How to apply to college or grad-school with a low GPA

Just because your grade point average (“GPA”) is below average, or otherwise not where you would like it to be, does not mean you have to give up all hope of attending college, law school, or any other degree-granting program. Check out one of my favorite scriptures:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

So, even though you may be ashamed about your past and doubtful that you can get into a certain school or program, there is hope that all things – the good, the bad, the ugly, the shameful, and everything in between – is a part of your story. There is hope that it can work out in your favor. With that in mind, here are some practical strategies to help you reframe a low GPA.

1) Provide context.

Why is your GPA low? Did you suffer a debilitating sickness? Did financial hardship force you to work, and thereby detract from study time? Did you endure some other life-destabilizing trauma that affected your attention, focus, or ability to concentrate on your school work?

Perhaps, some combination of all of the above?

If so, use your personal statement, diversity statement, or your addendum to provide a story behind your low GPA. Note, however, to use engaging storytelling to tell your story, otherwise you run the risk of sounding like you are merely giving an excuse. Review my video here for practical tips on how to engage the reader into your story.

2) Flip it!

When you sit down to write your admission essay, the ball is now in your court. You have total authority and control to tell your own story and present your life to the admissions reader the way you want them to understand it. So take that low GPA and flip it into something positive. What good came out of having a low GPA? What life lesson did you learn? What good came out of the circumstance that caused the low GPA? What good came later (i.e. well after) the low GPA, bad semester, or generally bad school experience?

Note that the good can be something that benefited you, your family, or even your community.

3) Shift the focus.

Let's say you have a low GPA, but you also have 6 years of work experience. Use your application materials to focus on your extensive real-world knowledge, the work ethic you developed as a professional, the time management skills you had to mature into to balance both work and family life, and so on and so forth. Alternatively, if you lack extensive work experience, use your application materials to shift focus to other amazing, unique identifiers that will set you apart. Did you start a non-profit or community/school initiative? Did you start a business? Did you obtain an above-average standardized test score, despite negative odds? Whatever the case may be, use your admissions essay(s) to explicitly shift focus from the sub-par GPA to other indicators that show you are committed to your education, resilient, an overcomer, and able to withstand the rigors of the school or program to which you are applying.

I pray that you attain your educational goals!

-Angel Everett, Esq.

Founder/CEO, Harvard and Hardship LLC


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