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Grades

h2ojustaddwaterh2ojustaddwater 1 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2 New Member
Im currently in year 10 about to go into year 11 for my GCSE's and generally overall in year 10 I haven't been getting the best of grades typically B's and C's. It's always been my dream to go to Cambridge University in the UK or Harvard in the US. I am for sure aiming for straight 9's or A**'s in my GCSE's in all my subjects and also 2 additional GCSE's I'm self studying which are geography and environmental science. I know that I will push myself over the next 3 years to get amazing results. Even if I did terrible in 'freshman' year (year 10) do I still have a chance at the elite colleges?
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Replies to: Grades

  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6374 replies50 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,424 Senior Member
    UK colleges won't care about anything before your GCSEs. US colleges won't care about your marks that aren't in your last 4 years of secondary school.

    Are your classroom marks low in the context of your year? Harvard is typically only interested in the top few students in a cohort. Are you one of the stars of your year?

    If not, I suggest that you start updating your university dreams and think about what you are really looking for from university. Just because you have had a dream for a long time doesn't mean you can't update it- even if you have told *everybody* your plan, you are allowed to announce a new plan!

    Asserting that you will 'push yourself' over the next 3 years to get 'amazing' results suggests that you just haven't been pushing yourself so far, which for somebody who has 'always' been aiming for Cambridge or Harvard and is self-studying extra subjects seems unlikely. If you have been pushing yourself, try and figure out why you aren't achieving at the levels you think you could be.

    I'm not sure why you are self-studying for 2 more GCSEs: Cambridge does look at them, but they don't care if you do 9 or 12 or heaven help us 14- they like to see 4-5 A*s (8/9s), but they are more interested in A level results. They absolutely look at context, so if 9 is what is allowed / the norm at your school that is all they will expect. If the time you are taking to work on the extra GCSE undercuts your work in the 9 required ones that is a poor trade off. Harvard will not be remotely interested in extra GCSEs.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 37973 replies6574 discussionsSuper Moderator Posts: 44,547 Super Moderator
    Harvard will not be remotely interested in extra GCSEs.
    Harvard won't be remotely interested in anything that is self studied.
    Are you one of the stars of your year?
    To be clear, the question should be "Are you one of the stars of your year in your country?" Acceptance rates for international applicants to Harvard is about 2%. Most applicants will have amazing grades, but grades are only part of the package.
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  • b@r!um[email protected]!um 10215 replies175 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,390 Senior Member
    American elite universities are looking for international applicants with extraordinary accomplishments, often national or international awards. Additional GCSE subjects won't get you noticed, but a medal from the International Math Olympiad or a world-class sports performance would.

    Of course self-studying is a perfectly legitimate way to acquire new knowledge and to hone your skills. But Harvard is only going to care if that self-studying results in something extraordinary, not an additional GCSE score.
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  • ocean2000ocean2000 27 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 27 Junior Member
    Being an international student who has applied to the US I do believe that universities in the US lack the understanding of the curriculum from overseas and generally tend not to really take an initiative in the international students grades as they do with US students. For example I was the top student in my school and city. I also did the British exams which was international advanced level not just the regular GCSE and my overall equivalent for my A-levels was 5 A*s and an A in the most rigorous subjects. In addition to that I was a national sportsman for my country, however when I applied to USC which isn’t even top 60 in the world they decided to reject me and clearly ‘rub their shoulders’. Sorry to say but 95% of the students admitted to USC wouldn’t be able to match that. Furthermore, I didn’t have additional aid such as tutors. I achieved everything on my own and living half a world away from my parents as an independent teenager because I believed in my education.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6374 replies50 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,424 Senior Member
    I am sorry that you were disappointed.

    The usual first question is, 'do you need financial aid'? If so, that is a big part of the equation.

    USC has a relatively high % of international students (17%, compared to an average of 12-13%), and from more than 100 countries, so they are not unfamiliar with international curriculums. As somebody pointed out to you on one of your other threads, "In recent cycles, 4K+ applicants with 4.0 unweighted GPAs and test scores in the 99th percentile were among those not gaining admission."

    Moreover, by your other post, you applied to film production, which is one of the top 3 film programs in the world, so dissing USC by saying it "isn't even in the top 60" is irrelevant. Similarly, your fantastic A levels and sports achievements are only part of the equation when looking for admission to a course that is explicit that the portfolio is a large part of the admission process.

