularly performs community service, admissions committees ware sure to approve of seeing that on your admissions application.
While a common college application has 10 spaces for extracurricular activities, don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to take part in that many extracurricular activities. You still need to make sure you have time to rest, study, and have some down time with friends and family. As you are looking for extracurricular activities you enjoy, make sure you focus on things that you’d be interested in blending them into a future career.
College test scores are important but they don’t tell the whole picture about your knowledge or your past grading history.
As soon as you’ve signed up for your SAT exam, you may begin hearing from different colleges because your academic history and your test scores may be shared with these schools; you have the chance to decide if you want your name provided to these schools or not. One reason to let colleges know about you is that during their search for you and your search for the school you want, they may offer scholarships based on your test scores or other factors.
Your work experience, when you include it in your application packet, also provides a valuable picture of who you are. Reporting to work on time when you are scheduled tells the admissions people that you know how to manage your time. In addition, you benefit from your own personal growth as you work, universities may recognize and reward this.
Working and keeping a study schedule isn’t easy. And keeping your grades up while you are working is even harder. As you work, you are a member of a team. This transitions well into your college years because you will have to collaborate in group projects. You’ll also be able to successfully negotiate something with your roommate if difficulties arise.
If your earnings are going toward college, letting an admissions committee knows this lets them know you have made an investment in your future education and you are already invested in the experience.
What is Conditional Acceptance?
Put simply, a conditional acceptance from a college of your choice means that, if you do something it requests, then it will admit you. For instance, the admissions office may request that you take a year of classes at a different college, then transfer to their campus. Or, you’ll be admitted fully if you take a summer class and pass it.
This means that, while you won’t be on that campus in the fall, your application is placed on conditional acceptance and if you meet that condition satisfactorily, you should be fully admitted.
You may have been offered conditional acceptance due to a grade being lower than the college wanted to see, especially if the class wasn’t a really challenging one. Conditional acceptances are in that middle ground, between an outright “yes” or “no.” This means that they want you as a student, but they need to see how serious you are about your college education.
What is Open Admission?
While conditional admission means you have to meet a specific condition set by the college you want to attend, open admission is quite different. Open admission means that the college is non-competitive in its admissions policy. For most of these universities, the only real requirement is that students wanting to attend should have a high school diploma. A GED certificate may also be acceptable.
Which schools have an open admission policy? Generally, community colleges or four-year colleges that also grant associate degrees to their students graduating with two-year degrees have open admission policies.
The motivation to enact open admission policies at so many colleges developed in the 1960s and 1970s. These colleges didn’t want low GPAs, lack of college testing scores, or other admissions criteria to keep low-income or otherwise underprivileged students from enrolling in a college. By casting their nets widely, these schools often find they have students with high potential in their student population.
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Colleges that Accept Low GPAs - Undergraduate Degrees
Online and traditional Schools with Open Admission
Western Governors University
This private, not-for-profit university relies on their students to have some core competencies to succeed in their courses. Their criteria include mastery of needed knowledge and skills instead of earning credit hours. Western Governors University school’s admissions rate is 100% and their graduation rate is 14%. The average annual cost at WGU is $5,780 for tuition and fees, though tuition is not based on credits but on time, pushing students to accelerate their degrees in order to pay as little as possible.
Weber State University (Hybrid)
This public, not-for-profit university posts an average annual cost of $12,061. Student financial aid makes paying for tuition and all associated costs a little easier. The retention rate is 65% and the graduation rate is 34%. The school’s 4-year graduation rate is 11%. However, its admissions rate is 100%; accepted students who have taken their ACT exam have scores ranging between 18 and 24.
Grand Canyon University
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, GCU is a private, not-for-profit university. After nearly going bankrupt, GCU retooled and now offers online instruction to more than 60,000 students. Almost half of students, though not all of those enrolled, are graduate students.
GCU’s approach to open enrollment requests student transcripts, evaluates coursework, then arrives at an anticipated graduation date 24 hours after receiving an admission request. The average net cost of a degree at this school is around $20,900; the retention rate is 66% and the graduation rate is 31%.
Granite State College
Located in Concord, New Hampshire, GSC offers both face-to-face and online instruction. With its open enrollment policy, GSC provides access to classes in whatever way is easiest for students to access. The belief that the ability to earn a college degree should be provided to working adults and students alike is at the heart of their policies.
