Is C+ Enough for College?

Your high school grade can spell the difference between getting an acceptance letter and receiving a rejection letter. Being a C+ plus student, naturally, may leave you worrying about your chances of getting accepted into college.

C+ is equivalent to a 2.3 GPA. According to NCES, the national average high school GPA is 3.0, which means that a C+ is below average. Most selective colleges and universities accept students with 3.5 to 4.0 GPAs. C+ students have higher chances of getting accepted into less-selective institutions.

Just because you have a C+ grade doesn’t mean you should turn your back on earning a degree.

It’s true that your grade is not the highest on the face of the planet. However, a C+ is still a passing grade, and it’s enough to gain you admission into many colleges and universities.

The goal is knowing which schools you should apply to. It will also help a lot if you have an idea of making your application look solid.

Continue reading if your C+ grade is giving you sleepless nights. Below, you will come across just about everything you need to know about applying to college with a below-average high school grade.

Do Admissions Officers Consider GPA?

Admissions officers at colleges and universities consider the GPAs of applicants in the admissions process. The GPA is one of the hard factors, which are quantitative measurements used to screen applicants through the initial interview. A low GPA may lower a student’s chances of getting accepted.

When deciding, college admissions officers consider various factors. The different things they take into account can be categorized into hard factors and soft factors.

As mentioned above, your GPA is a hard factor. Simply put, a hard factor comes in the form of a number, such as your GPA.

So, in other words, it’s something that is measurable simply by looking at it. Having a C+ grade can make it very easy for admissions officers to come up with a decision, although they check out other parts of an application, too.

There are hard factors and there are soft factors. While hard factors are instantly measurable, soft factors are subjective, which means the admissions outcome can be influenced by an admission officer’s personal taste or opinion.

Here are the most common hard factors:

  • GPAs
  • SAT or ACT test scores
  • College preparatory course grades
  • Strength of curriculum
  • Class rank

The following are the most common soft factors:

  • Application essays
  • Recommendation letters
  • Extracurriculars
  • Demonstrated interest

Refrain from assuming that your C+ high school grade will keep you from getting accepted into the colleges and universities you apply to. Well, it’s true that it can keep you from being a student at a prestigious school.

But, in many instances, a C+ is enough to get you admitted into other institutions, including especially non-selective ones.

It’s all because of the fact that most schools have a holistic admissions policy.

This means that the admissions officers of an institution practicing it will consider not only your GPA but also your overall application.

So, in other words, you may still get an acceptance letter if your, say, extracurriculars demonstrate your passion and leadership skills or letters of recommendation highlight your qualities that the school is looking for exactly.

Different colleges and universities consider different factors when making admissions decisions. According to an MEK Review article, the following are the top 10 factors colleges deem as moderately to considerably important:

Overall grades91%
AP or IB class grades88%
SAT or ACT scores83%
Strength of curriculum81%
Counselor recommendations57%
Teacher recommendations54%
Application essay54%
Extracurricular activities39%
Demonstrated interest38%
Class rank37%

What Does a C+ Grade Mean?

First and foremost, C+ is a passing grade. It is equivalent to a 2.3 GPA and 77% to 79%. However, a C+ high school grade isn’t exactly what many colleges and universities, especially competitive ones, want in applying students. Still, for some institutions, a C+ grade is enough for admission.

Getting a C+ grade means that you are a below-average high school student with a good performance.

When applying to colleges and universities, students check out many things. Leading the list is the minimum GPA the schools they plan to send applications to require. As a general rule, the more selective or competitive the institution, the higher the minimum GPA it’s looking for in applying students.

To give you an idea, most Ivy League schools expect a GPA of 4.0 or higher. The rest of colleges and universities expect a minimum GPA of anywhere from 3.5 to 4.0.

Here’s a table of the average GPAs accepted into the Ivy Leagues:

Cornell University4.19
Columbia University4.13
Harvard University4.1
Brown University4.05
University of Pennsylvania4.04
Dartmouth College4.01
Princeton University3.9
Yale University3.9

And here’s a table showing the average GPAs accepted into prestigious, non-Ivy League schools:

University of Chicago4.48
Washington University in St. Louis4.15
Duke University4.13
Rice University4.12
Northwestern University4.1
California Institute of Technology4
Stanford University3.96
Johns Hopkins University3.92
Vanderbilt University3.83

As you can see, a C+ grade, which is equivalent to a 2.3 GPA, is nowhere near the average GPAs of students accepted into some of the most high-status colleges and universities in the US and perhaps across the globe, too.

However, it doesn’t mean that your grade will keep you from getting your hands on a degree.

