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Which is better? Most rigorous or higher GPA?

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Replies to: Which is better? Most rigorous or higher GPA?

  • privatebankerprivatebanker 5794 replies84 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    As an example Boston College which ranges from 31 to 38 usnwr over the past few years. And is a t 10 type undergrad business school. Higher in some ranking systems. And it’s a school that is always pretty close to this ranking in the combined rankings. Pretty steady.

    They have 80 percent in the top 10 percent of the class with an average UW gpa for 2023 class of 3.95. TWith the highest rigor available and it’s known to be looked at closely. And then you should have the 33 or 1420+ sat to be reasonably competitive.

    “Test Type Admitted
    SAT (Mid 50%) 1420-1530
    ACT (Mid 50%) 33-35”

    So I don’t think one should say anything is x for number 1 to 30. And different for the next 10 or 20 schools. Plus some of the schools in the 30s are public unis that have great pell numbers and other factor that have been determined to be added to the mix to determine excellence. And other rankings don’t and those schools move to other spots. So don’t be segregating expectations based on ranking levels at the top tier.

    I think any school in the top 50 and the private schools in the top 60 or so for are going to be very thoughtful about the gpa and classes taken - in combination.

    But 4 to 6 APs in the spectrum of subjects including those known to be difficult with 3.9 and good ap scores is going to be a solid applicant. Corresponding test scores will help at certain levels.

    edited November 2019
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  • thibaultthibault 180 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Go for GPA-- so long as you have 5 academic solids each semester.
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  • parentologistparentologist 180 replies16 threads Junior Member
    I saw kids with high GPAs and less rigorous courses get honors and merit at flagship state U's, as if the schools were clueless about the difference in the courses. I think that if one is aiming for top private schools, it would be different. My youngest kid in 11th, has had to dial back a little on the AP rigor because he spends so many hours on his EC (at the highest level possible in the country). We're hoping that colleges will recognize that one cannot compete at such a level in an EC while taking 5 AP classes, but we may find out the hard way that he's boxed himself out of the top schools.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3307 replies39 threads Senior Member
    I don't disagree, data10-a 4.0 GPA is necessary, but not sufficient, for admission to UCLA. It is necessary tho, so if rigorous courses preclude that and for some reason (out of state honors, not AP, whatever), and one is interested in UCLA, for example, that should be considered.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79804 replies715 threads Senior Member
    Note that a "4.0 HS GPA" listed on a UC web site typically means the weighted-capped version unless otherwise specified. a 4.0 weighted-capped HS GPA would likely come from a 3.6-3.7 unweighted 10th-11th grade HS GPA if the student took 8 or more semesters' worth of honors courses in 10th-11th grade.

    Some students and parents make the mistake of comparing a HS-calculated weighted GPA using a different formula (that gives higher results) to the UC weighted-capped HS GPA and overestimate their chances.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2595 replies5 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    "While I appreciate the elucidation of UC factors 2 thru 14 for holistic evaluation,"

    "It's not impossible to evaluate a large number of applications holistically. As such, UCs do use a holistic review of the applications,"

    Actually I think only 11-14 are holistic, the first ten are all academic so on the balance, UCs do not use holistic admissions. They cannot consider race or legacy, no recommendations (though, I know that UCB has started asking), no interview, no "crafting the class" comments from adcoms. First-gen, low SES comes in in point 13, and wanting a geographic distribution in CA is point 14. They don't have a why us essay because there's one app for all of them. And you're guaranteed admission to a UC if you're top 9% in your class, i.e. class rank.

    I'm not saying they're auto admit or rack and stack, there is some holistic element to their process since they have to weed out the kids that make it past gpa/scores/course rigor review. And they have to figure out which campuses the ELC kids get admitted into.


    "just how important those other factors are"

    They're important in that these colleges get a ton of academically qualified applicants, however as mentioned above, they cannot use race, legacy, athlete, personal rating as reflected in the interview, recommendations to figure out who gets in. They do use ECs, the essays to bring out leadership, services but by and large fit for the UCs means academic fit.

    "There probably is no hard and fast rule that says they will always favor the higher GPA and less challenging classes than lower GPA and more difficult classes. "

    It would depend on what you define lower gpa, the 25-75 for uw GPA for Berkeley is 3.89-4.00 and the weighted gpa is 4.00-4.29. So a 3.75 with a ton of APs and honors is not going to get you in, you have a much better chance with a 3.9 (4.1 weighted with some APs and honors. You are solidly in the middle for Berkeley, doesn't mean you get in, but the 3.75 will not get past the first review, unless something in points 11-14 come into play.
    edited November 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79804 replies715 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    Actually I think only 11-14 are holistic, the first ten are all academic so on the balance, UCs do not use holistic admissions. They cannot consider race or legacy, no recommendations (though, I know that UCB has started asking), no interview, no "crafting the class" comments from adcoms.

