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Under 3.6 (GPA) and Applying Top 20 Parents Thread

PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Registered User Posts: 1,291 Senior Member
edited March 2013 in Parents Forum
I tried to find a thread in this forum on with 3.5 ish GPA who still want to apply to the top 20 schools, but I can't so I started this thread.

This thread is for parents of kids who have UNWEIGHTED GPAs below 3.6 with NO HOOKS (URM, Recruited Athlete, Legacy), but still desire to apply to the top 20 colleges (we all have a different top 20 list, I know). The parents here would be working on how to best position their kids with one year of high school left. The emphasis is on what the kids can do (and what us parents can do to help) with the remaining high school time to have a realistic shot at a top school given a projected GPA of <3.6.

This thread is for sharing of information and support. If you have examples of B+ kids with no hooks getting accepted to top schools, please share your examples.

Thank you!
Post edited by PaperChaserPop on

Replies to: Under 3.6 (GPA) and Applying Top 20 Parents Thread

  • YouserNameYouserName Registered User Posts: 191 Junior Member
    I have a UW GPA of 3.44 :( and am applying to some top 20ish schools. The best thing I can do right now, is make sure I get all A's first term/semester in all of my AP classes so that colleges know I am improving and can handle the work. In all reality, it's all you can do about your GPA.
  • mantori.suzukimantori.suzuki Registered User Posts: 3,347 Senior Member
    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I finally feel like I have a "home" here on CC! :)

    My son's GPA is in the 3.5-3.6 range. He is currently a senior at a public residential math-and-science magnet school. He spent his first year at a very large suburban public high school, his second year at an even larger urban public high school, and his third year at the magnet school. His test scores are very high. His ECs are solid but not stellar; he hasn't invented anything, been crowned champion of anything, or started his own company. We're not related to anyone important, and we're not a URM.

    He intends to apply to several top-20 schools (both universities and LACs) as well the honors college of our State U. His dream school is Chicago, although I worry about our ability to pay for it, since they seem to be less generous with FA than other top schools.

    Am I in?
  • mantori.suzukimantori.suzuki Registered User Posts: 3,347 Senior Member
    Since I don't know if my son will get into a top-20 school or not, I'll tell you the things he's doing this year that he hopes will get him in:

    - entering the ISEF competition with a small chemistry project he did over the summer at our local State U branch campus

    - taking AP- or higher-level classes: AP Chem, AP US Gov, Microbiology, Organic Chem

    - taking on leadership roles (floor leader and head of the dance club)

    - activities ranging from theatre to quiz bowl to environmental cleanup volunteering, in order to demonstrate that he has a wide range of interests

    He also tries to assist or take on special projects from a couple of his teachers, so that they get to know him well. He does this stuff because he's genuinely interested in it, not because he's trying weasel a good recommendation, but I hope that will be one of the benefits.

    The only thing I specifically told him he should do to boost his college application, aside from get good grades, is to start a new student organization. He decided to start a peer-editing club, where students can submit papers and get editing suggestions from the school's best writers. It's just getting off the ground now; no clue how successful it will be, but I think it's a nifty idea.
  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang Registered User Posts: 15,745 Senior Member
    I hope you parents come back in April and let us know how your children fared.
  • Queen's MomQueen's Mom Registered User Posts: 2,198 Senior Member
    One top 20 University and One top 20 LAC here, but we have hopes for the University because she is a double legacy (so I guess that doesn't quite fit this thread). D's list is extremely top-heavy given her stats. We will see what happens. I was pushing for more safeties, but she categorically refuses and is threatening to take a gap year instead.
  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Registered User Posts: 1,291 Senior Member
    The EC pursuit has to be done because the student is "genuinely interested in it" as mantori put it. The adcoms will smell it if they are done just to spruce up the resume. They are definitely looking for genuine passion. On the other hand, these top schools are selecting talents and not just students who can show genuine interests. Our kids would have to demonstrate they have talents in the area that they are "genuinely interested in". How do they do this? In some disciplines, they can win awards and recognitions, or publish papers. But winning awards and publishing papers at what level before they becomes differentiators to the adcoms? What about other ECs where there are no established path to awards, e.g., volunteering and charitable works? I think creativity is paramount in these areas.
  • archiemomarchiemom Registered User Posts: 1,616 Senior Member
    Like Queen's Mom's D, my son's first choice is a top 20 university where both parents are alums. Based on S1's experience three years ago, we know that this isn't really a hook, given the 3.6 uw GPA and 1980 SAT score. This is his only top tier school, so we are happy with his safety/match list and he is genuinely interested in the rest of the schools on his list.

