10 Things the college admissions office won’t tell you
1. Not all grades are created equal
For the more than two million high school seniors who intend to go to college next year, the stomach-churning slog of filling out applications is in full swing.
And whether they’ll get a thick package announcing their admission or a thin, dream-dashing one-page letter (or their online equivalent) may well depend on their grade-point average. Grades account for about 75% of the typical admissions decision, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).
But not all good grades are created equal. In the eyes of the admissions officers at the nation’s more than 2,800 four-year colleges, an “A” earned at one high school may only be worth a “B” at a more rigorous one. And in recent years, colleges have given more weight to grades from designated college-prep courses—and the more exclusive the college, the more weight those grades get.
One reason colleges are getting choosier: Grade inflation. Research by the College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, shows that the average GPA for high school seniors rose from 2.64 in 1996 to 2.90 in 2006—even as SAT scores remained essentially flat.
The researchers saw this as evidence that some teachers were “using grades…to reward good efforts rather than achievement.” (The College Board also noted that, based on their test scores, less than half of SAT takers—just 43% in the graduating class of 2013—were academically prepared for college work.)
All that said, admissions officers generally believe that if you have a good GPA in high school, you’ll probably have a good GPA in college.
“The clear message (is that) hard work and good grades in high school matter, and they matter a lot,” said William Hiss, a retired dean of admissions at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine who co-wrote a February 2014 study on standardized testing.
By Daniel Goldstein, photo by Mike White
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