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When ACT/SAT Doesn't Match GPA

PolllyDactilePolllyDactile 68 replies2 threads Junior Member
How big a red flag is it if my student's unweighted GPA is lower than the concordance tables suggest it ought to be relative to his ACT/SAT? He is a rising HS junior, and upon graduation will have had 19 advanced classes and (4+2) years foreign language. He has a 32 ACT so far and an unweighted GPA that hovers around 3.5. Weighted is 4.0.

Our public school system has a "gifted"program from pre-K through 12th. In high school, students can cherry pick whether they want to stay in all gifted core classes or drop down to honors or even regular ed in some or all. By 11th grade, some of the gifted classes no longer exist (not enough students to fill seats), so students choose AP, honors, or regular ed. The school system weights an honors class, an AP, or a gifted one the same way - ie, there's no mathematical advantage to the GPA to do AP or gifted, when an easier honors class yields the same weighting. I know colleges look for rigor, but his unweighted GPA requires some explaining - we think!
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Replies to: When ACT/SAT Doesn't Match GPA

  • HappyNJOOSHappyNJOOS 135 replies14 threads Junior Member
    It all depends where your child is planning on applying to, and how those schools look at his/her stats.

    A school like Penn State, for example, will mostly plug the data into their calculator (2/3 GPA weight 1/3 SAT/ACT weight) and pops out a decision.

    Other schools look at a more holistic view of profile of student and weigh AP courses, sports, volunteering etc.

    Just make sure you have on the list of future schools, some that will look beyond raw stats.
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  • SybyllaSybylla 3990 replies51 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    I doubt it is at all uncommon for a kid with an ACT of 32 to have a 3.5 UW gpa. Colleges will look at the school profile and make their conclusions about the rigour. Just make sure you are looking at appropriate schools that you can afford. Merit will be harder to chase with that GPA outside of the rarer schools that give merit based on WGPA. What unis are you considering? Really, you are not going to be able to explain anything. He can try to increase his UW GPA over this year and get a higher test score for sure.
    edited December 1
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  • evergreen5evergreen5 1562 replies33 threads Senior Member
    I am not aware that such a table exists that correlates high school GPA with SAT score. (There shouldn't be.) Link?
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  • Data10Data10 3115 replies11 threads Senior Member
    A 32 ACT and 3.5 UW GPA may be relatively common. It depends on how harshly your HS grades, which can be estimated by looking at your school profile. Selective colleges often consider this when evaluating application. If your school has Naviance, you can see if there are many students with this combination,, and if so review admissions outcomes. I doubt that it requires a special explanation beyond what is evident through the rest of the application and school profile.
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  • maya54maya54 2236 replies91 threads Senior Member
    I helped a relative apply to school this year with a 36 ACT and a 3.1. Can he get into the same schools as many other kids with his score? No. But he’s had plenty of acceptances already from schools where they just plug in the stats.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1308 replies19 threads Senior Member
    I’m also unaware of any statistically valid correlation from a study of high school GPAs and ACT/SAT scores.

    I hope you’re not referring to the stilly blog from the random-data-generation site that says “the SAT measures completely different things than a GPA does...Therefore, you cannot compare the two in a predictive sense” and then publishes a table of SAT to GPA...

    In general, a 3.5/4.0 and 32 ACT don’t seem misaligned. Do you think the ACT score is high or low?

    Colleges are smart enough to look at transcripts and grades and compare apples to apples, knowing weighting schemes vary from school to school. Many/most(?) will recalculate GPA on a standardized basis for ever applicant.

    Few student have perfectly consistent application portfolios. The two are just two data points that go into the application. I agree with the above - don’t see the most advantageous data point and base college selection around that.

    (A 1200 SAT is an unweighted 3.91?? Crikey........)
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79097 replies703 threads Senior Member
    edited December 1
    Papers regarding student with "discrepent" HS GPA versus SAT scores:

    https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED562878.pdf
    https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED563419.pdf

    The latter does show that higher HS GPA discrepent students are more likely to be female, black, or Hispanic, while higher SAT discrepent students are more likely to be from high income families and those with parents with a graduate degree.

    It also found that both discrepent groups did worse in first year college GPA than nondiscrepent students, although, as one may expect, within students with the same HS GPA, higher SAT score correlated to higher first year college GPA.

