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Can a high SAT and AP scores offset lower GPA

mrwildcatmrwildcat 8 replies6 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14 New Member
I'm currently a junior in high school. Freshmen year wasn't a great year in terms of coming out of middle school. I had a 3.0 UW GPA. Sophomore I decided that i wasn't going to repeat freshmen year and got a 3.8 GPA. Now I'm a junior, I'm taking 6 AP's and I have a 4.0 and scored a 1542 on the SAT. i will finish with a 3.71 overall and a 4.4 W. Assuming I scored 5's on my AP's, will my academics be enough for Harvard. I know there are other aspects to focus on but could my AP scores and sat offset my lower GPA?
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Replies to: Can a high SAT and AP scores offset lower GPA

  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5218 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,219 Senior Member
    High SAT scores are something that Harvard expects, along with a high GPA, great ECs, great references, great essays, and something "extra". All of these are important, with your GPA probably being the most important. Most students who apply to Harvard are exceptionally strong students, and most are nonetheless turned down.

    I see that you have started several threads asking about Harvard. I think that you need to understand that there are a great many very good universities in the US, and more elsewhere. You should not be fixated on one school. You have a strong uptrend in your grades. This uptrend will help you get accepted to many very good schools. It is relatively unlikely that Harvard will be one of them.

    Apply if you want to, but Harvard is a high reach for you. Spend most of your effort considering schools where you are likely to be accepted.

    If you post more information about what you want in a university, then other people here on CC can help you pick out other very good universities that you might want to consider.
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    Does your 3.71 GPA place you in the top 1% to 3% of your graduating class? How about the top 5%? Or, top 10%? FWIW: I think Yale says it best -- and it applies to Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT etc:
    The single most important document in your application is your high school transcript, which tells us a great deal about your academic drive and performance over time. We look for students who have consistently taken a broad range of challenging courses in high school and have done well.

    While there is no hard and fast rule, it is safe to say that performance in school is more important than testing. A very strong performance in a demanding college preparatory program may compensate for modest standardized test scores, but it is unlikely that high standardized test scores will persuade the admissions committee to disregard an undistinguished secondary-school record.
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  • mrwildcatmrwildcat 8 replies6 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14 New Member
    How do I compensate for a lower gpa that makes me stand out against those with higher gpa's?
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    edited June 2
    You can't compensate. Period. So, you don't. Your GPA is what it is, AND unless you can play athletics at a division 1 level, you are NOT-NOT-NOT going to stand out at HYPSM with your GPA (sorry, I really don't want to hammer this home, but you seem to need this approach).

    While you can certainly apply to Harvard and the like, you need to understand that your chances are minimal given the average self-reported high school GPA of enrolled freshman applicants is a 3.9 That said, there are many good colleges that would really WANT YOU and you need to focus on those schools.

    Although you may be dreaming of Harvard, thousands of poly-perfect students -- students that can best you on the academic and EC fields -- are rejected each year. So, dream another dream. Dream about someplace where you will be the top student in the class rather than in the middle of the pack at a college like Harvard. FWIW: I've posted this before but here it is again:
    Just as course rigor varies among high schools, there are also varying levels of course rigor at different colleges. Harvard (and the rest of the ivies) -- rightly, or wrongly -- believe they are teaching to the gifted and talented students of this world, so to challenge those "best of the best" students, professors are encouraged to pour on the work.

