3.87 UW GPA but excellent test scores... how to explain grades?

I go to a super competitive public school in the Bay Area. My school doesn’t rank, but I took the most number of AP courses in my year and have a very rigorous course load, so I’m guessing Top 10%, if not then at least Top 15% (600 kids per grade).

I got 2 B’s and 2B+'s in sophomore and junior year, and As in everything else. However, the classes I got Bs in were math and chemistry, and I want to study STEM. I have 36 ACT, 800 Math 2, 780 Bio, and 5 in Calc AB. Would these test scores help make up for my low GPA? I’m not dead-set on applying SEAS though, it would just be easier for me to write essays because most of my activities are centered around STEM.

Was aiming for T20 schools but now not so sure… I have really good extracurriculars (founded non-profit in 9th grade, research intern, all that good stuff) but idk. I did have a medical issue throughout high school that got a little worse during junior year; is there anywhere that I can explain my grades on the Common App? I don’t want to make it seem like an excuse though; does anyone have any advice on how to explain grades?

Applying to college is so stressful :frowning:

If your medical issue was truly significant then you can ask your guidance counselor to address it in his/her letter of recommendation. Other than that do not try to explain away a few B’s – it looks desperate or like you are making excuses.

As with anyone else I recommend you develop a college application list that includes reach, match, and safety schools that appear affordable (run net price calculators) and that you would be excited to attend. You can include some T20 schools but expand your horizons – there are tons of amazing colleges and universities out there where you can have a great 4 year experience and get where you want to go in life.

Yes you are right. Explaining the grades via a medical issue will look like a cop-out. Especially since you’re talking about only 4 B’s.

Getting into Ivies are difficult for everyone. But the grades won’t be the reason. Focus on putting together a good story for yourself. Good luck

A 3.87 GPA is excellent. Apply to a balanced list of reach, match, and safety schools. Stop worrying about what is already done. Your grades are in no way poor or below average.

And yes, if your medical issue was significant, your guidance counselor can mention it in the letter of rec. You should not bring it up, unless it had a serious impact on your schooling and/or life, in which case you can address it in the additional information section.

I’ll go a step further. You should not mention it at all. AOs will be rolling their eyes at a student trying to explain a 3.87 GPA. Let your GC handle it because it will sound whiny coming from you. Best of luck in your search and in resolving your medical issues.

Just wanted to say that it’s good to have you back @skieurope!

you are trying to explain a 3.87? Take a deep breath. You are fine!

Then don’t.


The bank account always wins no matter how convincing the application, especially for “t20” schools. Right now you’re surrounded by great school options that are affordable. Many schools would offer you a scholarship. Go for that. It’s a far better deal.