Why is high school GPA important to colleges?

To help parents understand these changes and how they affect the college application process, Curvebreakers presents this second installment in our 3-part College Application Series:

How does high school GPA influence colleges’ acceptance decisions?

Our chart shows that GPA makes up approximately 30% of a college’s acceptance decision – the same as the SAT/ACT score. It is possible – and more common than you may think – for a student with a high GPA to only perform at an average level on the SAT. The opposite is also true. An average student can do very well on the SAT. Test-taking is a skill in and of itself, and how much time you spend preparing for the SAT/ACT often has a significant impact on a student’s test score, just as time studying and preparing will have a positive impact on a student’s GPA.

Colleges look at a student’s GPA side-by-side with the SAT/ACT scores. If they see high test scores, but only an average GPA, it may leave them wondering – why the discrepancy? In this situation, a low to average GPA is often an indication that a student hasn’t put in the required effort to realize their academic potential. Do colleges want to take a gamble on a student who has the ability to do well but may not work hard in college? How can you prove them otherwise? In this situation, it is all about GPA trend. An upward trend in GPA is greatly beneficial to a student who has a lower GPA than he or she would ideally want. Schools love to see students improving as they get closer to college.

What about the reverse situation – an above average GPA and only a so-so SAT or ACT score? Fortunately, there are many opportunities to re-take the SAT and ACT exams throughout the year. Even if you’re unable to bring up your score, Colleges might give you the benefit of the doubt that the GPA is more reflective of your ability and performance. After all, the GPA is reflective of your long-term academic performance. Also, you have the option of applying test optional to many schools. Although this may seem like the most attractive option, scholarships for test optional students are currently few and far between.

Besides GPA, there is also the concept of “academic rigor.” A Strong GPA in “easy” classes may be weighed less favorably when compared to a student who takes all AP’s and college level courses in 11th and 12th grade. That said, it is a balancing act to make sure your GPA and Course Rigor are both strong.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to start improving your GPA. It’s extremely important in the college admissions game, and if you wait until late junior or senior year to start making changes, you may have missed out on an opportunity to impress.

Next up – Part 3: The College Application – It’s not all about GPA & Test Scores

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