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# average GPA of Brown students

Posts: 179Registered User Junior Member
edited May 2010
anyone have this statistic? college GPA, not HS GPA.
Post edited by airbag on
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## Replies to: average GPA of Brown students

• Posts: 1,431Registered User Senior Member
Brown does not calculate GPA. With that said, here are some statistics (and I'll go as far as to calculate the sort of GPA that students may calculate from this information). (Data source: http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Institutional_Research/documents/TABLE21.pdf)

2007-2008 grades (which are roughly in line with previous years): 50.6% are As, 21.7% are Bs, 4.2% are Cs, 3.6% are failing, and 19.9% are passed in a course taken pass/fail. From this, we could calculate that the average GPA is roughly, unless I made a mistake, 3.61 (note that averaging the course grades does not necessarily yield the average GPA, but it should be somewhat close). Adding in failures, which do not appear on the external transcript, we get 3.44. I have, in both cases, ignored grades of S in pass/fail classes, since there's no good way to handle them. Some employers/grad schools may treat them as Cs, but many of these grades are in mandatory S/NC classes, so it seems pointless to artificially lower this (albeit pointless) number by treating S's as C's, or to raise it by treating them as A's.

GPA is, of course, not necessarily the best statistic for various reasons, though I'm pretty sure the standard grade inflation posts will soon grace this thread. Obviously this number is high, though it's noteworthy that Brown students are, as a whole, less concerned with grades than students at comparable schools. The transcript is a more useful tool than this simple number for comparing students, but the number does serve to give a general sense of the grade breakdown.
• Posts: 179Registered User Junior Member
interesting...

average GPA's for 2008-09 by my calculations:

humanities: 3.61

life sciences: 3.46

physical sciences: 3.31

social sciences: 3.47

this is including NC's, which may not be the best estimate, since NC's don't appear on external transcripts and thus do not affect GPA...whatever, too lazy to redo it...
• Posts: 663Registered User Member
Wow that is insane (in a bad way).
• Posts: 55Registered User Junior Member
It's actually not that bad... Considering most students at brown do exceptionally well in most classes and the ones that do not typically take the course S/NC, there is no reason to think that such high grades are unwarranted.
• Posts: 179Registered User Junior Member
suggestions for improving brown's academic rigor:

1. get rid of S/NC for classes within one's concentration, and limit its use to 1 elective class per year. currently, it's a flawed system that encourages laziness. also, include F's on transcripts--if a student doesn't have enough sense to drop a class if he's failing, then he should have to suffer the consequences in the same manner as every other college student in the world. students need to learn and understand that failure is real, because in the real world, you can bet that extremely poor work won't be forgiven as an internally recorded "NC"--more realistically, you're fired and don't get a good employer recommendation. i don't see why college courses should be any different.

2. fix the percentage of A's given in any particular class at 40%. a more realistic grade distribution for physical science classes at a top university would be something like 40% A, 40% B, 20% C. as nice as it would be, the whole class can't be above average.

3. discontinue this silly policy of not computing student GPA's. all employers ask for GPA. all graduate and professional schools ask for GPA. ignoring GPA (and concomitantly, grade inflation and the flaws of the S/NC system) as if it did not exist is childish and silly, and it reflects poorly on the university that it neglects to confront the fixable flaws of the current curriculum. computing student GPA's would provide sufficient data to allow the issues i am raising to be addressed while also representing an acknowledgment by the university of GPA as an important measure of student accomplishment.

brown's academics are quite challenging, but there are just too many students here with 4.0's. if a 3.6 is an "average" GPA, the entire concept of GPA has truly been lost, even at a place like brown.
• Posts: 55Registered User Junior Member
Such a recommendation clearly ignores the ethos of Brown. College is a time for exploration. Learn what you love and maybe even something more. No one evaluates non-formal discussions with professors, extracurricular research or activities and such are among the most important parts of college, and what distinguishes attending Brown (or insert any other top school here) and your massive state school. I'd be willing to bet that introductory courses at Brown aren't spectacularly different than a good state school; it's all the other stuff that is important.

Putting a cap at the number of certain grades makes no sense if your class has 4 people in it, or is an independent study, when you are the only student. Requiring a distribution of grades makes no sense for entire fields, such as philosophy and literature, where all students may be producing non-comparable, but equally high quality work.

Grades and particularly GPA is not a good way to evaluate a student's education and by sanctioning GPA or telling professors how to grade, Brown would be contributing to a flawed system. However, employers and grad schools need to see grades in order to make decisions about candidates, thus it is almost impossible for any university to eliminate grades.
• Posts: 4,651Registered User Senior Member
Although I promised myself I wouldn't post, this grading stuff is particularly troublesome to me since I'm currently helping to develop Providence Public School's grading policy. I'll come out of retirement for this one post since the quotes are literally in front of me, and despite all of my efforts to leave a good imprint about grade inflation on this site, I think the search function deserves one more rebuttal. I've often written about this stuff in my own words, but here's just a taste of OLD education research that's still largely ignored:
Guskey, T.R. (2000). Grading Policies that Work Against Standards… and How to Fix Them. NAASP Bulletin. 84(620) p.20-21

“Grading on the curve makes learning a highly competitive activity in which students compete against one another for the few scarce rewards (high grades) distributed by the teacher. Under these conditions, students readily see that helping others become successful threatens their own chances for success (Gray, 1993; R.T. Johnson, Johnson, and Tauer 1979; D. W. Johnson, Skon, and Johnson 1980). High grades are attained not through excellence in performance, but simply by doing better than one’s classmates. As a result, learning becomes a game of winners and losers… because the number of rewards is kept arbitrarily small… Furthermore, grading on the curve denies students the opportunity to work together and to help each other attain valuable, shared learning goals.