    Actually, UC's process is in some ways more holistic, in that each application is read and given a single score by each of two readers (as opposed to several scores in different categories like at some elite private colleges) -- i.e. each applicant is rated as a whole rather than as a combination of parts.

    Of course, the criteria used are different, in that UC heavily weights GPA / academic record, gives somewhat less weight to test scores, uses other criteria like essays, extracurriculars, and such things as first generation status, and does not use race or legacy at all (with no recommendations or interview). But there is no point system or similar non-holistic criteria for admission readers to use to score each application.

    But then the final round of deciding the scored applications at UCs is a simple ranking (perhaps with specified tie breakers), rather than a more subjective process. "Crafting the class" is limited to admitting by division or major to avoid overflow in popular divisions or majors.
    edited November 2019
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  • Data10Data10 3265 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    Actually I think only 11-14 are holistic, the first ten are all academic so on the balance, UCs do not use holistic admissions.
    I think most would people would consider vague not directly stat criteria like "Quality of your academic performance relative to the educational opportunities available in your high school" or "Outstanding work in one or more special projects in any academic field of study " holistic. Ignoring that, the number of factors that are considered gives no information of the relative importance of those factors. Similarly having a larger number of stat criteria than more directly holistic criteria doesn't mean the college is not really holistic or is less holistic than a different college that considers a small number of stat criteria.

    Using a more specific example, the report at https://academic-senate.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/hout_report_2005.pdf analyzed Berkeley's admission more than a decade ago. A lot has changed since then, but the general points still remain. If anything, I'd expect the degree of holistic admissions to have increased since then, as non-stat holistic factors tend to become more influential as colleges become more selective and need more ways to distinguish between top stat applicants.

    Table 9 shows example GPA and average read scores for 30 kids who attended the same public high school. A read score of 1 is best, and 5 is worst. Read score is highly correlated with acceptance. The 3.78 UW kid has a near perfect 1.5 read score that was the 2nd best in his HS class (2nd to val), even though his GPA didn't put him in the top 10% of his public HS class. While the 3.9 UW kid who had a better UW GPA only received a mediocre 3 read score.

    22. 3.78 UW GPA, 4.5 W GPA, 1.5 Read score
    25. 3.9 UW GPA, 4.54 W GPA, 3 Read score

    The regression model gives some clues about why the read score didn't follow GPA. It suggests that grades were the most influential factor in the read score, but it also suggests some non-stat holistic criteria were quite influential.. Expected contributions to Berkeley campus was especially statistically sigfificant. The author writes the following.

    "Two important findings emerge from the previously unrecorded variables (PUVs). First the harder-to-observe judgments that make comprehensive review comprehensive strongly affected read scores. Activities – evaluated as major and minor, strong and light – affected scores (all else being equal) and so did contributions to community (and predictions about future contributions to Berkeley) and evidence of obstacles to achievement that appeared only in the personal statements. "

    There is little doubt that Berkeley and other UC admissions have holistic admissions. Whether they are more/less holistic than other schools is debatable and depends on the schools you are comparing to.
    edited November 2019
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  • nomoodnomood 206 replies24 threads Junior Member
    edited November 2019
    This is just my own opinion, but I feel like a lower GPA in harder classes is better than a higher GPA in easier classes. Obviously if you think you might get a C or D or fail the class because it's so hard, don't take it, but otherwise, I think (and this is JUST what I think) that taking harder classes will show a desire to learn, regardless of what grade you get.

    Of course, people made some really good points for higher GPA with easier classes, too. Honestly, I think you should just take the classes you want.
    edited November 2019
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2595 replies5 threads Senior Member
    "There is little doubt that Berkeley and other UC admissions have holistic admissions."

    Again, I never said they didn't use holistic recall - my comment above that "there is some holistic element to their process since they have to weed out the kids that make it past gpa/scores/course rigor review."

    "22. 3.78 UW GPA, 4.5 W GPA, 1.5 Read score
    25. 3.9 UW GPA, 4.54 W GPA, 3 Read score"

    Ok but both of those were admitted. There were 15 applicants who had uw gpa of less than 3.5, 13 had some kind of rigor because their weighted gpa were, in some cases a lot higher. All 15 were rejected because they were starting at too low a gpa for the honors/ap courses to make up. Kids that have a 3.9uw with many rigorous classes are admitted, that's been known for a while. I"m not really sure how useful this study is as they don't analyze the kids with 3.9 who have a 4.0 or 4.1 weighted.

