High School Grading Systems and Why Standardized Tests Are So Important for College Admission

By SAT ACT Test Prep

About five years ago when I was working with a student on her college applications, I remember looking at her GPA:  99.3.

“Wow!” was my first reaction.

She went to a very good high school in Connecticut so there was no immediate thought that her grades were misleading.  But then I saw her class rank.  She was ranked 103 out of 380 students.  Like anyone reading this article, I quickly realized that there were over 100 students with 99 plus GPAs.  Upon further understanding of her high school’s grading system, I discovered that weighted classes added more possible points than a 100.  So, there were plenty of students with over 100 averages.

These systems create drastically misinformed students and parents who believe that the high GPAs will correlate with admission to elite colleges.

“We don’t have the time and energy to understand many high school grading systems so we increasingly look at test scores when making cut-offs.  And, no we don’t tell prospective students that.”  My brother’s friend is on the admissions committee for a top notch liberal arts college (I note liberal arts because many people presume that smaller schools have the time/energy to dig into the weeds of each school’s unique system.)

Of course, he told me this “off the record”.

The student I was working with actually had a better sense of her chances at top colleges than her parents.  She had good but not great SAT scores and she understood that she wasn’t even in the top quarter of her high school class.  Her parents were very nice people and great cheerleaders for their daughter.  But they had mistakenly taken her 99 plus GPA as a sign of comparative excellence when actually it was the mark of a very good but great student.  Moreover, they had made what they called “a rookie mistake” (this being their oldest daughter) in trusting college officials who claimed to look at the whole candidate and not just test scores.

Maximize your SATs and ACTs.  That’s one of the only sure fire ways to improve your chances at college admission.