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Will a C- and other C's affect my chances of getting into an Ivy League such as Princeton?


I just checked my transcript and saw that I have 3 C's on my transcript. I'm an A- student but struggled within the past two years due to depression. I got one C my freshman year and 2 sophomore year. My gpa isn't the best but pretty good, I have a 3.6 weighted. I got a C- freshman year in English but the following year, sophomore year, I finished the year with a 90. However, I've raised up my English grade throughout the year and I'm going to be in an English honors class junior year! Sophomore year I got 2 C's on Spanish and Geometry. But, I raised up both grades and I will be going into Algebra 2 honors and AP Spanish and Literature my junior year. I've improved. Will this impress the Ivy League admissions office or will it still affect my chances of getting into Princeton University? Should I still apply? If not, how can I improve my chances of getting in?


4 answers

answered on[edited]
Accepted answer

Hi! I hope you saw my comments before but I’ll put them here just in case. First of all good on you for working jobs to support yourself/your family, admittedly I don’t have the same financial burden but I am really proud of you and that is inspiring. I agree that your gpa is very low but here is nothing you can do now other than improve, and take as many high level classes as you can. good job for digging yourself out of your mental illness by getting help or helping yourself- that is so difficult and I know firsthand it will always be a struggle. To answer your question, no, don’t pick up a sport your junior year unless you find that it helps you cope w your depression. it will take time away from what little free time you have (track is a HUGE time commitment) and sports are not impressive to admissions officers unless you have a national title or something or if you’re going to college specifically to become a recruited athlete.

Some other things to keep in mind are that colleges will look at your unweighted gpa converted onto a 4.0 scale, so you should consider that to be your GPA, and they will also look at your transcript. The harsh reality is that if you only take one or two out of 9 ap classes your school offers and you have an unweighted GPA below like a 3.8 you won’t be considered for Princeton, where you really need to take almost every AP class you can and you need to have all As and A+ with the occasional B or B+. To get up to those levels try to work your best to take harder honors and AP classes and improve your GPA by doing your absolute best junior and senior year. If your academics are lacking also put some effort into getting a high level SAT or ACT score which can boost your admissions.

IT might be in your best interest to look at some other competitive colleges that aren’t in the Ivy tier since they are so highly selective and will require you to be top 10% of your high school. Good luck and I hope this helped you and wasn’t too harsh :,)

Thank you for this amazing response!! I’m a realistic person so I completely understand everything about gpa and how competitive it is. However, I have hope. If I do really good junior year, I’ll apply. If not, I’ll just deal with it plus there are many amazing schools!!! But, I’ll definitely work really hard and continue my jobs to help my family :)
that is such a mature and hopeful response, that’s great! i wish you the best of luck going forward!
Thank you so much!! Also one more thing, the only normal class I’m taking is History 2A, since I didn’t pass the entrance exam. Do you think I should email the supervisor and ask if there are any spots left even though I failed the exam or is that too much? :(
you definitely can but i doubt they will let you in if you failed the entrance exam. you can request a make up though, i’d do it soon like this week if possible. usually your placement has to be determined before the end of the school year
What’s a makeup? Like retake? I’m not sure if they do that especially since everything is online rn 😔
Yeah, that’s what i meant. It’s ok if you didn’t make the cutoff this year, just try your best for next year. Ask if you could re take the exam online (maybe the proctor/administrator could zoom w you so they can see you take the test and make sure you don’t cheat, idk)
That’s really smart, I’ll take it into consideration!! I’ll ask hopefully they have some spots left :(
yeah, good luck!
thank you!!!
Quick Update! I just sent an email to the supervisor from the history department ;)
good job!! something i didn’t think about when i wrote my answer is that academics aren’t the only component. you seem like someone who has a very dynamic and interesting personality and i think you have quite the story to tell in an essay w your working experience, being a poc, and with your mental health struggles... it’ll be very dynamic and enthralling essay. i was a bit narrow minded in grades grades grades before w my answer.i think you should still apply to princeton, nothing’s impossible
Awww thank you so much!! Yesterday, I saw my transcript and lost hope but thanks to you I feel positive and hopeful!! It really made me more ambitious :) Also any advice on college essays?? 😊
I’m so glad that it made you more hopeful!! seeing your story also helped me become a little less judgemental of people just based on their appearance/grades, cause even though that forms most of my self-worth it’s not the same for everyone. i don’t have much advice on essays right now, but definitely weave your life’s story into one. talk about struggle and how it helped you change your life view and how you learned from it.
That's great, I'm glad my story helped you change your perspectives. But, you learn something new everyday :) and will do, thank you so much!! I'll let you know if the supervisor answers haha ;)
of course, and good luck!!
Thank you!!
Great news!!! She responded!! Unfortunately, I can’t retake the test but she said she appreciates my honesty and determination and that if any spots open up, she’ll notify me :)
that’s great!!
Yess! But, even though I doubt someone would give up their spot.. I'll think positively ;)
answered on