    The representative applicants that prove my point are these:

    3.65 4.03
    3.66 4.08
    3.67 4.03
    3.70 4.03

    These had lower gpas but some rigor, their weighted gpas jumped by .35, three were rejected, one's app was pushed to the spring to re-evaluate. The report also goes on to say: "The students with perfect 4.0 GPAs get special attention from readers". It doesn't say 4.0s with 10 APs.

    And the ELC being expanded from top-4% to 9% meaning that of the 400K hs grads in CA, 36K are guaranteed admission totally changes the analysis from 2005.

    "lower GPA in harder classes"

    The issue here what is considered lower GPA, in the 2005 UCB report, it looked anything less than 3.5 was considered lower, today it's probably 3.75.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 3307 replies39 threads Senior Member
    Aren't 200 of the admits with a GPA below 3.75 likely to be athletic recruits?
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  • Data10Data10 3265 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    Again, I never said they didn't use holistic recall - my comment above that
    The comment I replied to is quoted in my earlier post, which said

    "on the balance, UCs do not use holistic admissions."

    If you instead mean they primarily use holistic to weed out kids who make it past initial stats, a similar statement could be made about many other highly selective colleges with holistic admissions. For example, the Harvard lawsuit review also didn't show many 3.5 UW kids being accepted. Instead it found that if you weren't an athlete, rejection was almost certain for applicants with a 4 or worse academic rating, and 4 or worse academic rating was very well correlated with stats alone.
    "22. 3.78 UW GPA, 4.5 W GPA, 1.5 Read score
    25. 3.9 UW GPA, 4.54 W GPA, 3 Read score"

    Ok but both of those were admitted.
    Had they both applied to one of the more selective program like engineering, the admit rate by read scores were as follows. There are substantial differences between these read scores. A 1.5 read score is in the top ~5% of applicants and is a near certain admit to almost any program (at time of study). A 3 read score is borderline and may or many not be admitted, depending on which program they apply to.

    1.5 read score -- 100% admit rate
    3 read score -- 21% admit rate
    3.25 read score -- 0% admit rate
    "I"m not really sure how useful this study is as they don't analyze the kids with 3.9 who have a 4.0 or 4.1 weighted.
    It's not that they don't analyze this group. It's that this group appears to be non-existent in the example class, and is likely extremely rare among overall applicants. We can see from the earlier linked tables that the few applicants who took less than 5 honors class had an abysmal admit rate of ~3% (<3% for UCLA, >3% for Berkeley). I expect 0 honors classes would be even lower (if such classes are available). We can also see that a 4.0 UW with no honors courses would lead to a UC GPA that is far below the 25th percentile range for admitted students. As such, my guess is that students who took no honors classes in spite of having them readily available in their HS would be at a strong disadvantage for admission, regardless of UW GPA. I expect you need both excellent grades and rigor (if offered at HS), rather than just one or other. However, there is a clearly a diminishing returns to increased rigor, as spelled out in the UC GPA calculation formula that caps the maximum number of honors/AP/IB courses that increase UC GPA.

    The report lists specific regression coefficients for different GPA characteristics. The following GPA-related characteristics are ordered from most to least statistically significant in getting a good (lower) reader score. All of these factors could be considered important, although grades was the most influential factor. If you don't have near a 4.0 UW, you are probably going to be rejected from a highly selective UC campus. However, if you have a near 4.0 UW without any of the other important GPA related factors, such as rigor, I expect you are also probably going to be rejected from a highly selective UC. This is consistent with the vast majority of applicants with a 3.94+ UW being rejected in the more recent freshman profiles.

    High school grades
    Perfect 4.0 GPA
    Number of APs with high scores
    Difficulty of senior classes
    College prep coursework
    Grades do not trend down


    edited November 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79804 replies715 threads Senior Member
    Again, I never said they didn't use holistic

    But then what is this that you wrote a few posts up?
    Actually I think only 11-14 are holistic, the first ten are all academic so on the balance, UCs do not use holistic admissions.

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  • skieuropeskieurope 40188 replies7431 threads Super Moderator
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    Move on from debating the UC (or any other specific university's) decision process, please.
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  • thibaultthibault 180 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Another factor is your GPA's trajectory. Junior year grades are the most important.

    On balance it's best to go for GPA-- so long as you have 5 academic solids each semester. If you can take an advanced course or two in a subject related to your intended college major, so much the better.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2595 replies5 threads Senior Member
    Sorry about that, I thought the OP brought up UC Irvine and that's how we got into UCs.

    "It's not that they don't analyze this group. It's that this group appears to be non-existent in the example class, and is likely extremely rare among overall applicants."

    Ok, but that's what the OP asked for right? To broaden the discussion, OP asked "unweighted GPA of 3.6-3.7 in the most rigorous course load or 3.9-4.0 unweighted in a less rigorous load (ie: 4-6 APs rather than 7-9 APs). That's why I was trying to analyze the kids with 3.9 who have a 4.1 or 4.2 weighted because the data shows that a "low" gpa of 3.6 or 3.7 for most schools with uw average of 3.9 would be disqualifying, unless there's a hook.

