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How "holistic" is the holistic review process?

ivy1254ivy1254 9 replies6 threads Junior Member
I ask especially for T20 schools and the like. My question is: if I have a lower than average GPA (3.75 UW, 4.6 W) but stellar test scores and very good EC's, essays, etc, do I stand a shot at really competitive schools even when there is a sea of applicants with significantly higher GPAs than me?
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Replies to: How "holistic" is the holistic review process?

  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13100 replies244 threads Senior Member
    ivy1254 wrote: »
    a lower than average GPA (3.75 UW, 4.6 W)

    Is that really considered a low GPA?

    Even if it is in the context of your school, yes other things count for a lot.
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  • BookLvrBookLvr 172 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Short answer: YES.

    Longer answer: Everything is contextual. A 3.75 GPA at a school known for rigorous grading standards could actually be a superior GPA to a 3.85 at the school across town, or even a 4.0 at the school one town over. Regional AOs know your area and your school's reputation. They also have additional context from your guidance counselor.

    I think when it comes to differentiating between people with UW GPAs in the 3.70-4.0 range, admissions officers aren't going "Oooh, this 3.88 is clearly superior to this person with a mere 3.80." That would be silly, particularly since the two candidates presumably did not take identical courses with identical teachers at identical high schools.

    They consider things like

    What courses has each candidate taken?

    What special skills, talents, or life experiences do they have? Has the candidate distinguished him or herself from the pack in some notable way?

    What qualities does the candidate evince in his/her/their essay(s)? How's the writing?

    What do their recommenders have to say about them?

    Does this candidate seem like an awesome match for this particular university?
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  • ivy1254ivy1254 9 replies6 threads Junior Member
    @OHMomof2
    No, sorry, I think it came across wrong. I don't think I have a low GPA, in fact it's pretty good in my opinion. I just mean that when it comes to T20 schools, things can be very competitive and I think 3.75 is lower than the average applicant to, say, an Ivy or similar.
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  • ivy1254ivy1254 9 replies6 threads Junior Member
    @BookLvr
    Thank you for your response. I would say I attend a pretty average public school, but I take a very rigorous course load and my class rank is about top 7%. You bring up some good points
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  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger 2883 replies156 threads Senior Member
    edited November 14
    Not all colleges are the same, but Harvard is the one we have the most information about. Among non-ALDCs, they admitted zero students with an academic rating of 5 and three students with an academic rating of four, over a time period of multiple years. An academic rating of three functions as a minimum academic bar for non-ALDCs.

    This is the set of guidelines Harvard uses for assigning academic ratings:
    2. Magna potential. Excellent student with top grades and,
    a. SAT and SAT Subject tests: mid 700 scores and up
    b. 33+ ACT
    c. Possible local, regional or national level recognition in academic competitions
    3. Solid academic potential; Cum laude potential: Very good student with excellent
    grades and
    a. SAT and SAT Subject tests: mid-600 through low-700 scores
    b. 29 to 32 ACT
    4. Adequate preparation. Respectable grades and low-to mid-600 scores on SAT and
    subject tests or 26 to 29 ACT.
    edited November 14
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78971 replies701 threads Senior Member
    ivy1254 wrote: »
    Thank you for your response. I would say I attend a pretty average public school, but I take a very rigorous course load and my class rank is about top 7%. You bring up some good points

    If you rank is top 7%, it is unlikely that your counselor will mark the top category ("one of the top few I've encountered (top 1%)") in "academic achievement" for you on the counselor report. That may make it hard to get admitted to a super-selective college.

    https://admissions.duke.edu/images/uploads/School_Report.pdf

    Remember, "holistic" does not mean that academic credentials will be ignored if the other parts of your application are excellent. Even highly-preferred (e.g. "ALDC") applicants still have to meet academic standards that are high in most high school contexts, even if they are noticeably lower than what other applicants are expected to meet to have a chance of admission.
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  • ivy1254ivy1254 9 replies6 threads Junior Member
    @ucbalumnus
    I wasn't expecting academic credentials to be ignored, that would be silly. But I also don't think its necessary to be in the top 1% in order to be considered for a selective school (although I'm sure it would help) if the rest of the application was strong. I'm just wondering to what extent people think that goes.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78971 replies701 threads Senior Member
    For the most selective colleges, you need high end academic credentials and (not or) something more that stands out from thousands of other applicants, in the view of the college.

    Top 7% rank and third category counselor rating for "academic achievement" may not be high end enough except perhaps for top end recruited athletes or huge donor relations.
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  • happy1happy1 23031 replies2275 threads Senior Member
    Even in holistic admissions academics play a huge role. It is the job of admissions officers to accept students who can succeed/thrive at the college.
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1667 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Are you a senior? If you are, I think you really should back off from college confidential and try to enjoy your senior year. You have done well and whatever people say here, are at best past experience and conjecture, no one really could tell you what your chance is with meaningful certainty, while you will just get more anxious and start second-guessing.
    Away from CC and good luck!
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6915 replies60 threads Senior Member
    @makemesmart, OP is a Junior, aiming for Brown (1st choice) or Tufts (distant 2nd choice); currently has a 3.6 GPA (which s/he hopes will go up this year) and does not have SAT/ACT scores yet.
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