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Bad Grades Can Still Get You Into College–At a Price


Today a young man wrote me an email in response to a blog post that tends to get a lot of comments.  The subject is “if my grades are bad, can I still go to college?”
I took the time to write him back.  I figured the advice might be useful to other kids in a similar situation, so I’m sharing it with my readers.
Here’s the question submitted by a young man named Robert:

I need you to do me a favor and give this to me straight without trying to make me feel good. I have a 2.0 GPA andthe 4th Quarter of my Junior year is about to start. I’ve taken my SAT once so far and got a 1600, I plan on taking it again. I really do want to go to college more than most people who have better grades than me do. Given my grades can I get into college? What acceptance rate should I stick near? Do you have any tips for me to help my college appeal? Please don’t try to soften it up for me I need to hear it honest and straight. 
Thanks, Robert


Photo credit:
Photo credit:

And here is my brief response.  It hits him hard, but he wanted it “honest and straight.”

Very briefly, I can tell you that you will be able to get into college.  There is always a college somewhere that will take your money, even if you have a terrible GPA.  
However, you need to consider two things.
1.  Are you well enough prepared for college that you will actually have a chance of graduating?  Already nearly 50% of Americans who start college don’t finish.  If you are getting an SAT score that is below the national average, I would worry more about graduating from college than being admitted to college.  
2.  A poor student needs to be rich to pay for college.  Without a strong academic record, you most likely will be expected to pay the full price of whatever college accepts you.  No scholarships, little financial aid.  So, are you prepared to pay full tuition at whatever college accepts you?
The honest and straight response is that you need to get your academic act together.  Your GPA is very, very low.  There is no particular shame in that–you would not be the only “late bloomer” who suddenly awoke junior year and realized how seemingly trivial choices in the past have added up to a GPA headache.  But the low SAT score and the grammatical mistakes in your message make me wonder if you are really ready for college.  
If not (and if money is tight—or you don’t want to throw good money away without a clear picture of your abilities) then I highly recommend you attend your local community college after graduation.  You can get your grades up, demonstrate your academic abilities (and that your transcript reflects your inattention and immaturity more than your intellectual capacity), and transfer to a 4 year university in your state with the confidence that you will achieve your degree. No one will care where you start college: they only care where (and if!!) you finish.
I’m sure you want to get that degree.  You may not get it in a straight line.  But you can get it.  Still, the road is going to be a hard one to travel.  Are you ready for it?
Best of luck to you.

What do you think?  Is this the advice you would give him?  If not, how would you say it differently?
Mark Montgomery
Honest and Straight Educational Consultant


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