The best colleges that accept 3.5 GPAs

    Jeremy Coppock
    Jeremy Coppock

    Jeremy is an education researcher, journalist, and editor for Degreechoices. He majored in Slavic languages and has a master’s degree in Eastern European studies.

    He has previous experience as a fraud analyst, in-house translator, teacher, and truck driver.

    The best colleges that accept 3.5 GPAs

      In terms of value for money, the best colleges that accept 3.5 GPAs are Baruch College, Hunter College, and City College (all CUNY schools in New York).

      The best non-CUNY schools in this category are California State University-LA, Colorado State University Global, and California State University-Dominguez Hills.

      The best-value colleges are not always the most “prestigious.” Many non-selective schools are more affordable and still lead to great career outcomes, making them a better deal than fancier schools.

      The top-earning colleges that accept a 3.5 GPA are Kettering University, Santa Clara University, and Massachusetts Maritime Academy. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

      Save money with a respected degree.

      Find the perfect degree for you in a few easy steps. 

      If you have a 3.5 high school GPA, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re an above-average student who’ll have no problem getting into college.

      Are you Ivy League material? Maybe not. But who cares? You can still get a great degree and unlock a rewarding, lucrative career.

      If you pick the right school that is.

      As we show in this article, there are plenty of colleges that accept 3.5 GPAs, but not all are a good deal economically. Using our objective ranking methodology, we show which of these schools offer the best value for your money, alongside several other juicy metrics.

      Is a 3.5 GPA good in high school?

      Yes, a 3.5 high school GPA is fine.

      While elite institutions like Ivy Leagues, some fancy liberal arts schools, and even several “Public Ivies” (like Berkeley or UMich) require a much higher high school GPA, most colleges in the country will happily accept your very decent grades.

      Work hard in college, and nothing is stopping you from eventually going on to med school, law school, or a top MBA program.

      What is a 3.5 GPA?

      A 3.5 grade point average (GPA) is equivalent to a B+ or an A- in letter grades. As a percentage, a 3.5 high school GPA is equivalent to a 90%.

      If you have a 3.5 GPA, you probably got a mix of As and Bs in high school. Good job!

      » Also read: The best colleges with low GPA requirements.

      Best colleges to apply to with a 3.5 GPA

      While many colleges accept a 3.5 GPA, not all are a great investment. Some schools lead to lower-than average earnings, and others are simply unaffordable.

      To determine which colleges are the best deal, we have developed a signature methodology (more on that below) that measures which schools provide the optimal combination of affordable tuition and high earnings post-graduation using primary-source government data from IPEDS and College Scorecard.

      We have applied our ranking system to colleges whose student body had an average high school GPA of 3.7 or below.

      Remember that while 3.7 may seem a lot higher than 3.5, these are averages; many students at 3.7 GPA schools had a 3.5 GPA in high school.

      Affordability beats prestige

      Americans are struggling to pay back their student loans. For this reason, affordability is key to our understanding of what makes a “good college,” and net cost is one of the variables we use to rank schools.

      Some of the schools below may not be the most “prestigious,” but they’re a good deal financially, thanks to their low tuition and good outcomes. Their graduates are generally successful, and for a fraction of the price.

      In fact, selective schools are often overrated in terms of economic outcomes. In the list below, we’ve included schools with a much lower average GPA than 3.5, because we didn’t want to hide less selective colleges with a great ROI.

      We know, some of these schools may elicit a smirk among our more “discerning” readers concerned with reputation, but toxic student loans are a sad fact of life. Why not save money if the outcome is the same?

      Alternatively, scroll down further to see the 3.5 GPA colleges with the highest-earning grads.

      1. CUNY colleges

      • Average GPA range: 2.95 to 3.46
      • Economic score: 0.23 to 0.85

      CUNY, or the City University of New York, is a system of public colleges and universities that stands out on the national higher education map for the affordability of their high-quality degrees.

      Individually, CUNY colleges would occupy 8 of the top 10 spots on this list of 3.5 GPA colleges (see the chart below), so we’ve grouped them together in the chart below. Only CUNY York performs worse than the best-value non-CUNY college on our list (Cal State LA).

      Students are paying far less than the national average to attend school, and they are succeeding economically after graduation.

      Different CUNY schools are known for different programs: Baruch is famous for its business school, City College has great engineering programs, and Hunter’s computer science major commands respect on the market.

