If you messed up in your first semester of high school but do well in the second semester do you still have a chance at getting accepted to a good college?

I love this question, not just because it is one that I hear all the time (you're not the only one who is worried about this!), but because it means that you are already thinking ahead to college as a high school Freshman... and that is a very, very smart thing to do :)

So let's get into it:

To answer your question very, very quickly: yes, you still have a GREAT chance of getting accepted to a good college.

And here's why:

1. Colleges understand that many students struggle with the transition from middle school to high school. It is a big jump, and some people take a little longer to adjust. And that is OK! (FYI: many people have similar struggles when they transition from high school to college!)

2. Colleges like to see improvement. So if you didn't do so hot your first semester, but you came back and ROCKED second semester, that shows the admissions committees that your first semester was not indicative of who you are and what you're capable of. It shows that you had a little bump in the road, but you recovered. And sometimes that is even more impressive than just having good grades all along. You overcame a challenge and you succeeded. Who doesn't love that?!

The only trick is, you gotta keep those grades up from here. If they dip again or, worse, if they move in a downward direction in your sophomore year and beyond, that can negatively impact you.

So just stay focused and keep those grades up and you'll be juuust fine. You've got a lot of time to overcome one semester of not-so-great grades, so use that to your advantage. And don't forget that grades are not the most important part of your application. Yes, you need to keep those up, but don't focus there exclusively. Make sure you're also engaging with activities that you care about and that you're taking on leadership roles when you can. Colleges want more than a student with a good GPA and if you focus only on your grades in school, you're going to be doing yourself a disservice.

Of course, every bad grade hurts your GPA. But really, the most important high school years are sophomore and junior years (10 & 11). Yes, the colleges look are your combined, cumalitive GPA, but they also look at your: rank in class, SAT/ACT scores, SAT II scores, and extracurricular activities. Make sure you don't do anything dumb like get in a fight because that will hurt you also. If you mess up first semester and do well second, that will look like an improvement to the college application readers, but also it hurts your overall GPA. So actually you should aim to get a perfect GPA for every semester. Colleges look at your average GPA and it will look good on your records if you can actually bring your grades up that fast. Most likely you can still go to college since the colleges look at other things. Don't get discouraged by an early failure. You just need to raise your grades back up.