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High SATs but mediocre GPA? Guidance needed

shadyconceptsshadyconcepts Registered User Posts: 702 Member
edited June 2015 in College Admissions
Hey everyone, I'm a rising senior! My SATs and standardized testing are very strong (2370 on SAT I, 231 PSAT, and 790 on US History/Lit), but my GPA is on the lower side for top colleges. It is around a 4.15 W out of 5.0. This means that though I always take Honors and AP classes (I took 4 APs in my junior year this year), I generally get A-'s/B+'s in those classes. I think I got 3 A-'s and 2 B+'s this year but not an A :( This is understandable because my course load is rigorous, but do I still have a shot at colleges like Columbia, UPenn, JHU, Cornell, Georgetown, etc.? Or is my GPA going to hold me back a lot?

Replies to: High SATs but mediocre GPA? Guidance needed

  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    Your gpa will hold you back at these extremely competitive schools (that have far too many appli cants for each slot. and are basically looking for a reason to eliminate). However, some stellar hook might help you. Any national awards or unusual hobbies? Do you have killer essays? Go ahead and apply, but be sure to add a mix of matches and safeties.
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 18,405 Senior Member
    What is your class rank? There are several things may help sub-optimal GPA: school profile, class rank, and course rigor.
  • shadyconceptsshadyconcepts Registered User Posts: 702 Member
    @dec51995 Thanks for your input! I have a handful of writing awards and I am a state orchestra violist, but I'm not sure if this holds as much merit as one big national award. I think I'll work hard on my essays.

    @billcsho My school doesn't rank or unweight GPA (though we're competitive, our school tries to put us in a noncompetitive mindset). My course rigor is intense though, next year I will be taking 6 APs. I have only taken honors or AP courses throughout high school besides my electives.
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    Your writing awards are super, and that fact that you've endured so many viola jokes will impress upon ad coms your prodigious strength of character. (Ha! Ha!--I'm the mother of a violist.) I'd also suggest you consider other schools that have great programs but don't get as many applicants. Fit is so much more important than prestige. And I'll say it again, in case you weren't listening. Fit is so much more important than prestige.

    Remember that you are competing against many, many students who took as rigorous a courseload as you but did it with a 4.0 or near 4.0. Time to really look at the accepted student threads on each of these schools you're thinking about. I wouldn't call your gpa mediocre--I'd call it low for the schools you're targeting.

    Columbia 3.9 - 4.0
    UPenn 3.9
    JHU 3.7
    Cornell 3.75 - 4.0
    Georgetown 3.7 - 3.9

    Yours is 3.3.
  • shadyconceptsshadyconcepts Registered User Posts: 702 Member
    @dec51995 Thanks for the advice! I'd say my high school is one of the more rigorous, harder ones, without any grade inflation, but I'm not making excuses. My GPA is pretty low in comparison to my competition! I'm not sure if it's a 3.3 but it's for sure not a 3.9-4.0. I'll keep on crafting my college list to make sure I have more safeties.
  • KelvasKelvas Registered User Posts: 92 Junior Member
    edited June 2015
    Most, if not all colleges consider each application in their own context. We can all see that your course load is quite rigorous, so when it comes in admissions, that factor will be taken into consideration alongside your GPA. Additionally, the context of your high school (HS profile) would also be taken into account.

    That 3.3 will definitely hurt you, but when taken into context, it might not be as bad as it initially seems; that 3.3 could be a 4.0 in a less competitive/more inflated school. Even with that said, make sure to have some safety schools in mind.
  • shadyconceptsshadyconcepts Registered User Posts: 702 Member
    Thank you @Kelvas ! I don't think I have as low as a 3.3, but for sure my GPA is not liek a 4.0. will make sure i got some safeties!
  • dec51995dec51995 Registered User Posts: 264 Junior Member
    To calculate your gpa on a 4.0 scale, take your 4.15, divide by 5.00. Multiply by 4. It's 3.32. I rounded down.

