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

There are fifteen years of posts here. The search box works well, but please consider the age of the posts when you find them. The college admission process changes over time!

You are welcome to use the comment section anonymously.

Welcome to the blog and thanks for reading!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Scattergrams and GPA Data

I just finished my first week of high school visits in Fairfax County, Virginia. This is one of our most densely populated areas in Virginia and we have a lot of students at UVA from the many high school in the area.

The GPA attempts to summarize your academics, but it's not a very reliable number in my world. GPA methodologies vary a lot (and this is fine with us...each school/district uses the method that works for their students). The GPA doesn't tell us the full academic story, though. We need to see four years of course selection and grades to understand that. Trends are also important and aren't conveyed in the GPA.  Resist the urge to fixate on GPA alone. GPAs just don't provide the details we need to make a decision in a selective admission process.

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 that many high schools use. Scattergrams plot past admission decisions on a chart using 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, one of which is no longer required in our process. They show how our decisions correlate to those pieces of data, but they don't tell you how admission officers made their decisions. 

Keep in mind that there are some issues with scattergrams. Schools often rely on students to report their admission decisions to make the scattergrams. There may be missing or incorrect data for your school. In addition, testing is optional for applicants to UVA and about 40% of our pool didn't submit them last year.

There are times when someone may have a high GPA, but have some holes in their program (remember, we want to see classes taken in each core subject all four years of high school), a lopsided program, or a grade trend that is of concern. The details matter in this process!