    That suggests that the lower of HS GPA and SAT score may be the better predictor of college performance, although individual students could vary considerably from prediction.
    edited December 1
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  • MWolfMWolf 1805 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Looking at various scattergrams of students who are applying to different colleges and at GPA-ACT correlations, it seems that 32 is on the high side, but still well within the ACT range that one may expect from a student with a 3.5 UW GPA.

    That being said, @momofsenior1 is correct - choose colleges by how well your student's GPA matches the student body. Not only because it is the weakest part of their profile, but because many colleges put more weight on GPAs than on standardized tests, while I do not know of colleges which do the opposite.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79097 replies703 threads Senior Member
    MWolf wrote: »
    That being said, @momofsenior1 is correct - choose colleges by how well your student's GPA matches the student body. Not only because it is the weakest part of their profile, but because many colleges put more weight on GPAs than on standardized tests, while I do not know of colleges which do the opposite.

    But note that different colleges appear to weight HS GPA and SAT/ACT scores differently from each other. That may be apparent when looking at automatic merit scholarship thresholds in some southern schools that get mentioned on these forums to students looking for merit scholarships. HWCUs' scholarship thresholds tend to be biased toward higher SAT/ACT scores, while HBCUs' scholarship thresholds tend to be biased toward higher HS GPA. So an SAT/ACT-biased "discrepent" applicant has a better chance of a scholarship at one of the HWCUs, but a HS GPA-biased "discrepent" applicant has a better chance of a scholarship at one of the HBCUs.
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 2004 replies6 threads Senior Member
    My daughter's profile was similar, and I expect so were a lot of her classmates; the school grades relatively harshly. Another indication is that D19 got 5s on a few APs that she got Bs for in class (and no, she's not a particularly good test taker). The school profile obviously shows that in terms of the median/mean GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and distribution of AP scores; and colleges will judge the applicant by the school profile too. While I agree that caution may be warranted in targeting schools to the weakest part of the application, holistic schools will look beyond just the GPA to the student's context.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34865 replies394 threads Senior Member
    3.5/32 isn't bad. Thing is, when a top holistic looks at the transcript, cores and courses related to the major matter much more than electives or some others. That's both the class choices and grades. Take a fresh look at his transcript. If he excelled in those much beter than not.

    And, it's not the Composite alone. The subscores matter. As above, he needs the strongest numbers in the sections most related to the major.

    And then, comb through the ECs, see if they're the sort that matters, the right balance/stretch and some impact, some related to the possible major.

    I wouldn't fret over some correlation. Instead, look for how he matches overall, what that means to various colleges. For holistics, that's more than stats. Or titles.

    Of course, we can't assure you of much, without any idea of the targets he has in mind. Or the major.
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  • SchadretSchadret 141 replies19 threads Junior Member
    My kid's in the same boat.. not quite a 3.5, and a 33 ACT (1st try, no prep just to see if he liked the ACT vs the SAT (well, PSAT in his case)).

    Now that they let him stop taking Spanish (the class he couldn't get over a C in no matter how much he studied and is the main cause of the lower GPA) he should be able to bring it > 3.5, which seems to be the main breakpoint for places with automatic merit scholarships. A 33 ACT gets some decent money at a lot of places, but usually also requires at least a 3.5 GPA (some even higher).. that's been my mission, finding all the places there a 3.5/33 gets good merit.
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  • PolllyDactilePolllyDactile 68 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Yes, thank you all who've replied (this is my first post and may be incorrectly inserting that - apologies!). We thought the ACT was high relative to the UW gpa and were cautioned by a HS counselor that this discordance might raise a flag with certain schools.

    That said, the weighting isn't just for a handful of classes. When a student takes 5 APs, 7 gifted, and 7 honors classes - not to mention all the foreign language - one would think that the holistic reviews would cut him some slack just for the sheer volume.

    His interests lie in public policy/political science and history, international relations. The 36 in reading and 34 in English tie well to that... 30 science and 27 math need a little work, but when he completes Alg 2H this spring, those ought to organically climb a bit. He's published a couple of history-related articles so far, is an Eagle scout, and active in clubs like Youth & Government, Political Thinkers, student government, etc. His clubs and history-related Eagle project align with his college and career interests, we think, and taking the two foreign languages ties to his interest in international studies. Initially, he was determined to find an undergrad program in Public Policy and to minor in history. These past months, he's become aware that most freshmen will change their majors at least once, so is a bit more open minded.