    Anyways, with S1 we saw that quantity of ECs (and even the quality of leadership experiences) didn't matter, if the stats weren't already there. And there's not a whole lot parent or student can do by fall of senior year. S2 is heavy into a varsity sport and also student government. He is student gov president this year, has attended national stuco leadership conferences each summer and also will serve as VP of the state-wide stuco eboard this year (among other leadership ECs). Hopefully those activities and however he characterizes these involvements in his essays, will overcome the lower GPA and SATs. In his favor is his senior year curriculum rigor, with 5 APs including Cal BC and Physics C and English Lit.

    We have a concern regarding affording the top 20 school as well. We are all three going into the app process with eyes wide open.
  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Registered User Posts: 1,291 Senior Member
    ^ I believe most top schools will try to meet your "demonstrated" financial needs. Yes, having a list of safeties that your kid is interested in attending does relief quite a bit of the anxiety and give you some level of comfort. This may be very important when it comes to interview time. Kids need to show desire for the school, but also a sense of confidence about themselves.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 29,598 Senior Member
    My B+ kid isn't applying to any top 20 schools in the national university classification - maybe Georgetown at 21, Tufts at 28 and Brandeis at 31. On the LAC list most likely only Vassar at 11.

    What may help:

    Verbal SAT score of 790.
    5's on the three APs he's taken so far, signed up for four more senior year
    GPA brought down almost completely by Latin
    Origami earring business may make him interesting
    Or his volunteer activity which is making an index for the papers of the local neigborhood association may make him interesting (he's a budding historian and has loved doing this - helps that our neighborhood has a pretty interesting history)
    Being male may help at Vassar
    Medal scorer at State Science Olympiad
    Four years of playing in two school orchestras
    We've been told he's probably top 10% (I guess not that much grade inflation at our school)

    I will of course report his admissions results, but don't know them yet. :)
  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Registered User Posts: 1,291 Senior Member
    Since by way of other means our kids need to show they have the wherewithal to perform at these elite schools, I suppose they would need to have a good explanation for their B+ grades. Short of having a family tragedy or health related problems, what are examples of good explanation?
  • mantori.suzukimantori.suzuki Registered User Posts: 3,347 Senior Member
    How to explain the lower grades on the transcript is a tricky subject.

    In my son's case, the honest explanation is lack of challenge; his lowest grades are in the easy classes. He is one of those kids who can't force himself to do something boring. I suppose that's more a vice than a virtue, but I sympathize.

    That's why I'm glad the ACT, SAT, SAT-II, and AP tests exist. My son's scores on these demonstrate that, even if his grades aren't stellar, he definitely learned the material. I hope this counterbalances his GPA in the view of the admissions people. Of course, the people whose kids have 4.0 GPAs seem to think that high test scores are worthless, but I think those people should bite me. (That's one of the reasons I'm so happy this new thread exists!)
  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Registered User Posts: 1,291 Senior Member
    mantori - The ISEF competition may be a substantial boost if he gets to be a semi-finalist or higher. I would give this activity the highest priority besides getting good grades. One outstanding accomplishment, especially at the national level, out weighs many many other activities. Quality before quantity.
  • hmom5hmom5 - Posts: 10,882 Senior Member
    This is my niece, she has a 3.55 at a very tough school. For her we thought it would all be about the positioning--really making herself stand out via the application. She devoted much of the summer, with a very good counselor helping, and produced an extraordinary application.

    For a senior this year, maximizing scores and producing the best possible application is probably the best bet.
  • PaperChaserPopPaperChaserPop Registered User Posts: 1,291 Senior Member
    mathmom -

    "Origami earring business may make him interesting
    Or his volunteer activity which is making an index for the papers of the local neigborhood association may make him interesting (he's a budding historian and has loved doing this - helps that our neighborhood has a pretty interesting history)"

    These activities are definitely not run of the mill variety. Sound very interesting and creative. May be he can write his college essay on one of them and have a testimony or two from those he helped. What major is your son interested in?
  • mantori.suzukimantori.suzuki Registered User Posts: 3,347 Senior Member
    Thanks for the encouragement, PaperChasePop. My son's school sent three kids to Reno last year, so I've got my fingers crossed! ISEF is apparently more important than I realized before my son enrolled at this school. Some of the kids' projects just blow me away.
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