How Much Damage Do Bad Grades Do?


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Grades matter when it comes to meeting future education goals, but goals and weighted GPAs are very different from one student to the next. For most students, the two biggest factors when it comes to grades are potential for scholarship awards and potential for college acceptance.

Middle School Grades 

Frankly, the most important goal for middle school students is to learn. Students must establish a solid foundation in the middle grades to be successful in high school. But don't stress: there is some good news here if you've already earned bad grades in middle school.

Sometimes students can learn what they need to learn in middle school, but still, receive a bad report card because of poor attendance from illness or because of a bad experience.

If your grades are bad in middle school, it probably won't hurt your chances of getting into your college of choice, or even receiving scholarship offers for college, as long as you have learned what you need to learn for high school! And if you haven't learned what you need to in class, you can review on your own.

A possible exception to this is receiving a bad grade in an honors class (usually in eighth grade) that counts as high school credit. The bad grade may be included in your high school GPA.

Even so, you can recover from this, and most colleges will consider the situation and/or allow you to explain.

High School Grades

High school grades do matter when it comes to earning scholarships for college and being accepted into your college of choice. If your dreams are lofty and you have your heart set on one specific college, then you must take your grades seriously. You should avoid grade problems ahead of time if you become ill and have to miss class, or if you have a serious situation in your life that might impact your grades. You can sometimes avoid bad grades by simply communicating with your teacher.

But just for the record, it is usually not a good idea to pin your hopes and dreams on a single college. This can cause stress and pressure, and that can do even more harm.

In the event that you are already stuck with a bad grade point average in high school and you really want to go to college — you don't have to despair, really. You just have to be flexible about the type of college you are willing to attend, and you may have to prepare to pay your way through college with your family funds or through financial aid.

Public colleges may have a rigid minimum GPA requirement, and they may not have the flexibility to consider each situation individually. If you find that you do not meet a minimum GPA requirement for universities in your state, you may have a few options.

Many universities have set up "alternative paths" or plans for students who don't meet minimum entrance requirements. This type of program might involve an intense, challenging (and expensive) summer program that students must complete for fall acceptance, or it might involve a "transfer" program that requires that students start at a local community college and earn enough credits to allow them to transfer into the university of choice.

College Grades

Once students make it to college, they might think it's okay to relax when it comes to grades. That can be dangerous! College grades matter when it comes to staying in college, receiving and keeping financial aid, and getting into a graduate school, if that is a goal. College grades can also matter when it comes to getting a good job.

First, it is important to know that your first semester of college can be the most critical one when it comes to finishing college and keeping your financial aid. If you have too much fun and earn bad grades in your first semester, you can lose your financial aid - and earn a ticket home. This happens to thousands of college students every year, so beware this nightmare scenario.

Secondly, your grades matter when it comes to getting accepted into certain majors, and students who mess up in the first semester can also sabotage their own future plans with bad grades, by locking themselves out of a major with a single failing grade.

For example, it is not unusual for a specific degree program to have a "C or Better" policy in science courses. If you take a lab science in your first semester and earn a D, that can lock you out of several degree programs.

Another reason to keep your college grades up is for graduate school acceptance. Many careers require advanced degrees — so you may have to go through a second college search once you've earned your first college degree. Your GPA is a critical factor for this.

Finally, it might surprise you to know that some employers ask for college transcripts. A few bad grades might not hurt in this instance, but your overall performance will be a factor for some potential employers.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How Much Damage Do Bad Grades Do?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 26). How Much Damage Do Bad Grades Do? Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How Much Damage Do Bad Grades Do?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).