Can I get into a California private college with a D in Algebra II first semester?

My freshman and sophomore years I was chilling with my courses. I did decent my freshman year with a 3.33 W and 3.67 W GPA first and second semester respectively (my school only reports weighted GPA’s), but my sophomore year I got straight A’s; a 4.17 GPA both semesters.

My Junior year I did bad my first semester. I got a 3.0 W, with 2 B’s, 1 C, and a D in Algebra II first semester. I was going through a lot with anxiety and financial issues as my family was close to losing our house. I would get panic attacks in classes as a result I would skip often to go to therapy. Things only got worst when I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Depression during this time as it made me feel extremely inferior to others. My second semester I got on my grind though and I got straight A’s, with an exception to Algebra II with a B for a 4.17 W GPA.

Back to Junior year, when I got that D I told my counselor that if that would disqualify me from any colleges. She told me no because if I got a C or higher second semester, it would validate my first semester. I asked her was there any downsides to that. She told me the colleges couldn’t hold that against me since the “validation” is part of a guideline, and that the only downside was that it would factor into my GPA. So my gullible self agreed to this and I went on with my life.

Senior year came by, and about a month ago I realized that my counselor was referring exclusively to the CSU and UC systems regarding my D grade. I got so mad at this because I definitely would’ve retaken Algebra II first semester in summer school. Speaking of summer school, that’s the only way we can repeat courses. We don’t have adult school, or after school credit recovery, or even the opportunity to retake the course during the Fall and Spring semesters (with the exception of Honors and AP’s, my school is so stupid), so as of this point, I’m stuck with that D grade.

For other academic context: My intended major is Biology, with an emphasis in Computational / Quantitative Biology and/or a minor in Data Science / Computer Science. I am well versed into both fields. I know the fundamentals of Python and C++, I have done the Science Olympiad in Code Busters and Thermodynamics, and I was Captain last year, I have multiple leadership positions in organizations, non-profits, clubs, and I have many honors and awards for Cross Country. I have co-founded two clubs at my school, a save our planet club and a MESA club. I enjoy learning about microscopic animals in my free time, such as how they communicate and colonize as well as parasites because it intrigues me so much!

For what its worth, I’m also a low-income, Hispanic, first generation student.

My dream career is to work in Biotechnology and utilize my biological intuition to 1. build better computational and logistical models of Biological scenarios and data, so like a IT field and 2. I want to contribute to drug treatments and microbiology; I might do graduate school as a result of these multidisciplinary approaches. I feel like I’ve been conveying this perfectly within many of my essays.

I’m also taking the right course load this year, with AP Biology, AP Statistics, and AP Macroeconomics, which demonstrates my interest for both fields, and I took AP Computer Science Principles my junior year, alongside other irrelevant AP courses. I’m on track of getting a 4.5 W GPA this semester, or straight A’s.

My dream school up to my Sophomore year is Occidental college, a small liberal-arts school in Eagle Rock, California. It has an acceptance rate of around 35%, and I love the environment of the school. My common app consists of other highly selective colleges. Loyola Marymount University is another great school that I fell in love in because of it’s strong student body. USC is a top three for me since they actually have a Quantitative Biology major, but I don’t think I would get in under any circumstances. Pitzer is my final reach that I have just a tiny bit of hope for but I’m just applying on a whim and I won’t be upset when I get rejected.

This is my list of schools I’m applying to on Common App:
USC, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental, Pitzer, University of San Francisco, University of San Diego, Santa Clara University, Whitter College, Chapman College, University of the Pacific, Westmont College, University of La Verne, California Lutheran College, Marymount California College, Pepperdine University, Point Loma Nazarene University, Concordia University Irvine, University of Redlands, Harvey Mudd (filler just to reach 20 schools), Stanford (even bigger filler).

List of Privates with their own Applications:
Azusa Pacific University, Biola University, Vanguard University, Cal Baptist University.

Cal States:
Cal State LA, Cal State Long Beach (a dream school as well), Cal Poly Pomona, Cal State Fullerton.

UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego.

(I have no intentions of leaving California for college)

So now that I wrote all of that (I’m sorry if that took too long), the million dollar question is:
Would I automatically be rejected from the schools on my common app exclusively (and I mean exclusively only, I know other factors could disqualify me from admission) for having that D in Algebra II, even though I’ve excelled in many other parts of my application. Could I possibly convey all of this information, such as my school’s policy as to why I couldn’t retake the course and my anxiety to justify that D grade or is it completely pointless?