    Does that W mean that this is a weighted gpa? Many schools calculate their own gpas, selecting out your academics from your arts, etc. and giving them their own weights. If this is a weighted gpa, your unweighted gpa would be even lower, right?
  • KelvasKelvas Registered User Posts: 92 Junior Member
    edited June 2015
    @shadyconcepts I just grab that number from the posts above mine; I'm not sure if that's what it actually is since different schools calculate GPA in their own way. Haha, sorry my bad.

    @dec51995 My school uses a 100 point system, with AP and honors classes weighing 5 and 2 points respectively, and submits weighted GPA only. With that said, I'm not too familiar with the 4.0 GPA system, but I would assume that APs are out of 5.0 and honors are out of 4.5 when weighted.

    Like what you said, some colleges do take the UW and weigh it themselves since many schools have different weighing systems. However, I do believe high tier colleges prefer to see UW GPA since course rigor is expected from all potential applicants, so W GPA deviate from school to school.
  • supercilioussupercilious Registered User Posts: 341 Member
    Does your school rank/tell you if you're in the top 5/10/15%?
  • rdeng2614rdeng2614 Registered User Posts: 1,818 Senior Member
    @dec51995 That only works if every single class the OP took is weighted.

    At my school most honors classes are not weighted. If your weighted GPA is low in comparison to your peers, it might mean that you bit off more than you could chew.

    If your 4.15 Weighted is 'low among your peers', then I suggest you take a slightly less rigorous course schedule next year.

    Obviously essays and counselor recs/teacher recs will come into play, but generally SAT's never make up for poor GPA. You still have a shot, but the 3 things I mentioned above have to be stellar.

  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 Registered User Posts: 41,526 Senior Member
    edited July 2015
    Actually, because weights vary, the calculation method in#8 doesn't apply - OP, to calculate your UWGPA, it's easy: take EACH grade you got and divide by the number of grades.
    Your UWGPA is likely around 3.5 since you mostly got A-s and B+'s.
    You must build your college list from the ground up: find two colleges that you like and can afford based on the NPCs, have about 50% acceptance rate (or where you meet the criteria for automatic admissions or honors college), express interest (request info, click on the stuff they send you). Once you're done with that, find 3-5 colleges (universities or LACs) that you like, can afford, that admit about 40% applicants and where you're at or near the top 25% threshold, express interest.
    Complete these applications first. Make sure you've talked with your parents about how much you can afford.
    Once you're done with CommonApp and the above applications, add, one by one, the reaches you listed. Is your GPA going to hold you back? Yes. But your course rigor and scores will also indicate you're at a competitive high school, and are able to do the work. At these schools, it's a crapshoot anyway, so you might get in or you might not. Just don't pin your hopes on these and don't start with them.
  • shadyconceptsshadyconcepts Registered User Posts: 702 Member
    Thank you everyone for your input!! @supercilious Because I have a weighted GPA of over 4.0, I think that definitely puts me in the top 10%, maybe even top 5%. Probably 5% (my grade has around 400-500 kids).
    @MYOS1634 Starting with safeties sounds smart. I will probably do so, unless I try to aim for a more competitive college in my ED. ~3.5 UW sounds about right to me. @dec51995 Yep, the W means weighted. My unweighted is definitely lower than my weighted haha
    @Kelvas Yes, my school does a traditional GPA thing, where reg courses are 4.0, honors 4.5, and APs 5.0. This year, my GPA went up because I took 4 AP classes, but because in previous years I only took honors courses, my overall cumulative GPA is lower than junior year. Bleh :(
    @rdeng2614 It is probably lower among my peers, but I do hang around with mostly honors/AP kids haha. Unfortunately my course load is pretty rigorous (even more APs) next year, but hopefully my first marking period could boost my GPA up even more. Colleges do see the first marking period of senior year, at least, right?
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