Never say never, If you take hard classes junior year and really work to get all A's than your GPA should boost significantly and show growth to colleges. There is also space on applications to explain the reason why you got bad grades so you can use that to your advantage. Despite this your GPA will probably still be on the slightly lower end compared to other applicants, however if you do really really well on the ACT ,I would say 34 or above, it would show that you are academically competent compared to others because grades to colleges are largely a reflection of how well you will do in their school and be able to handle the course work, and if you do well on the ACT it will show that despite your GPA you still have the scores and brains to be a competitive applicant. Also are you a minority student, first generation, or low income ? You don't have to answer that to me if you don't want to but colleges also take those things into consideration and you having a diverse background or life struggles will make admission officers more inclined to look past a few bad grades in favor of looking at the context of your life.

Thank you for this well detailed response!! And nope I’m not first generation but I’m low income. During the time I got those C’s, I wasn’t mentally stable and I was going through depression. I would just lack on some quizzes. I’ve gone through many life struggles as well. I’m hispanic and my first language was Spanish, I’ve been striving through everything. However, I don’t know how to explain everything on my college essay. My school offers 9 AP classes. I’m taking one my junior year :(
Okay your background works in your favor because you have legitimate reasons why you got the grades you did. If you want I can give you more personalized help with how to present yourself and frame your struggles, but one key thing is to show how you OVERCAME. If you show to colleges that Despite your hardships you rose to the occasion and end up doing well that will speak volumes to your character. Also Is it possible for you to take more AP, College, or honors classes ?
Also 9 is not that many and colleges look at the context of your school not necessarily everyone else who applies. For example, my school offers 20 plus AP's and I have taken over half. But they understand that I have more access to classes compared to your school so it isn't too much of a disadvantage, if that makes sense. Also idk if taking Spanish will help you in colleges eyes because you already speak it, maybe add other AP's like English ? I can give you more recommendations if you want
Yes, please give me more recommendations that would be amazing!! I would love your help! Also, in order to be in honors classes and AP classes we need to take an entrance exam. I've failed a few such as US History 2H and AP US History. For next year, my junior year, I'll be taking 3 honors classes and 1 AP. In total, I've taken one honors class my sophomore year and none freshman since no one notified me that 'honors' classes were a thing. Not all of us in my school get the opportunity ;(
Here's my email:, so I can help you better and we can talk more in depth about your grades and class selection:)
thank you so much!! I'll email you ;)
answered on

To be honest, a 3.6 weighted is extremely low for Princeton. That being said, it’s not impossible. Try to get straight A’s for the rest of high school (or as close to all A’s as possible), and take rigorous courses. The fact that you’re taking AP Spanish is very good. Also remember, junior year is the most important year for grades. Another thing to keep in mind is that colleges like it when you’re grades are on an upward trend, and improve each year. Make sure to write about how you have improved, and keep it positive. You for sure still have a chance at Princeton, but it might be very difficult. Hope this helps!

