Importance of High School Grades on College Admission
Some experts say the college application process really begins in the ninth grade with the student’s academic rigor and grades from that first year of high-school forward. How do you look at grades? Do you look at all four years equally, or are the final two years more important? Can an applicant make a case for admission with a mixed bag of grades in academically challenging courses?
Grades and coursework are indeed important during all four years of high school, but showing improvement after a slow start does count. And academic rigor of courses can play a major role.
Here are the answers to this question from each member of our panel:
Joyce Lantz, Valparaiso University
The admission committee at Valparaiso University considers all four years of an applicant’s high school career. The admission committee also looks carefully at trends in grades and will favor a student that is indicating an upward trend in grades at the end of his/her high school career. Contradictory, the committee is disappointed when they observe a downward trend in grades during the junior or senior year. Of course, the committee is impressed with honors, AP and IB courses and will take into consideration the rigors of these academically challenging courses.
Terry E. Whittum, Stetson University
I look at both grades and course work from the ninth grade forward. I’m looking for students who challenged themselves. If your ninth and tenth year grades aren’t great, I look for improvement over your high school career. It is OK to start a bit slow and then improve. Challenging courses are always best. I would rather see a student earn a C+ in AP Calculus than an A in Fun-with-numbers.
Eric Kaplan, Lehigh University
Grades from all four years are important. We look at the course selection, rigor of program, and grades achieved in specific subject areas as well as year by year. In general, we like to see even grades or a steady upswing. Some students are strong in every discipline and others have obvious strengths and weaknesses. There is room for both kinds of students.
Dr. Brian Sajko, Eureka College
It is important to see improvement in grades if they are not excellent from day one and honors classes do help improve the record. I look to see that the student has challenged him or herself and is becoming more mature.
Eric W. Fulcomer, Ph.D., Bluffton University
Grades are very important, beginning in the ninth grade year. All four years are included in the high school grade point average and are used to determine class rank, so in this way they are equally important. We do look the level of classes taken, so an applicant can make the case for consideration if he or she has taken challenging courses. Also, for marginal students, academic improvement during the junior and senior year is an important consideration.
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