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Re-taking high school classes to improve class rank

spud17spud17 44 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
edited October 2013 in Parents Forum
My son, a junior attending a public high school, had a very bad freshman year, academically speaking. Typical male immaturity/bad peer group/bad choices. Since then, he has buckled down and gotten the grades he is capable of: almost all A's in gifted/AP classes (3.4 UW/4.1W) and probable NMSF. However, because of his 9th grade debacle, his class rank is not even in the top 25%, nor can it ever be higher than top 20%. He is very interested in attending a more selective LAC, but I'm afraid that his rank will disqualify him outright. I have suggested re-taking one of the classes he did more poorly in, the grade of which can be used to replace the original one, but he doesn't think that his rank will be a problem. I hate to push the issue if it's not that big a deal; we've been getting along so much better and he feels like he's under enough pressure as it is. Will colleges look past his rank?
edited October 2013
27 replies
Post edited by spud17 on
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Replies to: Re-taking high school classes to improve class rank

  • SmargentSmargent 237 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    If he's not even graduating in the top 10, selective universities will be unhappy. He could try to explain why his freshman year was poor.
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  • jonrijonri 7277 replies134 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yes. There are some colleges that don't even look at freshman grades. Colleges, especially LACs, have people read files. They will note the strong upward trend.

    Frankly, I think it would HURT him at this point to retake freshman year classes just to boost his rank. (That might not be the case if he were interested in large public Us which do tend to have auto cut-offs.)
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  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6647 replies140 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    It's ridiculous to allow an upperclassman to retake freshman classes. What will that do to the grades of the rest of the class when he singlehandedly destroys the curve? It's inane. It is what it is, he lives with the consequences.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77770 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Before worrying about class rank, check to see whether it is considered at the colleges that the student wants to apply to.
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  • MichiganGeorgiaMichiganGeorgia 4389 replies85 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    When applying most colleges only look at the first 3 years. I assume you are going to be applying next fall. Even if he retook it it would be too late. Plus, I can't imagine a senior taking classes with a freshman. Unless you are taking about him taking it in the summer. However again they still only look at the first 3 years.
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  • ModadunnModadunn 6178 replies85 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think it waste of time and shows little maturity in academic progress to retake anything taken freshman year. Of course, straight A's all four years is best, but to be trending up in both grades AND difficulty of subject material DOES COUNT. Freshman years (HS and College) can be transition years not truly demonstrating academic ability. Lots of kids don't do perfectly.

    It would be far better if this could be addressed via his recommendation. Look at his teachers this year who might best speak to his academic growth, achievement and maturity.

    Just a point: It is a bad move to blame someone else for your own kid's choices. While others may play a role, pointing the fault at another (bad peer group) is a sure fire way to encourage a lifetime of non-accountabilty. It's the same as saying it's someone else's credit he's now performing more to his potential. I am sure you prefer to think it is his own hard work and determination that is making the difference there.

    If he's serious about gaining entry to a highly selective school, taking the hardest curriculum the school has to offer is the best way to earn that opportunity. Add to that stellar testing scores and the overriding personal growth will also speak for itself.
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  • atran048atran048 5 replies4 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Consider writing a recommendation from one of his teachers that see him through academic growth, achievement and maturity like Modadunn had said prior this post. Good luck and take care.

    With best regards,
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  • FallGirlFallGirl 8030 replies27 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Good post, moda.

    OP - I hope that your S is applying to other schools. By all means, he should apply to this selective school, but every student (even the val) needs to have some match and safety schools.
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  • MarianMarian 13198 replies83 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My son once got a C in a high school course where he felt he could/should have done better and decided to retake it in the summer. His guidance counselor warned him that the effect on his GPA would be minimal because the school system would average the two grades.

    He retook it anyway for reasons having to do with his own self-esteem and got an A. And it didn't mean wasting a summer; he also had a job. But the impact on his GPA was insignificant.

    I would not have suggested to my son that he retake the course. But I also saw no reason to discourage him.
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  • ModadunnModadunn 6178 replies85 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    PS - While those first three years are very important, never underestimate the power of first semester senior year. Unless you're applying ED or EA, schools will be getting your first semester transcript. A slump in either grades or reduced work load would be a red flag. Stave off any senioritis as best you can until acceptances come in.

    And Fallgirl is right - selective schools are great, but you are better off applying to a range of schools where the majority fall in the likely to be accepted category. I saw recently my S's UG received nearly 9000 applications this year! To be completely forthcoming, I have to wonder if he would have gotten in four years ago with that kind of competition! Of course, I think it helped that S's school does not rank forcing ad coms to really look at a transcript. Of course, it doesn't weight grades either.

    If your school has a naviance program you can see where the kids at your school applied and where they were accepted with what GPA. While it is only a small piece of the puzzle at LACs, you can see which LACs might favor your HSs curriculum. Not all 3.4's are created equal. You will also have some benefit that he is a boy (since girls apply something like 3 to 1) and most selective schools are in a good position to keep their classes at 50/50 split. Geography can also be a bonus if you live in a state that isn't overly represented in their population.
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  • SteveMASteveMA 6020 replies59 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Poor freshman grades with basically a 4.0 and NMSF standing since then will play heavily in his favor for college admissions. If his SAT/ACT scores support what you say, his class rank won't hurt him for admissions to selective schools. Keep in mind however, those schools have about 8% acceptance rate, make sure he finds other schools he like that he can get into that you can afford.

