High School to College with Bad Grades

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  • #1
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I'm currently a junior in highschool. I started taking physics this year and it is my favorite out of any class I've ever taken in my life. I really like it; my favorite classes before taking physics were just the ones that I hated the least.
Right now my GPA is really bad (like 2.8-2.9), but I plan on getting that up. My low GPA was not a result of a lack of talent/intelligence, but instead was a result of a lack of work/motivation. I have been in the highest level of math offered (2 grade levels above normal) since 6th grade.
I really like physics and seem to be good at it (I'm aware that there is a significant difference between high school physics and college level physics, but I am far and away one of the best in my class). I would really like to pursue either a degree in engineering or a degree physics( the most appealing choice of major for me would be aerospace[more specifically aeronautical]), but I am worried that my low GPA will kill me. I just took the SATs and have not seen my results, but I really feel as though i performed extremely well on the math section.

Does anyone have any advice to help me get into a good college?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
fss
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Depends on what you mean by "good." A GPA < 3.0 eliminates you from the Ivies and probably the next level as well; but there are plenty of good physics programs at state universities and smaller, less well-known schools as well.
 
  • #3
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Depends on what you mean by "good." A GPA < 3.0 eliminates you from the Ivies and probably the next level as well; but there are plenty of good physics programs at state universities and smaller, less well-known schools as well.

Sorry but I got a kick out of you saying it "eliminates you from the Ivies." Understatement of the century. I didn't get into any top 25 schools with a 3.7 and a couple awards for physics related things.

OP, I'm sure you can get in somewhere. Just apply to a bunch of places. You can still do things without a degree from a well known school. But be realistic, you might not even get into a physics program anywhere you would call "good."
 
  • #4
eri
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You can definitely get in somewhere, but engineering programs have higher standards than the university itself - so getting in isn't your biggest worry, getting into engineering will be. So you need to start pulling up your GPA as high as you can.
 
  • #5
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Thank you for the information. I knew i wouldn't be getting into an Ivy so it's not like that's new news. I was thinking I would try to get into a state school (ex. Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, Iowa, or Illinois). While I'm there I'll work up to my full potential and hopefully be able to transfer into a better school. Are my grades good enough to get into one of those schools with a 2000+ SAT combined? Is it any harder to transfer if your major is in engineering as opposed to anything else.
 
  • #6
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While I'm there I'll work up to my full potential...

Easier said than done. Start doing your best now.
 
  • #7
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Thank you for the information. I knew i wouldn't be getting into an Ivy so it's not like that's new news. I was thinking I would try to get into a state school (ex. Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, Iowa, or Illinois). While I'm there I'll work up to my full potential and hopefully be able to transfer into a better school. Are my grades good enough to get into one of those schools with a 2000+ SAT combined? Is it any harder to transfer if your major is in engineering as opposed to anything else.

Honestly, unless you have some pretty outstanding extra curriculars, those schools are probably out of reach with a 2.8 gpa. Michigan, for instance, is among the best universities in the country. Just because it's a state school doesn't mean it's sub-par. Some state schools are on par with the ivies. Maybe you could consider going to community college for a couple years and then transferring into one of those schools. You'll save some money too by doing this.
 
  • #8
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Just because it's a state school doesn't mean it's sub-par. Some state schools are on par with the ivies.


You gave solid advice, but I have to say this is ridiculous. On par as far as the quality of their academic programs, maybe. But as far as their admission standards? The one exception I can think of is UC Berkeley.
 
  • #9
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Thank you for the information. I knew i wouldn't be getting into an Ivy so it's not like that's new news. I was thinking I would try to get into a state school (ex. Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, Iowa, or Illinois). While I'm there I'll work up to my full potential and hopefully be able to transfer into a better school. Are my grades good enough to get into one of those schools with a 2000+ SAT combined? Is it any harder to transfer if your major is in engineering as opposed to anything else.

I'm at a state school with a stellar engineering program, and I had a 3.9 high school gpa and 2000+ SATs. I think though that if you can focus on school these last two years you'll have a decent shot at getting into good state schools. There's nothing wrong with these for undergrad, as they're a lot less $$! Really try to show your passion for physics through not just your school work. Get a paying job tutoring it or just go to the middle school and tutor science there. Try to really make yourself stand out. Perhaps in your admissions essay explain how you finally found your passion and how it has changed your life. That would explain the low GPA and, if what you write correlates to your performance, I think you have a decent shot.


