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3.3 or a 3.4 GPA end of junior year - how bad are my chances?

metalninjacakemetalninjacake Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
edited February 2011 in College Admissions
Hi. This is my first time posting on here though I've decided it's time for me to get some real answers because I've been stressing out so much over the past month that I swear my hair is gonna start turning gray.

I apologize if the post is a bit long, but I have to get a lot off my chest and describe my situation.

I'm a junior in high school, two weeks away from finishing the first semester of that year. I don't know what exactly my cumulative GPA is right now, but it's not great. All I know is that by the end of this year I'll either have a 3.3 or a 3.4. By the end of senior year, I'll have maybe a 3.59 at the most.

The thing that killed my GPA to that level is that everyone - teachers, parents, ESPECIALLY parents - all told me to take AP classes, take honors courses, take everything challenging. Doesn't matter if I get worse grades, a rigorous courseload is by far the most important thing that colleges look at.

So I soaked it all up, and I took harder classes. Basically since 7th grade, I've been taking almost every difficult class available. I've always been 2 years ahead of the regular math class, I took honors English/History courses from 7th to 10th grade, and in 11th grade I'm taking AP US History, AP Environmental Science, and the 2-year-higher math class.

Now that college is looming in the near future, I started researching on this. To my dismay after a month or two of reading up about stuff, I realized one thing: a rigorous schedule doesn't matter at all compared to the importance of the infamous GPA. Now, I was angry with myself, I was sad, I was ****ed for having taken on more difficult classes at the expense of my grades, and I was disappointed at the skewed information I had received from everyone. If I'd taken regular classes with maybe one AP, I'd still have a 3.8-4.0 GPA and I wouldn't be worrying about a thing, AND my life would've been a hell of a lot easier. Instead, I'm stuck with this.

I'm really not the brightest student, especially with math, so I probably shouldn't have pushed myself in those areas, but like I said, I thought it was the most important thing to do in school and my parents basically gave me no choice in the matter. Now there's really no time to fix it. In addition to this, my parents have extremely high standards which they violently live by, and they also don't have a realistic outlook on colleges, so those two things are a dangerous combination.

So I want to brace myself for what to expect - and warn my parents, if only to lessen the blow when it comes down later. These are the facts about my high school career and my plans for the future:

- honors and advanced classes in EVERY year, including two AP's junior year
- a 3.3 or a 3.4 GPA by the end of junior year if I'm lucky
- a 207 and a 211 on my PSAT test - which I've heard roughly translates to about 2070 and 2110 on the real thing - I also plan on taking SAT/ACT prep courses before taking the real thing in several months
- a volunteering gig at the University of Washington medical center/hospital - I have the potential to get 200-300 hours by the end of the summer, by the time I start applying to schools.
- a part-time job at a retirement home that pays 10.50 per hour
- at the moment, no in-school extracurriculars, but I fully plan on joining several clubs that interest me and putting the most I can into them
- as far as out-of-school extracurriculars go that don't involve volunteering, I've been taking an art class for the past 8 years and I have a very large portfolio of somewhat professional artwork to prove it

I've also resolved to completely dedicate myself to schoolwork - so my GPAs will show an upward trend by the end of junior year and in all of senior year (4.0s for those last couple semesters if I'm lucky) and I've heard that can be an important variable.

I've honestly got little to no idea about what I want to do in life, though I did have a few ideas about focusing on Political Science and maybe trying something involving international relations (my uncle's an ambassador so this isn't a totally random idea). The reason I'm mentioning this is that since I haven't decided on what to do in life, I also don't really know what colleges to search for or try to get into.

I live in Washington so basically the only thing I'm shooting for right now is to try and get accepted into the University of Washington - which I mentioned I volunteer at, at their hospital. Three years ago my friend got accepted into it with a 3.1 or a 3.2 cumulative GPA, but from what I've heard they've upped their standards a ridiculous amount in those three years. I've heard rumors that they don't accept anything below a 3.8 GPA, or a 3.5 - like I said, they're rumors, but they worry me.

I've also heard that a lot of people take the route of taking a year or two at a regular college before transferring to more prestigious schools - which would be a really great reassurance for me, if it weren't for the fact that I might as well kill myself before my parents kill me for even considering going to a lower-tier college instead of the best possible option.

So, in closing, I know this site is full of people who can speak from experience. I don't know what I'm really looking for - some brutal honesty, a final verdict on my chances of acceptance into a good university, maybe some reassurance or guidance too. I seriously would love some suggestions on what I can realistically do in order to up my chances of acceptance into a school like UW - really, I'd love to get accepted into UW, it's the only goal I have at the moment regarding universities.

Anything helps. Thank you ahead of time.
Post edited by metalninjacake on

Replies to: 3.3 or a 3.4 GPA end of junior year - how bad are my chances?

