There is a popular expression that says “life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”  No where is this expression more true than in high school.  Failing a class or even a test is only truly a failure if students don’t learn and grow from the experience.  Colleges don’t expect their applicants to be perfect, but they do target students who have a clearer understanding of who they are; and, this type of self-actualization often only comes after dealing with adversity.  So, for students out there who may be feeling that their low GPA is a sign that they do not belong in college, here are some important things to consider:

Colleges are looking for “well-rounded” students- It is important to realize that college Admissions Officials do not see applicants as a compilation of test scores and GPA’s to be plugged into some admissions formula to determine acceptance.  Colleges are interested in finding students who have something more to offer.  Therefore, it is not just what you do in the classroom or on the SAT that determines your worth for a prospective school.  By emphasizing the positives, students can shine a light on what makes them worthy of closer consideration.  A great deal comes down to how you market yourself, so take the time to consider how you want to be viewed by Admissions Officers.  Many times it is that student who figures out a way to separate himself or herself from the usual suspects, who boast similarly high grades and lofty test scores, that catches the eye of admissions committees.   Find a way to stand out!

You can turn a negative into a positive- Colleges often times focus on trends in your academic career, so how you finish up is really important.  Admissions Officers love to hear stories of students who overcome early failures along the high school path only to emerge as stronger students and better young men and women because of these hardships.  Don’t run away from your failures or try to hide them.  Admission Officers have access to all of your high school records, so they are going to see your grades (both the good ones and the bad ones).  The important thing is to provide a narrative for your high school journey that addresses the causes of your setbacks and how you have grown through the adversity.  Remember to tell your story, and, contrary to what you might hear, do not leave out the low points.  It is much better for you to reveal the role your parents’ nasty divorce played in your disappointing sophomore grades, than to leave it up to an Admissions Officer to make his or her own assumptions; and, sometimes it is something as simple as growing up that leads to a shift in academic performance.  In any case, be sure to fill in the blanks in the most flattering way possible.

Remember there is always conditional acceptance- If all else fails, students can often fall back on this safety net.  Many schools will overlook lower GPA’s if a student is exemplary in other respects.  These schools can admit students with certain academic conditions that must be met in the first year or two; and, if these conditions are fulfilled, the student is there to stay.

The important thing for all students to remember is that failure is an unfortunate reality in life.  It is the way you respond to those failures that truly defines you.  Don’t rely on college officials to write this narrative for themselves.  Be sure to tell your unique story to the best of your ability!