About 90% of the student population receives financial aid. The average net cost is $12,905 once financial aid has paid for the bulk of costs. The retention rate is 68% and the graduation rate is 48%.
SUNY Empire State College
ESC has more than 35 locates in New York State and offers 500 online courses. ESC also offers associate degrees along with its bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Its open admission policy allows students to attend college who would not otherwise have this opportunity.
The school’s retention rate is 68% and its graduation rate is 44%. The average net price is $13,381, which is the amount remaining once financial aid has paid for the bulk of tuition and fees.
In Bellevue, Nebraska, Bellevue University offers a top-notch education to its students. Its open admissions policy attracts students and, using a “real mastery” approach, the university assists students to master the skills and knowledge they need to satisfy future employers. Class schedules are flexible; by moving to hybrid or online classes, students find it easier to access their classes.
The average net price is $11,359 after financial aid has been applied. The retention rate is 74% and the graduation rate 38%.
Colorado Technical University
Located in beautiful Colorado Springs, CTU was first intended to help veterans of the US armed forces make an easier transition into the civilian world. The university’s online programs are considered to be one of the best in the US. The average net cost of attendance is $15,888, with 86% of the student population receiving financial aid. The retention rate is 44% and the graduation rate is 27%.
Wayne State College
Located in Wayne, Nebraska, this college offers in-person and online classes. Wayne State College's retention rate stands at 68% and the graduation rate is 48% (this is about average). The average net price for students of Wayne State is $13,287 after all financial aid has been applied.
Salem International University
Located in Salem, West Virginia, this university was founded by the church of Seventh Day Adventists in 1888. The school’s programs are focused in the liberal arts. Students take one course per month, allowing them to give full attention to the assignments for that class alone. Even with this type of schedule, students advance quickly. Students from associate to doctoral levels are able to gain admission.
The average net price is $19,540 after financial aid, with 95% of the student population receiving aid. The retention rate is 68% and the graduation rate is 17%.
Located in Kentucky, Sullivan University was first a business college. As an open admission university, Sullivan knows it has the ability to help its students begin their careers.
Sullivan also offers degrees ranging from associate up to doctoral degrees. The average net cost is $25,843, with 93% of students receiving financial aid. The graduation rate is 26%.
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Online and traditional Schools that Accept Low GPAs
Indiana University Northwest
In Gary, Indiana University Northwest has an admissions rate of 79%. They generally require at least a GPA of 2.0 for admission. Its retention rate is 68% and the 6-year graduation rate is 25%. They also have an 8-year grad rate of 29%. The average net price for in-state students is $6,736; this is the amount remaining once a student’s financial aid has been applied.
University of Colorado in Colorado Springs
This university doesn’t have any specific requirements for GPAs, focusing more strongly on ACT/SAT scores. The admission rate for this school is 92%, meaning it isn’t too competitive. The retention rate is 66% and its graduation rate after 6 years is 46%. The 8-year graduation rate is 48%. The average net price for in-state students is $15,427, meaning that those with an economic disadvantage can still attend and expect to receive a solid return on their investment (ROI).
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Located in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Umass Dartmouth’s admissions rate is quite high at 77.5%. The school’s retention rate is a similar 74% and the 6-year graduation rate is 47%. The 8-year graduation rate is similar at 48%. The average net price for in-state students is $23,834. This is what remains for families to pay once financial aid has kicked in.
University of Maine at Presque Isle
In Presque Isle, this university does require a GPA of 3.0. While this is still considered below average, it still shows that you accomplished much in your high school years. The admissions rate is 91%. The retention rate hovers at 57%, which is lower than average. The school’s graduation rate is 49% after 6 years; after 8 years, this is 51%. The average net price is $16,175, after financial aid has paid the bulk of tuition and fees.
University of Illinois at Chicago
Located in Chicago, this university does require a GPA of 3.1. This is still slightly lower than the national average. The admissions rate is 72%, making the school lightly competitive. The retention rate of UIC is 80%, which is better than average. The graduation rate at 6 years is 65%; after another two years, the graduation rate is 67%. The average net price is $18,570.