    Again, I am sorry that you were disappointed.
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  • ocean2000ocean2000 27 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 27 Junior Member
    Yes, however 75% of USC international students hail from only 3 countries, namingly China, India and Korea, so yes I do believe there is a large disparity in where the international students are from. In addition, I notice you’ve mentioned that grades aren’t everything which I expected as a given. True grades aren’t everything, but when a school decides to give you a generic response ‘explaining’ the reason you were rejected it is often derived from an academic explanation and you can’t truly believe that US universities truly take the same care in understanding the grades of each international student from around the world as they differ substantially, making the job difficult as apposed to their national applicants?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6374 replies50 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,424 Senior Member
    It is true that most AdComms are not well versed in the grades of a student from (as a recent example), Kazakhstan. But A levels are one of the most familiar international qualifications, and are quite well understood. At USC the top 5 international countries represented are (in order) China, India, Canada, UK and South Korea, so they clearly know what a strong UK applicant looks like.

    @ocean2000, the AdComm would have recognized your academic strengths- but again, the film production program takes the portfolio part seriously. It is even less about grades than most places.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32782 replies350 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 33,132 Senior Member
    edited June 4
    You do not need national or international awards. Or extraordinary accomplishments. You need a strong pattern of stretching in the right ways, academic, ECs, and more.

    You can count on top US colleges understanding foreign curricula, grading and other matters. It's not like internationals never applied before.

    But ocean2000, it's holistic. Not just about who's got better stats.
    And OP has not mentioned USC.
    edited June 4
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  • skieuropeskieurope 37973 replies6574 discussionsSuper Moderator Posts: 44,547 Super Moderator
    edited June 4
    MODERATOR'S NOTE:
    I'm assuming we're done debating international admissions to USC, since that's unrelated to the OP's question. Fascinating as the discussion may be, that's better for its own thread.
    edited June 4
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  • MWolfMWolf 1231 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,239 Senior Member
    @h2ojustaddwater "It's always been my dream to go to Cambridge University in the UK or Harvard in the US."

    That's a red flag right there. You're not writing "I want to study XYZ, and Harvard is the best place in the world for this", or "I feel that the way they teach at Cambridge really fits my learning style". From this sentence, it is fairly clear that you really have no idea as to what you want from a university except that it will be a world-famous name. There is really no way that you really have any idea as to what actually attending either of these is like.

    University is a four year process (or longer if you go to grad school) which helps you further your life goals, develop as a person, and, hopefully, enjoy yourself as well. However, you seem focused on one moment in this process - being notified that you were accepted to whatever highly prestigious college of which you are thinking at the moment.

    Focus on what you want to do with your life and with your high school years. Do your best to take the most challenging classes which interest you and/or are required for whatever major you want to study, and do your best to achieve the highest grade possible on those classes. If you want to apply to schools in the USA, you should also check what classes are preferred for the most competitive colleges for kids who studied in high schools outside the USA (like how many years of math, science, etc). When you are in 11th grade you can start figuring out which college is the best one for you.
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  • h2ojustaddwaterh2ojustaddwater 1 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Thanks, I feel like I really needed this. I actually didn't realize what I was really expecting from university until you highlighted it for me, which gives me a whole new perspective. And as for the challenging classes I am going to be taking some over the summer which are only relevant to the major I want to pursue. I still want to aim for the same universities regardless. I can see you have a good view on the college process so do you think it is vital for an international student who is aiming for these top colleges to nationally or internationally achieve something in their field of liking, in order to have a chance at them? I've heard many answers to this question and most of them say yes it is necessary in order to show the admissions officers that the student has a 'spike'
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6374 replies50 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,424 Senior Member
    It does not have to be a national or international achievement- but you have to stand out. As @lookingforward said "You need a strong pattern of stretching in the right ways, academic, ECs, and more." There are a lot of ways to do that- but there are also a lot of very amazing 17 and 18 year olds, from all over the world, with whom you are competing for a handful of slots.

    Moreover, you are focused on two places that have fundamentally different values in what they want from student applicants. I know more than a few students who have had offers from one while being rejected by the other. There are students who get into both- but it is uncommon.
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