      College Average GPA Economic Score
      CUNY Bernard M Baruch College 3.3 0.23
      CUNY Hunter College 3.46 0.32
      CUNY City College 3.34 0.44
      CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice 2.95 0.46
      CUNY Lehman College 3.24 0.46
      CUNY Brooklyn College 3.31 0.47
      CUNY Queens College 3.43 0.53
      CUNY York College 3.11 0.85

      2. California State University-Los Angeles

      • Average GPA: 3.24
      • Economic score: 0.66

      California State University-Los Angeles is a large public institution. Like CUNY, the California State higher-education system provides highly affordable degrees that lead to great economic outcomes.

      Besides being affordable, Cal State LA is significantly less selective than the more “prestigious” UC schools. Its acceptance rate is about 91%, and the average SAT score is 964.

      The most popular programs are business administration, sociology, and education.

      3. Colorado State University-Global Campus

      • Average GPA: 3.69
      • Economic score: 0.90

      Colorado State University Global is a public online university. It is headquartered in Aurora, Colorado, but it attracts students from all over the country. Many students are working professionals who are going back to get a degree later in life.

      CSU Global accepts 96% of applicants, although its student body is quite small. The average total SAT score is 1052.

      The most popular undergraduate majors at CSU Global are business administration, computer science, and HR management.

      4. California State University-Dominguez Hills

      • Average GPA: 3.13
      • Economic score: 0.91

      California State University-Dominguez Hills is an affordable public university in the town of Carson in Greater Los Angeles. As one of the most ethnically and economically diverse colleges in the country, the school is known to accept many first-generation college students.

      With an acceptance rate of 90% and no SAT requirement, Cal State Dominguez Hills is an accessible option for students who may not have amazing grades.

      At CSU Dominguez Hills, the most popular majors are business administration, psychology, and criminal justice.

      5. Texas A&M International University

      • Average GPA: 3.60
      • Economic score: 0.98

      Texas A&M International University, often referred to as TAMIU, is a big public university in Laredo, Texas.

      While its average high school GPA is slightly higher than 3.5, you still stand a decent chance of getting in if other components of your application are strong. The acceptance rate is 54%. A total of 31% of students choose to submit their SAT results, with the average total score being 995.

      Top majors, by number of degrees granted, are criminal justice, business administration, and psychology.

      6. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

      • Average GPA: 3.06
      • Economic score: 1.01

      The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, or UTRGV, is a large public research university with several campuses in Southern Texas. It is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

      Its acceptance rate is 94%, so you’re likely to get in even if you don’t have a great GPA. While students are not required to submit their SATs, the average score is 1034.

      The most popular majors are biology, criminal justice, and interdisciplinary studies.

      7. Farmingdale State College

      • Average GPA: 3.2
      • Economic score: 1.06

      Farmingdale State College, or the State University of New York at Farmingdale, is a public college on Long Island. It offers high-value degrees in a suburban setting not too far from New York City

      With an acceptance rate of 73%, your GPA of 3.5 practically guarantees you a spot. The average SAT score is 1075.

      Business administration; science, technology, and society; and security science and technology are the top 3 most popular majors.

      8. Franklin University

      • Average GPA: 3.53
      • Economic score: 1.13

      Franklin University is located in Columbus Ohio. It is the first private university on our list. While many of its students are working professionals, it remains a good investment for students of any age. Many programs are offered online.

      Franklin is an open-admissions college, which means anyone can enroll. They do not require any standardized test scores.

      The top 3 most popular majors are business administration, accounting, and HR management.

      9. California State University-Stanislaus

      • Average GPA: 3.28
      • Economic score: 1.14

      California State University-Stanislaus, usually abbreviated to Stanislaus State or simply Stan State, is a public university in California’s Central Valley. Its affordable tuition makes it a great option for students looking for a high-value degree.

      Its acceptance rate is 95%, and it does not require any SAT scores.

      The most popular programs are business administration, psychology, and liberal studies.

      10. College of Staten Island

      • Average GPA: 2.99
      • Economic score: 1.16

      The College of Staten Island (CSI) is technically part of the CUNY system, although it doesn’t perform as well economically as its cousins (which is why we’re showing it separately). This public college has the largest campus by area in New York City.

      CSI has an open admissions policy – everyone gets in – and there’s no need for SAT scores.

      The most popular programs are psychology, business, and computer science.

      11. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

      • Average GPA: 3.61
      • Economic score: 1.19

      The Cooper Union is a private, not-for-profit college in New York City. When it was founded in 1859, it espoused the progressive (for the time) belief that college should be accessible to everyone, independent of race, religion, sex, or wealth.

      Cooper Union is a very selective university – it only accepts 15% of applicants, and the average student’s SAT score was 1422. It is well known for both its fine arts and engineering programs.

      Its top 3 most popular majors are fine arts, electrical engineering, and architecture.