    I'm surprised your school will allow kids to retake classes. I've only heard of that if they failed a class and HAVE to retake it because an F didn't give them credit for the class and they have to have a passing grade to graduate.
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  • mathmommathmom 32248 replies159 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't know if it's feasible, but it's possible that the GC could say something like, "if we ignored spudjr's freshman year grades his rank would be ___." But even if the GC doesn't make a statement like this, most colleges will see the rising grades. There's at least one (Stanford) that says it doesn't look at freshman grades at all. (Annoying to me since my son had an A in an AP course. Did they really ignore it?) I agree with others. Retaking courses is not a good idea, better to take more advanced courses and do well in them, and spend the summer working or volunteering.
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  • camomof3camomof3 835 replies11 threadsRegistered User Member
    It is also important to address the lessons learned from this experience in his essays and how he will will approach the freshman transition to college differently. Colleges will want to know that the same problem won't occur with the even bigger transition to college. If he can do this, it will show maturity.
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  • blueiguanablueiguana 7401 replies95 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't know that I'd focus an essay on the lessons learned. If he can do this in the 'personal statement', or 'additional information', I think that would be more appropriate. I see the essays as something to focus on positive things, why the student is a good fit for the university, why they are an asset. It's the students opportunity (think interview) to sell themselves. Do you want to focus on your positive aspects, or explain one part of your resume that wasn't stellar? I wouldn't waste an opportunity of an essay to focus on positive things, to explain a sloppy freshman year. Find somewhere else in the application to address it, or better yet let the GC do it. They can talk about the growth and change in focus/drive towards school as is evident in grades, scores, and involvement.
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  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys 16625 replies66 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Another no for re-taking a freshman class. It's not going to change his class rank all that much as most schools will simply average the two grades not "replace" one grade. Michigan also used to not request/consider freshman grades since some middle schools now include 9th.

    Regardless OP moda and others have given you good advice about how to handle the freshman year grades as well as when you actually go through the process of looking at constructing an application list come fall.
    If he's not even graduating in the top 10, selective universities will be unhappy.
    Smargent I don't think you are thinking about selective colleges, I think you are thinking about the highly selective handful with the uber-top kids. Most selective colleges will be happy with how the OPs son as turned himself around.
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  • 1or2Musicians1or2Musicians 1371 replies0 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My kids' high school averages the 2 grades for any classes re-taken. Some kids do re-take, but I think it's mostly kids who are struggling to keep their GPA high enough to stay in the school (a magnet with a minimum GPA). And it's usually done in summer after the bad grade--both because that way they pull the GPA up the next semester and also because they are presumably better prepared for the next class if they've improved their mastery of the subject.

    I don't think re-taking a freshman class 2 or 3 years later would look good at all to highly selective schools.
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  • cobratcobrat 12207 replies78 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Retaking courses won't affect class rank much because both grades would be averaged together.

    Of course, that's assuming a given high school would even allow you to retake passed courses for the sake of a better grade. My HS didn't because being part of the NYC public school system, resources for retaking courses was focused exclusively on students who failed the course the first time...not for those who passed, but wanted a better grade.
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  • ModadunnModadunn 6178 replies85 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I too wouldn't encourage him to reflect backward in his essay or anywhere for that matter. It really is better served from an "objective" outsider like a teacher or GC who can speak directly (and have a lot to compare it to). Honestly, life is a journey. My son evolved as a leader; he wasn't always one. A switch was turned on his junior year and, as the kids like to say, he crushed it. At the end of the day, no kid is just his gpa or his test scores or his EC's. And I think telling a kid to explain his behavior from three years ago is kind of absurd...the answer from his point of view is going to be, I dunno. But his brain was developing, he was a bone-head, whatever. It's pretty usual. Adcoms get that too. I say his essay should only be positive and however he chooses to answer, he shows confidence in who he is today.
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  • spud17spud17 44 replies6 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks for all your well-considered responses. Of course you all are right about retaking a old course (which, incidentally could be done on line). Anyway at the end of the day it would take a whole lot more than changing one course grade to change his class rank much. I have gotten a lot of mixed signals about how/in what format to address his 9th grade bone-headedness as @Modadunn so appropriately put it. He doesn't really have any teachers who might know personally what a great improvement there has been in his attitude and ambition although he does have some this year and last who think he totally rocks. Would it be appropriate for him to sit down with one of them and fill them in on his freshman fiasco so they could address it in a letter of recommendation?

    I totally get using his essay(s) to focus on something positive and unique about him instead of focusing on how and why he screwed up. I really don't even think his situation qualifies for the "obstacles I have overcome" since they were entirely of his own making (although I don't begrudge him or anyone else the effort it can take to overcome psychological barriers).

    I think that applying EA or ED would be a mistake because his first semester senior grades will hopefully reinforce the upward trend. His schedule next year will be rigorous (4-5 APs) so no slacking off there.

    It seems to me that figuring out what is a match school for him academically is going to be a key to this whole process. We don't have naviance at our school or GCs who know anything a out colleges outside of Kentucky. I think the common data sets will be some help in assessing his matches but ultimately I know the admission process is a bit of a crap shoot. It's just a matter of knowing which pond to fish in
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  • HannaHanna 14866 replies42 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "There's at least one (Stanford) that says it doesn't look at freshman grades at all."

    Princeton has said this in the past.
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