If a C+ was enough to make you graduate from high school, then it’s also enough to gain you acceptance into higher education institutions.

But you should cross out of your list the names of the Ivy Leagues and Ivy League-level schools.

How Can C+ Students Improve Their Application?

Studying hard can help improve a C+ grade. However, studying hard can do very little to nothing to one’s grade during the junior or senior year of high school. To increase a C+ student’s chances of getting accepted into a college or university, having a strong application is a must.

If your goal is to earn a degree from one of the most prestigious schools in the nation, you should work hard the moment you enter high school to get a high GPA, preferably 4.0 or higher, by the time you graduate.

Getting a C in one of your classes during the freshman or sophomore year of high school is not enough to derail your dream of going to a selective college. This is most especially true if your grades in your other classes are mostly A’s — a C will bring down your GPA alright, but not by much.

When it’s time to apply to your favorite college or university, you can always explain to the admissions officers why you earned a C in a class during the first couple of years of high school.

However, it’s a completely different story if your grades are mostly B’s and C’s. It’s also an entirely different matter if you are a C+ student and already in the latter half of high school.

At this point, it’s very much unlikely for studying like you have never studied before to make a significant difference in your GPA.

Needless to say, there is nothing you can do to make your grade look desirable to elite colleges and universities.

But the good news is that there are steps that you may take to make up for your C+ grade.

While they won’t make you attractive to the admissions officers at Harvard and other prestigious schools, they can give you an application that’s strong enough for a lot of less- or non-selective institutions.

So, without further ado, here are some of the things you may do to improve your application:

Choose your extracurriculars wisely

Earlier while we were discussing the different things that college admissions officers consider in the admissions process, we talked about hard factors and soft factors.

Your extracurricular activities are soft factors that can help boost your application by leaps and bounds.

The goal is to convince the admissions officers at your preferred school that you will make for a wonderful addition to its campus during college as well as to the world after graduation.

The best way to increase your chances of receiving an acceptance letter is engaging in extracurriculars that hone and highlight the following skills:

  • Leadership
  • Team-playing
  • Communication
  • Social

It’s also a wonderful idea to partake in extracurricular activities that demonstrate your passion and interests.

Get a summer job or apply for internships

Your application will look more pleasing in the eyes of college admissions officers if you get a job.

One of the nicest things about being employed while in high school is that it lets you hit two birds with one stone. First, it allows you to make money, which you can use for college or something else — it doesn’t really matter. Second, a job counts as an extracurricular activity.

Being employed is a wonderful extracurricular because it helps develop self-confidence, improve time-management and problem-solving skills, instill the value of money, and broaden social or networking circles.

If you are willing to work for a non-profit organization or company without receiving any pay, except for a little allowance to offset some of your expenses, you may consider being an intern.

Internships are a great way to show the college or university you wish to apply to that you have some experience in your chosen degree program/field.

Related Article: Is a Job Considered An Extracurricular Activity?

Prove that the school is your first choice

In some instances, exhibiting enthusiasm to go to the school may increase your chances of getting accepted.

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), 16.1% of colleges and universities felt that demonstrated interest is of considerable importance in the admissions decisions.

On the other hand, 23.9% of institutions believed that demonstrated interest is of moderate importance.

If the school of your dreams considers a student’s demonstrated interest vital, then show you are invested in it. The good news is that you can demonstrate your interest in many ways, such as:

  • Applying early — it’s one reason why students who apply ED have higher admissions chances.
  • Visiting the campus before applying.
  • Viewing a virtual tour — it will count, too, if a physical tour is not possible.
  • Attending admissions events held in or near your city.
  • Becoming a member of the school’s Facebook group and partaking in the activities, too.
  • Getting in touch with the admissions counselor and introducing yourself.
  • Agreeing to subscribe to the school’s newsletter.
  • Pouring your heart out when writing the “Why this college?” essay.

Write your personal essay very well

The personal essay or statement is the fifth most important factor in the admissions process, based on a 2019 survey by NACAC. It is preceded by the GPA, college preparation course grades, strength of curriculum and test scores.

Because of this, it’s a must that you give enough thought to writing yours.

A handful of reasons exist why the majority of colleges and universities ask applicants to submit a personal essay.

First, it allows the admissions officers to learn things about a student that his or her high school transcript does not reveal.

Second, a personal essay serves as proof that a student has writing skills, which is necessary for succeeding in college.

Then there’s the fact that a personal essay gives you the opportunity to tell the school why you intend to go to it and why it should pick you over other applicants.

Coming up with a winning essay can take anywhere from 20 to 30 hours.