      12. California State University-Fresno

      • Average GPA: 3.18
      • Economic score: 1.22

      California State University, Fresno, usually referred to as Fresno State, is a large public university. Its campus features a planetarium, vineyard, and winery.

      It admits 97% of applicants and does not require SAT scores.

      The 3 most popular majors are business administration, general education, and psychology.

      13. Massachusetts Maritime Academy

      • Average GPA: 3.15
      • Economic score: 1.23

      Massachusetts Maritime Academy, sometimes referred to as Mass Maritime or MMA, is a public university in Buzzards Bay. Many of its students go on to work for the U.S. Merchant Marine. It offers a popular Sea Term, where students spend almost 2 months aboard a ship.

      With an acceptance rate of 90%, this college is a great way of securing an exciting job on or involving the high seas. The average SAT score is 1117.

      The most popular programs are naval architecture & marine engineering, homeland security, and international business.

      14. California State University-Fullerton

      • Average GPA: 3.68
      • Economic score: 1.28

      California State University, Fullerton is a public research university. It is the largest of the California State schools, many of which provide high-value degrees for affordable prices. It is a minority-serving institution.

      It accepts 60% of applicants, and the SAT score is 1085. This makes Cal State Fullerton slightly more selective than other schools on this list, but don’t let that fact dissuade you from applying.

      The most popular programs are business administration, psychology, and communications.

      15. SUNY Maritime College

      • Average GPA: 3.3
      • Economic score: 1.30

      SUNY Maritime College is part of the public SUNY network (State University of New York – not to be confused with CUNY). For students interested in a career connected to the ocean, SUNY Maritime is a great option.

      Located in the Bronx, SUNY Maritime accepts 74% of students, and the average SAT score is 1153.

      The top 3 programs by number of conferrals are marine transportation, maritime business, and mechanical engineering.

      16. California State University Maritime Academy

      • Average GPA: 3.40
      • Economic score: 1.33

      California State University Maritime Academy is yet another institution of higher learning that focuses on careers related to the sea. It is located in Vallejo. It is the only maritime academy on the West Coast.

      With an acceptance rate of 82% and no SATs required, Cal Maritime has fairly unselective admissions – at least in terms of GPA.

      The most popular majors are business, marine transportation, and international strategy/security.

      17. California State University-Bakersfield

      • Average GPA: 3.3
      • Economic score: 1.34

      CSU Bakersfield is a public university in California’s San Joaquin Valley. It is an officially designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

      It has an acceptance rate of 85%, and it does not consider standardized test scores during the admissions process.

      Business administration, general studies, and psychology are the most popular undergraduate majors.

      18. New Jersey Institute of Technology

      • Average GPA: 3.59
      • Economic score: 1.45

      New Jersey Institute of Technology is a public research university in Newark. It focuses on STEM fields, and it is home to one of the oldest engineering schools in the country.

      With an acceptance rate of 69%, it is a moderately selective institution. Its student body has a total average SAT score of 1299.

      The most popular majors are computer science, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering.

      19. California State University-Long Beach

      • Average GPA: 3.56
      • Economic score: 1.48

      Another college in the California State University system, CSU Long Beach is a public institution located in Los Angeles County.

      It is slightly harder to get into than most colleges on this list: only 47% of applicants are admitted. The average SAT score is 1133.

      The top 3 majors in terms of conferrals are business administration, psychology, and fine arts.

      20. Peirce College

      • Average GPA: 2.91
      • Economic score: 1.48

      Peirce College is a private college in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It focuses on adult education, and many of its course offerings are online. On-campus students can choose to take many classes on weekends or in the evenings.

      Peirce has an open admissions policy and does not consider standardized test scores.

      The 3 most popular majors are business administration, health & human services, and computer science. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

      Find the school that’s perfect for you

      Find more great colleges for students with a 3.5 GPAs. 

      Our methodology

      To rank schools by value for money, we used the following data points:

      • Average net price – the amount paid by the average student per year to attend college, after financial aid, for all students who receive at least $1 in federal funds.
      • Earnings – the average yearly earnings of graduates, 4 years after leaving school.

      Our methodology combines these two variables to generate an Economic Score that reflects a college’s ROI value. The lower the Economic Score, the better.

      Cost and earnings data comes from IPEDS and College Scorecard, which are primary sources on education data compiled by the U.S. Center for Education Statistics and the Department of Education.

      GPA data comes from Prepscholar.

      In this ranking, we included all 4-year, accredited, degree-granting colleges in the U.S. for which GPA data is available whose student body had an average high school GPA of 3.7 or below.

