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Questions about GPA, straight As and Top Schools

HankCTHankCT 220 replies10 threads Junior Member
Sorry this may ramble across a few different topics, but the more I learn, the more I feel as though I do not know.

GPA: On this front, I am learning that nothing is consistent. Our children go to a pretty good public high school (ranked in the top 30 out of 200) in CT (one of the more rigorous states to get an education in). I've been noticing that our HS uses an unusual weight for honors and AP. While many HS will give a 5.0 for for an A in an AP class, our school goes with a 4.0, and then at the end of the year, they will tack on a cumulative 0.07 to your final GPA. This means, if you take 10 AP classes, you get an extra 0.7 on your GPA just for having "shown up" for the class. So a person with a perfect B average, would have a 3.0 + 0.7 = 3.7 weighted GPA. At our school, the valedictorian is usually around a 4.9-5.0, and this is likely due to taking something like 8 AP and 8 Honors classes, adding about 1.0 to the GPA.

Formulas: I realize now that most colleges apply their own formula. I presume they have a HS ranking of their own with a weight factor, then maybe toss out Gym/Band/HomeEc/WoodShop classes and just look at the cores, non-weighted, and then also apply their own honors/AP multipliers. I do think that some public large state schools might just look at the weighted GPA, which I think hurts our town since we go with a lower AP multiplier than many other towns and states.

Straight As: Is it true that top schools essentially all require straight As to even look at a student (excluding kids with a special talent like sports, music, art portfolio)? I keep hearing about how top UC schools and Ivies require you have straight As and a 1500+ SAT, and then from there they actually look at you. Reason I am asking is because straight As seems a bit of a reach, at least at our schools. The AP and honors professors literally take pride in tripping up the kids. Many tests include lots of questions about things that were never covered nor in the textbooks, and they also like to ask trick questions, strangely worded questions. As a result, it's very common for kids who studied their brains out to get 87 or 91 test grades. Sometimes there are days where an entire AP class will "bomb" a test and the high score in the class is something like a 77. They do not curve, and put the blame squarely on the kids in those cases even though it may have been up to the kids to try to wildly guess what was going to be on the test. They also aren't using "standard AP tests", if those exist, they write their own tests up.

Top Schools: We've already ruled out many of the Ivy and Ivy equivalents, mainly because our daughter is more of an A and B student. In her core classes, like AP US Hist, AP Comp Sci, Honors Chem, Honors Latin, etc, she is usually between an 85 and a 94 for grades. This puts her non-weighted GPA in the 3.5 zone, and after 4 years of taking rigorous classes, she looks to be "on pace" to "accumulate" around .8 to 1.0 GPA points, so something like a weighted 4.2 to 4.4. Again, however, this is based on our school. It seems that so many kids (when I read around online) easily breeze through straight As, so I assume she's not going to be considered for anything at that level.

Some of the top schools she has as a reach school right now are Northeastern, RPI, WPI, etc. Her dream ideal would be Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, etc, but not sure it's even worth applying.

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Replies to: Questions about GPA, straight As and Top Schools

  • HankCTHankCT 220 replies10 threads Junior Member
    Just wanted to add a note I should have added at the beginning: We're ecstatic with how our kid is doing and growing in school, and we know wherever she ends up she's going to do well (and face some challenges of course). This is more of trying to gauge where to look, as opposed to vent about not being able to go to an Ivy League school. We want her in the right place, not necessarily the "best" place. Just the best place for her. We're also finding out the major(s) she wants to do, tend to have excellent programs at some of the aforementioned excellent schools, and the major isn't really available at many other mid-level schools.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40509 replies7529 threads Super Moderator
    edited January 19
    I keep hearing about how top UC schools and Ivies require you have straight As and a 1500+ SAT
    No, they don't. It will be viewed in context. At the top private HS's in the country - the Andover, Exeter level - it is common for less than 5% of the graduating class to have a perfect GPA. And more than 5% go to Ivy League schools.

    In terms of the SAT, yes, most successful applicants to Ivy League will have 1500+. Ditto for the most competitive applicants to UCB and UCLA. But there is no auto reject score.

    In terms of course weighting - don't worry about it. There is no common metric, and colleges will either look at the UW GPA or will reweighs to their own standards.
    edited January 19
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8769 replies83 threads Senior Member
    Your school report that explains the grading will go with your students transcript to colleges. Colleges do look at that. :)

    My D’s HS also didn’t give special weight to APs and a 92.49 was a B+. I think she just did fine with acceptances two cycles ago as did her classmates, including those that were chasing merit.
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3597 replies24 threads Senior Member
    @HankCT Schools issue annual reports that describe the stats for their student body. So if the average GPA in your child's school skews lower, admissions officers will be able to interpret your child's performance within the student body as a whole. If the school ranks, that will provide another indicator of what a 3.5 means. Finally, admissions officers at top schools may be familiar with your child's school by reputation and will adjust their expectations accordingly. If she has strong test scores, I don't see the harm in applying to a few reaches, as long as the list is balanced with safeties and matches.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1916 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Our HS is somewhat similar. Schools will look at unweighted grades and then typically use their own weighting scheme to figure a weighted GPA, if they use it.

    Our school just adds to your overall GPA - .01 per quarter for Honors, .015 for Dual Enrollment, .02 for AP. There’s also a cap to what you can earn, which differs by year. My D lost points last year and will do the same this year.

    So after sophomore year, the highest you can have is 4.60, but by graduation you can have a 5.56.

    Which makes it meaningless to compare to other “weighted” GPAs. Schools know this and adjust.
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