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Articles / Applying to College / Scholarship for C/D Student?

June 4, 2009

Scholarship for C/D Student?

Question: If I have B's, C's and D's on my high school transcript, can I still get a scholarship?

The C's and D's will make it hard to get a scholarship, but definitely not impossible.


There are two general types of financial aid ... one is "merit aid" that students typically receive due to various talents or achievements. These could include academic talent, artistic talent, athletic talent, etc. So even if your grades aren't so hot, and you're not in the running for academic merit awards, you may get scholarship money if you have abilities in other areas. Sometimes your background alone (race, ethnicity, where a parent is employed, first-generation to college, etc.) is enough to provide you with merit money, even without a strong academic record. I suggest that you go to FastWeb.com, sign up, and fill out the questionnaire. (It's all free!) Once you've submitted your responses, the computer will generate a list of scholarships for which you may be eligible. You will still have to apply for these scholarships, which can be time-consuming ... and the bigger they are, the more competitive they will be ... but at least you will be able to see what some of the options are. And, if you make an effort, you may be rewarded with some scholarship money.

The other type of financial aid is "Need-based" aid. This money goes to students who qualify for it because of family income and assets. It is not determined by grades. Need-based aid is provided by the US government to US citizens and Permanent Residents and also may come from the colleges themselves, once you have been admitted. If your GPA is low, there are still colleges that will admit you. At the time that you apply, you should also fill out the FAFSAform (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This will determine if you are eligible for need-based scholarships. Then, once you receive your acceptance, you will also be given a "financial aid package" that will probably include some "grant" (that's the good stuff that you don't have to pay back) and some "loans" (which you do). The package will probably also include "Work/Study" which means a campus job that will help you earn spending money, etc.

So if you are motivated to go to college, despite some bad grades, and if you are persistent, you should be able to find the money that will enable you to do so.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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