It can be difficult to improve your GPA quickly, especially if you’re in the latter half of high school already. With your previous grades working against you, you’ll have to put in even more effort to overcome lower averages.
However, there are some measures you can take to have a better chance of raising your GPA quickly and effectively. In this article, I’ll give you different strategies that may help you raise your GPA even if you don’t have much time left in high school.
How Hard Will It Be to Raise Your GPA?
If you’re feeling a sense of urgency about raising your GPA before college admissions, it’s important to understand how difficult it will be to make changes based on how far along in high school you are.
If You're a Freshman:
You've most likely only completed one semester of high school so far, so there's plenty of time (five semesters!) left for you to raise your GPA. The majority of your classes are still ahead of you. If you make wise changes to your study habits now, you shouldn't have a problem improving them. It's important to take action as soon as possible if your GPA is especially low so that you don't get stuck trying to climb out of a much deeper hole your sophomore or junior year.
If You’re a Sophomore:
At this point, you’ve completed two or three semesters of high school and have three or four more to go before you apply to college. This means that at least half of the grades that will make up your final GPA for college are still ahead of you, so you have a pretty strong chance of making improvements. If your GPA is currently, say, a 2.7, by putting in more effort over the course of the next year or so you can most likely raise it above a 3.0.
If You’re a Junior:
You’ve completed four or five semesters of high school now and have one or two semesters left to go before you send out college applications. Even if you’re still in the beginning of junior year, your grades this year will only comprise a third of your cumulative GPA. You will have to improve drastically in order to make a positive impact on your GPA before you apply to college. You may still be able to make small changes, but a major increase in your GPA is likely to be out of reach. You might decide to focus on standardized test scores over GPA at this point if you’re nearing the end of your junior year.
If You’re a Senior:
You will already be starting the college application process at this point, so you can’t improve your GPA before you send in materials to schools. The only thing you can do is try to improve your standardized test scores. Raising your scores is your best bet for getting accepted into a selective college despite a GPA that’s on the lower side. You should be able to take the SAT as late as January and the ACT as late as February if you're looking to submit your scores along with regular decision applications.
High School Musical 3: It's Senior Year and We Were So Busy Believing in Ourselves That We Forgot to Take Standardized Tests
Strategies on How to Raise GPA, FastHere are some measures you might take to quickly raise your GPA before you apply to college. Keep in mind that if you’re a junior or senior, it may be too late to implement these strategies and make a strong impact on your GPA. If that’s the situation you’re in, you should focus on the final strategy listed here, improving your standardized test scores, to get the most out of your efforts before college applications are due.
Strategy 1: Take Less Difficult Classes
This isn’t something I would normally advocate, but if your GPA is really suffering because of a low grade in a high-level class, it may be time to cut your losses. It can help both your GPA and mental health. You may be able to get a significantly better grade in a lower-level class very quickly, thus raising your GPA much faster than if you continued to struggle in a difficult course.
For example, if you’re getting a C in Honors Calculus, it will require a lot of effort to improve that grade, and the change in your GPA will be minor or nonexistent. If you decided to drop down to a lower-level math class, you might be familiar with some of the concepts since you already experienced a more fast-paced class, and you could get a much higher grade fairly easily. If your school uses weighted GPAs, a C in a high-level class might translate to a 3.0. If you drop down to a low-level class and start getting As, those grades will translate to a 4.0. That’s a big difference in a short period of time!
Strategy 2: Take More Classes
This is a way to raise your GPA quickly that some people don’t really think about because it seems somewhat counterintuitive. Why would you take more classes if you’re struggling? The thing is, it’s not just core classes that make up your GPA. Electives also play into GPA. If you have a free period right now, you might consider taking an elective that you find interesting to fill up the space and raise your GPA.
Many of these classes won’t present a big challenge, and they can be a fun break from your regular classes where you won't have to put in as much effort to get good grades. This is a strategy to be used with caution. I’m not trying to say “just go for the easy A and you’ll be fine.” Keep in mind that this may be a viable strategy to raise your GPA fast, but it’s not necessarily a good way to ensure that you’ll get accepted to a great college.
