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USAToday: Most colleges don't care about GPAs

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder 6083 replies100309 threads Senior Member
edited April 2013 in College Admissions
USAToday's Mary Beth Marklein wrote an article that is sure to spark some controversy:

Grades pointless? Some colleges don't care about GPAs

The subhead for the story is, "Admissions officers at the nation's top schools say they barely look at an applicant's GPA," which has a different spin than the headline. The most elite schools are indeed less formula-based than other schools and try to take into account accomplishments outside the classroom.

Even at the Ivies, though, the Academic Index takes class rank into account, which in turn is determined by GPA.

If you look at admission scattergrams that plot GPA and SAT/ACT scores with admission results (such as those produced by Naviance), there's certainly a correlation between GPA and acceptance at just about every college and university. Correlation doesn't imply causation, of course - it could be the colleges have other ways of admitting smart applicants, and those applicants just have high GPAs too.

What do you think? Words of wisdom or dangerous advice?
edited April 2013
46 replies
Post edited by Roger_Dooley on
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Replies to: USAToday: Most colleges don't care about GPAs

  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder 6083 replies100309 threads Senior Member
    Or, overly exuberant headline writing by someone other than Marklein? :)
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  • SikorskySikorsky 5745 replies106 threads Senior Member
    Wow. An article that says next to nothing, and a headline that says something startling that isn't quite supported by the few facts in the article. What a disastrous combination!

    If you read between the lines, I think you find it implied that the admissions committees at selective colleges and universities are doing what deans have been saying they do: they are reading applicants' transcripts rather than getting hung up on applicants' GPAs.

    I certainly get the feeling that these deans had more to say than what has been quoted. Specifically, I think they probably said they pay little attention to GPA because it is easily manipulated, but they still pay close attention to an applicant's course of study and to the grades he or she earned.
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  • lovemy2boyslovemy2boys 5 replies0 threads New Member
    My son has been accepted to every school he has applied to so far (10 of them) most likely because of his SAT and ACT scores (2000 and 28) and also extra curricular activities. His GPA (3.2) has kept him from getting much for merit scholarships. So I do agree that the schools may look more at the test scores than the GPA but I believe you need the whole package for the scholarships.
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  • PhilovitistPhilovitist 2695 replies44 threads Senior Member
    The headline of the thread is also incongruous with the OP's content.
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  • aquamarineseaaquamarinesea 786 replies46 threads Member
    In general, I don't pay much attention to USA Today articles. Most articles seem to skim the surface of the subject without delving into the subject matter.
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  • emberjedemberjed 1299 replies68 threads Senior Member
    @Sikorsky: True. It's been established repeatedly that it isn't possible to compare GPAs with more than fragments of objectivity. Grading policies and rigor of classes with given titles are, well, also not seamless, but at least they tend to be fairly standardized.
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  • lvvcsflvvcsf 2424 replies58 threads Senior Member
    In the "High School Life" section there is a thread called "How does your school add weight for Honors/AP classes" or something like that. The methods of calculating are all over the map. I can see where colleges would just look at the transcript to see what classes were taken and what grades were earned in the class to determine the readiness for college work. It would be quicker than recalculating all the GPAs to some single standard. If you have a 4.0 student in a system where the top students might have GPAs in the 5s then the GPA is only important in that system. I would think that grades and rigor of curriculum is very important to colleges. GPA being a less standardized and therefore reliable indicator not as much.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83950 replies745 threads Senior Member
    The headline may be technically true, but misleading. They may not care about the GPA printed on the transcript, but that is different from not caring about courses and grades.

    * Some schools recalculate GPA their own way.
    * Some schools look over the actual courses and grades on the transcript.
    * Some schools use class rank instead of grades or GPA.
    * Some schools are open admission and really do not care about previous grades.
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  • cabengineercabengineer 23 replies0 threads Junior Member
    The funny part is that the article references that grades may not be that important for some schools, which morphs into the headline that says "some colleges don't care about GPAs", which morphs into the title of this thread "Most colleges don't care about GPAs".