I know I’m not competitive by any means, but I’m still grasping onto that tiny bit of hope.

At most I hope to be UC Riverside or UC Santa Cruz bound for those research opportunities.

UC’s and CSU’s offer grade validation for Math courses so you are ok in that you passed the course, unfortunately the D remains on your HS record which does impact your chances at the UC’s and CSU’s but not an automatic rejection.

For private schools, that would be up to each individual college on how they would handle your D.

I suggest you email admissions at all your target private schools and see what they say unless you are able to find their policies on school websites.

For the private schools, you counselor should address why you could not retake the course not you.

UC’s and CSU’s offer grade validation for Math courses so you are ok in that you passed the course, unfortunately the D remains on your HS record which does impact your chances at the UC’s and CSU’s but not an automatic rejection.

For private schools, that would be up to each individual college on how they would handle your D.

I suggest you email admissions at all your target private schools and see what they say unless you are able to find their policies on the school website.

For the private schools, your counselor should address why you could not retake the course not you.

What’s not competitive about straight A’s in your senior year? There should be plenty of schools which will want you. I think it’s the case with many if not most private colleges that a better grade in a later sequential course carries the day – in holistic admissions, they can do whatever they want. Brown, for example, knows that things happen in people’s lives, and a sore-thumb bad grade a few years back isn’t necessarily relevant to the current situation. So nope, you won’t be the first person ever who got a D in something and yet went on to collegiate success at a good college, followed by a rewarding research career (i.e. keep breathing, darn it – it’s going to be ok : )

More significant than the oddball D might actually be the B in Algebra II the next semester. That’s an ok grade in the subject for many majors, but for a major in computational-whatever an A would be much better. Even so, at many colleges they will look at the A in Stats and say “Some problems early on, but that was then and this is now… and his EC’s look good too.”

BTW my niece liked her undergrad experience at UCR. Went from there to medical school.

That’s a long list of schools, keeping up with the portals and communications, deadlines and info requests is going to be a challenge. I’d narrow it down to no more than 10-12 to preserve your sanity. Be sure to keep a few matches and safeties.

As others capture - the single D probably wont be a problem but, hearing it from your target schools directly might ease your mind.

I am guessing your UCGPA to be around 4.0 Too many schools to go through 1 by one but i think you will get into UCSC, UCR, all of the CSUs and most of the privates.

Good luck.

As a first generation, low income, Hispanic student with a solid upward trajectory & significant AP courses , you should be accepted to Oxy & Loyola Marymount & to many other schools.

The first semester D is explainable. Straight As senior year is a great “explanation”. (Life is full of bumps along the way. How you handle those bumps–such as by earning straight As–is more important than the fact that you experienced a bump. You are fine.

Focus on your strengths.

As a low income student, you should focus on privates that meet full financial need. It does not matter if you can get into Vanguard (likely) or Biola if you cannot afford them. Unfortunately, it’s the tippy top highly competitive schools that meet full financial need.

The good news is that UC has the Blue and Gold plan which is great for low income families.

My concern about the low grade is whether that shows a weakness in Math ability which is critical for your intended major (STEM). AP Stats is nice, but what about PreCalc?

@bluebayou I forgot to mention that I took Honors Math Analysis (basically PreCalc) during summer school Senior year. I got a B first semester than a A second semester.

@NCalRent For what it’s worth, I already have most of my supplemental essays done, my main common app essay, my UC PIQ’s, etc. The only essays I’m missing are the EOP ones for the Cal States, as well as general revision on all of them. Probably half of the schools on the common app didn’t have supplemental essays so I never really felt stressed during the application process. If anything, that D I got made me feel more stressed.

I am going to drop Stanford though cause it’s a 100% unlikely choice and I really don’t feel like crafting 8-11 essays for them.

And to everyone, thank you for the insight. If this means anything, I’m going to apply early decision to Occidental only because I know they give great financial aid to low-income students, as is most privates and the UC’s for the Blue and Gold plan (My yearly income is $30k).

I’m also applying early action to Santa Clara, Pepperdine, Loyola, Westmont, USF, Cal Lutheran, etc, basically any school that doesn’t have a binding early option.