Colleges will be able to see your grades in specific classes and exactly how you ended up with your current GPA. Taking an easy elective will raise your GPA quickly, but it's kind of like putting a band-aid on a stab wound. It absolutely doesn’t mean you should stop trying to raise your grades in core classes. To make really meaningful changes in your chances at college admission, you will need to address deeper issues with grades in the main subject areas.
Taking an easy class and seeing a quick positive change in your GPA may put you in a better mindset to tackle more daunting problems that you face in your core classes. You can create a positive mental feedback loop that will help you to keep up the motivation to work hard in your classes even if an A in “Foods 1” or something isn’t going to persuade selective colleges to admit you.
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This is a pluot, a weird fruit that's a cross between a plum and an apricot. They probably won't even tell you about it in Foods 1. This is very advanced material, probably at least Foods 4 (you can thank me later).
Strategy 3: Work on Doing Better in Weighted GPA Classes
If your school uses weighted GPA and you’re in some AP or Honors classes where less than perfect grades will translate into impressive GPAs, you should focus your efforts on raising your grades in those classes. On weighted GPA scales, GPAs often go up to a 5.0 rather than a 4.0 to account for more difficult classes. This means that a B in an Honors class translates to a 4.0, and an A translates into a 5.0.
The potential for your grades to lead to a very high GPA is greater in these classes, so they have a better chance at raising your overall GPA. It makes sense to devote a significant chunk of your energy to these classes because they naturally require more time and effort if you hope to get good grades. If you’re choosing to avoid the work in favor of easier assignments, that might be a big part of your problem.
It’s also more impressive to colleges if you can manage to improve your grades in high-level classes. Raising your grades in a lower level class the same amount might give you the same GPA, but it won’t necessarily look as good to admissions officers. You should channel the majority of your energy into the most challenging courses.
Strategy 4: Focus on Standardized Test Scores
Technically, this isn’t a strategy for raising your GPA. However, if it’s too late to raise your GPA before you apply to college, improving standardized test scores is your best bet for stronger admissions chances. For students headed into their senior year with a less than stellar GPA, improving standardized test scores can make a huge impact on how they fare in the college application process.
With, say, a 400 point improvement in your SAT scores, you will have a chance at getting into literally hundreds more colleges. This isn't an easy feat, but it's certainly achievable with a few months of concentrated studying. To use an example, let's say you're interested in attending University of Texas at Austin and have a 2.9 GPA and an 1800 SAT score. If you managed to raise your score from an 1800 to a 2200, you would have a 20% chance of admission with the higher score as opposed to a 5% chance with the lower score. And that's with no change at all in your GPA!
Sometimes the most practical thing to do is to focus on scores rather than grades, especially if you’re already in your second semester of junior year. You can retake the SAT and ACT up until the winter of your senior year if you’re applying to college regular decision.
Who doesn't want to spend another Saturday morning in a hot room full of stressed people?
The fact is that GPAs don’t lend themselves to quick solutions. If you’re a junior or senior, you may not be able to do much to improve your GPA before you start the admissions process. If this is the case, try to focus on improving your standardized test scores to maximize your chances at getting into selective colleges.
Other measures you might take to improve your GPA if you’re still a sophomore or early in your junior year include dropping down a level in your classes, taking additional courses where you might be able to get better grades, and focusing your attention on your most difficult classes. Raising your grades is very hard work, but if you can get yourself into better habits and use some of the quick fixes here, you may be able to see some improvement before you apply to college.
Now that we've figured out the answer to "how do I raise my GPA fast," you may be interested in learning how your GPA will be perceived in the admissions process. Read this article to find out whether colleges use weighted or unweighted GPA in making their decisions.
Worried about getting into college with a low GPA? Here's a list of colleges with low GPA requirements to give you some potential options.
Are you just not sure if your GPA is considered good enough for your goals? Learn more about what might constitute a good or bad GPA for your circumstances.
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
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Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.