How To Get Into College With A Low GPA

May 23, 2021
By AdmissionSight

How to get into college with a low GPA

Can you get accepted into an Ivy League or top-tier college with a low GPA? The short answer is yes. While not everyone with a 3.3 GPA will get in, we’ll discuss some of the nuances of how to get into ivy league with a low GPA and how you can play the right cards in your favor.

We’ve seen students with perfect 1600 SAT scores and 4.0 GPA’s get turned down by the Ivies. We’ve also helped and worked with lower-achieving students with 1180 (out of 1600) SAT scores and 3.3 GPA get accepted into an Ivy League (Yes, 3.3 GPA – you heard that right – and he was Asian American too).

What it all comes down to is how you demonstrate your personal qualities, leadership, and commitment to your community through the application. This takes the form of personal statements, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters that help the admissions officers determine whether to accept or reject you. 

Three students walking in the school campus.

The biggest mistake that students make is not taking their application seriously enough. This tends to happen with overachievers, who believe that their grades, test scores, and even national academic awards are enough to get them in. 

So yes, do pursue your passions and your interests, and work as hard as you can during your four years of high school. Just remember to capture and express all of your personal qualities in the college application itself, and write a genuine, palpable personal statement that helps the admissions officers understand the qualities that define you.

Because at the end of the day, the bitter truth is that admissions to Ivy League schools are highly dependent on how well you present yourself on paper and draft your personal statement.

And maybe, you can get into a top-tier college with a low GPA.

Let’s face it: a higher GPA, a higher SAT score will increase your chances of getting in. But in a day and age when there are literally tens of thousands of students with perfect GPAs and SAT scores, that isn’t enough to get you admitted into the school of your choice, either.

At AdmissionSight, we always stress the importance of crafting together a strong application to demonstrate your story to the admissions officers

How you think and approach the world around you, your sense of intellectual curiosity, leadership or community involvement will be important.

Who you are as a person – and the values that ultimately define you – are at the end of the day what the admissions officers want to know beyond the test scores and grades when they evaluate your application. And maybe, you can get into a top tier college with a low GPA.

We’ve always stated that the lowest GPA student we’ve ever helped get into an Ivy League school had a 3.3 unweighted GPA. And we’re not saying that we could get anyone in with a 3.3 GPA. But it has happened before – and the student was Asian American too. How this was able to transpire was precise because of the powerful personal statement and application we put together. We’re proud to say the candidate is graduating from University of Pennsylvania with a degree in biology.

So yes, you can still get into a top university with a 3.3 GPA. But you need to supplement that with a powerful essay that showcases your story. First-time applicants, especially the highest achieving students, tend to devalue the importance of the essays, which creates an opportunity for the students with lower GPA’s.

A group friends in the middle of a pathway looking at each other's notebooks looking happy

The high-achieving students tend to mistakenly believe that their scores and grades are enough to carry themselves through. But we can tell you every student who has gone through this process and ultimately received that acceptance letter will tell you the essays mean everything.

While it’s rare for someone with a 3.3 unweighted GPA to get into Stanford, for example, it’s not impossible. You can compensate with some national awards, or super strong extracurriculars. Or, you might have a killer personal statement that seals the deal for you. Other factors involved include demographics, your upbringing, your ethnicity, among various factors outside of the GPA.

Contrary to common misconception, there’s no “minimum” GPA at these Ivy League schools. If you take a look at their website, however, they’ve accepted students with as low as a 2.5 GPA – probably athletes. At AdmissionSight, we’ve  gotten a non-athlete, non URM into an Ivy League with a 3.3 GPA before and the candidate was Asian American as well.

We’ve many other cases like these. In fact, we’ve even helped a student with a 3.0 GPA and ~1100 SAT score get into Berkeley. We’ve helped another student with a 4.0 GPA, 1450 SAT, 680 Math Level 2, 730 History, and 2’s and 3’s on AP exams get into Yale. Yes – it’s totally possible. And we have their applications to prove it.

While the odds are against you with a weak academic profile, we’ve helped many students with poor GPA’s / grades get into top universities. With a stellar application put together (personal statements, supplemental materials, recommendation letters, supplementary essays, extracurriculars, interviews), you stand a fighting shot. But this application has to be perfect in every way that showcases your personal qualities, leadership, commitment to your community, and passion in areas you can claim your niche.

Two students walking in the campus.

We’re proud of the work that we have done. Our track record of accomplishments of helping students get into a top tier college with a low GPA include:

  • an Asian American student with 1180 SAT, 3.3 GPA get into the University of Pennsylvania
  • a student with 2090 SAT / 690 SAT Subject Tests and literally 2 years of high school transcript get into UC Berkeley
  • a student with 3.7 GPA, 2090 SAT / 700 SAT Subject Tests get into the University of Chicago
  • a student with only 3 AP exams under the belt and no Subject Tests get into Yale
  • a student with a 2.7 undergraduate GPA and 720 GMAT get into Harvard Business School.

…the list goes on.

We’ve many more cases like these. Not saying that we can pull some magic by any means – these candidates also faced numerous rejections from other schools – but ultimately you only attend one school and that’s all that counts.

Admissions is a holistic process. And sometimes, candidates can get in without displaying qualifying academic standards that these universities uphold if they can share a compelling story through the application. This is ultimately what you need to execute upon if you want to get into college with a low GPA.

It’s definitely not fair for those who do have the academic stats and got rejected. But this is the game that admissions officers want to play – the “holistic process” that is more than just about strong academic standards, and supposedly they can measure a candidate’s personality through the essays.

Unfortunately, this is the game that we play in this day and age, and a process that students and families have to go through to get a spot at a coveted institution in America.

So we play the game we’re dealt, and for the students who realize how important their application is and work with us to present a strong case to the admissions committee, our students tend to perform remarkably well. 


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