    For example, some courses normally taught over an ENTIRE YEAR at another college are taught during ONE SEMESTER at Harvard. Let's take LS2 (Evolutionary Human Physiology and Anatomy), which is the Bio course recommended for students interested in pursing medical school. The course is jammed packed with things you wouldn't be asked to do at another college, like identifying every bone in the human body by week two in the course, something most students don't have to do until medical school. Yes, it's a fabulous experience for some students, but because ivy league professors have higher expectations of their student's, a student with a B average in high school is going to struggle to be a C or D student if they take a course like LS2. Here's the syllabus. You can judge for yourself how well you might do just by looking at the expectations of the professors for this course: https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/adamfrange/files/life_sciences_2_evolutionary_human_physiology_and_anatomy_syllabus_2012.pdf
    edited June 2
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  • CTScoutmomCTScoutmom 1925 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,934 Senior Member
    It's not that you don't have a chance, just that Harvard is a long shot for ALL applicants. Your GPA isn't going to make you stand out, but the trend you have shown with your GPA will help - 3.0 then 3.8, and 4.0. The next part as alluded to by gibby above is the context of your GPA. Did you earn those grades at a school where grading is relatively easy, or is it a tough school? Your class rank and test scores (not just yours, but your school's score profile) will provide that context. That GPA and class valedictorian at a school with a reputation for being strong would help, bot nothing is going to make admission more likely than not, unless you have a strong hook that makes you unique in a way that Harvard desires
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  • JHSJHS 18284 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,354 Senior Member
    Gibby is giving you the right message -- your chances of getting in at Harvard are very low, focus your energy elsewhere -- but I think he's wrong about your GPA. If you have a 3.95 unweighted GPA for your sophomore year through your first 12th grade marking period (4.0 in 11th and 12th grades), taking the most rigorous curriculum your school offers, and scoring 5s on your APs, and you have 1540 SATs, the fact that you had a 3.0 GPA in 9th grade is not going to keep you from getting accepted at Harvard. Your grades will be OK; your test scores will be OK.

    What will keep you from getting accepted at Harvard will be if all you really have to offer is OK grades and test scores. What will your teachers say about you? Are you one of the best students they have ever taught? What have you accomplished other than doing the assignments and taking the tests other people have given you? Do you have ideas that are interesting, and can you communicate them in a way that is instantly engaging?

    That's more or less what you need to have a good chance of admission at Harvard. If you have them, your grades won't stand in your way. If you don't have them, even perfect grades wouldn't help you.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28056 replies56 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 28,112 Senior Member
    If you had some great hook, yes, it could compensate. But without it, no. Harvard gets so many fantastic academic apps that it can just skim the cream off the top as far as stats go. They need to look for reason to deny. Same with some of those other top schools.

    Stanford focuses on last 3 year grades. UCs and Cal States do as well, ignores freshman year grades.

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  • happy1happy1 22408 replies2184 discussionsForum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 24,592 Forum Champion
    Like too many HS students you seem to be focusing much of your energy on a college that is a huge reach (not just for you but for any unhooked applicant). It is fine to apply to a reach school or two but IMO it is even more important that you spend time seeking out those match and safety schools that both appear affordable (run net price calculator) and that you would be excited to attend. Trust me -- they are out there if you look for them.
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2286 replies54 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,340 Senior Member
    If you have a 3.95 unweighted GPA for your sophomore year through your first 12th grade marking period (4.0 in 11th and 12th grades), taking the most rigorous curriculum your school offers, and scoring 5s on your APs, and you have 1540 SATs, the fact that you had a 3.0 GPA in 9th grade is not going to keep you from getting accepted at Harvard.

    OP's unweighted GPA through the first semester senior year mathematically cannot exceed 3.66.
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  • JHSJHS 18284 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,354 Senior Member
    If you assume (a) the maximum unweighted grade for GPA purposes is 4.0, and (b) a semester grading system, then the OP could have a 3.91 unweighted GPA "for [his or her] sophomore year through [the] first 12th grade marking period." I should have said 3.91, not 3.95. (If one can get higher than 4.0 on an unweighted basis, say 4.3, then the GPA for that period could be as high as 3.98.)

    My point is that the 9th grade grades would not likely matter in that case, despite Harvard having a formal policy of not ignoring them. The 3.66 cumulative GPA would not mean much, nor would the fact that the 9th grade 3.0 might well keep the OP out of the top 1%, 2%, or even 5% of the class, about which gibby made a big deal.
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    edited June 3
    The 3.66 cumulative GPA would not mean much, nor would the fact that the 9th grade 3.0 might well keep the OP out of the top 1%, 2%, or even 5% of the class, about which gibby made a big deal.

