Handling Negatives in Admissions

Turn your weaknesses into strengths. Here's how to address low grades, low scores, and negative experiences when applying to college.

Hey, you're not perfect. Neither am I. We're human and frequently have weaknesses to deal with. This tip will help you handle evidence of your humanity.

Let's focus on mitigating the impact of weaknesses: What can you do about low grades, mediocre test scores, or experience that may be less than ideal qualitatively or quantitatively?

Low grades -Earn new, high grades to show what you can do when motivated, mature, and not distracted by personal problems that may have contributed to a bad semester or two. One or two A's won't make up for a 2.0 GPA earned over four years, but creating a new grade point average either by taking classes at a local community college, earning an additional degree, or enrolling in a post-bac program can definitely put a different spin on a GPA that is in the 3.0 range when Top Choice U's average accepted GPA is closer to 3.5.

Low test score -No magic bullets here. You simply have to retake and raise the score. Many programs will consider the highest of your test scores. Some average, but look more closely at the most recent numbers. Don't retake if you don't have time to prepare or if you don't think you can raise it. In that case, try to take classes in your area of weakness and read this tip on addressing weaknesses.

Inadequate experience -If you don't have experience that is directly related to the direction you want to take, get some. Now. Even if you have already applied, your new on-point experience could provide great material for a wait-list letter. If you can't immediately obtain a job or volunteer position in your desired field, then either on the job, in school, or in a volunteer capacity assume responsibilities that will reflect the values of the programs you want to attend. For example, all grad programs value leadership. If you can't lead on the job, you can organize and run a charitable event for a cause that you believe in. Another example: law schools value research and writing skills. If you can't obtain a spiffy legal internship, take a class that will require a significant research project.

By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company that has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994.

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