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Got a Bad Grade? Here's What to Do

Not everyone gets perfect grades. The reality is that almost everyone has a moment in their education when the grade is not commensurate with the student.

As the school year comes to an end and final grades are determined, I want to remind students that all is not lost if you get a bad grade or more.

Here are five things students can do if they have lower grades on their transcript:

1. Add a few more Rolling Admissions colleges to your list.

You can apply to Rolling Admission colleges sometimes as early as August 1st. By applying super early to these types of colleges, your chances of admission increase. And if you don't get admitted to these schools in late summer, you still have time to adjust your college list. Check the college's admissions website to determine if it has Rolling Admissions. This option is more common at large, public universities with more generous acceptance rates.

2. Apply to larger public universities with honors programs.

Even if your grades in high school were lower than you wanted, most public universities will permit current students to apply to the honors program after completing one or more semesters in college. So even if you might not get admitted right off the bat as a high school senior to the honors program, you can first get admitted to the university and then apply to the honors program once you arrive and start excelling in classes. Arizona State University has one of the best honors programs in the country. Barrett Honors College at ASU reserves space every year for students to apply in their first semester of college or later.

3. Indicate on your application that you would like to be considered for an alternate start date.

Many large public universities offer a summer start, like Penn State and Clemson University. And many selective private colleges offer a winter/spring start like Colorado College and Hamilton College. Students who get admitted for a winter or spring start usually spend the fall semester abroad, taking classes that count towards their college degrees. By selecting an alternate start date, the student can increase their chances of admission.

4. Provide an alternate campus on the application.

It is more common to see satellite campuses at large public universities, but there are some private universities with this option as well. For example, Northeastern University recently acquired Mills College in Oakland, CA. Students who indicate that they would start at the Mills College campus before finishing up their college careers at the Boston campus will increase their chances of admission. 

5. If there is a valid and logical reason for the student's lower grades, they can consider making a statement in the application.

While I am very cautious about students writing about lower grades because it can draw more attention to them, sometimes there is a reason for the lower grades that even the most unsympathetic admissions officer would be understanding about. A death in the family, major illness, or a family situation can impact a student's performance. And if presented with candor and delicacy, the student can explain what was going on at the time.

READ MORE: My Secret Tip for Writing an Unforgettable College Essay

I know a lot of high school students who have faced adversity these last few years. Their grades, mental health, or overall performance were impacted by those circumstances. I promise that those tough times can make you stronger. By making some adjustments to your applications and college lists, you can translate that adversity into acceptances.