      3.5 GPA colleges with the highest-earning grads

      These colleges might not be that cheap, but their grads go on to earn the highest paychecks 4 years after graduation.

      College Average GPA Average earnings, 4 years out
      Kettering University 3.66 $93,893
      Santa Clara University 3.7 $93,291
      Massachusetts Maritime Academy 3.15 $91,668
      California State University Maritime Academy 3.4 $91,461
      Bryant University 3.39 $91,105
      Bucknell University 3.55 $88,154
      Fairfield University 3.65 $86,060
      Lafayette College 3.59 $84,939
      SUNY Maritime College 3.3 $84,443
      United States Merchant Marine Academy 3.6 $83,209
      Manhattan College 3.4 $83,117 
      Clarkson University 3.7 $81,358
      Milwaukee School of Engineering 3.67 $81,328
      New Jersey Institute of Technology 3.59 $80,043
      University of San Francisco 3.54 $78,031
      Merrimack College 3.17 $76,392
      New York University 3.69 $76,040
      Loyola University Maryland 3.42 $75,663
      Boston University 3.66 $75,642
      Quinnipiac University 3.47 $75,575

      Source: IPEDS, 2021-2022

      Most affordable colleges with a 3.5 GPA

      Below, we list the cheapest colleges with a 3.5 GPA or lower. “Cheap” refers to average net cost, which is how much the average student pays to attend a year of school after financial aid.

      We applied a 3.4 average GPA lower threshold to these schools (unlike our other lists), so we’re not just showing you a list of dirt-cheap colleges.

      If you want a full list of the cheapest colleges in the country, we have you covered.

      College Average GPA Average net cost
      CUNY Hunter College 3.46 $2,158
      Texas A&M University-Central Texas 3.68 $3,249
      CUNY Queens College 3.43 $3,469
      Texas A & M International University 3.6 $3,908
      Berea College 3.54 $5,222
      United States Merchant Marine Academy 3.6 $6,571
      The University of West Florida 3.58 $7,089
      Franklin University 3.53 $7,201
      California State University-Fullerton 3.68 $8,003
      University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma 3.43 $8,011
      University of North Texas at Dallas 3.47 $8,041
      Southeastern Oklahoma State University 3.36 $8,109
      Marshall University 3.49 $8,351
      Concord University 3.4 $8,477
      Northern Kentucky University 3.48 $9,183
      Utah Valley University 3.42 $9,955
      California State University-Long Beach 3.56 $10,054
      Northeastern State University 3.45 $10,094
      University of Virginia’s College at Wise 3.43 $10,168
      North American University 3.65 $10,393

      Source: IPEDS, 2021-2022

      » Also read: The colleges that charge no tuition

      How important is your GPA?

      The grades reflected in your high school GPA are a pretty important factor in college admissions. But grades aren’t the only consideration. Admissions officers also take the following into account:

      • SAT/ACT scores (although some colleges are test blind)
      • Personal essays
      • Recommendation letters
      • Extracurricular activities
      • Volunteering
      • Leadership experience

      Some factors may be more important to a certain college than others.

      Weighted vs unweighted GPA

      Your unweighted GPA is your regular old GPA, on a 4.0 scale. All classes – from P.E. to AP chemistry – contribute equally to your total grade point average.

      For your weighted GPA, advanced and honors classes are worth more “points.”

      The thinking is that advanced classes are harder, so getting a B in honors English should result in a higher GPA than getting a B in a normal English class.

      Theoretically, this encourages students to take advanced classes without fear that their grades will be affected.

      Your weighted GPA is usually on a 5.0 scale. Not all schools use weighted GPAs.

      Safety, target, and reach schools

      Your GPA, along with your standardized test scores, is a good general indicator of what schools you can get into.

      But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply to colleges that normally ask for better grades.

      Colleges that you’re not sure of getting into are called “reach schools,” as opposed to “target schools,” which more or less fit your academic profile, or “safety schools,” where you’re 99% sure to get in.

      Figuring out how many colleges to apply to in each category can be hard, but you don’t need to limit yourself to schools where the average GPA is the same as yours.


      A moving personal essay, athletic achievements, or other factors could get you into your “reach schools” even if your grades aren’t perfect.

      Final thoughts

      If you have a 3.5 GPA, you should be proud of yourself! You’ve done very well in high school, and you’ll have no trouble getting into a good college.

      That said, think carefully about what a “good school” means to you. While it’s tempting to aim for big-name “prestigious” private colleges, these don’t always offer better economic value.

      Check our rankings of the best national universities to see what colleges give you the most bang for your buck.

      Did you enjoy this post?