Is It Possible to Start Over in College?

The average high school GPA is 3.0. On the other hand, the average college GPA is 3.1, which is equivalent to a B average. Academic experts confirm that college students should typically maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher to remain eligible for federal financial aid and graduate, too.

A GPA lower than that could lead to catastrophic results.

Starting over in college is possible via the Fresh Start Policy. The name may slightly vary from one institution to the next, but the fact remains that it allows students to have the opportunity to improve their GPAs. Transferring to a different school is another way to start over again in college.

Having terrible grades should not put your dream of earning a college degree and landing a good job after graduation to an end. That’s because many institutions for higher education allow students with bad GPAs to start from scratch.

Read on if you fear that potential employers won’t take your transcript seriously because of the low numbers on it.

Below, we will talk about the steps you may take, whether your college grades are very low or you flunked out. By the time you get to the end of this article, you will realize that a low GPA is not the end of the world.

Does Your GPA Start Over in College?

A student’s GPA starts over in the first semester at his or her new school. So, in other words, the GPA starts over each time the student transfers to a new college or university. In some instances, the GPA may start over again at the same school if a Fresh Start Policy is available and applicable.

There are many reasons why college students get horrible grades. One of them is attending the wrong institution, which often stems from a lack of research during the college application phase in high school.

If you feel that you can blame stepping foot on the wrong campus for your poor academic performance, transferring to a different college or university is something that you may do. It may not be the simplest or most cost-efficient solution. However, it will allow you to attend a school that is the perfect fit for you.

Worry not that your bad GPA from your previous school will continue to haunt you in your new school.

It’s true that your GPA will be used in the admissions process at the institution you wish to apply to. It’s for this reason why your transcript is one of the requirements.

Some colleges and universities require applicants to have GPAs ranging anywhere from 2.5 to 3.0 — certain programs require higher GPAs.

Because the admissions process for freshmen students and transfer students are not the same, with the admissions process for the latter being slightly more difficult, it’s no wonder why, according to a report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NCAC), the average admission rate for transferees is just 62%.

But the good news is that your GPA will start from zero the minute you get admitted into a new school. You can think of it as a fresh start, giving you peace of mind that your bad grades will be all in the past.

However, it doesn’t mean that you will never see them ever again.

As soon as you get your hands on your transcript after graduation, you will come across your awful grades from your previous school one more time.

Needless to say, potential employers who will request a copy of your college transcript will get to see the grades you have long tried to stop thinking about, although they will also see your new GPA.

When is the Best Time to Transfer to Another College?

As a general rule, a student should apply to another college or university at the start of the last full semester at his or her current school. So, in other words, the best time to apply to a different institution is one semester in advance, unless the new school has a rolling admissions policy.

Moving from one institution to the other in the middle of the semester is possible. However, it’s not recommended. That’s because it can result in a significant loss in tuition and fees.

It can lead to a loss of credit, too, although that should not be an issue if your goal is to have a fresh start.

Just because you can transfer to another institution doesn’t mean right away that you can do so without any trouble. Applying to a different school is just like applying to a college or university for the first time. However, as mentioned earlier, the admissions process is a little different.

There are some institutions for higher education that are easier to transfer to. To keep the stress and anxiety related to switching schools to a minimum, it’s a good idea to apply to a transfer-friendly school. The higher the transfer acceptance rate, the better your chances of gaining admission into it.

Below are some of the most transfer-friendly colleges and universities and their transfer acceptance rates:

UNIVERSITYTRANSFER ACCEPTANCE RATE
University of Maryland Global Campus99%
University of Houston87%
Texas State University77%
Florida International University76%
University of Texas at Arlington69%
California State University, Sacramento67%
San Jose State University67%
San Francisco State University66%
University of North Texas64%
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona59%
University of Central Florida59%
University of South Florida59%
California State University, Northridge55%
University of California, Davis55%
California State University, Los Angeles47%
California State University, Fullerton40%
California State University, Long Beach33%
Liberty University30%
San Diego State University23%
University of California, Los Angeles22%

Just because a college or university is transfer-friendly doesn’t mean that you should transfer to it.

Keep in mind that your reason for transferring is to have the opportunity to get better grades, which you have trouble earning at your current school because you feel you don’t fit in it.

Needless to say, it’s not just the transfer acceptance rate you should take into account but other aspects, too, such as the:

  • Campus culture
  • Location
  • Academics
  • Cost

Related Article: Do You Need SAT to Transfer From Community College?

Can You Start Over as a Freshman in College?

Someone who has already attended college cannot start over as a freshman college student. This is true even if the student has gone to college for just one semester or less. So, in other words, only a student who is applying to college directly from high school can be considered as a freshman.

If you are unhappy with your grades at your current institution and both time and money are not a problem, starting over again as a college freshman may sound like a smart solution.

After all, you just want to have the best possible transcript for the best possible job after graduation.

Someone who has already gone to a two-year or four-year institution, unfortunately, cannot apply to a college as a freshman.

The individual will always be categorized as a transfer student no matter to which school he or she applies. It doesn’t matter if the transfer is done at the end of the very first semester in college or right in the middle of it.

As long as you have attended some kind of higher education institution after graduating from high school, you will be considered a transfer student when you apply to another college.

More often than not, the admissions process for transferees is different from the admissions process for incoming freshmen students.

The admissions criteria used in the admissions decisions are different and, in many instances, the admissions officers involved in the admissions decisions are a different set of people, too.

Can You Start Over in College Without Transferring?