That’s because there are so many things you need to do — choosing an essay prompt, coming up with ideas, organizing your thoughts, making a draft, editing the draft, writing the essay, checking for misspelled words and grammatical errors, and so on and so forth.

Let the right people write your recommendation letters

It’s true that the letters of recommendation are just one small part of your application.

However, they serve a big role in the admissions process. That’s because they provide college admissions officers with valuable pieces of information about you from the perspective of professionals, such as counsellors and teachers.

Ensure that you approach your references at least a month before your earliest deadline to submit your letters. The earlier you ask, the better it is for you and your references, too.

Most colleges and universities ask applicants to submit two to three recommendation letters — one is from the school counselor and the rest are from the teachers.

It’s a good idea to approach those who know you well. This allows you to submit letters that accurately describe your personality, skills and accomplishments.

Besides a counsellor and teacher, the following people may also write a recommendation letter:

  • A coach
  • A mentor
  • An employer
  • A pastor, priest or rabbi
  • A neighbor
  • Any adult who wants to see you succeed

Take challenging AP or IB classes

A couple of reasons exist why it’s a wonderful idea to take AP or IB classes if your high school offers it.

First, it lets you earn credits, thus allowing you to finish college faster.

Second, it lets admissions officers see you’re ready for college, thus enabling you to enjoy increased chances of gaining admission into the school of your liking.

It can be enticing to take the easiest AP or IB class that you can take. Some examples of the easiest college preparatory courses you can take in high school are:

  • Physical education
  • Music appreciation
  • Personal finance
  • Introduction to psychology
  • Film studies

On the other hand, the following are some of the most challenging:

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics
  • Organic chemistry
  • Quantum physics
  • Anatomy and physiology

If your goal is to get accepted into a good college or university despite being a C+ student, consider going for challenging AP or IB classes.

Related Article: Does a C in an AP Class Look Bad?

Which Colleges Can C+ Students Apply To?

Since C+ is a passing grade, it lets students gain admission into many colleges and universities. However, it’s very much unlikely for C+ students to be noticed by competitive institutions. Some schools will accept applicants for as long as they have a high school diploma or an equivalent.

Getting a C+ in high school is not the end of the world for students who wish to have a college degree.

That’s because there are many colleges and universities they can apply to and may actually get accepted into. But steering clear of most selective schools is a good idea to avoid unnecessary frustrations.

Here are some higher education institutions where applicants with a 2.3 GPA can get admitted into:

  • Bowie State University
  • Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
  • Concordia University Ann Arbor
  • Fisher College
  • Fresno City College
  • LeMoyne-Owen College
  • Livingstone College
  • Miles College
  • Nassau Community College
  • Pensacola State College
  • Saint Augustine’s College
  • Shaw University
  • Suffolk County Community College
  • University of Advancing Technology
  • Voorhees College
  • Webber International University
  • Wiley College

Then there are also colleges and universities in the country with an open-admissions policy. This means that they accept any student with a high school diploma or a GED certificate.

Some open admissions colleges are:

  • Arlington Baptist College
  • Baker College
  • Boise Bible College
  • Boston Architectural College
  • City University of Seattle
  • Dixie State College
  • Harris-Stowe State University
  • Heritage Christian University
  • Lewis-Clark State College
  • Life Pacific College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Missouri Western State University
  • New Mexico Highlands University
  • Northwestern Polytechnic University
  • Oklahoma Panhandle State University
  • University of the Potomac
  • Wayne State College

Tip 1. The above-mentioned college list is for information purpose only. We do not suggest applying only to colleges from the list. You definitely can apply to highly selective colleges, but make sure to add some safe choices as a backup as well.

Tip 2. If you are a very good athlete, then your chances to be accepted increase enormously. I remember when I talked to the tour guide form Harvard, I found out that he was accepted into the University of Alabama and Harvard as a recruited athlete. He mentioned that he wasn’t a straight A student but played in the college football team.

Related Article: Getting Into Harvard With a 3.0 GPA

Just Before You Apply to College

Because it’s a passing grade, a C+ makes you eligible to go to college and earn a degree.

It’s true that C+ GPA average reduces chances of getting into Ivy League schools and other elite institutions. However, C+ is not too bad and there are many colleges and universities that accept those with GPAs that are below the national average of 3.0.

Above, we discussed things such as improving your application and which schools you may apply to.

The bottom line is that a C+ high school grade should not keep you from going to college. By making smart choices, you can be on your way to getting your hands on a college degree and landing a good job after.

Read Next: Is It Bad to Fail the SAT?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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