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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why GPA is Meaningless Without Context

As I read my first few files this morning, decided to jot down the top GPA in each of the applicant's classes. I hope this puts somethings in perspective.


Many adults outside of academia are baffled by modern GPAs. They're used to a simple 4.0 scale that's unweighted, so when they hear about a student with a 4.2 GPA, they are totally blown away. What does a 4.2 GPA mean? It clearly means different things at different schools. This is why admission officers at UVa often decline to answer the question about what our "average GPA" is. First off, we don't have a GPA requirement here since our process is holistic. Second, any average calculation is incorporating numbers that weren't calculated with the same methodology. Our statisticians calculate an average every year, but I don't think it's something you can lean on in light of the different scales used.

The counselors at each school send us a high school profile that explains the methodology in place. These profiles help us understand the context of the data presented in the application.

Resist the urge to compare your numbers to students outside your school. I see students posting their GPAs online all the time and it just doesn't make sense.

 Don't compare yourself to students from other places. It doesn't make sense!

By the way, I also jotted down the number of Honors and AP courses offered at a few schools.


The two with the asterisks limit how many AP courses a student can take to 3 or 4 per year. I hope this helps you understand why there's no required number of APs for those of you who attend AP schools.We look at the coursework you selected based on what is available to you at your school. Would you consider a student's program strong if he took 4 AP courses out of the 6 offered at his school? Would you consider the program strong if he took 4 APs at a school that offered 21 with no restrictions? If you start thinking about everything in context, you're thinking like an admission officer.