Colleges with low GPA requirements

    David Levy
    David Levy

    David Levy

    David Levy manages the product and data strategy for Degreechoices and writes about college rankings and accountability.

    Jeremy Coppock
    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.

    Updated Mar. 25, 2024
    Colleges with low GPA requirements

      Search Online Colleges With Low GPA Requirements 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.

      So you want to go to college and make lots of money after graduation, but your GPA is awful. Don’t lose hope! There are some great colleges with low GPA requirements out there.

      Your GPA is a pretty important consideration in college admissions. While some colleges will overlook your grades if you have amazing SAT scores, a heart-wrenching personal statement about all the challenges you’ve overcome, or impressive extra-curriculars, most still want students who did well in high school.

      But fear not, a low GPA does not doom your career prospects! A number of schools that accept students with low GPAs are setting up their graduates for financial success, unlocking high enough salaries to easily pay off the cost of their education.

      What is considered a low GPA?

      Anything under a 3.43 can be considered a low GPA, as it places you in the bottom 50% of all collegegoers. And if your GPA is lower than 3.05, we’re sorry to tell you that you’re in the bottom 10%.

      How do we know? We analyzed publicly available admissions data for 1,298 different 4-year colleges and universities. Then, we split these schools into 6 groups based on their student body’s median high-school GPA. The top 10% of colleges had a student body with a media GPA of 3.82, and so on.

      • Top 10% = 3.82+ GPA
      • Top 25% = 3.63+ GPA
      • Top 50% = 3.43+ GPA
      • Bottom 50% = 3.25%+ GPA
      • Bottom 25% = 3.05+ GPA
      • Bottom 10% = 3.05 and under

      What is a median GPA?

      The median is the “middle.” If a college’s students have a median high-school GPA of 3.43, then 50% of them had a higher GPA than this, and the other 50% had a lower GPA.

      Our findings are corroborated by a widely cited 2018 study released by College Board’s Michael Hurwitz and Jason Lee of the Institute of Higher Education, which determined that the average GPA among students who have taken the SAT was 3.38 in 2016.

      In this article, we will focus on schools with median GPAs in the bottom 10%. Thus, when we talk about low-GPA colleges, we mean colleges whose average students had a GPA of 3.05 in high school.

      » Also read: Are selective schools really better?

      Are there good colleges with low GPA requirements?

      For sure there are! (although your options would be better if you had a 3.5) But to answer this question properly, we first need to define “good colleges.”

      At Degreechoices, we take this to mean colleges that offer you good value for money – the average salaries they unlock, 10 years after you enroll, are high enough to compensate for their costs, so you don’t get bogged down in student loans. Our system rewards colleges that are very affordable, or, if they’re expensive, lead to sky-high salaries.

      To show you which colleges offer the best value for money, we have carefully devised a formula that uses cost, payback, and earnings data to assign each degree an Economic Score. The lower, the better. You can read more about how this works on our methodology page.

      Unsurprisingly, as a whole, schools with lower GPA requirements tend to offer worse value for money than the average for all colleges. Correspondingly, they have a higher economic score.

      Bottom 10% All colleges Open admissions colleges
      Earnings $43,145 $52,357 $43,480
      Economic score 6.01 3.40 5.05
      Average age 22.7 21.7 25.3
      Graduation rate 36.80% 50.80% 34.10%

      Interestingly, from an economic perspective, open admissions schools perform better than low-GPA colleges.

      Colleges with an open admissions policy allow any high school graduate to enroll, assuming there is available space; they don’t normally collect GPA data.

      These schools generally appeal to an older demographic that often has more experience in the workforce than traditional college students, which may explain why their graduates go on to earn more.

      The best colleges with low GPA requirements

      Even though low-GPA colleges, on average, underperform economically, there are a number of “gems.”

      These colleges not only accept students with a low high-school GPA, but they also offer a high-quality education that leads to strong economic outcomes after graduation.

      Top low GPA colleges Median GPA Economic score ES percentile
      CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice 2.95 0.46 top 5%
      Governors State University 2.77 1.86 top 10%
      University of Houston-Victoria 3.05 1.91 top 20%
      Indiana University-Northwest 3.03 2.07 top 20%
      Molloy College 3.00 2.32 top 20%
      Metropolitan State University 2.97 2.34 top 20%
      St. Thomas Aquinas College 3.00 2.46 top 20%
      University of Baltimore 2.89 2.67 top 30%
      University of Alaska Southeast 2.94 2.68 top 30%
      Iona College 3.00 2.72 top 30%
      Clayton State University 3.02 2.76 top 30%
      Mercy College 2.99 2.79 top 30%
      University of Advancing Technology 2.50 1.86 top 30%
      Dominican College of Blauvelt 3.03 2.87 top 30%
      Albright College 3.05 2.93 top 30%
      New Jersey City University 2.91 2.98 top 30%

      As the table above shows, 16 schools in the bottom 10% for median GPA rank in the top 30% of all schools when measuring the economic return they offer the average student. By our metrics, these are really the best low-GPA colleges.

      Open Admissions Colleges Economic score ES percentile
      Franklin University 1.13 top 10%
      College of Staten Island CUNY 1.16 top 10%
      Union Institute & University 1.28 top 10%
      Peirce College 1.48 top 10%
      Heritage University 1.67 top 10%
      Utah Valley University 1.78 top 10%
      University of Maryland Global Campus 1.89 top 10%
      Dalton State College 1.96 top 20%
      Weber State University 2.09 top 20%
      Park University 2.51 top 20%
      Oklahoma Panhandle State University 2.65 top 30%
      Bryan College-Dayton 2.85 top 30%
      Calumet College of Saint Joseph 2.97 top 30%

      Struggling with a low GPA?

      Check out this list that compiles the best colleges that accept 2.5 GPAs and the best open admission colleges.

      Read now arrow-right

      What to do if you have a low GPA

      Your GPA does not define you, and many schools make exceptions based on individual circumstances. Here are some hints on making the most out of the college application process if you have a low GPA.

      1. Focus on what makes you a unique applicant

      Every applicant has a story, and you know better than anyone else if your story might convince a school to accept you despite under-average grades.

      Your opportunity to tell admissions officers your story is the personal statement, aka the dreaded college essay. If you’re having trouble crafting a compelling tale of how you’ve overcome challenges and grown as a person, reach out to your guidance counselor or your English teacher for some coaching.

      2. Do amazing on the SAT/ACT

      We know, easier said than done. But if you perform exceptionally well on standardized tests, a sub-standard GPA might be overlooked. If you’re a “disorganized genius” who struggled in high school because you couldn’t keep up with deadlines and kept forgetting to turn in your homework, this could be your way to shine.

      If you’re really great at standardized tests, you could even consider studying independently and taking extra AP exams on your own. Those will even get you college credit.

      Start off at a community college

      In our opinion, a great option, and not simply one for students with low GPAs, is to consider doing your undergraduate years at community college. The large majority of community colleges have an open admissions policy and provide you a chance to demonstrate to top notch universities that you can do the work, even after ho-hum high school performance.

      A bit of planning allows you to transfer your general education requirements to different 4-year colleges in your state. Indeed, state universities often have transfer agreements with local community colleges – so you can finish up your last 2 years with the same degree that the students attending for 4 years receive.

      And of course, there is a financial advantage to going to community college first, as tuition and cost of housing is generally much lower.

      Final thoughts

      Not everyone gets off to a good start academically. But just because your GPA is “meh” doesn’t mean you can’t succeed after college. Just remember to choose a degree that won’t leave you drowning in toxic debt. Our list of the best low GPA colleges is a good place to start! 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.

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