Perhaps most important, grading on the curve communicates nothing about what students have learned or are able to do. Rather, it tells only a student’s relative standing among classmates, based on what are often ill-defined criteria. Students who receive high grades might actually have performed very poorly in terms of established learning standards, but simply less poorly than their classmates. Differences between grades, therefore, are difficult to interpret at best and meaningless at worst (Bracey, 1994).”

“There is nothing sacred about the normal curve. It is the distribution most appropriate to chance and random activity. Education is a purposeful activity, and we seek to have students learn what we have to teach. If we are effective in our instruction, the distribution of achievement should be very different from the normal curve. IN fact we may even insist that our educational efforts have been unsuccessful to the extent that the distribution of achievement approximates the normal distribution.”

Sorry that Brown doesn't conform to your concept of grading-- education experts throughout the P-20 system have lamented about the problems with grading for some time. There have also been really good solutions out there for some time. They've even been implemented in some exemplar schools/districts.
• Posts: 1,169Registered User Senior Member
airbag, would you like to explain what your new system would accomplish, aside from helping ensure that fewer Brown students get hired or get into graduate programs?

If you can't feel accomplished without being publicly compared to those immediately surrounding you, then you probably don't belong at Brown. And that's okay - that's why there are other schools out there.

Did anyone visit the Pluses and Minuses Lavatory Annex at Spring Weekend this year?
• Posts: 376Registered User Member
i don't know why we are even entertaining answering aptly named airbag, but...

1. s/nc is not to make classes easy / make it easy to be lazy. as mentioned, that is not the ethos of brown. i've gotten a's and b's in ALL of my s/nc classes. i work just as hard. i am not the exception to the rule, i am the rule. not dropping classes is a product of the nc system, not the other way around

2. grades are not a measure of how you did in comparison to other students, they are a measure of how you did in comparison to the work presented. if a great teacher leads all students to mastery of a subject, why should they not get a's? also, an important point is that many brown classes have like 5 students.

3. don't be stupid. brown doesn't put gpa on the transcript but every single student calculates it and puts it on their resume and applications
• Posts: 549Registered User Member
Having recently accepted Brown's Offer of Admission, I can quite comfortably say that a lot of my reasons for attending this idiosyncratic institution having been discussed very well in some of the above posts.

Brown, through its Open Curriculum, has managed to carve a niche for itself. It is liberalistic to the core and fun to the hilt! The unmatched freedom gives you the chance of your life to discover something that is beyond your comfort zone. And because you tend to involve yourself with things that tickle your curiosity, study no longer seems like a burden. It seems interesting, involving and more like an avenue to explore something new! The dearth of GPA calculation or even pluses and minuses is done solely to encourage 'study' (read exploration!) and not 'cut-throat competition'!

airbage, my friend, I humbly request you to get a reality check done at the earliest possible. And believe me, there will be a lot of people willing to volunteer!
• Posts: 3,643Registered User Senior Member
airbag, if Brown adopted your suggestions, it would no longer be Brown. The New Curriculum, implemented back in 1969, introduced all those things you want changed. Every study of the curriculum done since then has affirmed these principles. If you don't agree with the philosophy of the curriculum, don't go to Brown.

And as for the statement that "all employers ask for GPA" -- that is not true. In the last 30 years, I have applied for more jobs than I could count. Dozens, probably a couple hundred, even. I have never, not once, been asked for my GPA.
• Posts: 1,169Registered User Senior Member
I think airbag is already a Brown student (and from looking at his other posts, a very loyal one) - I just think he hasn't downed all the kool-aid (yet).

There will always be students at Brown who feel like airbag - who wish there was more in place to force competition into the system. Hell, back when Pacifica House was conservative, they advocated for the very grade reform (adding pluses and minuses) that Dean Armstrong tried to stuff down our throats as his lasting legacy (why do we keep hiring DOC's that don't get it?). What I would say to those people is this: you knew what you were signing up for, and many of your peers came her precisely because our curriculum was set up this way.
• Posts: 179Registered User Junior Member
well it looks like i ruffled quite a few feathers with my opinions. understandable, but still a bit surprising...
if a great teacher leads all students to mastery of a subject, why should they not get a's?

