How to Improve Your Undergraduate GPA after Graduating College
There are many factors that contribute to an unsatisfactory grade point average (GPA) as an undergraduate student. Perhaps you struggled to find the area in which you excel and made a few mistakes in class selection your first semester or two. Maybe the transition from high school to college was more significant than you anticipated and your grades suffered during the adjustment period. Choosing a particularly grueling field may have also caused a lower GPA, even if you worked extremely diligently.
If you are determined to attend graduate school but do not meet the GPA requirement for the programs you are interested in, there are a few options to consider. We want to address your desire to improve your undergraduate GPA after you have completed your degree, while also reminding you that for many programs, other factors will be considered for your admission.
To put it frankly, improving your GPA post-graduation is almost impossible; however, there are a couple of different paths you can pursue to make an attempt.
One option for you to look into is repeating a course you have already taken. For this route, it is a good idea to check your school’s policy on grade forgiveness, because many institutions will not allow you to repeat a course if you passed it the first time, even if you are unhappy with your final grade. If you received a D or an F in a class, you will likely have the opportunity to retake it and improve your grade. Keep in mind that many graduate programs are only focusing on your grades in core classes—if you are not satisfied with your grade in an elective, it likely will have no effect on your application to graduate school.
Private and for-profit colleges are other options for retaking courses, but you should always check with the graduate program you are interested in before committing. If you do choose to retake a course at a different college, keep in mind that a better grade will not actually change your GPA, but your desired graduate program may be willing to overlook your previous attempt and count the improved grade instead.
Aside from grade forgiveness, there is also an option to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree—a second bachelor’s degree—after you graduate. If you wish to enter into the health field, for example, you might have the opportunity to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree also known as a postbac program and take the required science courses to boost your GPA before applying to medical school. These programs usually take less than two years and might be a good option for you if you are looking to pursue a graduate degree in a different field from your undergraduate major.
It is important for you to research all of your options. If you are planning to retake a class or pursue a post-baccalaureate degree, you should speak to an advisor and be certain of the requirements and implications for you. The process of improving your GPA could be very costly. If you are granted the opportunity to retake a course, you will likely have to pay the full cost of the class without the expectation of financial aid. For many postbac programs, your only opportunity for financial aid may be acquiring additional student loans. It is important to consider all of these scenarios before making a final decision.
Other ways of increasing your chances of getting into a grad program:
If improving your GPA does not seem like a viable option, don’t get discouraged just yet! Many programs view applicants from a holistic perspective. There are several other factors to consider such as your test scores and relevant experience. If you can stand out among other applicants in these areas, you may still be a competitive candidate. Consider these resources as you weigh your decision about how to approach your graduate school endeavors:
Take advantage of your undergraduate career services.
Call to schedule an appointment with a career coach or counselor to talk about your goals and graduate school application.
Talk to a professional career counselor.
If you no longer have access to your undergraduate career services but you have health insurance, you may be able to find a counselor in-network—which could be relatively inexpensive. Use psychologytoday.com to search for a counselor. You can narrow down your options by zip code, health insurance provider, and “career counselor” as the specialty.
Reach out to the Graduate Program Coordinator or admissions office.
Contacting the appropriate people from the program you are interested in can help you get some of the answers you are seeking. They may breakdown the requirements they are looking for and help you understand where your GPA and other credentials fall in relation to previous students they have admitted. They may also offer advice about how to increase your chances of admission if your GPA is not quite up to par. Some schools/programs have the option to first earn a certificate or specialization in your desired field before transferring into their graduate program.
Consider using test prep resources.
Increasing your test score in the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, LSAT will definitely help your overall profile for admission. Seeking resources at your local library may be helpful—they usually have free tests available. Test prep services, such as Kaplan often offer free practice tests and occasionally will provide discounts for full courses.
Don’t discount your current experience!
Your work and life experience in a relevant field may give you an advantage. Be sure to mention any significant skills or practice in your personal statement and essay portion of the application process. No one can bring the exact same experience and perspective to the profession as you! Your personal journey makes you a unique candidate.
Your undergraduate GPA definitely counts when applying to graduate programs, but how heavily your GPA is considered in the admissions process will vary by discipline and college. Never discount yourself because your grades are not as high as other prospective students’—you may have options! Seeking advice and direction from your undergraduate advisor, a career coach, and/or graduate program coordinators can give you a clear picture of what your best options are for improving your GPA after graduating to become a competitive graduate school candidate.
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