    He isn't going to pursue a STEM education or career, nor is interested in becoming an investigative reporter. But the social sciences and government? That's his love.

    Again, our thanks.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34865 replies394 threads Senior Member
    Hint, when someone is possibly interested in poli sci: see if he can do some vol work for a local rep. Doesn't have to be much (not some huge hours commitment/week or all 10 summer weeks, he can be even answering phones, etc.) But so many kids with an avid interest never take that step. It gets him into the milieu.
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  • PolllyDactilePolllyDactile 68 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited December 4
    Hint, when someone is possibly interested in poli sci: see if he can do some vol work for a local rep. Doesn't have to be much (not some huge hours commitment/week or all 10 summer weeks, he can be even answering phones, etc.) But so many kids with an avid interest never take that step. It gets him into the milieu.

    That is a terrific suggestion! He interned for a local candidate over the summer - it was only greeting people at fundraisers, handing out swag, collecting gift envelopes, but he did get to hear his candidate speak, the Q&A, etc. He's also made a few presentations before city council and our county council this summer. For those, he got to sit in and hear procedure before his presentations came up.

    Our local mayoral race kicks off after the New Year, and he'll be offering to "intern" again.
    edited December 4
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  • PolllyDactilePolllyDactile 68 replies2 threads Junior Member
    RichInPitt wrote: »
    I’m also unaware of any statistically valid correlation from a study of high school GPAs and ACT/SAT scores.

    I hope you’re not referring to the stilly blog from the random-data-generation site that says “the SAT measures completely different things than a GPA does...Therefore, you cannot compare the two in a predictive sense” and then publishes a table of SAT to GPA...

    In general, a 3.5/4.0 and 32 ACT don’t seem misaligned. Do you think the ACT score is high or low?

    Colleges are smart enough to look at transcripts and grades and compare apples to apples, knowing weighting schemes vary from school to school. Many/most(?) will recalculate GPA on a standardized basis for ever applicant.

    Few student have perfectly consistent application portfolios. The two are just two data points that go into the application. I agree with the above - don’t see the most advantageous data point and base college selection around that.

    (A 1200 SAT is an unweighted 3.91?? Crikey........)

    Thanks for that. After a school counselor (not from his high school - another) mentioned the discrepancy, I did indeed find a blog post which included a comparison table.

    As for not basing college selection on his best numerical attribute - the ACT - that's actually been our barometer for schools to target. If one lists its middle 50% scores from 26-31, for example, we were thinking that he'd not just be a very good fit for admissions but also merit (at those schools which indeed provide it). Maybe he should add more safeties to the list.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34865 replies394 threads Senior Member
  • allyphoeallyphoe 2488 replies60 threads Senior Member
    edited December 4
    Wait, when you say he's a "rising junior," do you mean he's less than halfway through his sophomore year? Or something else? (Usually "rising" means "is in the summer prior to the named year.")

    How much of the information you've provided is actual vs in-progress vs predicted?
    edited December 4
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  • PolllyDactilePolllyDactile 68 replies2 threads Junior Member
    allyphoe wrote: »
    Wait, when you say he's a "rising junior," do you mean he's less than halfway through his sophomore year? Or something else? (Usually "rising" means "is in the summer prior to the named year.")
    2
    How much of the information you've provided is actual vs in-progress vs predicted?

    He is currently a junior. I wrote "rising" junior because should anybody read this six months from now to help their own teenager, it's to show that the ACT score was from before the junior school year got rolling.

    To date, his cumulative GPA is 4.0/3.5.

    He's completed during freshman and sophomore years: 2 honors, 5 gifted, 2 AP, 1 regular ed World Geo, and 2 yrs FL. He is currently in 2 honors, 1 gifted, 2 AP, 2 FLs. That puts end of junior year at 4 H, 6G, 4AP, and 3+1 FL, 1 reg ed WG. Senior year will have 5 combo of AP/G/H and another year apiece FL.
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