Applying to college can be nerve-wracking, but a well-prepared applicant will not waste her time or money applying to a college she does not have a chance of getting in to. While your high school grade-point average is not the only factor an admissions office will look at, it can be a good barometer of your likelihood of getting in to a particular college. Determining which kinds of colleges you can get into based on your GPA depends on several factors.
Evaluate the Average High School GPA of Admitted Students
The easiest step to determine what type of schools your GPA will get you into is to look at the average GPA of past admitted classes. You can easily search for this information using the College Board's College Matchmaker or the Best Colleges search from "U.S. News and World Report." Either tool allows you to narrow your search by GPA, although "U.S. News and World Report" only permits this search to paid subscribers. Search for your GPA range to determine what colleges admitted a large proportion of students with similar GPAs.
Evaluate Whether Your GPA Is High Enough For a Selective University
The most selective universities accept fewer than half of all applicants, with some accepting as few as 18 percent. These universities typically set a 3.0 as a baseline for their applicants, but many of their admitted students will have a much higher GPA. If your GPA is significantly lower than the average GPA for these schools, ranging from a 3.49 to a 3.86, you have a much smaller chance of admission. Many of their applicants will have GPAs of 4.0 or higher but still may not get in.
Assess External Factors
Other factors besides your GPA will play in to your likelihood of admission. If you have a GPA below the average admitted student, you still may get into a certain university. If you play a certain sport or have an extracurricular interest that makes you stand out, you may have a greater chance, despite your lower GPA. Universities also consider the difficulty of your coursework, so if you took very difficult classes and had a B average, you may have a better chance than an A student who took easy classes. Classes taken later in your high school career also carry more weight than earlier classes, so if your GPA improved steadily each year, it may help your chances.
Guaranteed Admission Programs
Many less selective colleges have open admission policies. These include community colleges and for-profit universities. If your GPA is very low, but you have graduated from high school, you will still be able to get in to one of these colleges or universities. Depending on what state you live in, you may also be guaranteed admission to your state university, if you meet certain grade, class rank and SAT requirements. In Texas, for example, the top 10 percent of each high school class is guaranteed admission to a Texas public university. Many other state schools require a certain minimum GPA or class standing, in addition to a minimum SAT or ACT score. Check with your state university to see if they offer guaranteed admission based on GPA.
- U.S. News and World Report: "8 Big Changes to College Admissions in 2010 and 2011"; Clark, Kim; November 15, 2010
- MSNBC: Inside the College Admissions Process; February 16, 2011
- U.S. News and World Report: "The Risks of Applying to a Reach School"; O'Shaughnessy, Lynn; October 26, 2010
- Peterson's: College Admission Requirements and Your GPA
- Apply Texas: Automatic Admission of Students in the Top 10% of Their High School Graduating Class
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