It’s possible for a student to start over in college without moving to another institution. This is provided that his or her current school offers the Fresh Start Policy. Also, the student should meet the different requirements, which may vary slightly from school to school, to be eligible for it.

You can always choose to transfer to a different college if you are unhappy with the one you are attending right now, which is why you cannot seem to get good grades.

But if the problem is your chosen program or your current life situation or mindset and not necessarily the school, there is no need to switch colleges just to start from scratch.

What you need to do, if such is the case, is take advantage of what’s referred to as the Fresh Start Policy.

As the name suggests, this policy allows you to have the opportunity to begin a new academic life, leaving behind the past that’s filled with terrible grades.

Through this, you can improve your course grades, thus resulting in a better GPA. That’s because the grades from your previous coursework will be excluded from the GPA calculation.

But before you rush to your school’s Registration and Records Office to get your hands on the necessary form, it’s important to note that not all colleges and universities offer the Fresh Start Policy. It’s very rare for you to come across a selective school that allows its students with bad grades to have a fresh start.

The Fresh Start Policy is called by different schools differently, such as:

  • Fresh Start Program
  • Academic Fresh Start
  • Academic Forgiveness Policy
  • Academic Amnesty

No matter what it’s called, the fact remains that the Fresh Start Policy enables you to get rid of grades you are not so proud of, thus making it possible for you to get better ones, which is necessary for having a GPA high enough for you to win the trust and confidence of a potential employer.

However, please take note that even though those old college grades will no longer be used in calculating your new GPA, they will still appear on your transcript. A notation of the Fresh Start Policy will be included on it.

Also, bear in mind that just because you are unhappy with your grades doesn’t mean right away you can enjoy the Fresh Start Policy. There are certain requirements to meet before the school you are attending lets you take advantage of this some sort of academic pardon.

What are the Fresh Start Policy Eligibility Requirements?

Different colleges and universities have different eligibility requirements for their Fresh Start Policy. However, the majority of them require interested students to have GPAs lower than the requirement. Schools also require applicants to be absent academically for a certain number of years.

So, you just learned that the institution you are attending has a Fresh Start Policy, which is a great thing because you could work on a better GPA without the need to pack your bags and transfer to another school.

Alas, just because you could benefit from a fresh start doesn’t mean you are eligible for the Fresh Start Policy.

Up to 76% of college students confess that they either often or always worry about the possibility of not doing well in school. If you are one of them, traveling back in time to enroll in a better institution, declare a more suitable major and study harder could make earning a degree go without a hitch.

The good news is that even though no time machine (that we know of) exists, there is always the Fresh Start Policy that many colleges and universities, including especially community colleges and public institutions, offer.

As mentioned earlier, the eligibility requirements for the Fresh Start Policy tend to vary from one school to the other. So, in other words, make sure that you inquire about the things to meet for you to be able to take advantage of it.

The initial step anyone who would like to give the Fresh Start Policy a try should take is meeting with an academic advisor.

Here’s is an example of the requirements to be eligible for the Fresh Start Policy:

  • A completed Fresh Start Policy petition/form.
  • The signature of the academic advisor.
  • Academic absence for two or more consecutive years.
  • A GPA of below 2.0.

Since the things you need to meet to be eligible for the Fresh Start Policy seem trouble-free, it can be tempting to apply. But before you do, take note that:

  • The Fresh Start Policy can be applied to your academic record only once. This means that you cannot take advantage of this policy more than once in your academic life.
  • Once started, you cannot revoke the Fresh Start Policy. It will apply until you complete your program and graduate from college. Similarly, you cannot gain back your coursework grades beforehand.
  • All coursework after the Fresh Start Academic policy takes effect will be included in the determination of financial aid eligibility. No part of the transcript can be excluded.

What Can You Do If You Fail Only One Course?

Most colleges and universities will allow students who failed a course to repeat it. The initial course, as well as the failing grade obtained, will still appear on the transcript. However, it’s the new grade obtained for the same course that will be counted into one’s GPA, not the old one.

Getting a lot of bad grades should not keep you from doing your best to earn a college degree. Similarly, getting one failing grade should not stop you from being a degree holder.

That’s because you can always take the same course all over again and have a fresh start.

It’s true that your transcript will reveal the fact that you took that course at an earlier time and got a terrible grade.

But the good news is that your previous grade will no longer be included in the computation of your GPA. Since what will be considered is your new grade for the same course, you have the opportunity to increase your GPA.

However, failing a course in college could put your financial aid in jeopardy. But if retaking the course will allow you to keep your GPA from falling below the minimum requirement, then it’s likely that you are out of the woods.

Getting a failing grade, in most instances, will not lead to you being asked by the institution to leave. However, it can put you on academic probation.

Simply put, it is a trial period in which a student is given a set time period to improve his or her grade/s. Academic probation is also sometimes given to students who need to improve their behavior.

If you fail to show improvements during your period of academic probation, your school may show you the door.

Just Before You Try to Start Over in College

Bad grades can keep you from graduating from college or landing the job of your dreams. The good news is that you can put them behind you, thus allowing you to focus on replacing them with better ones.

Above, we talked about a couple of steps on how to get a fresh start in college.

You can move to a different institution and start all over again if you feel that the school you are currently enrolled in is the one that’s keeping you from getting good grades. Or you can apply for the Fresh Start Policy to ditch your old grades and earn new ones for a better GPA when you graduate.

No matter your choice, make sure that it’s the right one for you. But the sooner that you spring into action, the quicker you can start from scratch and aim for an impressive college transcript.


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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