  • T26E4T26E4 Registered User Posts: 24,274 Senior Member
    Your HS guidance counselor and you can work out a good scheme moving fwd. You aren't doomed. Continue the dedication and you're likely to find a good fit college where you can bloom further.
  • M's MomM's Mom Registered User Posts: 4,562 Senior Member
    Give yourself some credit if you have an upward trend in your GPA. Control the things you can control like your future grades, your SAT scores, your letters of recommendation and your essays-don't stress over what can't be changed. And take a look at some schools other than Washington University. It's not healthy to be too fixated on one school as the 'be all and end all' of your high school years. Once you have a range of schools from least to most selective that you are happy with (and your folks can afford, and be comfortable with), it will take some stress off you. That art portfolio can also differentiate you from the pack (in a way that hundreds of hours volunteering at a hospital doesn't), so don't give it short shrift. You should definitely submit some of your best work with your application.

    The folks who encouraged you to take the more challenging classes weren't misleading you. It's not just about a higher GPA, but also about the rigor of your coursework. Your grades may have suffered for it, but you sat through a lot fewer boring classes while the teacher repeated the same material over and over for students who were either not motivated to pay attention or had trouble getting the hang of it. (This is were you need the perspective to value education for it's own sake: Hard to do during the college application process, I know.) Once you get to college - where the prof doesn't repeat things for the slower or unmotivated learners - you will be glad for the rigor of your coursework.
  • GhosttGhostt Registered User Posts: 1,655 Senior Member
    Yeah, don't stress so much. It's unlikely you'll get into Princeton at this point--no offense, it's just a fact--but your GPA is not that bad and it sounds like you're resolved to bring it up to ~3.5 by the end of high school, which is perfectly respectable. Continue to volunteer, pursue your passions, prepare for the SAT, and study for school (and don't drop the hard classes; it's true that your GPA's suffered because of them, but they've been useful, and I don't think that dropping them at this point would make you look good), and you'll get into a great school.

    Getting into the University of Washington is a fine goal, but if you're already thinking of college, maybe look into some liberal arts colleges as well? They tend to make more exceptions than the big public universities. Whitman is near you and a great school, for example. Is staying on the West coast important to you?
  • metalninjacakemetalninjacake Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    It's not too important for me to stay in-state, it's more of a comfort zone thing that stems from me being unsure about what I want to do and where I want to go.
  • PinotNoirPinotNoir Registered User Posts: 2,554 Senior Member
    I would encourage you to flesh out your out of school EC's more (the art, volunteering and the job) rather than put a lot of time into signing up for the same tired old clubs at school that everyone does. Right now you do three things that are cool and not that typical for teenagers - build on these instead of watering them down with school clubs.

    Does your school weight grades?

    your PSAT scores were great - you may score that well or higher on the actual SAT. A prep course or just getting the practice test book from college board will likely help you bump that a little and get a really good score.

    Depending on where you apply, you may want to take two SAT II tests (subject tests). They aren't required at most schools, but if you find a school you like that does require them you'll be set, and it can even help at schools that don't require them but do recommend or consider them. I don't think you said what AP classes you're in, but pick a couple and take the corresponding SAT II in May or June - your AP prep will help you score well.

    You don't say if you need merit aid or qualify for need based aid, but i think you will find success in your college search. Spend some time on college board or princeton review searching for schools you might like, then get on here and read through posts about those schools. You'll find some you really like, and the search sites will show you where your stats are in line with the school. if you need money (merit and/or financial aid), your list will focus on schools likely to offer it.

    Dont' worry so much - there are lots of schools who value a bright (high SAT scores and decent grades), hard working (rigorous course load and part time job), interesting (art stuff and hospital volunteer) student that doesn't necessarily play it safe for the sake of his GPA or hyper focus on his grades.

    Especially if you do have an upward trend. My older son had a 3.2/3.6 UW/W GPA and didn't do any school EC's and was accepted to every school he applied to with scholarship money at most, and one full tuition scholarship. His out of school EC's were unique and his letters of rec were great.

    Good luck!
  • GreatKidsMomGreatKidsMom Registered User Posts: 162 Junior Member
    Do not panic. Study hard. It is definitely NOT too late to pull it together, especially if you can get your GPA up to 3.5 by the end of Junior year. My son ended up with a very strong finish to his Junior year that brought his unweighted GPA to a 3.55, and was just accepted ED to his top-choice liberal arts college. He, like you, got those grades in the most vigorous curriculum available at his school.

    I'm assuming your GPA is unweighted--do you know what it is weighted? Does your school rank based on the weighted GPA? If so, all of that can help you. Study hard for the SAT, and get that as high as possible. Also, take some SAT IIs at the end of this year in classes you are just finishing up--good showings there will help your applications.

    I second Pinot Noir re fleshing out your current ECs. My S's major EC was one that was totally independent of his school.

    Best of luck!
  • megdogmegdog Registered User Posts: 283 Junior Member
    Ditto on the PinotNoir's and GreatKidsMom's messages. My older daughter ended high school with about a 3.4 GPA. She also likes art. She searched hard for colleges that were right for her and was accepted to most of the ones to which she applied. She LOVES her college!
  • avenleaavenlea Registered User Posts: 324 Member
    I was in the same boat as you, and I freaked. Especially because my class rank was in hte top 22%.

