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To what extent will some Bs and a C in my high school transcript affect my chances?

ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
Hey all,

I know it's still months to college application season, but I am looking to apply for Harvard's SCEA this fall, and I was wondering how much emphasis Harvard places on grades in the middle of high school. Assuming SAT scores in the mid to high 700s (from practice tests), as well as strong extracurriculars in a few different areas, will Harvard admission officers immediately throw my application into the reject pile if they see a couple of Bs and a C (in math, not something I plan to study) without looking at the rest of the application?

Will it be helpful to account for the dip in my grades through the Common App additional sectionm? I was focusing a lot on my music ECs then, joining competition after competition and practicing for 4 hours a day on average (as much as 6-7 hours on days where I had more time). Or will admission officers see this as a lame excuse?

Thanks in advance!
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Replies to: To what extent will some Bs and a C in my high school transcript affect my chances?

  • ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
    So it will be best not to mention it at all? Or is it a good idea to ask my guidance counselor to touch on it in passing?
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6525 replies1 threads Senior Member
    I will assume that you know that you can only apply SCEA to one school. If you apply to two, they will figure it out and you will be rejected from both.

    If you are a great athlete, legacy, or URM you *might* have a chance. Otherwise, both Harvard and Princeton have the choice of many students who have great grades, great test scores, great references, great ECs, and did not pull off a C in math (which is important to many majors -- and I am pretty sure that Harvard does not admit by major). Either would be a very high reach.

    I think that you need to focus on finding two solid safeties. Then if you want to also throw in an application to Harvard and an application to Princeton (but NOT SCEA to both) then do so, but do not get your hopes up.
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  • ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Groundwork2022 nope I'm not, I only asked in the forums for these 2 schools because I was deciding between Harvard or Princeton early action. But in view of Princeton's recent announcement I guess the decision has been made :)
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  • ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
    DadTwoGirls, thanks for the advice. If I have near-perfect test scores for SAT Math and the Math II subject tests, will it balance out the C in some way? Or do admission officers look at grades as a much more important consideration than test scores?
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10131 replies118 threads Senior Member
    Grades are going to be most important.

    I would not “explain” you were working on your music and not your class work unless you were going to conservatory.
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    Extensive commitment to music is a big plus in many cases, for admission. Are you in a conservatory prep program?

    You don't need to excuse those B's and a C. Making excuses is not a good look unless there is some dramatic special circumstance.

    However, in a more positive vein, you can add a note to what your guidance counselor sends, if your commitment to music affected course selection. For instance, if you took online courses, or went down a level in math to accommodate music.

    You have to meet a benchmark with scores and grades. Good grades do not differentiate students. Holistic admissions looks at the big picture. It is also about 1) assembling an interesting mix in the class and 2) what you can contribute on campus. Music can help with both.

    Make sure to submit a music supplement with a recording or video, a music resume, and letters of recommendation from teachers or directors (two is fine).

    In the meantime, make sure to apply to many schools where you could be happy.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2543 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Why do you want to attend Harvard? Why do you think that Harvard is a place at which you will succeed and thrive? Just as importantly, what will you bring to Harvard that makes it worth their while to admit you instead of student who has no Cs?
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  • ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
    I would like to attend Harvard because I aspire to be an academic back in my home country in the future. I have done research on history and literature at quite a high level for the past few years, and have even managed to get a paper published in the Concord Review (it also won the Ralph Waldo Emerson prize by a stroke of good fortune). So I really hope that attending Harvard will allow me to further my research and help realise my dream of becoming an academic :)

    By the way, I'm not sure how easy it is to get As in the US, but at least in my high school, the proportion of students getting A in a cohort is perhaps around 5%, with the average being D for History and E for Chemistry. Will the admissions officers take this into account?
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6525 replies1 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2
    "Will the admissions officers take this into account?"

    Yes. Admissions officers do know a lot more than you might expect about grading scales in different countries. You do not need to have grades that compete with students attending high schools in the US (where A's are relatively common). You need to have grades that compete with students who are in the same grading system that you are, which mostly means in your country.

    As one very old example from back when I was in high school: The #1 student in my high school had an average of about 91%. The number two student in my high school had an average of 89.9%. These grades today in the US might or might not put a student in the top 10% of the high school (more likely not), but were the two top students in my school. The students were compared with students from the same grading system, and one went to ETH Zurich and one went to MIT, both as international students.

    In the same sense your grades will be interpreted according to the system that you came from.

    Reading more of this thread I do think that it is worth your applying to a couple of top US schools. However, definitely apply to safeties also.
    edited July 2
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    edited July 3
    Your guidance counselor can include an explanation of the grading scale if Harvard is not familiar with the school.

    Congratulations on the publication of your research in the Concord Review and winning the prize. This kind of thing- and your music- matters more than perfect grades.

    Definitely have safeties in mind, but for early application(s) go ahead and apply to your top choice(s).

    I would urge you to take a serious look at Harvard, Princeton and any other schools that you are interested in and make sure they are a good fit. Finding a school that fits you is more important than you trying to fit the school :)
    edited July 3
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  • ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Thanks compmom for the congrats and encouragement!! :)
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  • NJdad07090NJdad07090 605 replies8 threads Member
    It will help your case if you are full pay, would you be?
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  • ballista1ballista1 15 replies4 threads Junior Member
    Nope, but I will be applying for some scholarships.

    I thought Harvard is need-blind though?
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    edited July 5
    @ballista1 @NJdad07090 Ability to pay does not affect your case - even if your EFC is zero. Admissions is totally separate from financial aid.
    edited July 5
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