Low GPA - What to do?

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: January - June 2002 Archive: Low GPA - What to do?
By KnightWhoSaysNi on Sunday, June 02, 2002 - 11:50 am: Edit

Hi all,

Well, I'm supposed to be evaluating colleges right now. I've done a sizeable deal of research-- reading the U.S. News college rankings, hounding some of my teachers who are alumni of some of the schools at which I'm looking, spending an inordinate amount of time on the Web acquiring an inordinate amount of information about an inordinate amount of schools.

I know that this reads like pure boasting, but please try to overlook the priggish nature of it.

I attend a prestigious--and probably too competitve-- parochial high school in the South.

Here's the problem:

My WEIGHTED GPA is a 3.6. Yikes, I know it's not good. This is a rather mediocre GPA considering all of the honors classes that I've taken that have considerably "weighted" my GPA. Unfortunately, I had a ridiculously low GPA-- 2.9-- in my freshman year; however, my GPA last year was a 3.7 and this year is a 4.4. Nevertheless, the average remains a 3.6. My math and science grades are always the lower ones. The only non honors class that I've taken aside from theology (which is only available as a nonhonors class) was Chem 1.)

I have taken the SAT's only once and scored a 1460-- 800 in verbal, 660 in math: Alas, this is far lower than I had expected. On the PSAT I scored a 71 in math and was hoping to beat that on the SAT. I intend to take it one more time to bring my score up to a 1480-1510. I'll take the SAT II's and probably do quite well. I'm strong in history and English.

I scored a 221 selection index on the PSAT, so I should at the very least be National Merit Semifinalist-- or so my guidance counselor tells me.

Come on, I know you can keep reading this. Remember: endurence! Just a few more lines...

This year, I took AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP US History, AP Literature, and will take next year (my senior year) the AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, AP U.S. Government (but AP US Gov and AP Econ are really just one class-- the subject matter switches after the second semester), AP Language and Comp, and AP Environmental Science exams. Sophomore year I took AP Euro History and scored a "4". I expect 4's on all of my future exams.

I'll have taken four years of Latin by the time I graduate. I am the President and cofounder of our school's Investors Club, the Vice-President of Young Republicans, and a member of Respect Life (a Pro-Life group), the Environmental Club, Forensics Club (have competed at a number of tournaments), the Junior Classical League (Latin club), and Model United Nations (have competed at a number of tournaments and won). I intend to join the school band next year.

I won't be doing any summer programs, but I will be working nearly all summer long on the campaign to re-elect our state's governor. I've also worked on a number of local campaigns, as well as the 2000 Presidential race. I've also done a considerable deal of community service.

I know that my low GPA is going to hurt me. My only excuse for the atrocious freshman year GPA was that I had attended a small, private middle school-- the type in which the smart kids never have to study and can still get A+'s-- and it did take me quite a while to actually learn how to study. I hope to get a college essay prompt which would allow me to write a semi-humorous account of how I learned to study compliments of my Bio 1 teacher from hell. That might
explain to the admissions people the nature of my GPA quandry.

Unfortunately, I am not a minority. And I am not
blind, one-legged, or anything of the sort. Altough I'm pretty much an upper middle class kid, my parents can't afford more than $10k a year or so in cash tuition, so I suppose I should start appeasing the gods of academia in hope of grants and such.

I consider myself an excellent writer, so essays will certainly be a point of strength.

I'm thinking about George Washington University, Tulane, Chapel Hill, Brandeis, Emory, and Boston College. Should I aim higher? Lower?
I want to either major in political science or international busness.

Anyway, here's the question:
What caliber school do you reccomend I apply to?
Is my GPA really going to kill me?

Thank you in advance for your replies. I look forward to posting frequently on this board.

By KnightWhoSaysNi on Sunday, June 02, 2002 - 06:41 pm: Edit

Also: Is there anyone out there who is in a similar quagmire? Just curious...

By sexy sadie on Sunday, June 02, 2002 - 11:52 pm: Edit

Okay, re: the GPA dilemma. Where are you ranked? How hard is it to get a 4.0 at your school? All grades are relative and admissions officers know this--they will be looking at your school specifically. If your school's just verrrrrrrry tough, d/n worry so much.

