Will it look bad if I retake courses? In terms of Top 5 college admissions

Hi, I am an Asian female, going into STEM, currently with an above average GPA. The thing is, I have gotten C’s in some courses. I really want to go to a top 5, and I want to retake those C’s. Will they not like it if they see that I retook those courses? Will they reject me?

I’m assuming you’re at a CC? I didn’t think you could retake a course where you had gotten a C, but that really depends on the school that you currently attend. Did you ask your school if they allow you to retake coursework?

The top five schools typically don’t have students who need to retake courses, so you may want to reconsider your reasons for wanting to go to a very competitive, elite university.

I am guessing something was edited out of your original post, but if you are transferring from CC to a four year college, I believe the original course still appears on your transcript. This may not be true of all colleges. If you took Eng 101, got a C, retook it and got an A, it will show you took Eng 101 twice, but the most recent grade will be used for your GPA.

Be aware that it’s even harder to get into those schools as a transfer. 1, there are very few spots. 2, the standards are perhaps even higher, because they still want to see how you are involved with life outside of school. 3, as a transfer, you need a very solid reason why that college is the one that can meet your needs as a transfer. Your essay will have to be totally spot on.

Have a look at this:
In 2019, Harvard University received 1548 transfer applicants.
The school accepted 15 students. Therefore, the transfer acceptance rate for Harvard University is 0.97%.

How many of those students had C’s? I don’t know, but I’m guessing it was very few.

Who is going to pay for you to retake those classes?

The fact that you merely state Top 5, rather than a few select colleges that might have the best offerings in your major, is a red flag. You can be very successful and not go to a Top 5 university, or even a Top 100 university. In your shoes, I would try to figure out how to make the most of what your realistic options might be.

@whydoidothis , just saw your post.

Still, the general gist is the same. Apply based on your actual grades and scores, not what you hope they might be if you retake. And yes, colleges will see the original courses. They will reject kids with perfect grades. Retaking those classes is not going to help you.

This!! Your application during the admissions cycle will be compared to those where students didn’t need to retake a course. If you manage to get admitted along with those students, they will be your classmates and the pressure of needing to “keep up” with them can be pretty tough.

Retaking the courses would mean giving up the opportunity to take other courses and I would assume the C’s would still appear on your transcript.

To be blunt, with multiple C’s and an “above average” GPA, top 5 schools are an extreme stretch. Many, many students with nothing but A’s, in fact probably a majority of them, are rejected every year.

I suggest putting past grades behind you and focusing on a realistic future plan.

I also ended up dropping some courses, but i did take them outside of school, and got an A in them. WIll colleges be shocked at this?

If you do not retake the exact same classes at your HS, then you cannot replace the grades on your transcript.

Top schools expect top grades the first time around. Retaking these courses would look like grade grubbing which top schools would not look favorably upon.

If I were to explain in the Additional info section why specifically I decided to retake these courses, would it be acceptable still?

@whydoidothis Barring extenuating personal circumstances, it would be difficult to explain to Admissions Officers why you received multiple Cs. If you’re set on going to one of these schools (for reasons other than prestige,) you can always consider transferring in the future, or working hard during your undergraduate career to attend a top graduate school.

Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!


Yes it will “look bad” for nearly every college.

(Sorry, unless you have a huge hook (athletic recruitment at Stanford, for example), the ship for top 5 schools has sailed.)

Hello, I understand your words and know that I will have little chance of being accepted. Can a hook be something besides athletics, donorships, or legacy/minority? I have extracurriculars that are stronger than what the typical Top 5 student applies with, plus a 35 ACT. Can I go to these colleges, on these extracurriculars alone, as long as I improve my GPA to a 3.7?

A few comments:

–Every admission officer I’ve spoken to has told met that the most important part of any application is the transcript (including GPA and course rigor).

–The typical accepted applicant to the top tier colleges have absolutely outstanding ECs. You have not explained why you believe that your ECs are “stronger.” What have you have accomplished that you think could be considered a hook?

–It is always fine to apply to a reach school or two but in general I’d suggest you get more realistic in choosing the colleges you apply to. There are so many amazing colleges and universities out there where you can have a great four year expereince and get wherever you want to go in life. There is no reason to fixate on the most competitive schools in the country. I suggest you get your hands on a good college guide book (ex. Fiske, Princeton Review, Insiders Guide etc.) and start reading. Be sure to consider finances as well if appropriate (run net price calculators).

Also please do not post the same question twice on CC. The two posts have been merged. If you want to bring the thread back up to the top of the forum just write “bump” as a reply.

I have C’s in a couple classes from a couple years ago. I want to retake these classes outside of school, to get a better grade in them. Will this look bad for colleges in the Top 5 category, like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc? I do have a good list of safeties I’d be perfectly happy to attend, but I still want to give my best shot at my reaches.

Yes, any college will see that you earned C grades the first time and repeated the courses. For a “top 5” in terms of selectivity college, C grades and repeats will make it very unlikely that they will see you are academically competitive in the admission pool.

“I really want to go to a top 5”

I am wondering: WHY?

I did attend two top 5 universities. One for my bachelor’s and one for my master’s. Classes are a lot tougher than anything that I every saw in high school. Classes go really fast. There are tons of homework. Tests and exams are tough.

There may be some math majors at MIT and Caltech who once got a C in a languages class or an art class. I doubt that there are many students at either of these two schools who ever got a C in a math or science class in high school.

If you attend a “top 100” university and get a lot of A’s and very few B’s for four years, then the “top 5” universities will still be there if you are looking to go to graduate school.