This story was first published in our Paying for College 101 Facebook community. It’s been edited for clarity and flow. The name of the member has been omitted to protect their privacy.
If you’re the parent of a student with lower stats, and you’re wondering what options and merit you can expect, I hope my daughter’s experience encourages you and reduces your anxiety. Even though your student may not have the highest stats, they will get into college, they will likely get merit, and they will have good options! There are many low-GPA colleges that are happy to take students like ours.
A Little Background
My daughter had a 2.69 unweighted GPA and a 2.92 weighted GPA at the end of the 11th grade. She scored 1060 on the SAT and 21 on ACT (with an above average score of eight on the writing portion). Still, she did not submit her test scores to any schools.
She also had a part-time job and solid extracurriculars but no leadership positions or AP/IB/Honors classes. She did, however, write a strong essay that was commented on in a few acceptance letters.
The Path to College
My daughter struggled with the transition to a large high school from a tiny middle school and then again with the pandemic. She started to do well in the second half of 11th grade and had great grades her senior year. However, those grades don’t count toward the GPA she had to submit on her applications.
Initially, she applied to ten low-GPA colleges. She added a few more during the State University of New York’s (SUNY) free application week and a couple more here and there based on recommendations from friends. She had waivers from her school, so we didn’t pay application fees. Since she didn’t submit scores anywhere, we didn’t have any fees at all for applications, which allowed her to submit more applications.
We didn’t expect any merit, but we wanted to cast a wide net to ensure some acceptances. After looking at the stats shared by others, we were honestly worried if she would even get into these low-GPA colleges.
Altogether, she applied to 19 schools (21 if you count Commonwealth University as three, since it brings together Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield universities into a single institution). She found herself with 19 acceptances.
She was only denied acceptance to one (St. Andrews in Scotland, which was a huge reach) and waitlisted at West Chester University, which received 16,000 applications for just 3,000 spots. She was outright accepted to 14 — many with decent merit and two with international campuses — and accepted to three more via bridge or pathway programs. Those included the College of Charleston, University of Massachusetts Boston, and SUNY Plattsburgh. Two schools that accepted her requested senior mid-year grades (Suffolk University and Goucher College, which I think helped push her into the acceptance bucket).
Comparing Costs and Merit at Low GPA Colleges
Overall, we are pleased with her options and surprised by the merit offered. We made a chart to show how much each college cost initially and after merit aid was deducted.
The green schools are the ones in our family’s affordable range. The red ones are completely ruled out. She really liked Goucher College, but even though they gave her the most merit, their starting cost put it out of reach. In the spirit of loving the school that loves you back, she is leaning toward Albright College, but that may change. She really liked it on the visit, they offered her good merit, it’s diverse, and it’s not too far from us.
Here are a few notes on the calculations we made:
-We don’t qualify for any need-based aid beyond the $5,500 unsubsidized loan.
-We calculated the Cost of Attendance (COA) using what the schools provided to us or by looking on their websites. It’s probably off slightly here or there.
-Suffolk University has a couple of extra lines because she would be required to live in Madrid, Spain for the first two years and the COA is different if you live on campus.
I hope this is helpful for anyone worried that their student’s stats won’t be good enough to get into college because that’s just not true!
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