Teacher Columnist: Get great college recs with a low GPA and shy personality? Yes, it’s possible.

By Daniel Lieu

Just like how the fashion industry continues to perpetuate unrealistic beauty characteristics as the majority look, education often perpetuates a reality of a student with an excellent GPA, involved in sports, and involved in all the extracurricular activities as the norm.

This is not a reality that is shared by many and sets a precedent where students that do not have perfect GPAs or are not extroverted and socially confident are not going to get stellar letters of recommendations.

If you do not have a great GPA or you may be shy, let’s talk about how to ask your teachers for a great letter of recommendation for college!

A grade does not define who you are.

This is one point that I will always emphasize and something that I’ll make sure that all of my students know. Your grade is not an indicator of your future success, but merely a benchmark to grow upon. Similarly, understand that being shy or having social anxiety does not make you any less of a great student than an extroverted student. On this note, think about the skills and hobbies that you have.  What strengths do you have beyond school? You might not do well at taking tests, but you might be an amazing self-taught programmer.

Reflect on why you received the grades that you received or why you believe that you’re shy.

Were the grades that you received a result of poor study habits and choices? Were they because you experienced life circumstances that took greater priority than school at the moment?  Do you work to help support your family and have less time to study? Understanding the circumstances can help you talk with your teacher about the story behind the number. You might have a 2.21 GPA, but behind that number is a student that worked late nights to help put food on the table, helped babysit a sibling and had limited time to study. The number doesn’t tell the whole story, so if you’re comfortable, tell your teacher your story!

Gradual improvement is a key indicator that teachers and colleges look for.

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Daniel Lieu
Daniel is a high school science and Project Lead the Way teacher in Los Angeles, CA. He earned his BS in Biology from UCI, MS in Educational technology from California State University, Fullerton, and is currently working on his PhD in Education. Outside of teaching, he loves hiking, fishing, and exploring new food places with his fiancée.