    This thread is a good example of headline inflation.
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  • LizzieTLizzieT 233 replies2 threads Junior Member
    'Headline inflation' - great term!
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  • Sportsmom42Sportsmom42 255 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Definitely headline inflation! Interestingly, another parent (who hasn't gone through the college admissions process yet) cited this article, and was excitingly telling everyone that GPAs don't matter anymore. I hadn't seen this article yet, but told her that she was misinformed and the article wasn't accurate. Based on our experience last year, and son applied to 16 colleges, most of which are highly selective, the main two things that matter are the numbers - GPA and test scores. If you make that cut, then the rest (essays, ECs, awards, etc), come into consideration.
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  • livesinnewjerseylivesinnewjersey 567 replies56 threads Member
    This is incredibly timely discussion for me. I have a designed a college comparison spreadsheet for kids I help. I left off GPA b/c it simply too subjective. Kids will include their electives to inflate GPa, some schools do not weight, and in the end the colleges are using their own calculations while looking at the high school profile.

    Indeed the GPA is important it's just not a simple answer.
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  • gschlactgschlact 8 replies0 threads New Member
    Hi Sportsmom42-
    interesting you say it is all about the numbers. My Senior daughter has experience it to, but the question at what is good enough??? She had one stat not quite as strong as he others and it has haunted her. The following is not meant to brag but to make point and ask question...

    Top 50 USNWR High School
    Top 5 percent (most granular percentile reporting) about 1050 students in class.
    Will finish with 11 AP classes (all 3 or better)
    3.96 UW and 4.55 W GPA
    >4000 total service, activity, sports, and work hours
    Leadership (founded and President of two clubs with awards)
    3 incredible recommendation Letters (each to the effect she is easily top 10 all around star in over 10-20 years of being at this school of this size)
    2year Varsity Captain, with 2nd sport non captain
    Numerous selective awards
    Excellent Essays
    ACT 30 with 32 super score [35,33,32,28 individual].
    SAT II. 750, 670, 650

    Obviously her Standardized test scores are her chink in her app, if you call them a chink.

    We hoped that the holistic application would outweigh the standard test scores. However all the standardized scores are pretty much 25th Percentile for all the top 20 schools. (Meaning that they are not 5th percentile)

    She applied Early Decision to Northwestern and we were floored that she was Rejected, not even deferred. SO, I ask, how can 25th percentile score have kept her out?? We had hoped that although not in the upper end, that they would have been enough to get her other characteristics to shine and come out on top! So now she is gathering other acceptances and scholarship and will need to weigh everything out in April.

    Best of luck to everyone.
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  • texaspgtexaspg Forum Champion Pre-Med & Medical 16672 replies343 threads Forum Champion
    GPAs don't matter.

    Man bites dog.
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  • PhilovitistPhilovitist 2695 replies44 threads Senior Member
    Essays must not have been that excellent. :/
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  • sosomenzasosomenza - 2091 replies31 threads Senior Member
    Just my opinion- The average GPA is around 4.0 for the admit class of the elite universities. Assuming 40,000 apps (which is a large statistical population) it just seems to me that if GPA wasn't a consideration then there would be wider dispersion from the near perfection GPA. (mean)?
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  • TinnyTTinnyT 1659 replies18 threads Senior Member
    This article is poorly written in my opinion. The intent to confuse is also apparent. GPA "might" not matter, but grades still do.
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  • cortana431cortana431 - 4846 replies169 threads Senior Member
    What is with these sensational headlines or thread titles recently (this and the "no MCAT" threaD)
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  • OneMorningLeftOneMorningLeft 16 replies0 threads New Member
    For me it's a relief to hear GPA isn't as heavily weighted as I presumed..
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  • lboss1223lboss1223 355 replies10 threads Member
    A word from Jeff Brenzel, the Dean of undergraduate admissions for Yale University.


    Transcript and GPA are not the same, but it does seem like high school grades matter A LOT to say the least.
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