In the meantime, definitely raise your SAT score. Prep and take practice tests. Most colleges will take V and M sections separately and since you've already gotten a perfect on V (congrats), you are in good shape.

Try to figure out a hook with your ECs. I would even go as far as investigating what certain colleges will need next year (oboeist, mad debater, or chemistry whiz). You can do this hunting around online and/or talking to current students.

Think about getting past the academic (usually the initial) cut--with a +1500 SAT (best of both sittings) and a higher GPA with 1st semester senior grades and great SAT scores, you should make it at many selective schools. Also, you've met the "take challenging classes" demand already.

After you've got this out of the way, figure out what's going to make you stand out. If you are the great writer you claim to be, write a great, distinguishing essay! I know someone who got average grades, high SAT scores, and wrote a VERY interesting essay about a ballpoint pen that got into the Ivies.

Those schools seem like good middle/reach schools. Check out financial aid options/merit scholarships at the colleges AND locally.

Hope this helped!

By KnightWhoSaysNi on Wednesday, June 05, 2002 - 08:08 pm: Edit

Thanks for your response. Anyone else have an opinion?... Might I get into a school such as Emory, Brandeis, or Boston College? Am I shooting too high?

I mean, jeez, am I the only kid in the world who has had grade troubles early in high school?

By Erin on Sunday, June 16, 2002 - 12:00 am: Edit

I've done a lot of admissions research. I know, I'm a huge nerd. But, I've actually come across your situation a lot. And believe it or not, many admissions officers will look upon your grade improvement in a good light. They know that it's hard to adjust in the beginning of high school, but when you think about it, the junior and senior year grades in high school actually reflect better on how you will do in college. Usually freshman and sophomore years are littered with grad requirement classes. Hope I helped, good luck!

By pinkie on Thursday, June 27, 2002 - 09:08 am: Edit

ok, im assuming you are a junior? If thats right, im also assuming you go to a public school b/c private schools dont normally go above a 4.0 no matter how many APs you take. (i go to one so i know) yours might, i dunno im just guessing. relax. Most colleges dont look at your freshman year, and if they do they want to see how much you've improved since then. I would say that you'll probably get into most of the schools you mentioned, but your only competition (if you aren't in one) would be the private school kids. (Like me.) (If ur in a private school please kill me b/c i assume too much anyway.)
Just a word of advice b/c a 3.6 (which is what i have) is the same as a 4.2 in public school. and a 3.6 (what you have is the same as a 2.9 in public school.) fact: the classes are tougher at most private schools. considering that i really incourage you b/c you sound like a super smart girl. (Go You!!) but you and EVERYONE ELSE have to realize that grades are not EVERYTHING!!! God do you know how many dumbasses take the SAT and get a 1600? Most colleges (esp. IVIES) have realized this, and now they want to accept people who are unique. (im sure you are very unique. GO YOU again.) but you really have to show them that. write a funny essay, join some clubs you like. make the interviewer love you. that's the best way to go. yes good grades are good. but you shouldn't stress about it. you are a great person with alot of really good qualities and colleges will hopefully see that. be vigilant!! dont worry about ur SATs b/c they are pretty good. you still have 2 more tries at them.
OH and BTW! why do people always forget the MOST IMPORTANT part of the whole college process. teacher recommendations. so worry more about making teachers like you, and see you try. if you have a B+ in and honors class, but you tried ur hardest, ur teacher can see that, and they can be like... mr knight didnt get an A in my class, but he came to me all the time for help, and he's really motivated and he doesn't let his frustration get in the way.. blah blah blah." u know. anyway i feel like i'm just rambling on now, so i hope you listen, or not listen to my advice. (ur pick.) My sister works in the admissions office of Brown and this is what she told me. So-----
GOOD LUCK!! and rock that 3.6 like there's no tomorrow. YOU have to make the colleges feel like they NOT ONLY want you, they NEED YOU!!! Peace out.

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