    @JHS, I think we both can agree with @cptofthehouse and @happy1. Given the level of competition at a school like HYPSM, an Admissions Office is going to need a fabulous reason (or reasons) for admitting a student with a 3.66 cumulative GPA over other extremely qualified students with a perfect or near perfect GPA and test scores. And outside of being a nationally ranked athlete in a helmet sport, or having his teachers proclaim the OP as the best student they've taught in their class in 30 years, or being the son or daughter of someone who has their name on one of Harvard's buildings, I can't think of any advice to offer the OP as to how to stand out from the crowd with a lower GPA. Can you?
    edited June 3
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  • JHSJHS 18284 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,354 Senior Member
    I think the issue is how to stand out in a crowd, period. I believe if an applicant has Bs in 9th grade and near-perfect grades thereafter, as well as perfectly good test scores, no one is going to say, "Why should we admit this kid over someone who didn't screw up in 9th grade?" Sure, most of the students Harvard admits were as shiny in 9th grade as they are in 12th grade, but I don't think that's an actual requirement.

    (If it is a de facto requirement, then pardon me if I lose a certain amount of respect for Harvard Admissions. Because it would be a pretty stupid thing to say, as a matter of policy, we don't admit kids who waited until they were 15 or 16 to bloom into superstars.)

    Maybe I'm completely wrong, but I don't think anyone looks at these numbers and rejects the applicant out of hand. I think they say, "Let's see what the applicant has to offer." And there's the problem that sinks all those thousands of Harvard applicants with great grades and great test scores -- they don't really have something that amazing to offer. And the OP's post obsessing about 9th grade grades doesn't give much of a sense that there's some amazing, vibrant person behind those numbers. I'm reading a smart kid who grew up, buckled down, and got the job done, which I'm sure we agree does not get you very far with Harvard admissions. It doesn't get you very far if you did it in 8th grade and have a 3.99 unweighted high school GPA or if it took another year and your high school GPA is more like 3.67. But if it turns out the OP does have something amazing to offer, and it comes across in the recommendations, essays, interview, the OP may still be rejected, but it won't be because of mediocre grades in 9th grade.
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  • mrwildcatmrwildcat 8 replies6 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 14 New Member
    I think a little more context to my EC's might help

    Debate - Captain
    Newspaper- Editor in Chief
    NHS- President
    Marching Band- Drum Major
    All state concert Band
    Model UN
    Century Club- Top 30 kids in Junior Class ( My school is somewhat competitive)
    Boys state representative
    Track & Field.

    Would being nationally ranked/ winning awards in any of these boost my application? And how could I further demonstrate my passion for some of these?
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    ^^ Yes, being nationally ranked and winning awards will help your extracurricular's stand out. However, please don't use the word passion, instead think "positively impact" as in how has your participation in your EC's positively impacted the students around you at your high school. Please watch this video and pay attention to what is said at the 2:35 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UYhTylqC9o
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    edited June 4
    FWIW: There is now an alternative to the Common Application that is giving students more options to present themselves to Admissions Committees. It's called The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/education/edlife/what-college-admissions-wants.html
    Last year, Yale allowed students using the coalition’s application to submit a document, image, audio file or video in response to a prompt (they also had to reflect, in 250 words or less, on their submission).

    When Justin Aubin heard about that option last fall . . . the following prompt caught his eye: “A community to which you belong and the footprint you have left.” He submitted a short video documenting his Eagle Scout project, for which he oversaw the construction of a monument honoring veterans.

    The content of the video impressed Yale’s admissions committee. “People sat up in their chairs,” Mr. Quinlan said. “You could see how he handled his leadership role, and we felt like we got a good sense of him in a way that we didn’t get from recommendations.”

    Mr. Aubin is now a freshman at Yale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=29&v=cmnKgRXClRM

    The video submitted by this student is a good example of a someone positively impacting their community through one of their extracurriular activities. And the video certainly made this student stand out!
    edited June 4
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