At my school, if you transfer into engineering (the hardest program to get into), you're almost a year behind, even if you transfer second semester of freshman year. Most people transfer out of it, not into it.
 
  • #10
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The bottom line is, you are asking this question soon enough, if you really turn yourself around at this point, then it will not be affecting you by the time you are 30. Of course, that is much easier said than done, as stated above.
 
  • #11
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Try going to a smaller, less known school that is easier to get into and then transfer out.

I also had a poor GPA in high school which was not much higher than yours; I also got a few Ds on my transcript (three of them were in math!) I spent three semesters at a community college instead of going to a traditional college. Now, I am at an Ivy League school. I am not saying that this is the norm; but, if you want it bad enough, you can turn stuff around.

(Note: I had a 4.0 GPA at community college, 2260 SAT score, and stellar recommendations from my math and physics professors.)
 
  • #12
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But as far as their admission standards?
Enough people are choosing to go to school that even the public unis are raising the bar. My undergrad basically had open admissions for the past 30 years (though the engineering school has always been somewhat tougher to get into) and has been steadily switching to more restrictive admissions as they've been trying to get shinier faculty and students to attract better funding. They've also been restricting admissions 'cause more people have been choosing public school's cause of tuition costs so they can't handle all the students they'd have to take under an open admissions plan.

That being said, with a 2.8 you may very well be able to get into a public uni, and if you don't get into their engineering school you may be able to transfer into it if your grades improve. (Or transfer out to an entirely different school.) I'll second the community college idea.

Most people transfer out of it, not into it
This is true of just about all engineering schools.
 
  • #13
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Thank you all for the information/advice. I don't want to go to a community college. Mostly because, where I'm from, very few people who get in are able to get out, and almost everyone goes to the community college in my area has the intention of transfering into a more reputable school. Does any one know what schools I could feasibly get into?

Also, to pm1010, did you do anything in addition to getting good grades and high sat scores.
 
  • #14
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frosty7, I talked to the chair of the physics department (at that time I wanted to major in physics and minor in math) the semester before applying. I visited the school a few times and went to a departmental meeting and talked to other professors in the department.
 
  • #15
Well, I'm a senior right smack-dab in the middle of the process, so I might be able to help a bit. First, check out this site: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com . Secondly, decide what type of school do you want. Urban? Rural? Large? Liberal Arts? etc. Narrow down your choices and visit some schools to get a feel for them. Thirdly, once you have done this (for realistic schools, you won't be going to MIT or anything), find which schools have programs you enjoy (physics it seems at this point). Once you have done all of that, you will probably have a handful of schools (maybe 4-5).

For admissions, you probably should shoot for applying to 8-9 schools (3 safeties/shoe-ins, 3 matches, 2 reaches, and 1 no-chance-in-hell just for kicks). Make sure these schools offer the program you want and you have gone through the above process with them. Then, do your research, and once you get accepted start e-mailing/contact the department if you wish to visit again etc.

As for schools, it is hard to say. I would try UIUC, but being a state school they are very numbers oriented and a < 3.0 will basically bar you for most of the "good" state schools (certainly Michigan, UVA, most of the UCs, etc.). I would look at RIT, U of Arizona, and other schools.
 
  • #16
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thank you bleedblue, that was extremely helpful, and for the record when I said Michigan, I meant Michigan State (I'm well aware Michigan State would be a reach as well.)
 
  • #17
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I don't want to go to a community college. Mostly because, where I'm from, very few people who get in are able to get out

Can you elaborate on this? I don't know what you mean. Do you mean that no 4 year university accepts transfer students in your area?
 
  • #18
bcrowell
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Thank you all for the information/advice. I don't want to go to a community college. Mostly because, where I'm from, very few people who get in are able to get out,
But isn't this because they aren't capable of doing well, while you are?

and almost everyone goes to the community college in my area has the intention of transfering into a more reputable school.
And what is wrong with transferring?
 
  • #19
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I understand your fears about community college - and they may be justifiable if you are not one to be self motivated. But if you don't have any drive to work hard and make the grade in community college, what makes you think you'll have the drive to do well in a state school? Engineering is very, very difficult as I'm sure you know and if you don't have the internal motivation, you need to pick another major, bottom line.

