What Students with Bad Grades Need to Do to Prepare for College Admissions
When applying to college, grades are usually the most important aspect of your applicant profile. Colleges look at all four years of high school grades, and they like to see an upward grade trend. So if you started off high school with some not-so-stellar grades, your main goal should be to pull up your marks and improve your academic performance.
If you’re struggling in some classes, here are som tips on how to improve grades now, and what to do when it comes time to apply to college.
What to do now:
Ask for help. If you’re struggling in a class, know when to seek help from your teacher. Keeping an open dialogue with your teacher not only fosters a strong relationship, it will also be beneficial if you need help pulling up your grades.
After the first grading period, if you’re not getting that "A," ask the teacher what you could be doing better. Perhaps, you can meet with the teacher before or after class to go over unclear material, ask for additional reference materials on a subject, or even work on an independent or extra credit assignment.
Become more engaged in class. Sometimes class participation can make up a portion of your grade, so speak up! By becoming more engaged, not only will you get the teacher’s attention, you can also better understand instruction, thus improving your performance.
Get a tutor. If you’re still struggling after seeking help from your teacher, it may be time to get some outside help from a professional tutor. Whether it’s just a few hours of tutoring to help you prepare for a test, or regular meetings to help you understand the major concepts of a course, a tutoring program can help significantly improve your grades if done right. For example, IvyWise master tutors are experts in their particular subject areas and know the best strategies to prepare students for common core and independent school curricula, but they also work with students to develop good study habits and life skills that can help them improve in other courses.
What to do when it comes time to apply to college:
Explain yourself. If you’re applying to a school using the Common Application, use the "Additional Information" section to explain any circumstances that may have contributed to a grade drop or poor academic performance. Be upfront and also explain what steps you took to improve your academic performance.
Seek out relevant recommendations. Recommendation letters are a key component of a college application, so be sure to seek out recommendations from teachers who know your work ethic. You may be tempted to skip over a teacher whose class you initially did poorly in, but sometimes a great letter of recommendation can come from a teacher who has seen a student greatly improve his or her grades, even if the student has higher marks in other classes.
Interview if possible. If the school you’re applying to offers admissions interviews, do it. This is a great opportunity to explain your grades as well as put a face to your application and let a school get to know you better outside of the numbers.
Apply in the regular round. If your junior year grades saw a dip, it’s best to wait until after your first semester grades from senior year are in to apply. This gives you time to improve and show an upward grade trend.
Take a gap year or start at a community college. If you waited to late to improve your grades, all is not lost. Many students opt to take a gap year or even a year at a community college in order to catch up on fundamental course work and get on track to do well at a four-year institution.
Have you been struggling with below average grades? What have you done to improve your academic performance? Tell us in the comments below!