    I was the first kid in the history my school to take AP Calculus. My GPA was crap. I was terrified to apply to college. I did ED to Penn and got rejected. But guess what?

    I got into every other school.

    You need to find public schools with good merit aid or cheap costs (if you need scolarships), like I did. Penn State, Indiana University, Ohio State, University of Minnesota, Purdue. Tulane University gave me a half ride!

    You probably won't be getting into an Ivy, but I promise you will be going to a good school. I know it's hard to accept (it was for me too..working all these years with no reap?!). But if money isn't an issue, you have a lot of other doors open...lok at schools like University of Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, UVA, anything ranked from 30+ on US News. That's realistic for you.

    You will be fine, I promise.
  • vincehvinceh Registered User Posts: 2,291 Senior Member
    OK, nice and easy, come in off the ledge and put down any sharp objects. Until you calm down you're only going to be allowed to eat dinner with a spork, no knives. Let's get rid of the heat and add a little light to the situation.

    First of all colleges are not stupid, they will certainly see that you took a very rigorous course load - I suspect your weighted GPA is somewhere around a 3.9 - 4.0. Correct? No credible Admissions Office is going to be more impressed by a student with a 4.0 in all the most basic classes versus someone who has challenged him/herself.

    A 207 -211 PSAT is worthy of National Merit Semi-Finalist in many states, though I don't know about the cutoff in Washington. It's not unusual for students to improve those scores, in some cases by 10%, so your projected SAT could be floating around the 2200 - 2300 range. Again a very nice number.

    Next, there is no chance the UW has a 3.8 cutoff for GPA. A quick visit to the collegeboard site shows that only 55% of incoming freshman last year had a GPA over 3.75. Furthermore your PSAT projecting to a 2070 would put you ahead of more than 75% or your UW classmates. Personally I think UW is a very likely acceptance.

    Assuming you have a few ECs or work experience, I think you should expand your horizons on college choices; UW is a great school but it's always nice to have options. Tell us what areas you think you might be interested in studying as well as any geographic preferences you have and I think the people on CC will come up with some very good suggestions.
  • KudryavkaKudryavka Registered User Posts: 879 Member
    A 3.4 with a 2100 SAT and a rigorous schedule would get you into tons of great schools. GPA is a big deal, but your test scores will help make up for it if you can reproduce them on the actual SAT.

    And hey, you haven't screwed yourself nearly as hard as I did. I have a 2.98, and even that wasn't the end of the world because, like you, I have good test scores. I'm already accepted to one uni I'd love to go to, OSU, and I'm waiting on 6 more apps to come back. If you do the same, sending out applications to lots of different schools, you can certainly find at least one adcomm that will look at your courses and test scores rather than simply blowing you off because of your GPA.

    So, in other words, calm down, do your best on the SAT, and make some realistic choices when you get your finalized stats, and you'll be fine. I really wouldn't be surprised if you got into the U of Washington, and even if you don't, there are tons of great schools out there you will get into if you send in the app.
  • metalninjacakemetalninjacake Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    Alright, I talked to my guidance counselor, sorted everything out. Turns out that the end of junior year won't yield anything more than a 3.35 or so. But the end of senior year, I would have a 3.5 if they actually decide to look at that. I'm hoping it's not gonna make a huge difference if I have a 3.35 instead of a 3.4 what with most of my other credentials...but I'm not feeling too confident about UW overall so it would unfortunately have to be a reach school for me. Also, I found out that neither my school district nor any of the Washington in-state universities weight GPAs, so that's definitely going to screw me over since I put so much emphasis on taking rigorous courses.
  • avenleaavenlea Registered User Posts: 324 Member
    @metalninjacake, don't stress too much. apply to schools where you're underrepresented, or where a lot of people from washington don't go so you have an edge, or have your counselor talk about it in their recommendation, and definitely mention it somewhere in your essay or in additional information. you will be fine. i promise!
  • metalninjacakemetalninjacake Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    How soon does the prompt for the essay come in? I've heard about past prompts like "Tell us about an experience that defined or helped shape your character" and "Tell us how diversity has affected your life" - those prompts, ESPECIALLY the second one, would've been absolutely perfect for me and I would've aced the second one (I was born in Russia, raised in Japan, fully grew up in America and have visited over 15 different countries, which has affected and humbled me immensely). But now I'm really hoping that I get a prompt that really speaks to me instead of one that I'll have to struggle to answer. And UW really puts a ton of importance on the essays - even more so than standardized test scores, so I feel like I should put my absolute best into this.
  • yvettecyvettec Registered User Posts: 194 Junior Member
    I'm in basically the exact same boat. Oh well. Just trying my hardest not to stress....GPA is only one part of the whole.
  • metalninjacakemetalninjacake Registered User Posts: 80 Junior Member
    Glad someone else is going through the same thing, man. I tell myself GPA's only one part, but then I look at all the college standards and see (and hear from people) that GPA's still the most important thing they look at. I just hope I can make everything else compensate for a below average GPA (and good luck to you too).
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