Louisiana State University Shreveport
Located in Shreveport, LSU’s admissions rate is 81%, making it lightly selective. The school requires a GPA of only 2.0. The retention rate of 64% falls below the national average, meaning freshmen may transfer out to other schools before their sophomore year quite often. The graduation rate at 6 years is 30%; after 8 years, this is 33%. The average net price at LSU is $9,393, which reflects what students will pay once financial aid has been applied to the full sticker price.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Located in Corpus Christi, Texas, Texas A&M Corpus Christi is not too competitive for admission rate. Students do need to submit their high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Even so, the admissions rate is 87%. The retention rate at this university is 59%. This is lower than average, meaning that students entering their second year of school may transfer to a different university. However, this may be because their first year here gave them enough of a boost to their applications to get into a school they preferred. The 6-year graduation rate is 44%; the 8-year graduation rate is 47%. The average net price for a student at Texas A&M is $18,436. However, families at different income levels pay different amounts.
University of Washington - Tacoma
Accepting students with GPAs mostly in the low 3.0 range, the University of Washington Tacoma is classified as lightly selective. Its admissions rate is 85%. Hopeful students still have to submit GPAs and college exam scores. However, the retention rate at UW-Tacoma is better than average at 76%. Students moving into their second year of school often choose to remain here. The graduation rate here is also good. At the 6-year mark, this is 77%; at the 8-year mark, it jumps slightly to 77.8%. The average net price for students and their families is $18,141, after financial aid has been applied.
University of Michigan at Flint
This university is more competitive; prospective students are expected to submit GPAs and SAT/ACT scores. The admission rate here is 65%. The retention rate at UM-Flint is also better than the average at 77%. The nationwide rate is 68%. The 4-year graduation rate for UM-Flint is slightly less than 50%. At the 6-year mark, this is 43%; if students stay on for two more years, this moves up slightly to 46%. Students and their families pay an average net price of $20,210.
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
This school is more competitive, meaning students have to strive harder to get in. The admissions rate is 54%. Additionally, the retention rate for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore doesn’t necessarily fit the promise of the admission rate - it’s only 64%, meaning not many freshmen continue on at this university into their sophomore year. The graduation rate is also lower than anticipated: for the 6-year rate it is 33%; for the 8-year rate, it climbs slightly to 37%. The average net price for students and families is $15,732.
Colleges that Accept Low GPAs for Graduate Degrees
Located in Earth City, Missouri, Midwest institute is a technical school that offers popular vocational degrees to its students. With an admission rate of 100%, Midwest Institute is ready to accept students who don’t have high GPAs. Midwest does request that students have their high school diplomas or GED certificates, but this is not required. The graduation rate here is 50% and the retention rate is 67%, close to the national average. The average net price for students is $22,126.
Albany State University
Albany State University, in Albany, Georgia, accepts students who have a 2.0 high school GPA. This makes the school easy to enter, as long as students have the documentation required by the admissions office. Other admission requirements include SAT and ACT scores. The admission rate is 100% and the retention rate is 71%, which is roughly average. The graduation rate is 24%. The average net price for students and their families is $11,590.
Dallas Nursing Institute
Located in Richardson, Texas, DNI also accepts students with GPAs as low as 2.0, or a C average. Students are required to complete the school’s application form, pay the non-refundable application fee, and send in an official transcript from their high school or their GED certificate. Students must be 17 years old at minimum (a parent will need to sign their approval for enrollment at this age).
The admission rate is low at 11%. The retention rate is 85%, which is lower than normal. DNI’s graduation rate is 66%. The average annual price for students is $21,319.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
North Carolina State University at Raleigh accepts students with a 2.0 GPA. Applicants must submit proof of their high school diploma or GED certificate along with their admission application. Official transcripts from all previous colleges attended are also required. If the student has poor grades, they may be able to gain admission if they show proof of their ability to succeed in the classroom. The admission rate is 51%, which says the college is relatively competitive. The retention rate is also 94%, which is much higher than average. The graduation rate is 74% and the average net price is $15,024.
University of Houston - Clear Lake
In Houston Texas, University of Houston-Clear Lake accepts students with a 2.0 GPA, though SAT/ACT scores and official high school transcripts are required. The retention rate is 74%; the graduation rate is 69% and the average net price is $13,055.