Here's the deal: if you're willing to work toward a goal, it really doesn't matter where you go for your first two years, generally. I'm actually doing this because it's ridiculous to spent $20,000 a year for the same thing. Plus, keep in mind that a lot of schools now have 5 year engineering programs. That's an extra $20,000 and student debt is really tricky. Just google student debt horror stories - it's very sad and it can happen to anyone.

(I also would recommend the book Debt Free U. It's actually pretty interesting and easy to read. Most importantly, it's very insightful info about loans, debt, how to pay for college, etc.)


Anyway, I took physics preAP last year and I made a 97% average for the year which was one of the highest grades in the class. I'm taking AP physics C and man, it's kicking my butt. There's a huge jump between preAP and AP/college physics and you may find that you don't actually like it after all. Keep in mind, engineering is not what you learn in your first year physics class, however, if you feel you're interested in the field, do your research. Look into it. Talk to engineers - MEs, EEs, ChemEs, you name it. Then go for it.

Also, talk to the schools themselves. Find out their transfer programs. My comm collge actually has a specific program that feeds into A&M (which has a great engr. program!). I take some courses, make a certain GPA and I have contractual admittance into the program of my choice.
 
  • #20
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Originally Posted by bcrowell
Originally Posted by frosty7 View Post

and almost everyone goes to the community college in my area has the intention of transfering into a more reputable school.

And what is wrong with transferring?

I meant that everyone who goes to community colleges in my area tries and fails to transfer. I know that I am more capable to succeed than almost all of them. Nocturne-e pretty much hit the nail on the head, because I'm afraid that being around so many negative influences will pull me down.
Next year I will be taking AP physics and AP calc. Also, if this counts for anything, my school's physics program is one of the most well respected in the area. My physic's teacher also coaches our science olympiad team, which placed in the top 5(nationally) last year and has been in the top 10 since 2006.

And on a side note, I don't think that paying for college should be too large of a problem, my mom works at a university that will pay 40% of their tuition to any school their child gets accepted to. Also if I manage to get into where she works then they will pay 75%. I have no shot right now(the school is UPenn) but, I might be able to transfer in like pm1010 did.
 
  • #21
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I meant that everyone who goes to community colleges in my area tries and fails to transfer. I know that I am more capable to succeed than almost all of them. Nocturne-e pretty much hit the nail on the head, because I'm afraid that being around so many negative influences will pull me down.
[URL]http://i772.photobucket.com/albums/yy8/photodonknome/seriously.gif[/URL]
 
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  • #22
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Keep in mind that there will also be negative influences around you at the big state school, too. I hate to sound like a mother, but it's so true: be careful who your friends are. There are good and bad everywhere and no matter where you're going, don't get involved with people that will bring you down. Easier said then done, I know. But again, if you don't have what it takes, you won't survive anywhere. Find those people that will encourage you and don't party all the time. I can assure you you'll be glad you did when half of the program is forced to drop out because they refused to buckle down and work hard.
 
  • #23
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I don't think that a good school will make or brake your carrier, but that depends on what you are going to do. If you want to be a researcher I think you will be valued for what you have done rather than where you studied. However if you want to get a job at some institution I guess that having graduated from a famous school should help.
So in the long run I'm not sure if it really matter.
 
  • #24
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I just remembered this forum/thread today. I figured I would update you guys on my situation. I really turned my academic career around shortly after creating this thread. I've been doing really well in high school, i got 2 5's on the only two AP exams i took last year(Micro Economics & Statistics) Right now, I'm pulling an A+ in AP physics and two A's in AP Computer Science & Ap Calc ab. I even got accepted into the engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh. I wanted to thank everyone here for their advice & words of encouragement. You really motivated me to turn everything around, so thank you.
 
  • #25
lisab
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I just remembered this forum/thread today. I figured I would update you guys on my situation. I really turned my academic career around shortly after creating this thread. I've been doing really well in high school, i got 2 5's on the only two AP exams i took last year(Micro Economics & Statistics) Right now, I'm pulling an A+ in AP physics and two A's in AP Computer Science & Ap Calc ab. I even got accepted into the engineering program at the University of Pittsburgh. I wanted to thank everyone here for their advice & words of encouragement. You really motivated me to turn everything around, so thank you.

That made my night :smile:! Congrats!
 

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