Let’s be clear about this from the start. The majority of universities in the United States are not reserved only for high school valedictorians. There are thousands of universities willing to accept students with lower GPA’s and lower scores (if any).
If there is any college must have for the applicant with the low GPA, it is courage. It doesn’t matter who you are or how your GPA came to be lower than you expected, it is important that you take responsibility and become the person who advocates for yourself. If you explain your situation to most universities, approaching them with honesty and thoughtfulness, you might be surprised how well you’ll be received. Courage is not just a college must have for admission, it is a characteristic we all need to succeed. I have written this before - the greatest advocate that an applicant can have is his/herself. This is just simple human psychology. An admission officer will much prefer to speak with the student as opposed to the parent or the counselor. We all must learn to speak for ourselves and there is no better time to begin than during the most critical process of acceptance we have in our young lives: college admission.
The college must haves for each admission office vary. Some have hard and fast requirements and others, a more loose interpretation of those must haves: GPA minimums; SAT/ACT scores; prerequisites; teacher recommendations, etc … Each applicant must have the confidence (i.e. courage) to believe they deserve that admission offer. When it comes down to how and where to apply, start somewhere in the middle of your list of possible schools, go online, get the phone number for the admission office and dial. You will never have the opportunity to become a better student if you cannot recognize those mistakes you have made in the past and approach them in a fashion that shows you have indeed learned from them.
Realize that the essential college admission factors vary from one school to the next, but there is never going to be a university that is too busy or too intolerant to speak with a student when he or she calls with a few questions or concerns. And if I’m wrong, let me know and I’ll write my next article about that university and their poor decision to not take the time to listen to their most valuable customer. Good luck to you!