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Tuesday, February 02, 2021

We have to talk about GPAs again

For longtime readers of the blog, this post is going to be pretty familiar. If you tune in for my q&a sessions every Thursday on Instagram, you will probably be able to hear my voice as you read this. 

We have to talk about GPAs, but I want to point out two companion posts that might help you understand how we get an understanding of an applicant's academic preparation.

Course Rigor is Not a Number 

UVA AP Requirements (and Why They Don't Exist)

Now, let's talk about those GPAs.

1. GPAs are not standardized.

In Virginia and many other states, grading scales and GPA methodologies are determined by individual schools and districts. This allows school officials to consider what system works best for their specific population. People often ask admission officers what they think of various grading scales, but I really don't have an opinion on that front. As long as I get a school profile that explains how things work at your high school, I'm happy.

There are some states where grading and GPA calculations are standardized. If you're in South Carolina or Tennessee, for example, and this first point seems odd, it's because your state has a uniform grading policy. 

2. GPAs don't show trends.

Trends are important in the admission process. Most people know that admission officers want to see strong coursework and good grades on transcripts. That doesn't mean we are only admitting students consistent records. Lots of students have rough patches during high school. If a student has a stumble or a slow start, grade-wise, we want to see a rebound or an upward trend. The transcript will tell us that story. The GPA can't.

3. GPAs don't give us the details we need.

We obviously want to see students who are taking advanced coursework when it is offered at their high school. Students are preparing for a big step up to college work and we want to make sure they have a solid foundation from which to make that jump. What's more, we want to see that foundation across your core subjects (here's another gentle suggestion to read the "Course Rigor is not a Number" post if you haven't yet). 

We need to see the full transcript to understand your academic preparation. A GPA just can't convey that information. 

4. This is Virginia.

If you aren't from Virginia, you might not know that we have a lot of government and military workers in our state. We also have a lot of families from other countries here. As a result, there are lots of students in Virginia who have multiple high schools on their transcripts because their families have moved around. A school transfer usually has a significant impact on a GPA. It just doesn't make sense for us to use the GPA to assess a student's academic progress when we have coursework and grades on the transcript. 

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

That's a chair at a dog-friendly hotel in Northern Virginia...dogwood is our state flower and cardinals are the state bird!