Although college is basically looked at as a necessity these days, affording your tuition is more difficult than ever. All of the costs of attendance continue to rise, from class credits to books to a cafeteria meal plan, while available financial aid dwindles. You’ll almost always be able to get at least some sort of federally funded loan, but that leaves most college students with a mountain of debt after graduation. It’s hard enough getting by in a difficult job market and a recession economy, but it can be next to impossible when you also have to pay off five or even six-figures of college loan debt. The only other options are grants and scholarships, but these are hard to come by. Funding is dwindling, while overwhelming need makes them more competitive than ever. If you’re hoping for significant financial aid, you’ve got to keep your grades up. Here is a quick look at the impact a low GPA has on your college financial aid.
First off, consider the differences in financial aid. On the one side you’ve got need-based aid, which is given out based on you or your family’s yearly income. It cuts off at a certain point, and under that you’ll receive more aid depending on your needs. On the other side you’ve got merit-based aid, which you have to earn through excelling in some area. Athletic scholarships fall under this category, but there are merit-based programs in every subject matter, as well as in a number of civic and extracurricular activities. The people who receive this aid truly earn it, and must perform regardless of their financial situation.
With merit-based aid, a low GPA could leave you out of the running. Educational scholarships are incredibly strict, and most students without at least an A average won’t be considered. The largest scholarships, which are offered on a national basis, will expect you to graduate high school with a 4.0 GPA. So if you aren’t focusing on your grades, you are counting yourself out of these competitions. Of course, this is strictly in the grant and scholarship world. And depending on the type of aid, there may be other considerations. If you’ve done really well on one of the big standardized tests, such as the ACT or the SAT, and you also show excellence in an important but non-educational area, you might be considered. But that will only buy you a little bit of wiggle room, with a GPA floor of perhaps 3.7.
When it comes to need-based aid, your GPA won’t matter terribly much. But keep in mind that the battle isn’t over after you are approved for this aid. First of all, you have to reapply every year. If your GPA falls below an acceptable standard during that school year, you may not be approved a second time. Even during that year you could lose your aid package if you let your GPA fall too low. The requirement will be different depending on the type of aid, so make sure and ask about those requirements when you are accepting the package. In some cases you would have to fall significantly to lose your financing, posting a mid-semester GPA of around 1.75. In the more competitive aid situations that minimum could be 3.0, a GPA that many students would consider a success. So if you don’t want to have to drop out of school and go after an online communications degree, know your requirements and do whatever is possible to maintain your grades.