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Bad GPA, crazy life story: how should I tell colleges?

MocktrialerMocktrialer Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
edited June 2013 in College Admissions
Well I am currently a rising senior at a nationally ranked public school in Georgia. My GPA is 2.9, but after you get rid of my fluff classes it's 2.4. I know, it's bad, but I'm taking summer classes and should have a 2.6 by the end of summer and if I get all A's next semester, which I'm really going to push myself to do, it'll be 2.8 by application time.

My class rank is around 500, in a class of over 800. If I really apply myself though I should be able to reach the top half by application time.

I just took my SAT for the first time this month, and will get the scores back in another week. I should break 2000 based in my PSAT scores which have been 167, 176 and 185. I average about 100 point increase per year, and I will definitely take it again in the fall with an aim between 2100-2200 (based on the results of this one.)

In highschool I've been very involved, and am part of my mock trial and model UN teams. Next year I will be the president of FBLA, JCL and Captain of Model UN. I'm also in theatre, so I have pretty good ECs.

I can get a letter if recommendation from a lot of my teachers and my mocktrial coach, a former judge and state representative, will definitely write me a good recommendation.

As far as volunteering: I will have the President's Volunteer Service Award by the time I apply. I mainly have been doing outreach to youth in the inner city. It's all through a Georgia Tech fraternity, so I have pretty good community service info.

In my junior year I had a job at a yogurt shop and now I'm working at American Eagle, so I have been working while in school. I know this isn't a big consideration by colleges, but I think they do at least look at job experience somewhat.

Now to explain the crazy part. The June before I started highschool my dad robbed a bank; he will be getting out of jail in the next few weeks, so that's part of the crazy part. I came from a normal, upper-middle class suburban family, so what my dad did is completely crazy. It really has impacted me and really kept me from taking off in high school.

Also, to add a little more flame to the fire: I came out as gay this year to my family, so I've definitely had a little more eventful personal life than my average peer, and I need to figure out how to convey this to colleges. Should I call admissions and talk with them, should I do in person interviews, should I write my essays about this and just let them come to their own conclusions?

I don't know where I want to go to school yet, but I'm thinking a small liberal arts school, with an understanding admissions department and a good gay social life scene. I have been looking at schools like Hampshire, Bennington, Marlboro, Emory/Emory-Oxford, Amherst and Brown. Are any of those good (or even realistic) options? I need a school with good financial aid, and small liberal arts colleges are looking the most generous.
(Side note: my mom works at emory, so my tuition there would be zero. Also, I my grandmother went their and some relatives, if that helps.)

Thanks in advance for the help!
Post edited by Mocktrialer on

Replies to: Bad GPA, crazy life story: how should I tell colleges?

  • MocktrialerMocktrialer Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Any suggestions??
  • 2collegewego2collegewego Registered User Posts: 2,708 Senior Member
    Amherst and Brown are too high. You said you need good financial aid. Can your parents pay what the Net Price Calculators estimate? Also, what is your courseload and does your school provide a weighted gpa? Some ideas: College of Wooster, Elon, St Mary's in Maryland, Guilford, Earlham.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 24,905 Senior Member
    "my mom works at emory, so my tuition there would be zero"

    Ask your mom to pick up the phone and call the admissions office at Emory and set up an appointment for you to discuss your situation with someone there. Your tuition might be free, but can you get in? You need to find that out now.

    Your mom also needs to find out if her position at Emory gives you access reduced tuition at any other colleges/universities. If so, someone within Emory may be able to advise you on the places where you possibly could be admitted.

    Lastly, go have a sit-down chat with your own guidance counselor. That person knows you (or should given the challenges you have faced over the past few years), and definitely knows where students from hour high school with grades like yours have been admitted in the past. Start with that list, and see what you think.
  • MocktrialerMocktrialer Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Thank you so much for your reply! The way it works is that I can get free tuition at both emory and emory-Oxford. Emory-Oxford is a smaller school of emory located about an hour away from the main campus. The way her discount works is that the tuition is free (except it is considered income, so it would be taxed, however my mom doesn't mind the tax, and says if I go there she will definitely not mind paying higher taxes). I want to talk with someone about Emory Oxford and I will set up an appointment with someone. As far as my counselor goes I just met her this year. She is nice, but not very knowledgable about college info.
  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Super Moderator Posts: 34,112 Super Moderator
    She is nice, but not very knowledgable about college info.
    That's hard to believe of a nationally ranked public school. How much have you discussed with her?
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    So far, this discussion has avoided what I think is a key issue for you in choosing a college: you have (as far as I can tell) no record of high academic achievement.

    I understand why you don't have one. I expect that if I had been in your straits (no pun intended), I wouldn't have had one either.

    Extenuating circumstances such as yours may make a real difference in college admissions when you have a mixed record, with some semesters of poor-to-mediocre performance, and some semesters of high achievement. An admissions officer could reasonably say, "X, Y and Z interfered with Mocktrialer's school work during these semesters, but during those semesters, when X, Y and Z weren't an issue, Mocktrialer did much better. As long as Mocktrialer has X, Y and Z under control, he [or she] can probably do well in college."

    Do you have any semesters so far in which you've had strong grades across the board in meaty academic classes? If so, maybe you have a shot at Emory-Oxford. But even there, your grades would be pretty low: 98% of their freshmen had a high-school GPA over 3.0, and most of them had GPA well above 3.25 (https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/college-university-search/oxford-college-of-emory-university). Amherst and Brown, I am afraid, are completely out of reach. I know less about Bennington and Hampshire; I think they're not impossible, but reach-y. I know nothing about Marlboro, sorry.
    She is nice, but not very knowledgable about college info.

    That's hard to believe of a nationally ranked public school. How much have you discussed with her?

    I second this.
  • T26E4T26E4 Registered User Posts: 24,274 Senior Member
    Here's another bit of advice for you: shed every single EC that draws undue time from your studies. Keep the one or two that you see as a relief from the grind. There is no college in the world that cares about the ECs of a student with a sub-3.0GPAunless you're a recruited athlete. Thus, you shouldn't either. Voluntarism, job, school clubs -- not any one of them will help you at this point (indeed, they may have contributed to your plight)

    Your time to show focused academic ability is very short. Good luck.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 24,905 Senior Member
    "As far as my counselor goes I just met her this year. She is nice, but not very knowledgable about college info."

    She might be brand new, but there surely are old-timers at your school who can help you with this. See one (or more) of them instead.
This discussion has been closed.