Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The Role of GPA in the #UVA Admission Review

I finished my travel season helping a colleague out at two large college fairs in Northern Virginia. We get asked "what's your average GPA" to many times at those fairs that we made little signs explaining that GPAs aren't standardized, so the average GPA statistic is meaningless.

The GPA could be seen as the schools' way of summarizing the work that's on the transcript. GPA methodologies vary from county to county in Virginia (and this is fine with us...each district uses the method that works for their students). The GPA doesn't tell us the full story, though. We may see classmates with identical GPAs who have very different coursework and grades on their transcripts. What's more, GPAs don't provide the level of detail we need to make a decision. We look at every course and grade, not the GPA, to understand your academic preparation. Resist the urge to fixate on GPA alone and instead think about how we read your transcript.


Some may suggest that high school-specific GPA data is more reliable and use scattergrams to estimate admission chances. The scattergram is a feature of a student information system called Naviance or Family Connections that many high schools use. Scattergrams plot past admission decisions on a chart using just GPA and testing as the variables.


A scattergram I found online. This is NOT for UVA.

If you have access to them, remember that scattergrams are plotting the results of an elaborate application review process on a chart with just two factors. They show how our decisions correlate to those pieces of data, but they don't tell you how admission officers make their decisions. A student whose offer of admission is plotted on a scattergram wasn't admitted because of their GPA and test score, but because the details of the application were compelling.

As always, I'm happy to answer questions in the comments.