Statistically speaking, this never happens (except maybe in a highly self-selecting, upper-level course). Also, math and science don't work like this. Lectures are supplementary, and the crux of what a student knows about a subject comes from disciplined self-study and hard work. It is highly improbable that "all" students can attain "mastery" in this fashion.
Requiring a distribution of grades makes no sense for entire fields, such as philosophy and literature, where all students may be producing non-comparable, but equally high quality work.

If student work is truly non-comparable, why even bother to have grades? (The point being, obviously, that student work is ALWAYS comparable if criteria are rigorously and appropriately defined. Yes, it would be easier to set the bar a bit lower and dish out more A's, but does telling students they are all brilliant necessarily maximize learning and the development of important skills?).
i've gotten a's and b's in ALL of my s/nc classes. i work just as hard.

Congratulations, but there is no rational reason why you should do that, so as an employer, I would have no way of knowing that. People I know that do S/NC do so because either they want to have the option of blowing off a particular class that is not as important to their major or because they do not want a C on their transcript (the latter reason can be said for just about everyone taking APMA classes S/NC). In most real math and science classes, take Analysis as an example, an "S" on a transcript is rather laughable to the extent that it does not blatantly indicate that you were terrified of getting graded in such a challenging class. Talk to anyone who knows what it means to have mastery of a substantial subject like that (grad students, professors, deans), and most would agree. Getting C's is not the end of the world--MIT students do it all the time, and they still get into top graduate schools.
airbage, my friend, I humbly request you to get a reality check done at the earliest possible. And believe me, there will be a lot of people willing to volunteer!

The pretentious tone combined with the grammatical and spelling errors make clear that you're not in college yet.
And as for the statement that "all employers ask for GPA" -- that is not true. In the last 30 years, I have applied for more jobs than I could count. Dozens, probably a couple hundred, even. I have never, not once, been asked for my GPA.

You are the exception, not the rule. At a Brown internship meeting hosted by a career counselor, he explicitly stated that GPA should be put on one's resume. But that is an interesting anecdote nonetheless.
I think airbag is already a Brown student (and from looking at his other posts, a very loyal one) - I just think he hasn't downed all the kool-aid (yet).

A fair assessment, and one of the few worth reading...
• Posts: 549Registered User Member
@AIRBAG: If you honestly felt that I was coming across pretentiously, I humbly apologize. Although I still have not started with college, my admission to a place like Brown from an excessively competitive nation clearly justifies my 'writing' abilities. A public forum, in my view, is not a place to showcase your writing prowess. It is a place to share ideas and thoughts with others.

Having recently completed my application process to top tier schools, I do have a fair idea of shortlisting universities. As I said before, I chose Brown because of the unparalleled liberality and opportunities that it offers. Because of the lack of an official GPA calculation, and grade pluses and minuses, Brown tends to focus on learning and not on competing. You go to a college to learn new things and ideas. Competition, in my opinion, is a second fiddle to all of this. Concentrate on the former and the latter will take care of itself is what I firmly believe.

The S/NC option at Brown is meant to help people let go of there apprehensions and simply explore something new. I wish to concentrate in either Computer Science or Astronomy but my interest tends to lie in other areas (such as Cognitive Sciences, Neurosciences, Mathematics, Economics, Egyptology etc) as well. Brown is a great university for someone who is curious and wishes to explore different subject areas.

Just as there are positives of the S/NC system, there are also negatives of this very system. People might use this to 'maneuver' their way through college or to easily fulfill their concentration requirements. But this is not Brown's fault, right?
• Posts: 1,169Registered User Senior Member
Again, I must harp on the value of niches.

When I took Transformation of the Research University (the awesome class that modest sometimes mentions), we read a lot of academic writing about different kinds of curricula and their relative value. I was consistently surprised by how little the authors mentioned the value of 'different strokes for different folks' - of a system with different curricula available at different institutions for different people. For the love of God, we have thousands of institutions of tertiary education in this country, and yet most of these people seemed to want everywhere to look the same.

The US News, for its own part, does an enormous disservice to college applicants by attempting to put very different institutions on a single continuum. The overwhelming use of acceptance rate as a factor discourages schools from encouraging the healthy self-selection that should happen when schools occupy different niches.

I believe that education should be deeply different from one institution to the next, and that high school students should have the tools they need (including appropriate rejections) to get them on the path to a niche they fit in.

The niche that Brown occupies is (thankfully) a little more plain-to-see than a lot of other schools. If the open curriculum and the grading system turn you off, then you're probably not the right person for Brown, and you probably won't come here. And the New Curriculum isn't just a lack of distribution requirements - it includes the details of Brown's grading system. (See my old ramblings on this topic: The Brown Daily Herald - Grading system is not a minor detail).

To the extent that people are abusing the system, they're not a great fit for Brown. It's not a failure of the curriculum - it's just a product of the wrong people being here. Whether that has to do with Brown's image being a bit off, or with problems in Admissions, or just with the fact that people don't know themselves perfectly when applying to college, is an empirical question, and I don't claim to have an answer. I do think, though, that we should be perfectly able to obtain 1500 brilliant students who would make a good use of the system every year.
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