Thank you so much for being honest. I know my gpa is low but I'll work hard next year! I'll make sure to keep it positive. By the way, I don't do sports but I have 3 jobs. One as a DJ light assistant, tutor, and sales associate. Will it increase my chances or is it better to do sports?
It doesn’t really matter what the specific activity is, more if you show hard work, dedication, and leadership. So, having jobs that you work hard on, for a large part of high school, looks just as good as playing sports.
Thank you!! I’ve been thinking about doing track but there are people who I don’t get along with and it’s time consuming. Do you think I should still do it or stick to my jobs?
first of all good on you for working jobs to support yourself/your family, admittedly i don’t have the same financial burden but i am really proud of you and that is inspiring. i agree that your gpa is very low but here is nothing you can do now other than improve, and take as many high level classes as you can. good job for digging yourself out of your mental illness by getting help or helping yourself- that is so difficult and i know firsthand it will always be a struggle. [1/2]
[2/2] to answer your question, no, don’t pick up a sport your junior year unless you find that it helps you cope w your depression. it will take time away from what little free time you have (track is a HUGE time commitment) and sports are not impressive to admissions officers unless you have a national title or something or if you’re going to college specifically to become a recruited athlete
Thank you so much for your kind words, it seriously mean a lot to me! Instead of doing track, I want to become an officer for student council. I applied so hopefully I get it :) As for difficult classes, my school offers a couple of honor classes and only 9 AP classes specially for seniors. However, I’m taking 3 honors classes and AP Spanish next year (my junior year)!! I’ve only taken 1 honors class in my sophomore year and 0 in freshman year due to my depression but I’ve been better now 😊
that’s good, i’m so glad to hear that!
Thank you so much for your advice and hopeful response!! :)
answered on

Sorry to hear about your struggle with depression. It's wonderful that you have high aspirations. And you should be proud of yourself for trying so hard and taking care of your family at the same time.

The comments below are very thoughtful and realistic so I will not repeat what has been said. Given your depression issues you may reconsider the Ivies since they are so competitive. They can be a very hard place to be, and you could be very unhappy if you do get in. The competition is very considerable.

Many of my son's friends have applied and been rejected. These kids had stellar grades and scores. For example: one girl had a 3.96 unweighted GPA with 13 AP classes and a 1580 her SAT. She was lacking in other areas such as extra-curriculars and had no hooks. She was rejected form every Ivy League school she applied to including Princeton! She is now happily at Wash U.

Do you have a counselor at school who can help you explore colleges? They may be able to help you think about the right fit schools for you. You will find a great school. Good luck!

You're right, thank you so much!! I definitely understand how you have to be academically achieved and lucky. I'm so happy for the girl and that she is happy at a great school. For now, I have hope but sometimes things don't work out. Thank you for your advice and I'll definitely look into many other great colleges ;)
What are you interested in studying? That can inform the type of school that may be right for you?
Why do you want to try for the Ivies so badly? There are so many great schools.
Each application is time consuming and expensive. I'm sure your counselors can help you.
I'm interested in studying computer science! I want to try ivies because I grew up in a small neighborhood where teachers didn't put a lot of effort into teaching their classes. I want to attend a school that has great academic programs and professors. Especially, a campus where everyone is ambitious. But, yes there are many great schools!! I'll be 100% to look into them, they are many opportunities in our world!
Computer science is a great field. There are many places to study this topic. Do you have experience programming? It's very hard to get into a top school for computer science currently, probably harder than anything else, it's very saturated. Applying to Princeton in computer science would be one of the most difficult applications you could submit anywhere. Are you getting advice? You should consider your state flagship university, most have great CS programs and graduates get jobs!!!
I'm aware, it's very risky but yes! I've been getting advice and I'm from NYC/NJ so I'll definitely apply to many schools near me ;) I'm still kinda indecisive because I love science especially chemistry. I'm in between computer science and pre-med track!
Nice. You have a lot of great local options: Rutgers, SUNY, and NYU. My son is applying to NYU. Good luck with all your future endeavors.
Thank you so much!! I’ll definitely apply to Rutgers and maybe NYU!! Good luck to your son, I hope he gets in :)