    "But then what is this that you wrote a few posts up?"

    Because 10/14were holistic, I said on balance, but I could see that as being contradicting statements!

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  • thibaultthibault 180 replies5 threads Junior Member
    The reason IMO for discussing the UCs was simply that they alone among the selective universities have voluntarily provided us miserable parents with detailed, granular data that break out admissions rates across multiple dimensions. (So did Harvard, but only under a court order and in an embarrassing trial.)

    See also the UCLA Admissions data dump (individual identities masked using brackets for SAT scores) from a few years back by whistleblower prof Tim Groseclose.

    As Prof. Groseclose's through analysis - and Data10's astute extrapolations - indicate, the *unhooked* selective-college applicant is best advised to go for GPA first, rigor second.

    Most universities will have a formal system of translating academic performance info into a single score on a scale running from 1 to at least 4, if not to 5 or 6.

    An *unhooked* applicant to a highly selective college is extremely unlikely to be accepted without a GPA that will definitely win him or her an academic rating of '2' or higher. It's not impossible for the unhooked applicant with a '3' or below rating to get accepted, but the odds are lower than average for the school.

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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79804 replies715 threads Senior Member
    thibault wrote: »
    the *unhooked* selective-college applicant is best advised to go for GPA first, rigor second.

    As a practical matter, those applying to the most selective colleges need both top-end GPA in high course rigor to have a reasonable chance of being seen as worthy academically (which is typically necessary, but not sufficient, for admission to the most selective colleges).

    At moderately selective colleges, GPA is often more important than rigor, once minimum high school courses required by the college are satisfied. Many moderately selective colleges have non-holistic admissions formulae or automatic admission criteria that can be looked up.
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  • thibaultthibault 180 replies5 threads Junior Member
    edited December 2019
    At the most selective private colleges, for unhooked applicants from schools not well-known to the admissions committee the GPA and rigor debate is for all intents and purposes moot. The unhooked/unknown HS applicant's chances of getting admitted to an Ivy+, even with a '1' academic rating, are next to zero.

    I assume that the poster knows this harsh truth, in which case this discussion to be useful needs really to focus on the relative importance of GPA vs rigor for what you're calling "moderately selective" colleges ie public ivies, flagships, second-tier non-Ivy plus private universities.

    Here's a suggested decision tree for the applicant - ask yourself these q's:

    1. Do I have a hook?
    If no, go to step #2.

    If yes, then do your homework, talk to the appropriate contacts at the university and determine what the actual academic threshold is for those in your cohort. For ex., the Academic Index (AI) for Ivy League recruited athletes will give an indication, roughly, of what a football/basketball recruit needs to attain, what a rower or fencer or tennis player etc needs to attain.

    2. Is my school well known to the admissions committee?
    If no, go to step #3.

    If yes, call the adcom and have a conversation with them to determine whether/how closely they evaluate particular courses and teachers at your school. If your school is well known, it's likely that someone in a senior capacity on the adcom knows who the really good/tough teachers are at your school, and will weight that course appropriately.

    3. If like 80% or more of the applicant pool you lack a hook, and your school is not well known or has never sent anyone on to that particular highly selective university, then you have to make inferences based on the Common Data Set info (nb. Chicago and Columbia refuse to publish this info).

    Do a search on [name of university.edu] + "common data set" and scroll down in the .pdf document or web page to SECTION C, "Freshmen Admission," and look for sections C9-C11, "Freshman Profile." Section C9 = Standardized test brackets, C10 = Class rank brackets, C11 = GPA brackets.

    Generally speaking, most highly selective colleges will only provide C9 and C10, ie SAT/ACT brackets and C10 class rank brackets. Moderately selective colleges will also provide GPA brackets.

    What this tells us is that for the most selective eg Ivy+ universities, GPA is a first screen: there's no point in even bothering to apply to such schools if you're unhooked, your school is unknown, and your GPA doesn't place you in the top 10% of your class.

    For the moderately selective universities, the scale is less steep, and typically the Common Data Set will indicate GPA brackets as well. But the logic still obtains: GPA is the gating criterion, closely followed by Rigor and Rank.
    edited December 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79804 replies715 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    In your step 2, if the answer is yes, then your school is probably a prep school with connections to the college. In that case, the college counselors at your high school should be able to tell you which reachy colleges you are a good match for in their eyes (and which they are probably steering you toward as they are allocating students to colleges).

    Regarding CDS GPA information, not all colleges give it, and colleges do not report it consistently (weighted versus unweighted, from high school or recalculated, etc.).
    edited December 2019
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