You look back at your high school grades and shudder. You messed around the first year or so of school or maybe suffered a personal or family tragedy, and your grades show it. Maybe you failed a class or two or got a few D’s. Despite this, you really want to go to college. You wonder if there is any hope for you.
The answer is yes. Even with poor or below-average grades, you can likely get into community college. And if you have a few years left of high school, you can dramatically turn your grades around to broaden your college options.
That being said, community college can be a wonderful choice. It can be a great new academic start to get serious about your studies and earn strong grades. Not only can it lead to an academic degree, it can lead to self-discovery about your career interests and strengths. It can also be a launching pad to a four-year institution that may credit you for some of your community college courses. The potential result: You can ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree at a fraction of the cost of having attended a four-year institution from the get-go.
How to Improve Your Academic Forecast
But let’s get back to the student who has a few years left of high school and wants to climb out of their grade rut. I’m here to tell you that it can be done, and sometimes the turnaround can result in awesome higher-education choices. Consider this true-life triumph:
A colleague of mine shared the story of her best friend, whose freshman year of high school was marked by poor to average grades. The friend was struggling to adjust in the new academic setting. Meanwhile, she dreamed of attending an elite college, which was not going to happen with her freshman-year marks. And, like a typical freshman, her head was in the clouds, not in reality. She didn’t realize how well she’d have to perform in school to achieve her academic dream.
Fortunately, she voiced her ambition to others, and people who cared for her and understood what it would take to achieve her goal drilled into her the importance of improving her grades and getting involved in extracurricular activities. So, during her sophomore year, she earned straight A’s . . . and she continued to make strong grades throughout high school and got involved in extracurricular activities in which she shined. The result: Her senior year, she was accepted into several of the nation’s top schools. No way would this have happened had she not improved her grades.
Her dramatic academic improvement showed that she’d had the smarts all along to do well in high school. She fulfilled that potential through hard work and effort. For example:
- She stayed after school for tutoring in subjects that she struggled in.
- She burned the midnight oil to ace tests and homework assignments.
- She asked questions in class when she didn’t understand a concept or instructions.
- She researched the type of grades, standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities she would need on her high school “resume” to look good to the type of institutions she wanted to attend. Then she got involved in activities that she was most interested in and had a chance at excelling in.
- She studied for the SATs, took practice tests, and took the test several times to boost her score.
- She also had adults in leadership positions go to bat for her when some of the admissions officers questioned her bad freshman year. These supportive adults explained how she had changed, how she had turned around her grades, how her academic passion was sincere, and why they believed she would excel in college.
Yes, it took a lot of work to achieve her turnaround, but she did it. And so can you.
The moral of this story is not that you’ll get straight A’s too if you put in the work. Some students work night and day and never earn straight A’s. No, the moral is that, if you do your work and get help when you need it, you may improve your grades. And, if in addition to this you research what your college of choice looks for in its candidates and act on that research, you may, despite your less-than-stellar earlier high school performance, still have a shot at admittance to your dream school.
Whether you’re in high school or community college, it’s not too late to turn your academic career around. Apply yourself to your studies, and the outcome may delight you. It’s all part of careering.